Cold. Tired. Dark. Sitting with myself is overwhelmingly freeing and overwhelmingly sad.
I find myself staring at laundry that should be folded, or bills that should be paid, or work that should be done, but the motivation passes me by and I reflect on nothingness and the pain of nothingness.
My boys leaving each week to spend shared custody time with their dad is silent…deafening. Having no partner to share life with is utterly lonely and reminds me of the simple sentiment that we are all here, in this time and space, to be in relationship with others. And, yet, I’m alone. It’s daunting. I’m exasperated. How the hell did I get here?
True story—it starts with some chick walking into a family friend’s ophthalmology office and unveiling her breast implants along with her desire to know this man more intimately. Apparently that fling lasted about two years, during which time he came to believe she was his soul mate.
The family now shares that she was only with him for his money so she could start up a business for herself. I later found out that he continued supporting her through her difficult times in business though her black leather BMW didn’t exactly scream, “I’m struggling.”
He, of course, was devastated and lonely. At the same time, I found myself in a similar situation. So, what do two well-educated and accomplished individuals do when their hearts are bleeding? Oh, well, they embark on a truly miraculous and transformative journey in which they both end up alone, again.
But, for 15 life-changing months, he loved me in a way I had never been loved. He nurtured me. He cared for me. He saw the depths of me and loved me in despair and in delight.
Before I was aware of this lifetime learning, I threw this man a surprise 50th birthday party. The preparation and planning was extravagant. And, though we were navigating some heavy conversation leading up to the event, this is what I promised:
“At some point, beyond the moment and not knowing what tomorrow holds, we each have to decide if we can commit to love an imperfect person perfectly and not hide or disengage or quit when our humanity overpowers our divinity. I’ve made that decision, even knowing our challenges because, reality is, we can have a relationship with anyone. I’d prefer my best friend. It’s a daily choice that this is the person you journey life with, believing that the best way out is always through and that everyone comes with baggage, but someone who loves you helps you unpack. I choose to create my todays and tomorrows with you. You have to choose if you feel the same and can operate with grace and understanding that, most days, we’re a whole hell of a lot more human than divine.”
Also, to his surprise, I was not leaving that evening, as he thought, but was staying to celebrate the weekend with his family that traveled to do the same. I, jokingly said, “Now you can’t party with your other girlfriend this weekend.” We all laughed and toasted to an amazing man and a beautiful life of compassion and caring for others.
Funny how, perhaps, our subconscious speaks for us at times. That weekend, I was surprised too. Chick with the implants was back in the picture, and had been for months. My surprise foiled his plans to spend the weekend with her; the woman he had invited to celebrate his birthday with in Paris, a trip I was surprisingly planning for him; the woman with whom he had spent the weekend he told me he needed to recuperate from jet lag; the woman with whom he had discussed her moving back into his home because she was having trouble living with her dad; the woman for whom the pucker was sitting up in the alcohol cabinet; the woman for whom the condoms sat in the bedside table.
Of course, the surprise was shocking and beyond devastating. But, I refused to let my pride be trampled on. So, I picked myself up, ravaged through the house to pack up my belongings, tore up the pages of him and I in the gift scrapbook that chronicled what I thought were the amazing relationships this man had built in his life, broke the vase that he was painting for our living room, packed up our pet pig and threw the garage door opener at him as I drove off sobbing a waterfall of emotion.
I ran off the road twice before I parked at a hotel and realized that the small town, that was hosting their largest holiday celebration of the year, would not have any vacancies. Sh*t! So, yeah, I ended up back at his house, well the house I was living at part time until I found out implant chick was transplanting herself back in.
Social media led me to contacting her that evening which, of course, thrilled him. She was, sadly, just as surprised as I was. But, for two nights and one full day, he and I did the hardest work I have ever done in a relationship. We talked. We cried. We held each other. We forgave each other. We would’ve been any therapists’ dream couple. We worked through our grief together, in more than a cordial way, we were friendly. We established a plan and, come the end of the weekend, I left with a warm embrace and soft kiss on the forehead from a man that said he loved me, that he wanted to work through this together, and that we would make it work because what he wanted was standing in front of him. We were best friends and I had done more for him than she ever had.
By 4:00 pm that afternoon, he had irreversibly changed his mind even though our conversation included how he knew, rationally, that implant chick was not right for him, that he would have to compromise to be with her, that she did not intellectually stimulate him, that he could not talk to her like he could me, that she was selfish, and that she didn’t speak his love language of touch – preferring to sit on opposite sides of the couch, getting stand-offish if he touched her, not cuddling, having sex at most once per month, and only then for a moment, and with no variety.
He said he was willing to settle for her based on je ne sais quoi, a word she wouldn’t even know. He said the only things he loved about her was that they could laugh and have fun together, she was compassionate for animals, and he liked the way she danced. I was surprised to get such a shallow answer from such a brilliant mind. I was also surprised that he was egotistical enough that he needed to see if, perhaps, their break up was a mistake and, if not, he was adamant that the relationship would end this time on his terms.
It was at that point that I was, literally, physically and emotionally debilitated. My mind was swirling about where the man I had fallen in love with had gone and I wanted answers. But, I was also not sure that I would get honest answers from a liar. According to emotion expert, Paul Ekman, a lie involves two factors: intent and lack of notification to the person being lied to. Psychologist Bella DePaulo notes that when we lie we suffer from building a false version of reality that increasingly distances us form our real selves.  Perhaps this is how those that cheat can justify having their cake and eating it too. I was, unknowingly, on stand by, in case the enhanced piece of cake deflated.
I tortured myself looking for answers. I grasped at every miniscule hint that might lead me to peace. In the wee hours of the night, when the lights were turned off and everything was quiet, my mind would race. What did I do wrong? What did she do right? How could this man I thought hung the moon justify, or be ok with, his defamed character? It haunted me. It made me sick to consider that I may never be able to trust another man or engage in another relationship. It reached the depths of my soul on a level that felt beyond repair. All the while, he was just going about life as usual, un-phased and unaware enough to make his wrongs right. And then he did for me what my ex never could, he sent me a eulogy.
“He will probably never answer you. He probably doesn’t know how. He probably doesn’t know himself. Let me try.
It’s not anything you did wrong. I just couldn’t stay. I felt restless and I couldn’t continue to see both of you. I knew I wasn’t the one for you. I came in to take care of you and began to feel uncomfortable when you started to take care of me. I have a hard time with intimacy and do better when I am in control. This other relationship lets me have the control I want now. I know that sounds unhealthy, but it really is what I want. Intimacy makes me too vulnerable. When I feel it, I know it is time for me to leave.”
In a moment’s time, and with less than a paragraph, he answered all of my questions. I didn’t do anything wrong. I did everything right. I gave all. I overcame past oppression and emotional baggage and realized that, regardless of what I am or do, and regardless of the outcome (i.e., I thought our breakup equaled failure), I am enough because I have loved. I was vulnerable. I was open and honest and true. I am capable. I sacrificed. I chose relationship and love. For that I am immensely proud of myself. There is no greater accomplishment I could consider, no greater contribution; I have attained the ultimate. My ex did not earn the right to have my trust, my time, my love, or my life. And so we say goodbye. He couldn’t stay.
It was time for him to leave.
Relephant bonus: Working through our pain.
Author: Kristi Trader
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Feliciano Guimares