Well, it's taken a while, but I've decided...
LONG POST ALERT! EMPTY YOUR BLADDER AND REFILL YOUR COFFEE NOW! You've been warned! ;)
Hi folks, you may remember me from such fun posts as this and this and this.
Well, here we are a couple years later. What's new?
I've tried, I've really tried. I wanted to be okay with Michelle and her boyfriend (Ralph/his real name was Dave has been out of the picture for a while, but she got a new boyfriend locally who she spends several days/nights a week with).
Michelle takes a special touch. She is very anxious, and fights with emotional impulses as a result. I am actually 100% certain she suffers from Asperger Syndrome, though she is undiagnosed and won't seek counseling and/or medication to control it. (For reference, our oldest son is diagnosed AS, and her anxieties and emotions very closely mirror his, though her outward behaviors are different). Her boyfriend, Christos, is very laid back, and is an extremely calming influence on her. Whereas at home with me, there are the stresses of a marriage that really hasn't been working, my own hotblooded tendencies, our son's school issues with his AS, and much more, she can go to his house and spend a night and come back calmer and relaxed.
Oh lord, how I want that for her.
But I couldn't. I couldn't accept that her relationship with Christos was so much more to her than her relationship with me. I became a primary in name only. She needed Christos, but she didn't need me. I was jealous of the fun they had, I was jealous of the sex they had (she only had sex with me when she felt obligated to because of the pain I was experiencing). For 16 years she had decided she was "happy enough" with me, but Christos makes her truly happy, and it destroyed me. I took it out on her. I yelled at her. I acted miserable. I came very close to physical violence, my pain and resentment was so great. But, of course, with her AS tendencies, she has a very hard time seeing beyond my outbursts to the pain underneath, and only sees her being yelled at... which of course pushes her further toward Christos.
Meanwhile, the girl I called Bree (not her real name) and I did actually see each other face to face many times. We did tons of things together, from lounge around her then-city (Charlotte) to take memorable vacations (New Years Eve this past year on Times Square). She fought with a lot of guilt over seeing me, as she is a devout Christian, but I know she loved me. There was a pattern where I would push for more with her, trying to fill in these gaps I had in myself due to my dissatisfaction with my relationship with Michelle and my jealousy of the much better relationship she has with Christos, and Bree would pull away, recollect her thoughts for a few weeks or months, and then we'd see each other again.
In the ultimate show of trust from her, as well as me facing my own discomfort, Bree and I went to Dragon*Con this year, along with Michelle and Christos. I met Christos for the very first time here, and I have to admit, I genuinely like him, and were circumstances different, would be great friends with him myself. Bree and I had a wonderful time, but I did have some difficulty seeing Michelle and Christos together. Bree could tell, but she didn't press the issue.
Not to say my relationship with Bree was perfect. I took a lot of my anxieties out on her, snapping at her or yelling at her at times because of my discomfort with Michelle and Christos and Bree's inability to be the surrogate for Michelle I tried to make her into.
About a month ago, Bree moved to Denver to become roommates with her childhood best friend, and she pretty much went incommunicado. We had been in constant contact for years, so getting just one or two texts a day from her was very disconcerting. I finally texted her something along the lines of "Okay, I get it, I understand. Sorry I wasn't more what you needed" or something passive-aggressive like that. (I realize now I was being a dick, you don't need to point it out...) She replied "I've been working on rediscovering my faith. Thanks for understanding, sorry I couldn't be what you need."
Well, as you may remember from my other posts, I have abandonment issues with women, and I totally flipped my shit. I texted her some scathing remarks that I won't repeat here, but essentially I questioned her character for dropping me so quickly, for taking advantage of my emotional support, as well as my financial support (I've helped her out a time or three) and implied that she should go to hell for this sudden betrayal.
She called me the next day, crying. Explained that in her move to Denver, she felt unencumbered by a lot of the shit she'd been carrying around in Charlotte, including her guilt for being with me. She's in an existential crisis, trying to figure out her life. She asked for space. She didn't end it, exactly, but she didn't say to wait for her. She actually said it would probably be better not to wait for her, but I think anybody who is in her shoes, depressed and confused about life in general, would say this. So I agreed.
(There's been some discussion since then around my insecurities and how I feel abandoned, and she's assured me that this is not about me. I am finally now comfortable accepting that it's really not about me, and that she's not necessarily gone forever... Hell, see my old posts. She didn't talk to me for over a month, and we still ended up getting back together.)
But in her absence, and with the help of my really excellent therapist, I finally see the pattern. I see how I am simply not okay with being part of a poly arrangement, and how that anxiety was destructive not just to my self-esteem, but also to BOTH of my relationships. Michelle is unable to let go of Christos or put any boundaries on their relationship that would make me more comfortable. I say unable, and I mean unable, not unwilling. As I said, her AS tendencies dictate a lot of her behavior, as does her learned responses to my anxieties. I can put no more blame on her for this than I can blame our son for not being able to adapt to a regular classroom.
So what's a guy to do?
Well, I realize, of course, that to think I would leave Michelle for Bree is foolish. First, Bree is simply not at a place to consider a long-term relationship with me. Second, to think in those terms would be to consider leaving Michelle for the wrong reasons.
So I have to picture myself in the complete absence of Bree, or any other pseudo-mono relationship like I had with her. I have to picture myself in poly relationships only, with Michelle and Christos doing their thing. And when I picture that, I realize that I can never be happy in that arrangement.
So I've decided on divorce.
Michelle understands, everything is amicable, and the court proceedings will be quick and painless. Since she's a stay-at-home mom with aspirations of getting a grad degree so she can work in a field she really enjoys (special education, natch) I will agree to pay her maintenance (what Missouri calls alimony) for five years in addition to mandatory child support to get her on her feet.
Also, we are actually split across households, our old house and a new apartment in a better school district, for the purposes of our oldest's education. We will sell the old house (we hate its location anyway) and I will buy a new house in my name that I will lease to her and the boys so that they can have a house and a yard and all those things they can't have in an apartment. I will get a small apartment, though if these past few months are any indication, I will spend as much time at Michelle's house with her and the boys as I do at my own.
Michelle and I have been together since our freshmen year of college. I have never lived alone as an adult. On one hand, it's exciting. On the other, I am terrified of loneliness. I suffer incredible loneliness when she's with Christos and I'm home with the boys, and I imagine it's what hell must be like. I hope I learn to cope with that better.
Regarding Bree, of course I still hold out hope for something real with her, without all the baggage I had before, but I know better than to count on it. Her Christianity has actually brought me closer to God, so I'm learning to trust Him... If it's His will, it'll happen. She has to get herself figured out first. And I have to learn to be just me, not me and Michelle. And then there will be logistics to figure out, sure - Bree is in Denver, and she doesn't want to live in Kansas City, where I live, so there will be things to figure out there if we ever get to that point. She is, to me, the most amazing woman I've ever met, so I'll be sad if we never get to explore that, but I know... I know... plenty of fish, right?
So that's my story. I'm still grieving my marriage, but I don't worry about the kids. Mom and Dad still love each other, they just couldn't be married. Mom and Dad are damned good parents, and will always love them and take care of them (even if... IF... way down the road, Dad becomes a long-distance Dad... IF... Not making plans, just saying I'd still be committed to being Dad). I fight with bargaining ("Oh, c'mon... it's not that bad, you can make it work with Michelle!") but I know, looking back on the past three years, that's just not going to happen. It's time to start the next chapter of my life, as scary as that is.
I just read your other posts, to which you linked, and this one - and it sounds like, as unpredictable and scary this stage may seem, you have chosen the right path for yourself. You seem at peace, despite the unknown looming before you. Change is the only absolute in life, so really the only thing we can do is stop fighting it. You put your heart and soul into relationships that worked sometimes and didn't work other times, and came out realizing that the scales were tipped in a direction that would not bring you satisfaction and fulfillment. Good on you for being brave enough to admit it.
Don't be scared of being alone. I am still in the midst of getting divorced myself (two years separated) and have come to really appreciate being by myself, although of course there are times I do feel lonesome. But it passes. It isn't actually that horrifying to be alone, and can be very soul-soothing to enjoy your own company -- and you can always go out for a walk and connect with people in some way, even if it's a stranger walking their dog and you have a moment to stop and say hello, pet the dog, make eye contact. Just find ways not to indulge in self-pitying thoughts.
"Lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless, and lonely is healing if you make it..." from this spoken word video: How To Be Alone
You won't be alone forever, anyway. Believe me. It sounds like you are in a good place, actually. Glad to read that you have an excellent therapist, too. All the best to you.
I salute your bravery!
You sound like you made the right call for yourself.
I hope this new chapter in your life leads you toward brighter days.
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