When my marriage ended seven years ago, I was a wreck for a good long time. They say it takes half the time a relationship lasted to get over that relationship, and in that case it was absolutely true: I was married for nine years and didn’t feel truly over it until about the four-and-a-half year mark. (I was emotionally healthy enough to date again after maybe two years, mind you. Just not finished mourning the marriage just yet.)
My relationship with Minx lasted only about three years, but I was in love with him and I did think he was going to be a permanent part of my life. Also, Minx was the first serious long-term boy after my marriage dissolved, so the fact that we broke up triggered a bit of “OMG this one didn’t work out either I must have the shittiest judgment EVAR”-type thinking. It’s a big deal, is what I’m saying.
And yet…I’m feeling pretty okay. Much better than I would have expected to by this point. And I can’t tell whether my subconscious is just doling out the sadness in bits and pieces so I don’t get overwhelmed, or whether my current state of okayness is genuine and will persist.
The thing about my marriage ending is that I was not at all self-aware back then. When my husband broached the idea of a trial separation I was shocked; I’d genuinely believed that the marriage was going well*. When we did ultimately separate (which was my idea that time, and which I instigated by packing a bag on the spur of the moment and fleeing to a friend’s place), I was so terrified of being single that I threw myself into the arms of one of my coworkers, which turned into a tumultuous six-month on-again/off-again thing before I finally realized it was too damn soon for me to be dating and I bowed out entirely. Only then did I sit still long enough to actually notice my feelings about my marriage ending. Only then did I start examining my feelings, and examining my marriage, and realizing exactly where everything fucked up.
With Minx, I was pretty much analyzing everything all along (as this blog will attest). And I had over two months to process the fact that he was moving out. And I was self-aware enough to consciously realize – during those final months, anyway – that I kind of hated his presence in the apartment, and to consciously notice a huge fuckin’ wave of relief once he was gone.
So in other words, this time around I had a huuuuge head start on the recovery process.
Maybe I really am doing okay.
Incidentally, I think a key part of the post-breakup healing process is knowing what went wrong (and consequently knowing how to avoid those pitfalls in the future). I think the biggest thing I did wrong in this relationship was to be too yielding. I’d seen too many people (in movies and in real life) spouting platitudes about if you’re in a relationship “for the long haul” you’ll hang in there through the bad times and do anything to make it work.**
They say you can’t control another person’s actions; you can only control your reactions. And that’s what I tried to do – if Minx had a problematic trait that I didn’t think he could change, I would try to change myself in order to accommodate it. But Minx had so many problematic things that in the end I felt like I was scrunching my own needs and wants and sense of self into a teeny-tiny ball while his slowly expanded and filled the room.
And while I certainly don’t advocate hitting or name-calling during an argument, my commitment to being perfectly calm and therapist-like at all times was just ridiculous. I reread posts like this one and I just cringe – what a doormat I was, letting him treat me that way! I wish I’d flat-out said “You’re being an asshole. Don’t talk to me until you’re over it” and then taken a walk or something. All in all, I repressed a lot of anger in that relationship.
I also fell into my old trap of feeling way too dependent on my partner – in this case for rent money – and I let the fear of breaking up override my unhappiness at being together. I let the relationship drag on longer than it probably should have. In retrospect I wish I’d dropped the hammer when he announced he’d be moving back in with his parents. Maybe before that, even.
The above aren’t “relationship mistakes” in the sense that doing the opposite would have saved the relationship***. Probably if I’d refused to put up with so much bullshit we’d’ve broken up way sooner. But it would’ve saved me a lot of unhappiness, so yeah.
It was also a mistake to move in with Minx so soon (although I don’t regret it; it’s sort of sweet that I allowed myself to get so caught up in that first flush of love. Especially at the cynical old age of 36) and a mistake for the two of us to try to cohabit in such a small space (although we couldn’t afford anything bigger). I don’t blame myself for not realizing he has mental issues sooner; they really didn’t manifest that much at first. Apparently people with ADD have a pattern of being awesome, doting partners at first, and then getting bored and cutting corners later. I could not have predicted how different Minx would become from the person I fell in love with.
There are some mutual and totally understandable personality clashes between us, too: he can’t stand my temper, but I can’t see myself ever becoming a super calm person – or at least not without years and years of work. Right now I can keep myself from yelling when I’m mad, but it’s fucking hard. I can’t sustain that calm demeanour for long. And I hate not feeling listened to, and thanks to Minx’s ADD he misses things I say all the time. So things seem pretty doomed in that respect.
As for what Minx did wrong…I was rereading a bunch of old blog posts today and I have come to the conclusion that he was kind of an abusive dick. He wasn’t intending to be abusive or a dick, and maybe his ADD made it so he couldn’t help acting that way, but that’s how he behaved nonetheless. In some ways, he’s missing a sense of empathy, I think – I mean he’d just blurt shit out without thinking how it would make me feel. Even when I told him how I felt I was mostly met with blank incomprehension.
I gotta say, right now I don’t miss Minx and don’t feel like I’ll have any desire to speak to him even once our hiatus is up (maybe ever)…unless he’s gone on ADD meds, in which case I’d be curious to meet the new Minx and see what he’s like.
And I really don’t think I ever want to live with anyone again. I don’t want to depend on anyone else to help me maintain my standard of living and I don’t want my personal habits being up for scrutiny and judgment. If my finances improve and I’m suddenly able to go halfsies on a mansion with someone, fine. But no way do I ever want to be crammed into an apartment with another person. I want to be able to put a whole floor between us when I need to.
Anyway. I feel like I’m at the point in my recovery where I’m mourning the loss of the relationship but no longer pining about it or wanting Minx back; I figure I’ll probably have a few more crying jags at odd times in the future, but overall I’m fine. I hope I’m right about this and I’m not just in the eye of the storm.
*It wasn’t. He was an alcoholic and a workaholic and we would go eight months at a time without the slightest bit of sexual contact whatsoever. I was miserable, depressed, a chronic insomniac, and REPRESSING ALL THE THINGS. See? Not self-aware.
**I do actually think this is the key to a successful long-term relationship – but it has to be both people having that attitude. Not just one. That’s the part I missed.
***Then again, maybe if I’d viciously defended my boundaries and given ultimatums he would’ve done things like looked for work, gone out more so I could have the apartment to myself, gotten his ADD and anxiety treated, etc. Instead I coddled him, and I think he got the idea he could behave any way he wanted and I’d forgive him.