I’m feeling beat up, weary, and just plain drained. Before I broke up with M., I finally relented and gave him the URL for my blog. I know he’s reading, but I also love my blog setup and don’t want to have to change it all over to another address or site or whatnot. I’m just tired.
But anyway, without further ado…Ten things I learned from my latest breakup.
1. When a guy tells you who he is, listen to him. M told me early on that he was selfish, borderline, and possibly bipolar. I heard, “independent, psychologically aware, and mysterious.” No. He was selfish, borderline, and possibly bipolar. Do yourself a favor, save some time, and just listen to what you’re told. And if you don’t like it, go right ahead and walk away.
2. No matter how great a family is, there’s always the black sheep. And I am a black sheep magnet. This is the third relationship in a row that I’ve met the family and thought, “Huh. That’s a pretty solid bunch.” Only to find that the guy I ended up with was not, shall we say, representative of the whole. And is well aware of his status, and strangely, seems to relish it.
3. Really, there should be a maximum number of irrational crazy episodes that you can tolerate. Perhaps two per year. Not two per day. Take it from me. Bi-daily is too much.
4. Relationships should add to your life. Not drain your health and well-being to the point where you have to go on medication and can’t sleep anymore. You would think this one would go without saying. Apparently not. Until now. I’m 42. I treasure sleep more than sex. As much as sex. Almost as much as sex? Let’s move on.
5. Even if the other circumstances all fit, it doesn’t ameliorate the effects of a really shitty interaction style. He can have a nice car, a nice place, a college degree, a decent job, whatever, and yet if he’s a mentally ill d-bag, who cares?
6. Sometimes love just isn’t enough. For some reason, I loved him fiercely. Even now I’m protecting him as I write. I loved his sense of humor, the way he would contort his face when he was being poked fun at, the shape of his body, his words. But for all that love, I couldn’t save him from himself, and I couldn’t stop him from torpedo-ing our sinking ship.
7. Find someone who likes you. It’s a sad day when you look at the person you’re with, and think, “This person I’ve told all my secrets to really can’t stand me.”
8. Better yet, let that person find you. Don’t look for a “date,” look for a friend. Would I have become friends with M if I had met him at happy hour? I don’t know. He was standoffish, glum, judgmental, and a teabag conservative. I doubt we’d have had much in common. But he winked at me on Match.com, and somehow that led to a relationship characterized by approximately 432 “last chances.” Go play golf, join a bowling league, join a runners’ group, go to church, go to mosque, whatever you’ve got to do to get yourself out there. Obsessively trolling the dating boards is going to get you a date, and what you want is a friend that you enjoy having sex with.
9. No amount of abuse is okay. Some women have a hard time recognizing emotional or psychological abuse for what it is, especially when the honeymoon period is so sweet. But I can’t let myself off the hook – the honeymoon periods weren’t much to write home about. By maybe Month 2, and certainly by Month 4, I knew I was in trouble. I told myself each time that this would be the last time, and when I didn’t follow through, something curious happened. I never hated him. I was rarely even angry with him. But I began to hate myself. I fantasized about hurting myself, “accidentally” driving my car into a wall…I had internalized the emotional shit he was throwing at me, and he hardly had to do anything to make me feel like crap – I took care of that myself. And he did it to control me, because his whole self was so wrapped up in fear that he couldn’t see any other way. He was a boa constrictor squeezing any life out of me, and in the end I stopped caring about living. Respect has become mandatory. Tolerance of my quirks. The ability to gently confront me about things that aren’t working. Kindness. Genuine humor. Compassion. Maturity. Open-mindedness and an open heart. This is what I bring to the table as well; why shouldn’t I expect these things from any potential partner?
10. Being lonely alone is better than being lonely and in a relationship. Now that I am on my own again, I’m free to imagine a better future for myself. Before, I had the dismal relationship I had, and I had to find a way to make it work. Now, I can make my life work for myself. I can take the time to focus on the other relationships in my life – my children, my friends, myself. I can figure out who I am and what I want. I can turn loneliness into self-reflection, or I can take a nap. I can listen to music, I can make a mess. I can be truly with myself and remember why fifteen months ago, I loved myself. It’s going to take some time, but I’ve got all the time in the world.
I know none of this is groundbreaking. It’s not even groundbreaking for me. But I would hope that with every relationship, and every breakup, I learn a little more. I let M go, and I wished him well. Soon I’ll be able to forgive him, and then he’ll be truly gone, like a wisp of smoke. And I’ll still be breathing. And sleeping, and laughing, and singing along with the radio, with my windows rolled down. Because that’s MY future. It’s all mine.