This is my best attempt to capture (maybe not in the exact flow) the first lengthy, significant contact I’ve had with Carly since I started this blog. I mentioned not long ago we texted a little about what we’re learning and she said she would be ready to start having real conversation with each other again when I was ready.
I discussed the possibility with my therapist, and my fear was I would find out I’m no longer important or special to her in any way, or the contact would bring back strong feelings for one of us and not the other. The very last thing I needed right now was for either of us to get hurt, and hurting her would have hurt me.
My therapist challenged me to have the conversation sooner than later because the risk would never go away regardless of how long I waited, and it could be a relief to find out we felt the same about each other either way. I thought it would be a relief to know although she’s moved on that I’m still a very important and special person to her.
I tried not to think of it too much until I felt some level of comfort with risking the conversation, but a few nights later I was grocery shopping and something had gotten in my head to get me feeling very sharply anxious, insecure and inadequate wondering if the guy she dated after me was better than me in every way and everything I’m not.
Shortly after I got home from the grocery store I decided I couldn’t dwell in these feelings, doubts, and questions which felt like they were eating away and corroding me from the inside like a chemical burn. I texted her I’d be open to talking soon and she asked right away if now worked. Forgetting her time zone is three hours behind, I was a little surprised and instantly froze in panic for a second but took a breath and thought I didn’t have a good enough reason not to so I agreed and she called.
We started with a bit of light conversation hearing about each other’s holidays. There wasn’t much interesting or out of the ordinary I don’t think.
Somehow the conversation transitioned to me asking her more about who she is now, and what she’s done and seen. Not with any judgement whatsoever, but it was crazy for me to hear her talk about drugs she’s seen regularly at Hollywood parties, and ones she’s tried or now does regularly herself for primarily pain management purposes. It was hard to wrap my head around how casual and informed she was on the topic as someone who I’d known as a solidly conservative seeming, traditional seeming, almost Stepford Wife like person through much of our relationship.
She had texted me earlier how she was learning about her own pattern of trying to live up to some expectation and suppress her true self in relationships without any wrongdoing or pressure from her partner, and at some point I had to ask if I probably didn’t fully know her at all. She said probably not, and hearing more about how different her life, and perspective and opinions are surprised me how little I may have known the real her at all.
Although it could be nice to be taken care of by someone behaving that way, a recurring fear I had about our relationship was that it was, and would only get more like the boring, cookie-cutter life I was afraid to get stuck in.
Eventually I just out and asked her some of the questions which had been eating away at me. When I told her she was still important to me and I was afraid I was no one to her now. I also told her I had been feeling insecure and inadequate at the thought of New Guy being everything I’m not and that now she looks back and thinks less of me than she did when we were together because she didn’t know any better.
She said none of that was true and let out a breath which also said it was a silly question. After all she had done and gone through since our breakup, and how much she seemed to have changed, I felt the need to ask. I did elaborate on some areas of comparison and was somewhat relieved to hear some of the specific ways that New Guy hadn’t been a good partner in ways I knew I had.
The strangest area to discuss my newly developed doubts and insecurities was around my performance and contribution to the physical portion of our relationship. Our unique position of being each other’s first and only before we broke up is part of what enabled those feelings. I’m much more reluctant and skeptical to accept any good about myself, but I fully accept the bad in an instant. Hearing about a few areas of strength in my ability to perform physically was a weight off my shoulders, and I immediately agreed with her only stated weakness about having room for more confidence. The area she said I was probably average I have a hard time feeling ok with because I’m tough on myself and don’t consider average to be good enough.
What made even the positive opinions difficult to hear was knowing that they were based on her experiences with other men (which was kind of the point, I know). The hardest part might have been hearing how her opinions have changed, and her encouragement for me to also have a more casual encounter myself. I don’t judge or think any differently of her, but part of me naturally found it painful to hear that something we had once treated as somewhat sacred with each other, she was no longer treating as such, and could possibly have been giving what I thought of as a precious gift to people who might not be kind enough to deserve it.
She apologized if dating someone else so fast contributed and made my feelings of insecurity and inadequacy worse. I told her the apology was unnecessary. We were broken up and she didn’t owe me anything so she didn’t do anything wrong.
In fact she had been so good to me in our relationship that I told her, since I better understood and appreciated how well she loved me, she has become a role model for how I want to give in any form of relationship: taking any chance to care for my loved ones unconditionally. Her reaction was to tell me I shouldn’t want to be like her because she gave too much of herself. I don’t think the problem is being too giving and loving, but doing so from a false sense of roles and expectations instead of out of your own sense of self. Although her willingness to give and love was unconditional, I guess her own happiness and self worth has been directly conditional on others.
As we talked about how we were doing, it was strange I was working on moving on from her while she was already moved on and trying to get over New Guy. I asked her why I was taking so long to move on. She said she had started the process of moving on long before we broke up and had been working up the courage to break up with me while also not wanting to make things harder for me while I was in the middle of grad school application stress. Apparently having New Guy really helped her get over me too. She did say she had a short while where she was mad at me or trying to be mad at me after she broke the silence and I got to tell and text her a ton of apologies.
I wished I had reasons to be angry at her to make moving on a little easier, but told her I couldn’t really think of any since she had always been so good to me. She reminded me the fact she’d been hiding and holding back her real self from me was fair reason. I guess I had already started to feel angry about that the more I understand how much she had kept from me and essentially felt lied to in many ways for a long time.
She kept insisting I hadn’t done anything to influence it but she did it herself because of her expectations for any romantic relationship. She mentioned how in hindsight she was so much more fun with other friends and guy friends than she had been with me. That makes me feel lied to, and cheated, and in a sense she had given herself to other men in a way she wasn’t giving herself to me. Ironically, more fun side of her is what I fell in love with and maybe would have softened my fears about a Stepford life if she hadn’t gone away.
The other thing she said it would be fair for me to get mad about was New Guy again. I told her again that we were broken up so she didn’t do anything wrong and I didn’t blame him at all for scooping her up asap. They had been friends from work and she said I could be mad they kept in touch so frequently. I said that wasn’t a big deal and she hadn’t really talked to him that much. When she told me she had been texting him every day for months before we broke up I was surprised and had not know it had been that much. I think she maybe made a half-hearted attempt to be transparent that they were in touch, but probably just enough to somewhat satisfy her conscience without really being enough for me to think twice about it. Even if I had know the true frequency, it probably never would have crossed my mind to question it because I trusted her without question.
Something clicked in my head and I asked her if she was telling me she had cultivated feelings for him and had an emotional affair with him before we broke up. She said yes, but it wasn’t based on much because their conversation was very surface level. I didn’t feel much consolation from the style since the substance was still her choosing to continue indulging and developing feelings for him daily.
That rocked my world. Whenever I had told friends or family how quickly she moved on I said I trusted her and I didn’t think anything inappropriate happened. I was wrong. I was wrong to trust her for that period when she had been allowing and developing feelings for someone she chose to contact every day while I was with her.
I can’t say I had never felt the spark of feelings for old friends or new people during our relationship, and even shared residual feelings to an old friend who I thought deserved to know, which even today I can’t say whether a part of me had any ulterior motives. However, part of what was going on under my nose felt somewhat different because of the daily effort in maintaining and initiating contact.
Looping back around to how it was taking me so long to get over her while she was already moving on from someone else, we discussed a bit about how she doesn’t have interest in maintaining any kind of friendship with him because he wasn’t really capable of connecting with her on a meaningful level. I asked her how she was having a harder time moving on from someone she felt that way about than me. Her response was, in addition to simply choosing him and not being chosen back (again), she felt she gave our relationship everything she could, but wasn’t able to have that chance with him because he walked away so easily.
Before I would have agreed whole-heartedly that she had done absolutely everything she could have in our relationship. It was definitely true in the sense she gave all her time and energy into doing what she thought she was supposed to do, which was giving, caring and supporting. However, ironically, realizing more and more how she had kept herself and her needs from me, I could no longer agree she had done absolutely everything she could in our relationship.
Shortly after the conversation, I remembered that while we had been discussing our future, I had asked her if she would be interested in going to therapy together. Her sentiment was therapy is what premarital counseling is for after I make the choice to commit or not. At the time she also felt the issue was isolated to me and not her. I probably would have agreed before knowing what I now know and I can’t help but wonder what couples therapy could have done if it had been able to surface the issues we’re now dealing with apart. Such thinking is futile so I try no to dwell on how we could have done more, but carry what I’m learning forward.
More and more I’ve been learning how critical it is in any relationship that each individual be a healthy and whole person first before they can have the proper intentions and balance the give-and-take of a relationship.
That, I think, prompted me to tell her how I was learning just how unhealthy I had been and how terribly I had been treating myself internally. This gave me another opportunity, which I took again, to apologize for how my poor treatment of myself was in large part what overflowed into not being present or able to see her in order to treat her as well as she deserved.
Since she knew I wanted brutal (somewhat self-punishing) honesty to be shown fully my errors so that I could better appreciate and thoroughly learn to never do them again, she told me how I hadn’t been there for her enough and at times left her alone to do my own work when she was frustrated about being turned down for several jobs she worked very hard for and when her grandfather passed away. In no way do I excuse myself for those things. I remorsefully apologized and am working on forgiving myself for it. I also acknowledged for myself that she had been putting on a brave face, a mask that wasn’t true, which I hadn’t asked her to, and made it harder for me to see through while I was already blinded by my own agenda.
When she told me how she saw my depression building over time by isolating and not being interested in things I used to, she implied, if not explicitly said, she could tell for a long time I was on course for an imminent, massive breakdown.
Part of me was triggered and wanted to say “well then why the fuck didn’t you say anything to me or my family to encourage me to get any help?!” After asking in more civil terms, since I knew it was possible she had tried to warn me but I had been dismissive and blind, all she was able to say was she did express towards the end of our relationship that she wanted to get out more. She was absolutely right and I should have taken her out more and I regret not. I also try not to dwell on wondering what could have happened if she’d helped me get the help I couldn’t see I needed when she could see it.
All this talk about what we had been learning about how we both tried be who we thought we were supposed to be instead of ourselves got me thinking. I asked, since the more we lost ourselves the worse we were for each other, if now finding ourselves brought us closer together again, whether she was categorically closed off to considering getting back together. I tried to be abundantly clear I wasn’t trying or in any state of mind to even think about getting back together, but I thought it would be a tragic shame if we somehow became right together yet ended up missing each other.
Something reminded me I still hadn’t told her my side of the story leading up to our breakup. I was relieved it was important and helpful to her that she got to be the one to actually initiate the breakup since I decided not to do it myself before her trip to visit with a friend.
By this point it was almost 4am and we’d brought up but failed to end the conversation a couple times. We failed again by getting on the topic of our blogs. She’s been using her’s more as a platform to demonstrate, encourage and attract authenticity in people around her and it seems like she’s gotten really good response. Thinking more about her intentions after our conversation really inspired me to set the same example by being more fully vulnerable and exposed by not hiding behind any anonymity and being as forthcoming as possible in any blog post or conversation without reservation or embarrassment but fully owning everything past and present. She said I could follow her but I passed for now and I gave her my blog name but I think asked she hold off on looking until I felt more comfortable with it.
We said our goodbyes and I told her the conversation had been mostly good but a lot to take in so I might not be ready for another one like it for a while. She understood and said she’d put the ball in my court regarding when to talk again.
In the end it was a relief to be able to ask the questions that had gnawing and eating away at me. There were also some very difficult things to hear and find out about which would take several of days to come to terms with. I see it all as good truth to hear as knowing is a required step to accept things as they really are so I can put them behind me and move forward.