I had breakfast with a therapist friend of mine yesterday. We caught up on the professional life then dove into the personal. When we met a couple of years ago, I was still reeling from the demise of the relationship that I thought would be my last. Trying to make sense of it all. Sorting through where it all went so very wrong.
She was moving in with her boyfriend. Happy and excited. Looking forward to her future with the man that she loved. Moving in the direction of love and lifetime commitments.
I remember being so jealous then. Wanting so desperately to be worthy enough to be selected. To be allowed into that domesticity. They were picking out furniture together. They were making plans. They were having dinner parties with mutual friends. From my seat at the table, I thought she had it all.
She is beautiful, smart, talented. She’s a fucking therapist! If she didn’t have the corner on the market of stable relationships, then who the fuck does?
So as we caught up yesterday, from the moment she sat down, I could tell that she was no longer with that man. I don’t know how I knew this. I just did. I am weird like that, in tune with the intimate life and feelings of others, even ones I do not know that well.
We talked other things then she told me how that relationship ended fairly abruptly. She didn’t go into detail but her broken heart walked into the restaurant before she did.
As I listened to her, I felt like I was having this out of body experience. Here we sat, two women who were successful, attractive and interesting. We were multi-faceted. We were in great shape for any age but especially our own. Yet here we were alone in Montecito having breakfast, talking about our dating lives or lack thereof.
I thought about the men. Why did they leave? Was it us? Was it them? Was it just not meant to be?
I decided that all of the above questions were not likely to really reveal much of anything since the two people required to get those answers left the conversation some time ago. Instead a different idea came to me.
Why did we choose men that would walk out?
Maybe they didn’t really love us. I can’t speak for her but I am pretty sure that was not the reason in my case. Love was there, for sure. Perhaps I just thought it ran deeper than it did.
I realized though that I was complicit in this failure. I having ideas, thoughts and needs that I didn’t share. Agendas and plans that I didn’t really discuss with him, he was just supposed to follow along. They were not shared dreams. It did not feel like it I thought it was supposed to. Our union one of two people filled with trepidation about building a life with someone new especially since it had only been a few months since our marriages ended. Neither of us being able or willing to put the brakes on emotion, passion, leaving fear driving all decisions.
For my relationship, I realized that from the beginning, he was only able to talk about a future that remained lodged in the future. He never seemed excited about the merging of kids, possessions and finances. He did it but it was not something that he did with zeal or fervor. It was like he moved in and checked out at the same time.
I was not ready either. I can remember the day we made the decision for him to move in with me. I whole heartedly encouraged this idea, while knowing I was not ready. As I hung up the phone I was standing in my bedroom and thought “you are not ready to live with another man yet.” A thought I quickly erased from my then life view, it didn’t fit with the rosy picture I was painting for myself, him and everyone else.
I look back at this time as being pivotal. How would things have gone down differently had I said what was really true for me? I was conflicted. I was scared. I was not ready. How might things have worked out had I been honest instead of delusionally hopeful?
I am a big believer in whatever comes, is supposed to come. I cannot move the river. I can’t force solutions. I mean, I can, I have and do. But I lack the power to make another person really do anything. I can set up situations that make it difficult for them to stay or leave, but in the end, people are going to do what they are going to do.
I don’t believe that everything that happened was a mistake and if I could just go back in time...I used to but not anymore. I have made my peace with our mutual decisions and lack of honesty with each other that led to our end. I can say now, that the ending was present in the beginning, I just didn’t know it at the time.
I learned things though. Here are a couple:
1. If a man is not willing to make the commitment to build a life with you by merging lives, finding a neutral new place to build this life, it is likely a red flag.
2. If you are not willing to insist that the new life get some attention and imminence in your life, then you are likely not ready.
3. Moving in together and blending children should not be something you do because you need to or have too. It should be done because you want that more than any of the other competing desires.
4. A joint vision of the future is really important. That vision has to allow for both people to have a place to put themselves, their belongings and their kids.
5. For me, I will never live with a man that I am not marrying. If I love him enough to allow him into my inner sanctum, then I better be willing to take that all the way to the end. I am no longer willing to share my home with just some guy that I am kinda luke warm about. That is what dating is for. Living together is something completely different, for me.
As I drove away from breakfast yesterday, I thought about how envious I was a few years ago of the life that loomed in front of my friend. Having an inkling that perhaps it was not as great as it seemed. Not because she was not all in. Not because there was not love there. But because so often, we are the masters of our own delusion. Seeing things that are painful, places where our partner comes up short in a fundamental way that cannot be ignored but feels safer to shelve until some later point in time when it seems more likely to not be real.
When I look back, I was so desperate to have the story end well. I can’t look back at this time in my life and not feel like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City (The Movie). Remember when she and Big were finally together? She plans the wedding of the century and he leaves her standing at the alter? A total dick thing to do but I get why he did it. He was not really the point in the story. He just a character, a bystander in her love drama. Cast aside as a subplot character early on. She totally oblivious. He wiling to be cast in the role of bad guy in order to spare himself becoming marginalized and married to that fate. I am sure that Lane would probably say that he felt some of those same feelings.
I did that. I cast him in a role of leading man, then gave him his lines and told him where to stand and how to behave. I was so shocked when he turned down the role. Walked away. I so get that now. I didn’t get it for a long time but I totally do now.
The work I have done in the interim, doing away with the need for a leading man role in my life. I have spent a lot of time hiking out the need for a man to come into my life and save me from anything. I no longer need saving. Instead, creating a space for someone to walk in, sit down and stay awhile should he so choose and I choose to let him. He, free to come up with his own lines, ideas and thoughts. Me, free to realize that I am not in charge. No one gets to be in charge of a loving relationship that moves freely in both directions.
I don’t know if my friend’s relationship was like that. I don’t know if her fate similar or dissimilar to my own. I just know that the end result is that we are both now single, left to sort through it all. For me, I feel like the sorting is completed. Done. I get why it didn’t work. I see my part. I see the mistakes I made. I have addressed those issues. A loving man no longer the coveted prize of my own self discovery. Instead, my reward, sitting in Renaud’s on a Tuesday morning completely content with my life, who I am in my life and without a leading man. No sex in my city...but no leading man that I am forcing to walk away either.