I'm in the post break-up re-evaluation phase ('bargaining' phase in the grieving process?). I veer between feeling I tried my best while also holding onto ways I could have done things differently while dealing with our core problem to feeling that I fucked up majorly and just lost a potentially fantastic life-partner. While par for course this state of affairs is I believe, this is really eating me and I would be grateful for some perspective.
posted by drummergirl80 to human relations (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My partner and I met a year and a half ago and three days later she flew to another part of the world. Very intense in the beginning, we perhaps committed too soon - distance forces commitment in some ways, to justify the costs of travel and relocation. Anyway, she became ambivalent very soon into the relationship - as soon as conflicts developed. She visited me 3 times in the past year, spending a total of 6 months in my country while she wrote up her Master's thesis alongside work. I on my part visited her twice during university breaks (I teach) and was looking at post-doc options in her country while also thinking about partnership visas (we are women).
Our relationship was not an easy one. About 5 months into it, we began having huge conflicts- sometimes once a week, at other times twice. I was usually the one 'aggrieved', who needed more of 'us' while she wanted more of herself. A key area of conflict was how many people we wanted in our lives in our leisure time - she wanted a whole lot more. Dominant, a great conversationalist, she enjoyed attention and admiration and the exchange and bonhomie of social gatherings. While I enjoyed a bit of that, I was far more happier being just with her. Especially when on holiday or when she's just come back or is about to go away for months. For instance, during our last holiday somewhere, every dinner and most breakfasts and lunch was had with someone or another group or people - which I mostly didn't mind. But when on the last evening when most people had left and I thought, finally an evening to ourselves and when she befriended another group, I 'behaved badly'- I got upset and 'spoilt our evening'. There was competition and since she was a better conversationalist than me and thought me one with her or in competition with her, I was often unable to inch in. But we were working on this and me on myself in therapy ('why do I feel invisibilized when silent?' :))
This difference for me was still bearable, I also appreciated the social side to me she brought out, the new people we met, the engagement with things outside of myself that was required to be able to contribute to conversations; I honestly felt I grew through this difference. But there was another area of conflict I believe undid us - my jealousy and her flirting. This flirting was only acknowledged in the last month of our relationship where she admitted that she might relate to femme types differently from butch types (she is only attracted to/love femmes). I have been in therapy for the past year almost for this, where I took on the mantle of 'jealous, insecure person' who moreover imagines things. Post her admission and her move from 'I'd like to believe my partner has eyes only for myself' to 'what's wrong with flirting?' I have come to believe that flirting does happen. A kind of connection she sustains with specific people in our social circles, a silent intensity in them when they are physically close, mild physical contact, close physical dancing, her jealousy (and slight hostility) for their hook-ups (she observes them through a party/on facebook) or their girlfriends, facebook stalking, calling affectionate animal-names, sexual jokes that bring into focus their bodies. I want to add that I believed she will never cheat on me. But she needs that attention, the same that I like lavishing on her.
A woman who I allowed to torture me to insanity almost was met through a dating site; even when I understood that she wanted to expand her queer circle in my city, it still made me nervous. I dealt with that badly, I wanted to stop seeing her (she agreed to not meeting her alone) because I found their connection unbearable but when that was not an option I often became obnoxious and hostile - usually at the end of the party and about specific things that happened. All of these escalated into conflict. I got into individual analysis and she and I into couples therapy. But change is slow, difficult, I keep forgetting lessons that seemed easy on the couch. I saw a flirtatious facebook exchange on a photo she had uploaded of this woman and send my partner amongst the most vulgar texts I have ever. The day before she left my country, at another party, she and her cosied up on the couch and was in intense conversation and I left the party. I regret how I handled these times.
I was also jealous of ex fuck buddies. She went away for a week to work with one of them (who I'd previously suffered through an evening some part of which they were flirting in a corner) and I ignored her for that week. This too I regret because that work was the basis of her business visa which allowed her easy entry into my country; it was the extra day she wanted to spend with her during the weekend that tipped me. But still I regret it though I remember the helplessness I felt then.
I was not jealous so much of her ex-girlfriends; I'm friends with my own exes. One was a part of her social circle in her country and I was happy to see her every week. Was not jealous except for a twinge when while on holiday with me, she send that ex a wistful text recalling their search for a field of rhododendrons on their trip somewhere. I was not jealous of the other either-she lived in another country. Except for that time when I came across pictures of her lifting her up at her birthday party or the one where she was hugging her from behind, face next to hers. The same evening where we had a huge fight because she could not send one reply to my asking how her birthday evening was going (we talked for an hour that morning was her explanation). She told me the next day that she was heartbroken and drunk that her ex was hooking up with someone else and she expects some more understanding. I was hurt not so much by all of that but that she could not send me one text to reassure me when she was partying with an ex. This happened one more time 6 months later, I became angry and hostile on skype, and that was when she broke up with me seriously for the first time. She had previously broken up with me about 4 times over 4 months, each of those breaks lasting exactly a day - days when initially my worlds would fall apart.
After our second major break-up, we decided to give it yet another shot. I went to her country. Unlike other times, I urged her to take some responsibility for what was happening to us, to get therapy for what happens to her in conflicts (she really loses it, becomes completely unreasonable, sarcastic, belligerent), how love ends for her during conflicts, her deep ambivalence about us (her previous 7 year relationship was similarly riven by ambivalence until the very end), her continuing jealousy and feelings for a couple of her most recent exes (she stiffens with hate when talking about one in particular - the one I'm not very jealous of ;-)). But she is completely unable to see this, at best she chalks it to incompatibility and thinks she's been choosing the wrong partners the last three times and otherwise that I'm an insecure, jealous, controlling, asocial misanthrope. On my part, I believe I changed, from being hostile and blaming to taking responsibility for my jealousy. But I still did try to talk to her about it, to get reassurance I suppose; being careful to choose the right time to talk about it, etc.. Which too she'd experience as control and would literally...explode. So mostly it was a lonely battle and honestly it was exhausting; I really came close to my absolute limit- and I did catastrophize about twice when I expressed that I feel I cannot do it. She threatened (which is funny) to break up each time we fought. And then would come back to a place where she was talking about children- which made me nervous. Both the idea of children in such instability and the sweep of her ambivalence.
I've only focused on our problems. There are things that held us together. When times are good, they are fantastic. We share a deep intimacy, I'm mostly happy with the mutual sharing that we do of our lives (long distance sucks). She can be super supportive and caring. Our domestic life is almost without conflict, our attitudes to money match, we both want children. We are both socially conscious and with love of adventure and travel. While she does not respect me for my insecurities and jealousy and occasional social anxiety, she does in other ways. I believe this is what bring us together each time we split and what makes me think I've fucked up.
I came back exhausted and a little depressed and unsure but within a week grew the conviction that even if she doesn't change one bit I can still do it. I drew strength from having survived those two months, felt a palpable sense of trust - in my own love and in hers. Felt a release from jealousy. And then she broke up with me, completely ambivalent to the end.
That's our sad story. My question:
I know that jealousy and insecurity are not absolute, that it depends on culture, and most importantly, on the terms of the relationship. Having said that, there are secure and insecure people too, given certain norms. In this case, the prevalent norms in the globalized (read 'westernized') urban, liberal middle class across the world. She and I both have experience with open relationships. She is completely closed to it while I honestly believe that with work, I can reach there (funnily enough, she is amongst the most jealous partners I have had, though she does not really acknowledge it, nor does she give me grief for it I suppose) I was relatively non-jealous in one such relationship in fact.
My question is two fold. One, how justified was my jealousy given this background? Two, how could I have done this relationship differently? How do I escape the 'controlling' tag while at the same time believe that relationships mean compromise and negotiation? What's 'controlling'? If I imagine words she used to describe me floating in a tag cloud, this would be the boldest and the blackest.