Let me preface this by saying that I am really, really bad at letting go of someone I love. And I can be bad at this to the point of stupidity.
The Newtown shootings hit me hard, as they did most of the people I know. My local paper ran photos of all those sweet little children and blurbs about each that talked about their hobbies and families and pets. I was crying by the eighth one. That day, I felt that I needed to honor those kids too in some way. The overwhelming feeling I had about that was that I had turned my back on someone I loved, perhaps unjustly, and perhaps I could turn that around. The person I was thinking of was J.
Our last conversation, a week or so prior, had been really upsetting and I had blocked him on IM, which had always been our main form of communication when we weren't together. J. had contacted my husband and asked if he was blocked. I unblocked him and let him know this, and we talked again. I was not comfortable talking to him on IM knowing that his wife read our conversations, but we discovered a feature that disabled chat logging for both of us. (This was fine until we had an evening where she came in and started reading over his shoulder. He told me this, I objected and signed off, and then she got to be upset, with me, about feeling "persona non grata" in his life. Sigh.)
J. and I were generally going over what had happened and trying to see a way forward. He said he still loved me, and was so sorry for hurting me, and had never intended to. I said I still loved him too and also regretting hurting him. My other boyfriend, the one I was still close to, kept saying I should just apologize to the wife, C., and things would be fine. I just could not do it. I felt that apologizing to C., for upsetting her when I got annoyed at my husband, was basically conceding to her that she had a right to control my marriage and how my husband and I interacted in her presence, not to mention, how I interacted with my boyfriend outside of her presence. I have always believed that if I don't like how others interact, then I should just not spend time with them, because other people's relationships are not my business and not for me to control.
In hindsight, I think I must have known, deep down, that no amount of apologizing to C. was going to appease her. A good friend of mine said recently that one should never apologize to certain people, because it whets their appetite for twenty more apologies.
J. and I were not really getting anywhere. I could not really get him to talk about what he wanted for the future, and he would not agree to take our relationship off hold, which, to him, seemed to mean that we saw each other, but weren't being sexual and weren't counting on any kind of future. I kept saying, "Why are we on hold when we love each other and I didn't do anything wrong?" I feared that J. blamed me for C's upset in some way, and kept asking him if he did, without ever getting a clear answer. We were seeing each other fairly regularly, kissing a bit, and talking endlessly about C.'s unhappiness with me and what to do about it. J. kept insisting that I was not vetoed as a partner for him, but he would not take our relationship off hold either.
My husband was part of some of our discussions and he was very helpful at facilitating my interaction with J. He and J. came up with the idea of both of them talking to J.'s wife, C., without me. I told my husband I was OK with that. I knew that C was still very fond of my husband, they had once been lovers, and she would probably listen to him much better than she would listen to me. Husband got home very late that night and didn't have much to report to me. I asked him to just tell me if C. had indicated that she would support my relationship with J. going forward. He was not able to tell me this. They had all talked for hours and hours, and husband insisted it was productive, but the only thing that I heard about that actually happened was that C. talked a lot about her unhappiness with me.
I didn't sleep much that night and woke up feeling hopeless about things. My head was telling me to just end things with J. decisively, but my heart objected. I was also dreading the prospect of having to spend time with C. in the future, since it was so obvious that she was still very angry with me and it wasn't getting better. I had stupidly introduced both C. and J. to a private social event that typically happens twice a year. Then I remembered that J. had said to me, a couple of weeks prior, that he didn't want to follow me around to social events if that made me uncomfortable. I got in touch with him and asked if his promise still stood. I said, please just give me my space at this one social event and if we coincide at other things, as we likely will, I'm OK with that. He agreed to do that. But he believed that me requesting this from him constituted me dumping him again, and he went on the email group for that social event and publicly announced that "someone" had asked him to leave the group. It caused a bunch of discord. The host of the event got upset with me (I managed to smooth that down). I lost a friendship with someone I knew from that event who jumped to a whole lot of judgmental assumptions even though she knew nothing about my relationship with J or what agreements we had. And C. asserted to my husband that SHE never agreed to give me my space at the event and would not, and her husband would, of course, accompany her.
I heard from my husband that J. was very depressed and angry and believed that I had dumped him, again. And I decided to finally take control of the situation, if I could. I wanted to end everyone's pain and unhappiness, especially J's. I decided to write an apology to C. and copy both men on it. I did not know how to go about it, since I felt so strongly that she was trying to control my relationships with my husband and with J., but once I got going, I found a way to do it. This is what I wrote (edited for anonymity):
I realize that I have been afraid of trying to sit down with the four of us. As J. and my husband both know, I tend to be totally avoidant of people who give me the impression, by their words or actions, that they wish me ill. That is how I have felt about you, C., since Thanksgiving. That is how I feel about my brother and his wife. In the case of the two of them, I know by their consistent rude and belittling behavior towards me, and now, even towards my children, that I am not really off base. It has gotten so bad that my mom recently promised, independent of me, that she will not subject either me or my children to their presence at family gatherings ever again. Fortunately, my niece is almost 16 so we should be able to see her without her parents.
My husband has helped me realize that what is true in my family may not be the case here, that people sometimes do just get really upset, about things that do not necessarily make much sense to the rest of us. I think what spooked me here is that you seemed so angry for so long, C. I have a temper, I sure know that, but in most cases, I don't think I stay mad long at anyone. When my husband spent so much time, so many emails, trying to calm you down and help you see what our side of things was and you just did not seem to calm down, or really hear him, my feeling that you were someone I had to avoid at all costs, someone "toxic," kicked in. That's why I tried to persuade J. that he and I could continue our relationship independent of you. That's why I told him it was over when he would not agree to that. But I was not happy with not having him in my life at all, and I am still not happy at the prospect of that, and I don't think I could be.
I have been stumped on how to handle this, but here goes.
C., I want to apologize for upsetting you, last month. It still seems inconceivable to me that the interaction I had with my husband, in your presence, could have caused such emotional turmoil for you, but I accept that it did. I also do not understand how previous events, issues that were between me and my husband, or between me and J., could have upset you to the extent that I heard they did, but I accept that they did, and I am sorry you were hurt by them.
I know that saying that has been a long time coming, and here is why. The other part of my family history that is pertinent is that I grew up with one very controlling parent, and C.'s upset, to me, felt like an attempt to control my relationships with my husband and with my boyfriend.
Also, I have hung on to the idea that since C. was the person who initially attacked me, not vice versa, the burden was on her to apologize first. But that is really pretty silly, I guess. My other boyfriend teased me recently that it was a good thing I wasn't in charge of the Middle East peace process, and I guess that finally sunk in.
I also want to apologize to both of you, J. and C., if you felt hurt when I asked J. to not attend the social event that I introduced you to again (I assumed that you, C., would not attend without him). That was more of my "avoidant" behavior kicking in.
If you three think it would help to sit down and talk, I am open to it, even though the prospect is a bit scary for me. If you think the situation is too far gone, I accept that.
Thanks for listening.
C. wrote back a sort of apology too. It still managed to be very accusatory towards me, but she did apologize for losing her temper to the extent she had, and for making some very personal attacks that had nothing to do with the situation at hand. I thanked her for her graciousness (such as it was), and thought we were well on our way to solving our issues. (to be continued in next post)