So here we are, there’s just been a major bump in Lora and Jon’s relationship, it’s a mid-November, and what are we doing for Thanksgiving? Jon and Lora are going to Lora’s mom’s for Thanksgiving. Plans were made before the relationship between Jon and I developed so deeply, and given some of the insecurities that Lora had about Jon’s relationship with me, he felt it best to go with her to spend Thanksgiving with her family. Beyond that, he did promise her they’d go, and felt strongly that keeping his word to her was important.
I was bummed, because I do love Thanksgiving and I was sad that my first Thanksgiving in a relationship with Jon would be spent with us separated, but I also agreed that keeping his word to Lora was extremely important. And even though I was really sad (and feeling jealous) about not seeing him, given Jon and Lora’s recent relationship difficulties, spending the holiday with Lora and her family seemed like an excellent relationship builder.
Because I was jealous, painful as it was, I talked to Jon about that, and he promised that we would all spend Christmas together. Though none of us are religious, we were all raised with the idea that spending Christmas with your loved ones was very important, so it was a big deal to Lora and I to spend Christmas with Jon, and a big deal with Jon to have a Christmas that involved both Lora and me. And as an added bonus, Jon’s parents would be visiting him over Christmas, so we’d be able to spend the holiday with them.
Leading up into Christmas, life got extremely busy. Jon and I both ended up with terrible work schedules – both our jobs have a huge rush of pre-Christmas work. Because I’m corporate, I start work at nine, and work until I get done what I need to. I was working until seven or eight or nine most nights. Jon’s pre-Christmas party planning season was also crazy, and he was working most days starting at four or five in the afternoon, and going on until one or two or even three am. Even on the days when we were living together, we were mostly sleeping together in the same bed, with maybe a little bit of talking when Jon came to bed, or when I got up for work.
Meanwhile, Lora had picked up a seasonal job at a department store. Her schedule was somewhat erratic, but most often overlapped with Jon’s (in that she frequently worked from four in the afternoon until ten or eleven close). Because of that, that nasty little green-eyed monster started biting at me again. I talked to Jon about how I was struggling a bit, both because he and I were rarely seeing each other, and because he and Lora were able to see each other fairly frequently. He sympathized and asked what we could do to make it easier. I suggested that he spend the night before Christmas Eve and that I’d take Christmas Eve off of work – a friend of mine in a nearby brownstone held an annual Christmas Eve open house from ten in the morning until about six . We could get up and hit her open house around ten, stay a few hours, and head to his place by early afternoon. He agreed that that sounded wonderful, and that we’d do it.
So everything was set until the Saturday before Christmas. That Saturday was the first time that Jon and I had had any actual personal awake time together in several weeks. After sleeping in and spending a glorious morning enjoying each other’s naked company, we cuddled up to talk about how we were handling the week of Christmas.
The current schedule was that Jon was going to head back to his and Lora’s place around six that day. He was spending Saturday night and Sunday night with Lora. Monday was the day before Christmas Eve, and he’d agreed to stay with me that night. After my friend’s housewarming, he wanted me to come stay with them Christmas Eve night and the night of Christmas (his parents were coming early Christmas day to spend the day, then heading to other family in the evening). I had to go back to work the day after Christmas, and he was going to spend that night with Lora, and then come spend Friday night with me. I said that all sounded fine, and I wanted to know if he knew what time he’d be at my place on Monday evening. I was probably going to be able to get out of work early, so I was hoping that he could be at my place by sixish.
Silence. “Monday?” he asked. “I was planning on spending Monday night with Lora”.
My heart sort of shuddered. I can still remember the way I felt the blood draining out of my face. I remember how I wiggled out of his arms a bit, so I could turn around and look at him. “You promised me you’d spend Monday night with me, remember? We’re going to my friend’s open house Christmas Eve morning. Remember?”.
Now it was my turn to watch the blood drain from his face. “I’m so sorry, love. I totally forgot and I promised Lora that I would spent Monday night with her. She’s feeling anxiety about you staying, and about my parent’s coming, and she really wants me with her on Monday.”
At this point, I felt calm. I felt reasonable. I was reasonable. “Jon,” I said. “I’m so sorry that you forgot that you promised me. But it’s really important to me to spend Monday night with you. We’ve barely seen each other for weeks. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since you agreed to it. And you’re spending tonight, tomorrow, and Thursday nights with Lora already. If we don’t have an evening together on Monday, then we won’t have any private time together until nearly a week from now.”
Jon looked anguished. He clearly felt terrible that he’d forgotten his promise to me. I also imagined that he was dreading what would happen when he told Lora about his mistake and that he’d first promised me that he was going to spend Monday night at my place. So he tried to compromise. He suggested that he get up early Monday morning, be at my place by nine, we could get ready together and go to my friend’s, and then head to his place. I countered that we could swap out the night. I did still really want him to come with me to my friend’s open house, as he had promised that, but if the night was important to Lora, how about we swap nights? Jon could come back Sunday night. I pointed out to him that we really, truly had very little time together the last few weeks, and it felt really unreasonable and unfair to me if he went back on his promise – especially given how many nights he would be spending with Lora in the next week, AND given the weeks prior where we’d barely seen each other.
Jon really wanted me to understand that telling Lora that he couldn’t spend Monday with her would be a really big deal to her. She would be incredibly upset and hurt and angry and feel like he was putting me first.
I said quietly that it really did suck that no matter what he did, he was going to have at least one incredibly upset, hurt, and angry girlfriend – and that if he decided to stay with Lora, that would show me something really unpleasant about how he keeps his promises to Lora in comparison to how he keeps his promises to me.
I let that sink in for a moment, and then I explained a few things to him. I stayed calm and reasonable. Not because I was holding on to calm communication by the tips of my fingers, but because I’d gone so far past angry and hurt and upset that I couldn’t feel anything. But I knew there was a big, deep pit of bad somewhere below me, and I was going to keep gliding above it, because I did not want to go down there.
I explained to Jon that I loved him and that I cared for Lora and that I did not want to cause Lora to feel upset or like he always put me first. But this request to change things because he’d forgotten his promise to me flew in the face of how important it was to him to keep his promise to Lora about Thanksgiving. I told him that I was sorry if Lora was anxious about seeing me, but that I had chatted and invited her to do anything that she wanted for months, with or without him. I volunteered to show him my emails, and show him that every time I suggested we get together (like both Lora and I kept saying we should do), she stopped emailing me. I told him that I tried. I told him that I was willing to keep trying, but at that point, I think he really needed to intercede and ask her what was going on, because she kept agreeing we should spend time together, but never followed through. Not once in over four months.
I told him that I believed him with a whole heart when he said that he felt best in two loving, supportive, equal relationships where everybody dug in together to take care of one another and see that everybody felt loved and cherished and like they were getting what they needed. I also told him that I expected to him to keep his promises to me, and that given the number of times when we’d made plans according to Lora’s needs and Lora’s desires and Lora’s anxieties, I was now questioning the truthfulness of his assertion that he wanted both relationships to feel equally loving and important.
I want to take a moment now to just say that this is one of the hardest conversations that I’ve ever had, and I’m incredibly grateful that I was so upset as to be preternaturally calm having it, or else I’d have been crying my eyes out. Part of the reason it was so hard (which Jon didn’t remember at the time, though he knew this from us talking about our childhoods) was because my mother is one of those people who can tell you every little thing I’ve ever done wrong in my whole life. If you ask her what bad things I did in July of 1987, she could recite a list of being bad at softball practice, getting muddy in my Sunday School dress, nicking chocolates from her stash of fancy chocolates, and whatever else I might have done. I’m not the kind of person who holds grudges or keeps track of who gets what and demands exactly equality. If I’ve noticed that something is unequal or that I’m being taken advantage of, it’s gotten to the point where it’s actively draining me of energy and I’ve noticed because I can feel the energy drain. I wasn’t deliberately keeping track of Lora’s behavior – I didn’t want to have to do something like that. It was painful and embarrassing to bring all that stuff up, because I don’t like keeping track like that. And it was also hard because even though it was true that the aggregate of all of those instances did deeply bother me, the truth was that beyond all those things, when Jon asked me to compromise, something inside me felt sick and sad and like saying yes would hurt something inside of me. I still don’t entirely know all the different things that combined to make that feeling, but I do suspect that it had to do with all those things I mentioned and other things like how I had been feeling increasingly tense about how Lora and I never got together (and debating if and when to bring that up with Jon). I had also observed that it seemed like he was still treading very carefully around her temper – not as badly as before they had it out, but there was still a tenseness there. It felt like the quiet before the storm. This stupid Monday night, this silly little thing that happened because Jon had been forgetful – if he hadn’t been forgetful this time, it would have been something else another time. How Jon would handle figuring out this Monday night mess would tell me a lot about how my needs and promises made to me would be considered, and if they would be valued. It would also show me what would happen when Jon told Lora that he made a mistake and needed to make it right.
So Jon said he’d talk to Lora that night and he went home.