There are things I haven’t written about here on my blog because I couldn’t. I couldn’t write about them because I loathe vulnerability in myself. I hate to feel vulnerable and to be perceived that way. In others, of course, I think vulnerability and the capacity for showing it are rare and valuable traits. Just not for me.
The reason I can write about my mental illness is because I do not see it as a vulnerability. It’s just a part of who I am and it doesn’t make me weak. I am strong because of and in spite of my mental illness.
But failing at love time and time again is a vulnerability. A big one. And I’m ashamed of it. So I haven’t written about it much.
But I think I’m ready. I think I need to write about it. Whether I publish it here will be the question.
I have been married 3 times. I’ve mentioned it tangentially but have not addressed the topic or my history directly. I’ve mentioned my religious ex-husband and how I left him and the church. I wrote about my cheating lying abusive sociopathic ex-husband here for a writing challenge. I’ll probably devote essays to both of these stories another time, when I have the wherewithal to dig through the skeletons in my closet. Not now.
I met my current husband (you can’t understand the shame involved having to write current) very shortly after leaving my abusive ex. I had written off men and sworn to myself that I was done with relationships.
Then I met him. I thought he was everything I ever needed. I thought he was all the things my exes weren’t. I thought I finally knew what a good and healthy love felt like.
I was right about one of those.
For several years our relationship was good and healthy and happy. We had a daughter together, then a son and though we had some tough times, some trials that we struggled through, we were determined to make it out together. We were committed to staying together no matter what.
I’ve had this theory for quite a while now. That love is like the celestial bodies that decorate our sky. There are loves that are like the common dull stars that you can sense but are not life changing. There are loves like the sparkling twinkling stars that come and go and aren’t made for lasting. There are loves like the moon, a shimmering practice love that that can be beautiful but pales in comparison to the love that is the sun. That love, is the love that will last. Because it is strong and bright and willing to move and compromise. It can withstand any storm and the darkest night because the sun always rises.
I thought I’d found my sun.
I think I’ve decided that I was wrong.
Another of my pet theories is that no matter what a person does, there are just a few traits we are incapable of changing. I think maybe the best we can do for these core traits is polish them up, or put them to good use. But they are uncompromisingly a part of who we are and we can’t change or get rid of such a fundamental part of ourselves.
I came to this theory after working on myself for decades. I’m not the kind of person to easily give up. To say, I am who I am and there’s nothing I can do about it. That is NOT who I am. If I don’t like something, by god, I’m going to fix that thing because why the hell not? Why just sit around bitching about something when there is work that can be done to fix it.
And I worked on my flaws. Came up with plans, studied academically how to become a better version of myself, and put that plan into action. But there are a few things, no matter how I attacked them, how I struggled to change them, the fuckers wouldn’t budge.
I am lazy. Always have been, now it seems I always will be (it’s worse now that I’m sick). I don’t like to do things. I don’t like to clean, I don’t like to hike, I don’t like to do much of anything that doesn’t involve sitting and reading (or some other sitting hobby). It’s some sort of twisted irony that I develop a chronic disorder that keeps me from standing up. Or maybe the universe blessed me with a convenient excuse.
I am incapable and mostly unwilling to feel or show vulnerability. As I said before. I shut down sensitive emotions in myself for decades. I went almost 10 years without shedding a single tear. Throughout my later teens and twenties, I built up walls in myself to protect me from being hurt or feeling much at all. This one has improved a bit. I’ve worked on tearing down those walls in the last few years. I’ve purposefully exposed myself to things that will induce my empathy. I let my husband see me cry and comfort me when I lost one of friends to suicide a few years ago. This core flaw is one that will always stay with me but I can keep it in check if I work on it constantly.
The problem has become that my unchangeable foundation and my husband’s are incompatible. It’s probably always been so, it’s become increasingly apparent in the last few years.
We’ve made it through some shit together. We’ve been through job lay offs, unemployment, going back to school, a house fire, two pregnancies and child births, 8 years of child rearing, illness on both sides, 2 disability cases, 3 years of living in a cramped basement constantly surrounded by the kids, the dogs and the fucking in laws. We managed to get through most of it together. We’ve managed to stick together for almost 10 years now.
Our relationship has been whittled down to the bone. There is no buffer left to prevent the constant friction of two incompatible personalities grinding against each other.
I need someone to support me, he is an island. He was raised an only child with two working parents. He is Scandinavian and claims that this makes him uber self sufficient. I admire self sufficiency. I am self sufficient. But I extend that to other people. I am a natural care giver. He can’t take care of anyone. That is to say, he is perfectly capable of feeding, watering and changing our children but has never been able to extend that reach to me. If I hadn’t been able to feed myself after the birth of our children I would have starved because the thought of my hunger never occurred to him. The thought that I have needs outside of physical ones never occurs to him. I am left to take care of myself and everyone else and there is no one to take care of me. And for along time, I was okay with that. I was self sufficient and invulnerable. But now I want more than that. I want someone who knows me, understands me, supports me and can take care of me in my weak moments. Instead I found someone who is ignorant that I have weakness at all and incapable of supporting me when I do. I do not deny that much of that is my fault. But unfortunately neither of us can change this. No matter how long and how hard both of us have tried.
I need someone who is honest, he is secretive. He doesn’t lie, I wouldn’t have been able to put up with that after my relationship with my pathological liar of an ex. But his natural and only setting is keeping his business to himself. And everything is his business. Getting him to talk about anything is like pulling teeth. And after almost 10 years I’m sick of playing dentist. For our whole relationship, I played 20 questions to get any amount of information from him and I word vomited my whole life from any prodding on his part. It was the only reason there was any communication at all. I gave that up in January. So now, if on the rare occasion he thinks to ask me a question, I answer it without word vomiting. I don’t really ask him much anymore. I got tired of chasing intellectual and emotional intimacy with him and wouldn’t you know, our relationship died . I’m not sure he’s noticed all that much.
I want someone who will compromise, he is an unmovable object. You see, I am a self starter. I am a self changer. He is “I am what I am and that’s all that I am” . He is unwilling to change. He is unwilling to try anymore. But he demands that I do. Because his opinions and the way he does things are always right. So I’ve spent our entire relationship apologizing for my errors and trying to live up to his expectations. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because I’m sick of the bullshit, or maybe it’s just that I’ve finally arrived at the destination of mandatory self expression, the journey I started 10 years ago when I left my abusive ex. I don’t know why, but I do know that I want someone who believes my thoughts and opinions are valid even when in contradiction to his own. I want someone who will meet me in the middle when it comes to parenting instead of ascribing to the motto “To each his own”.
I want someone who is willing to share their life with me, he again is an island. He has his own hobbies and interests, and where we used to have some common ground, there is nothing but distance. He won’t do things with me if he doesn’t like them. He gets mad at me when I am not sincerely interested in what he likes. But worse than that, he doesn’t see it as necessary to spend time together. In January, I stopped asking him to do things together. Watching a movie after the kids go to bed, going on dates, or just eating breakfast together. After a while, I mentioned that to him, that I’d stopped. He said he’d noticed and he liked it.
I guess, really, that is the clincher. In January I gave up any interest I had in our relationship. I unhitched myself from his wagon. I stopped putting in any effort to maintain intimacy. And he liked it.
I don’t. To me, it’s not a relationship. We don’t talk, spend time together, have anything in common, support each other or really even like each other as far as I can tell. That is not a marriage. That is two people who live in the same house. And it appears as if that’s what he’s wanted all along.
I haven’t completely given up. Quite yet. I’m open to a re-establishing of a real relationship if he’s open to the time and effort. I have to be for my kid’s sake.
And because the little that we have might be better than nothing.
Love hasn’t worked out for me, and I know plenty of the fault of that lies with me. If I’d made better, more educated decisions. If I’d committed to being pickier. If I’d waited longer between relationships, more willing to be alone. If I’d learned to respect my own needs sooner. If I had been more self aware and more knowledgeable about what it was I wanted from a relationship. If, if, if.
But the thing is, I was so sure. 9 years ago, I thought I had it all. I thought I knew what real love was and I thought I’d found it. How many times can I be wrong before I just give up believing in it at all?
Is love that actually lasts a complete and utter myth created subconsciously by society as a self defense measure against the break up of family units? Do we fool ourselves that love can last so we’ll stay together for the kids?
I used to think that the couple that grows together stays together. But I don’t think that’s possible anymore.
I’m scared I don’t believe in love anymore. But even more scared that I’ll never feel it again. Maybe this is all that there will ever be for me.
In any case, I have no choice in the matter right now. We’re staying together, however loosely that together is.
And I’m going to push the publish button, because this is just one more step in the process of being okay with vulnerable.