The Universe Teaches

I’ve been reading over some old posts about Minx and it becomes clear that although he’s a pretty different person from my ex-husband (whom I’ll sometimes refer to as Ex), there were some general similarities to the relationships.

My ex-husband:

-Started out doting but ended up neglecting me.

-Ultimately stopped having sex with me almost entirely…except for occasionally beginning to initiate foreplay while I was asleep.

-Put me through terrible stress by deciding (on several different occasions) that he hated his job and just…quitting, whether or not we had any savings to live on.

-Was an alcoholic, which I put up with because I wanted to preserve the relationship.

-Wouldn’t go to therapy or couples counselling of any kind, and refused to stop drinking.

-Was the first one to bring up the idea of us separating, even though arguably he was making my life much more miserable than vice versa.

-Cited my anxiety/depression and sloppy housekeeping as reasons why he wanted us to live apart (btw, he was at least as messy as I was, and his shoddy treatment of me was triggering my severe depressive episodes).

-Said we shouldn’t separate right away, but instead have a “trial period” at the end of which he (we?) would evaluate whether it was worth it to stay together.

-Assumed – when my brain broke from the stress of feeling judged all the time – that I was asking him to go stay at a hotel for his sake, not because I needed him to GTFO for my own peace of mind, and tenderly refused to go anywhere.

-Once told me (during a time when we were supposed to be “working on the marriage”) that he couldn’t think of a single happy thing about our marriage.

-Expected that my moving out (which, in the end, initiated) was temporary and we’d get our marriage back on track within a few months.

Minx:

-Started out doting but ended up neglecting me.

-Ultimately stopped having sex with me as often as I’d’ve liked…but would occasionally hump my ass while I (and he, I think) slept.  Or sometimes outright initiated sex in his sleep.

-Put me through terrible stress by deciding that he hated his job, quitting, and not looking for anything else until his savings had completely run out.

-Had ADD and anxiety problems (and possibly other mental stuff going on, too), which I put up with because I wanted to preserve the relationship.

-Made vague noises of assent about going into therapy or getting medical treatment for his issues, but never followed up.

-Was the first one to bring up the idea of us separating, even though arguably he was making my life much more miserable than vice versa.

-Cited my anxiety/depression and sloppy housekeeping as reasons why he wanted us to live apart (btw, he was at least as messy as I was, and his shoddy treatment of me was triggering my severe depressive episodes).

-Agreed that we should have a “trial period” during which we worked on our relationship issues, at the end of which he (we?) would evaluate whether it was worth it to stay together.

-Assumed – when my brain broke from the stress of feeling judged all the time – that I was saying “Fuck it, just move out already!” because I was looking out for his well-being, not my own, and assured me that he wanted to stay and make things work.

-Once told me (during a time when we were supposed to be “working on the relationship”) that he couldn’t think of a reason why he was in the relationship.

-Expected that his moving out (which, in the end, insisted on) was temporary and we’d get our relationship back on track within a few months.

So…Yeah.  I don’t think this is a coincidence.  I think that even after doing intense psychological work on myself for five years after my marriage ended, I’m still somehow setting myself up to relive the same bullshit all over again.  The universe must have been under the impression that this cycle of crap was something I wanted/needed/thought I deserved, and brought me someone who would fulfill it.

Fuck.

Maybe, despite all my work trying to convince myself of the contrary, I still secretly believe that all relationships end in sexlessness and being taken for granted – which is why I got a boy who was prone to that sort of thing.  …Oh, funny story, Ex actually has ADD too!  He didn’t realize it until years after we split up, and I wouldn’t have guessed because he doesn’t have the obvious cue of scattered rambling speech patterns, but yeah.  And people with ADD apparently are known for starting off doting in relationships and then getting bored, and also for dwelling on the negative and being overly impulsive with what they say and do.  Which kind of explains a lot about my marriage.

In addition to thinking – right from the very beginning – that Minx was totally different from Ex, I also thought that was totally different from the person I was when I was married to Ex.  So clearly there was no way the pattern in the marriage could repeat itself, right?

But I think I’ve figured out two things about me that were kind of similar in both relationships.

In my marriage, I was clingy; Ex knew I’d drop whatever I was doing and pay attention to him any time he asked, and I think this (well, and the alcoholism) is why he began to neglect me so hard.  Since I was always available to him, it meant he didn’t ever have to make time for me; I’d always scramble to make time for him, according to his schedule.  I was very vocal in complaining about this but it never occurred to me to try to shift the balance of power by not being constantly available anymore – by that point I was so desperate for quality time with Ex that I couldn’t bear to turn down his offers.  In a way, I lost my sense of self in that marriage; I was just so busy trying to cater to whatever Ex wanted that I forgot to have a life of my own.

With Minx, I was much better at maintaining a schedule that he had to fit himself into (it helped that he was not an alcoholic and therefore didn’t aggressively seek to isolate me from the outside world; I had friends and stuff!).  In that sense, I did well.  I’d also learned from Ex that screaming fights tend to escalate issues more than they solve them, so I endeavoured to talk out any issues I had with Minx instead of screaming – which was also a good thing.  But somehow I took it too far.  First off, I never let myself get angry at all; I’d coddle Minx to the point of comforting him while he complained about how horrible I was (and the horrible stuff?  Was ALL IN HIS FUCKIN’ HEAD).  A screaming fight still wouldn’t have solved anything there, but I wish I’d at least let myself express my anger – I wish I’d said “Dude, I’m not your emotional punching bag.  Go take a walk or something and don’t talk to me until you’ve calmed down.”

Secondly, I internalized the idea that you can’t change how someone is, you can only change your reaction to it – and for some reason I decided that was equipped to decide which of Minx’s behaviours constituted unchangeable parts of his personality and which ones didn’t.  So instead of even telling him that something bothered me, I’d just set about reconfiguring myself to deal with whatever it was: reframing the situation a different way in my head or changing my own behaviour to accommodate his or whatever.  And in doing so, I still lost my sense of self, even though I was rigorous about maintaining my friends and my independence.  I mean, by the end of my relationship with Minx I was afraid to even speak, pretty much ever, because he’d made it clear that he couldn’t deal with the sound of my voice.

So the common link here is that I didn’t defend my boundaries enough in either partnership.  Or I guess the real root of the problem is that I was too invested in the relationships; I was willing to sacrifice way too much for the sake of “making it work” and only ended up bitter and frustrated.

The other common link is hoping to be rescued/allowing my livelihood to depend on someone else.

I married Ex because I flat-out hated my life (I was poor with no good job prospects and a horrible passive-aggressive roommate) and wanted him to rescue me from it.  By the time I was with Minx, I was absolutely self-sufficient and never would have wanted him to rescue me from anything per se…but I did quit my job to pursue my art career when I did partly because Minx was living here and paying half the rent so I knew my savings would last way longer.  I don’t know whether me being the sort of person who would do that somehow attracts people who follow Minx and Ex’s behaviour patterns.  Certainly I put myself in a compromising position, though; Minx and Ex’s wildly fluctuating incomes sent me on an emotional roller coaster because in both cases, I didn’t feel I could afford our current lifestyle on my own.

And I promise you this: if I’d remained in my well-paying office job, I would’ve kicked Minx out way sooner than I did.  Most of my panic when he’d threaten to move out was financial panic; I’m certain now that I whitewashed over a lot of relationship bullshit and convinced myself I was happy because I didn’t want Minx to fuck up my finances by leaving.  If I could still afford all the rent on my own, I think I would have acknowledged and voiced my unhappiness sooner.

This doesn’t necessarily mean I should never live with anyone again (although I’m pretty sure I don’t want to anyway).  It does mean that no matter what my living situation actually is, I’m always, always going to make sure I maintain the means to live on my own.

One piece of the puzzle I can’t figure out is how I keep living with people who blame me for ruining our living space with my sloppy habits – when they’re as bad as I am.  It’s been suggested to me that Ex and Minx may have bought into the whole “women are all neat and tidy!” stereotype – and maybe so, but it must be said: my female ex-roommate (the bitch that Ex rescued me from) had the exact same ongoing fight with me back in the day.

Well.  Hmmm.

My mom is a total freak for cleanliness, and would fight with me all the time about my messy room when I was growing up…this definitely made me seek out roommates/partners who aren’t as anal retentive as she is* since clearly a cohabitant with her level of OCD  would end up killing me in my sleep or something.  But it seems likely that my mom’s constant lament about my sloppiness convinced me, deep down, that my messiness is this huge character flaw that nobody will ever be able to deal with.  And if I simultaneously look for someone who’s a bit of a slob while believing that nobody will ever accept my own personal habits

Yeah.  It’s looking like I made a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This whole “repeated relationship pattern” thing is making me think I really wasn’t over Ex when I started going out with Minx, or that I failed at debugging myself properly in the intervening years, or something.  But it seems feasible that I couldn’t have learned these lessons as a single person and needed a new relationship to serve as a testing ground of sorts, so that’s what I’m choosing to believe – that I’m not a failure at self-analysis, it’s just impossible sometimes to change relationship behaviours unless one is in fact in a relationship.

I’ll conclude this post by citing a freakishly relevant quote that turned up in my Facebook feed today:

“Until you make the unconscious conscious it will rule your life and you will call it fate.”

-Carl Jung

 

*My mom would vacuum the entire house twice a day and push the microwave buttons with her knuckle so the keypad wouldn’t get fingerprints on it.  I couldn’t make this shit up.

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