After Burning Man, Lora called Jon while we were in Reno. It takes a few days to get things cleaned and pack our stuff up into our storage unit for the next Burn. The call was short, friendly, and seemed like a general “How are you?” kind of call. I overheard Jon asking Lora about her new job, which seemed (from his responses) to be something she feels “ok-ish” (but not awesome) about. The call ended on a good note, and we went on with our lives.
The next day was a different story.
The next morning, Jon told me that he was upset, because when we woke up, he had huge number of nasty texts from Lora, probably starting from the moment she woke up. It turns out that Lora had emailed Jon a few days before the end of Burning Man (if I haven’t mentioned it before, Burning Man has terrible cell service. Everything crashes and there is functionally no cell or internet available after the first twenty or so thousand people show up). The email was a missive of vitriol about how Jon was both a terrible person, and a terrible poly partner for throwing Lora out of our home after the break-up.
Jon was hurt and furious because he didn’t throw Lora about after the break-up. He told her that she could stay at least a while, and look for a new place to live. Lora insisted on leaving that day. When Jon couldn’t persuade Lora to stay for a day or two, because she had no money for a hotel, Jon paid for her to spend a night in a hotel, while she decided if she wanted to take the bus back to her mom’s, come back and live with us until she found a sublet, or launch right into finding a nearby sublet.
(I’d just like to make a side note right now that I don’t blame Lora at all for wanting to leave right away. If I were in her shoes, I think it’s what I’d want to do, even if I had no money. Not much sounds more miserable to me than continuing to live with someone who just broke up with me, while seeing my ex continue to have a loving relationship with his other partner.)
(another side note: I did say to Jon “I’m confused. Lora wrote you this email about what a horrible partner you were to throw her out of our home while we were at Burning Man. She started text-bombing you as soon as you got up today, for not answering that email. But she called last night to have a perfectly friendly conversation about life, where said email was not mentioned, and everything seemed fine?”. Jon says “Yes”. I say “That makes no fucking logical sense on her part”. Jon says “Tell me about it”)
So the idea that Lora was now blaming Jon for taking her home away from her and saying that it made him a bad poly partner, when she insisted on leaving (and couldn’t bring herself to come back once, not to clean, or to pack up for herself) is, I think, the product of the mind of a person determined to push as much blame as possible onto those around her, and take as little responsibility or blame for herself as she can manage.
Does this surprise me? Nope, not at all.
Did it surprise Jon? Yes, a lot.
As I mentioned before, this is the first break-up Jon has had as an adult where it wasn’t at least partially mutual. All his other break-ups, even if the other party hadn’t been quite ready to give up, involved both people acknowledging that things hadn’t been going well for awhile and that neither of them was completely happy. This is the first break-up of his adult life that has involved this level of vitriol, disrespect, and blame. As Jon said to me, he’s never had an ex act like he was a terrible person before. He’s feeling deeply hurt that someone who he loved so much, and still cares about, could say such terrible things about him. He hates the idea that Lora may be out there, telling everybody that he’s just another shitty asshole who took advantage of her and kicked her to the curb when he got tired of her.
I remember how badly I felt the first time I had this experience with an ex (happily, I’ve only had two of them). It really fucking sucks. Especially if you try (as I try, as Jon tries) to be as ethical and respectful of other people at all times as is possible. It was hard for me to understand that I couldn’t control my ex hating me and telling people that I was a horrible person. There were no words that could get across that, while I didn’t expect my exes to praise my name, or even be happy with me about the break-up, could convince them that, hurtful as the break-up was, it wasn’t maliciously intended and that I tried my best to be respectful and compassionate even as I left the relationship.
My first nasty ex (Frances), I was able to shut up easily after his first nasty email to me. Frances lived at home with his mom, who was a minister and an all-around lovely woman. Once he sent me a written nasty-gram calling me a slut, a whore, a stupid cunt, and expressing how he knew that I’d always be a manipulative little bitch, I informed him that any such future emails would be immediately forwarded to his mom. Who, while sad to see us break-up, was a reasonable person who I’d seen after the break-up and told me that she was sad that the relationship ended between me and Frances, but hoped that I’d still consider her a friend.
Much as it clearly enraged Frances that I had something over on him, he also knew that if his mom were to see what he’d written, he’d probably be grounded until he got a full-time job (on top of being a full-time college student) and moved out. So that was taken care of relatively easily.
My second ex (Dave) to go for the nuclear option…that I just had to deal with. And initially, I dealt with it by trying to explain over and over and over again that yes, the break up was permanent, and no, I didn’t think it meant he was a bad person (or that I was a bad person), just that we were incompatible. It took me two months to realize – not just in my head, but also in my heart – that I was never going to get through to him, that he was always going to vilify me, and that continuing to communicate with him was only serving to keep him in my life.
To this day (or at least as of a month or so ago), he still refers to me as “that cunt”. Which I learned when I introduced myself to a friend of a friend at a party, who said something like “Huh, my friend Dave calls someone with a name like yours ‘that cunt’.”. To which I replied, “Yep, that’s me,”. (He apologized rather weakly, and spent the rest of the evening avoiding me. I assume because Dave has been known to burn bridges with people who speak to me (Also, wtf says that to someone they just met? Based on that alone, I had no interest in speaking to this guy)).
Dave and I broke up over five years ago, in case anybody is wondering.
As I learned for myself with my own exes, Lora calling Jon out like this is another way to get him to engage. I’m not sure how much of this is overt manipulation on Lora’s part versus a knee-jerk desire to hurt someone who has hurt her. I honestly don’t care.
I think it’s sad and shitty that Lora has decided to be hateful towards Jon. I think convincing herself that he’s the problem and that he wronged her and most things are his fault is probably easier for her than owning up to her own behavior. I think it’s sad that Jon is engaging with her on it, and argued with her about it over text for over six hours the day that she started text-bombing him.
I think that’s also his choice, and while I felt sad about it, it didn’t eat me up the way it did before. He told me about it. I noticed that he was texting a lot, and looking stressed, which I assumed was because of her. We talked about it a little bit at the end of the day, which is when he said that he didn’t understand how they could have a six hour text battle about it. I told him that the simplest answer to that is that he kept texting back. I asked him why he kept texting back. He said because he still cared about her. And that it hurt him badly that she thought he was such a horrible person. And that he’s afraid that if he doesn’t engage with her, then she will do what she was threatening, which was to change her phone number and never speak to him again and then he’ll never know what happened to her and she’ll end up homeless and alone with her mom dies.
Sucky as some of my previous exes has been, I never worried (upon breaking up with one) that they did such a poor job of caring for themselves that they’d end up homeless (It turns out that I was mistaken about that in the case of Frances. About five years after we broke up, he ended up in an institution, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He still cycles between the institution, the homes of family, and being homeless. That’s a story for another time (maybe), but at the time of the break-up, there were only small glimmers that he may have severe mental health problems in his future). I can’t imagine having that fear. I know that while Jon does know, intellectually, that it’s not his problem, and that he can’t fix Lora, and that eventually he will probably do something that drives her away from him (versus her going away on her own, or finding a better way to cope with the loss of their romantic relationship and being able to be friends), he’s not ready to go there yet.
It took me two months, and that wasn’t with the fear of my ex becoming homeless and unable to have any kind of life without me. It’s only been a month for Jon. I don’t know how long it will take. But it no longer eats me up inside or drives me crazy the way that it used to, so I’d call that progress. For Jon, though he is stressed about it, he bounces back from that stress or puts it behind him far more easily than he was before Burning Man. So I’d say that’s progress too.
I hope we keep on progressing. Fingers crossed!