I talked to Jon about not wanting to be friends with Lora.
It didn’t go great or horribly. I think the best thing that could be said of it is that we cleared up some miscommunications, which will help me think through my next steps.
One of the things we cleared up is that Jon didn’t realize, from the talking we did months ago, that I specifically was making Lora going to sole therapy a non-negotiable condition of us continuing to live together. He also knows that Lora also feels that way – they both thought that as long as SOME therapy was sought, it would be “enough”. I trust Jon enough to know that if he said that, he definitely believes that. And if Jon got that out of our talk, I can’t accept that he could have honestly gotten it wrong without accepting that Lora also could have honestly gotten it wrong. They were both there, and we were all talking together, so…that’s a learning lesson for me. The lesson being: get things in writing using tiny, tiny, very clear words. And I’d be willing to bet that I know what happened – I told Lora that she needed therapy – that was non-negotiable. She agreed. She and Jon both felt like they badly needed couples therapy. I didn’t agree to that, as I believe most of the problems result from Lora’s emotional abuse, but I was afraid to say that so bluntly. I think Lora is the one who really needs therapy, but I did agree that couples therapy could be helpful. As we continued talking, and using the word therapy, I was using it specifically to mean LORA get solo therapy, whereas they were talking about both solo therapy for Lora and couples therapy.
So, lesson learned. On the big things, make sure you have a talk shortly afterward where everybody is definitely on the same page, and then put in writing the exact expectations, so that everybody is clear.
Jon said that one of his biggest concerns is that me talking to Lora about not wanting to be her friend is going to bring out her trust issues, because she does trust me and she’ll take me not wanting to be her friend as proof that she shouldn’t trust people. Bonus points to me for not immediately firing back with something like “Yeah, that totally sucks for her. I can see how me being miserable and stressed that I’m watching my boyfriend have an abusive relationship with his other girlfriend and not just sucking it up and pretending it’s all fine is going to give her trust issues. Because her trust issues are way more important than the part where SHE IS AN ABUSIVE HUMAN BEING WHO EMOTIONALLY SHITS ON THE PERSON SHE LOVES”.
I didn’t say that. I wanted to. But I didn’t.
I did say a more mild version of that later, which Jon sort of impatiently nodded through. Thinking back over it, I need to make a mental note to check back with Jon – a lot of times, I feel like he’s trivializing the problems or not really paying attention to me when I express how upsetting things are. But I think what might be happening is that he knows how I feel, and he also knows that I have a good foundation in myself – meaning, if things get better, I’ll be able to move on more cleanly than Lora and not use any of this as a decades-long excuse for bad behavior. Whereas with Lora, every little thing is a huge crisis that may be mined for years down the line as “proof” that she should or shouldn’t do certain things, because of the way people reacted. Like for instance, I don’t want to be Lora’s friend. Lora will take that as proof that she shouldn’t trust people ever. She won’t take it as “Hey, maybe if I didn’t abuse my boyfriend, my metamour would be more likely to want to be my friend”.
This makes my head hurt. So much.
Anyways, the main thing that Jon wants to know is what “not being Lora’s friend” will look like. Which I’m working on. The other thing he wants to know is how/when to talk to her about that. He feels strongly that it’s not worth talking to her about until we know what it means in terms of behavior and how things in our living situation would change. I agree with that. I also feel that I could be truthful about how I feel (completely and utterly sick of her abusive bullshit) without saying something like “so I’m not going to be your friend anymore” which is polarizing and will likely all blow up into some kind of epic fight.
Especially since, to her and Jon’s mind, starting couples therapy over three months after the “you need therapy” talk is actually holding up her end of our agreement – so why am I so upset now?
So why am I so upset now?
Because I thought that I had been clear that Lora needed solo therapy. Because I worry that couples therapy is a cop-out and that Lora will try to put as many of her problems as possible on Jon. Because I’m really sick of living with someone who is so volatile and is abusive and has so many problems. Because I didn’t know, moving in together, that she was so abusive and had so many problems and needed so much help. I still have times when I’m angry at both Jon and Lora for not realizing how bad things were and for not disclosing how bad they were before we all moved in together, so that I could make an informed decision on that.
And that last part – if I couldn’t make an informed decision when we moved in together, then maybe this is me trying to make one now. This is me looking at the situation that I’m currently living in and trying to figure out a way in which it is acceptable to me. To live with Lora but not constantly have it feel like everything is all about how she feels and helping her and being understanding and compassionate towards her to the point of hurting myself.
One of the things I said to Jon, when he expressed frustration that Lora and I don’t just talk to each other was this: If Lora was my friend, straight-up my friend, a person who I hang out with because I enjoy their company and want to spend time with them, and I saw this friend treating her lover the way that Lora treats Jon, I’d sit my friend’s ass down and say “Look – the way you treat your lover, I’m not cool with that. It’s abusive. It’s shitty. I don’t want people in my life who act like that. So if that’s the way you are, I don’t want to be friends. But if you don’t want to act like that, then let’s talk about it. And let’s talk about therapy.”
And I’d see what my friend said. I told Jon that I felt like I clearly couldn’t say that with Lora without it turning into a huge thing. He said he honestly didn’t know – maybe it would be a good thing for her to hear. To which I said ok, maybe it would be. But if it wasn’t, and she got really upset and was then like “Well fuck you, I don’t need you in my life”, that would be bad, wouldn’t it? And by bad, I mean “bad for Jon”. Not having Lora in my life at this moment would be heaven.
Here’s a thing I didn’t entirely notice when we talked, but I’ve noticed writing this all down: Jon didn’t look like it would be the worst thing in the world. He agreed with me that it would be bad, but it wasn’t his usual, passionate, absolutely certain agreement. He looked beaten down. Tired. Like he was ready to push Lora harder to take responsibility for herself.
I could be totally off-base about that, but it’s something that would be worthwhile to ask Jon about.
The important thing is that now that I know how bad it is, and I’m not willing to stop living together yet (and I will freely admit that it would probably be best for my mental health to stay we can’t live together anymore now and start working on splitting up homes), then I need to figure out how to live with Lora as she is now and not let her abuse and needs take over my life. And also (this is important to me), I want to make it clear to her that her abusive behaviors make me want to keep distance between us. Because if she treated me that way, we would be completely done as friends for a good, long time, if not a lifetime. And because I can’t look at her and love her and want to know her when I also have to look at her and listen to her say such shitty things to Jon. I think she should understand that her negative actions have consequences larger than her relationship with Jon – they affect anybody who hears them, and how those people feel about her, and what kind of person she is (and as a side note, Lora does have a huge “you cannot talk to about me to ANYBODY” rule with Jon. She hates it when he talks about her to other people. Which is, incidentally, a red flag for potential abuse. Lora knows that Jon talks to me about her sometimes, but I’m on the OK list, I think mainly because she realized that rule would be impossible to enforce with me and also because I’m currently on her “ok people” list, as she doesn’t know how much antipathy I feel daily towards her because of her abuse. Anyways…back to the original point…) Maybe being told that would help drive home to her that she does need solo therapy. I also want her to understand why I’m keeping my distance from her (both because her abuse of Jon makes me dislike her and not want her in my life and also my fears that if she gets close to me, she will start to abuse me), and working on my life without her, and that it is very deliberately exclusionary to her – I need a lot of time completely away from her when I don’t have to worry about her at all. I also need to work on getting her evicted from most of my mental real estate – I think spending time with my friends and working on projects with them will go a long way in doing that.
The other part, which I haven’t at all addressed yet, or even looked at directly within my own heart is what this all means for my relationship with Jon. I do sometimes judge him for continuing to have a relationship with Lora. I feel angry that he even remotely thought it would be acceptable for me to live with his abuser and watch him be abused. I feel angry and confused that he still doesn’t entirely acknowledge that it is abuse, no matter what he says – a lot of times, he downplays it so much (“She’s just having a bad day. She didn’t really mean it.” “I snapped at her and didn’t realize she was already stressed; it was my fault for provoking her”) that I really don’t know if he understands how bad it is and how much healthier he would be emotionally (and we – he and I – would be emotionally) if she was out of our lives.
There’s a big part of me that does just want her out of our lives. I asked my (poly) friend Issi about that; I said it made me feel like I was a shitty person. It also makes me feel like I’m a bad poly person. Issi said that I’m not shitty for wanting that and that it’s a perfectly reasonable response to what is going on. Hoping Jon gives up and gets rid of the problem is understandable. But it’s not the reality right now, so how do I feel with Jon, past wishing he’d give up on Lora?
I feel a bit emotionally checked out towards him too. I feel angry that he loves someone who is so shitty to him. I feel angry that wanted us all to live together and didn’t take a good, hard look at how dysfunctional and abusive Lora is and didn’t warn me about what I’m getting into. I love him enormously, but that love feels a bit frayed and cracked right now. It also feels like I can’t let him into certain parts of my life right now.
I don’t entirely know what I mean by that. I’ve always been an open and free sharer, especially about things that I get joy from. Lately I don’t always feel as giving and sharing towards him. It’s like…I want some things to love just for myself, because…well, this might be a bit of why. Jon and I have a lot of daily rituals. We almost always shower together if we’re both home. When he’s working late, unless he tells me that he’s really full, I always make a little snack for him. I often take care of certain things for him when he’s really busy with work, like packing his lunch. We have certain chores that we do together.
When we all started living together, it seemed like Lora and Jon don’t have many couples rituals and things they deliberately do together. As she saw our rituals, she would often ask “Why don’t we do that? Why don’t we have things that our just ours?” I can’t speak to why they don’t, but Lora tried to co-opt nearly every ritual Jon and I had together. For a while, she insisted that we take turns making him a snack. She also demanded that he shower with her some of the time. And there were others.
As time went by, she lost interest in those things, and they solely went back to being me and Jon’s. Sometimes she still gets bouts of jealousy when she sees us doing things and complains that they’re not fair and that it’s not fair that Jon and I have things that we do together and that she and Jon don’t. The only thing that I can say to that is that the things that Jon and I have together we have together because we both want to, and we both keep them up. There’s other things that we used to do together but we stopped, because one (or both) of us didn’t love it enough to make it into a lasting ritual. My experience of Lora is that she loses interest in most things eventually – which is fine as a behavior trait in and of itself. But if she feels jealous that Jon and I have rituals that she and Jon doesn’t, but she also doesn’t want to keep up on any of them, then I don’t know what to say except that when she was kind of forcing rituals based on the ones that Jon and I had, I heard a lot of arguments where she bitched at him for not doing something and then he replied that she hadn’t done it herself the last three or four times, so he didn’t realize it was that important. This is such a mess.
But where was I? Ah, yes, nearly all of me and Jon’s rituals were co-opted by Lora at first. It kind of makes me not want to share things with Jon, for fear that Lora will insist on being involved. Abuse aside, I hate this implication that if Jon and I are doing something, it should automatically be open to Lora too. I think it’d be great if there were things we all did together. And then some things that only me and Jon did and some things that only Jon and Lora did.
So that makes me feel closed towards Jon. Also, as I look for things to help me stay upbeat and keep going, being aware of Lora’s tendency to judge things causes me to hesitate to do things in a way that she will notice them. Some of the onus to improve on that behavior is on me; I should be able to freely speak up and let her know if something is special to me and I want to keep it that way. But I hesitate for fear that it will turn into a “Liz doesn’t want to share this with me because she hates me” thing or somehow, in another way, turn it into some kind of negative reflection on Lora when it’s really just that I want to keep some things for myself.
I should probably just give up on stuff like that and plunge in, because walking on eggshells certainly hasn’t done anything helpful in this situation.
Anyways, in the meantime, I am focusing on figuring out what “not being friends with Lora” looks like and feels like. And I’m focusing on rebuilding me into a person with a life quite separately than Lora. Maybe my life also needs to be more separate from Jon in some ways, since bringing Jon in often feels like it then turns into either bringing Lora in too or risking telling Lora I don’t want her involved and then dealing with an emotional meltdown. I don’t know. I wish I felt better about this couples therapy thing. I just don’t have high hopes for it, or for having Lora in my live as a loving individual who takes responsibility for her own shit.