I’ve had a couple of realizations the past few days that have really freed me.
In writing about Rachel and Jessica, I went back and reread a number of journal entries. In some sense, I relived with happened, though from a more distant perspective. With (I hope) a bit more wisdom in my mind, and less worry about what was going to happen. I know what happened.
The biggest thing I realized was that when started to see that Jessica’s behavior was controlling and that Rachel more often made excuses for Jessica’s behavior or succumbed to being passive-aggressive with Jessica herself, I acted and thought as though I was the problem. That the problem wasn’t their behavior, but that I wasn’t OK with it. I felt – until very recently still felt – that I was the bad one, the guilty one, the one who fucked up. Because I couldn’t “fix” these situations, or learn to be OK with their behavior, or figure out a way to show them that these behaviors really were wrong and unhealthy and really hurtful not just to them, but to all of us.
I’ve been walking around for months – over a year, really – cringing, waiting for Jessica or Rachel to take me to task for walking away from them. Feeling guilty that I broke up our beautiful dream life.
I think this is at least partially societal conditioning that if you really care about something, you stick with it. No matter what. Through thick and thin. ‘Til death do us part. We really honor and celebrate and pay incredibly homage to longevity, specifically to relationship longevity. As if the success of a relationship is measured in the time spent in it. As if it means something other than “these two people spent a long time together”. It doesn’t mean they spent a happy time together. It doesn’t mean that they made a good life together. They could have been mean, hateful, bitter to be “stuck” with someone they realized that they really didn’t like and taken that bitterness out on those around them, but hey, they made it to their 50th Anniversary, so that’s something to celebrate, isn’t it?
And yes, if you’re wondering, I’m thinking about a certain set of married relatives. Their adult children through them a surprise 50th Anniversary party. I think this was in my mid-teens, so I didn’t really get it, or wasn’t really aware of a lot. But I was aware that the “happy” couple sat there, both of them identical in that their mouths were straight lines of dissatisfaction and you could practically *feel* the dislike radiating from both of them, towards the other, as their adult children joked and smiled and tried to act like everything was beautiful and joyous. And the whole damn group of attendees did their best to do the same.
I don’t want to be a part of that kind of party again. I don’t want to celebrate longevity when it is literally the only thing that could be celebrated about two people being together, because what their long years together has “gifted” them is a hatred for each other. I don’t want to encourage other people to put longevity first.
I don’t want to encourage them that once they’ve said “I think this is how I want to spend the rest of my life” that they have to life up to those words, even if they realize that the situation they’re in isn’t the one they thought it was.
I want to encourage people to think about their words, to be more careful with their words. It’s great to say “I love this” “I’m enjoying this” “This is what I need”. It’s maybe not-so-great to take any of those words and expect them to also mean “I love this, and I will always love this” or “I’m enjoying this, and I know every in and out of this situation, so I can absolutely say that I will always enjoy this and it will always be for me” or “This will always be what I need”.
People change. I hope that I and those around me never stop changing. I hope those changes bring us ever closer to our true selves, our deepest passions, the secret desires that we have and our secrets even to ourselves, because we haven’t yet realized that they are desires. Chocolate ice cream may be the most delicious ice cream to me, my absolute favorite, but if I exist in a place that doesn’t have chocolate ice cream and think that cherry ice cream is my favorite, I’m not lying about my love of cherry ice cream. I’m not hiding my love of chocolate ice cream. I haven’t experienced chocolate ice cream yet, so I have no idea what I’m missing.
And when I do, I should be able to love chocolate ice cream fully. And still probably love cherry, and get it at times, and maybe even get them together (when I’m done writing this, I am going out to buy a pint of Cherry Garcia), but I’m allowed to change my mind and love chocolate the most.
I know this is a lot easier when talking about things. Ice cream isn’t going to be heartbroken when our favorite flavor changes. People can be heartbroken if we offer them our lives, and then realize that we need to take our lives back for ourselves.
Which is why I think open and honest conversation along every step of the way is the best way to go. I think entering into relationships acknowledging that we both will change, because we absolutely will, is the best way to conduct relationships. I want to find a way to both honor getting swept up in the moment with a new person, when the NRE is raging and everything feels amazing and my hormones are whispering “Life will be perfect if we do this for the rest of our lives“, but also keeping one toe firmly in reality. I want to whisper back “Life is perfect right now, but it will change and that is good and ok and the only way I’ll know how much of my life is perfect with this in it is to live it and see what happens”.
I think that, for myself, I needed more courage, with Rachel and Jessica both, to call out things earlier, when they bothered me. To challenge things more. To be unapologetic about something not working well for me.
I shouldn’t have to apologize for being me.
I shouldn’t have to apologize for recognizing certain behaviors as unhealthy for me.
And for heaven’s sake, I definitely shouldn’t feel like *I’m* the bad one for backing away from someone who told me that I should manipulate my metamour into feeling more insecure so that she causes more fights in hopes that our hinge partner get sick of her fights and breaks up with her.
I did a lot of writing about this in my journal these last few days. And I’ve made some decisions for myself. I’m going to do a little personal ritual sometime soon, a kind of last act to get the bad feelings, the cobwebs, the guilt about this situation out of my heart. I’m going to reaffirm to myself that I did nothing wrong by deciding that things couldn’t work out with Rachel and Jessica. I am no longer going to conduct myself as if I did. And given my past with Jessica, I am going to assert my right to be around her as little as possible, as well as treat all situations where I do have to interact with her as a potential battle.
What this means, in practical actions, isn’t that I’m going to see her at a party and then rush her screaming, knock her to the ground, and whack her over the head with my purse. I’m not going to let my guard down around her. And I’m giving myself permission to call her on her shit when she pulls it around me, instead of feeling embarrassed and flustered and scared. So if we’re hanging out and she suddenly makes a crack about my friend Jo, instead of staying quiet, I’m going to look her in the eyes and say “Why did you do that? You know Jo is my close friend. Why would you mock her in front of me?”. If she tries to gaslight me or minimize my feelings, I’m going to keep pressing: “No, I’m not being ridiculous pointing that out. How would you feel if I said that about one of YOUR friends? But I don’t. And I expect the same courtesy from you. Can you do that?” and if she keeps on being an asshole, then I’m going to pointedly said “I don’t do this kind of behavior to other people. I don’t want it done to me. Since we can’t agree with that, I’m walking away” and then walk away. Maybe leave, depending on the exact circumstances.
But I’m going to stop acting like her verbal garbage is somehow something that I should be sorry about. I’m going to stop staying quiet about it. I’m going to make sure that she understands, as a minimum, that there are certain behaviors that I am NOT going to put up with happening around me anymore. And that I WILL challenge her on them. Even if it makes Rachel uncomfortable, which it surely will, and is (I think) one of the things that’s held me back. That me standing up for myself would make Rachel feel uncomfortable, because she hates conflict.
If worse comes to worse, then I’ll stop speaking to Jessica entirely. And if this affects my relationship with Rachel to the point where we don’t have one, then so be it. I’ve finally become at peace with that idea. At peace with the idea that I may no longer be able to have any kind of relationship with Rachel. I can still love her for the wonderful times that we shared together. I can love her for the things that she’s taught me along the way. But I can do that at a distance, with her no longer in my life, because if that’s what I need to feel comfortable and happy, then I should unapologetically give myself that.