Tuesday, June 27, 2006

breakups: logistics and ethics

So, I haven't said much here about the recent breakup of my relationship of 13 and a half years. It seems inappropriate to talk about details, without the permission of the other party involved, but I guess I can talk about my own concerns and hangups as I move forward.

An early Alison Bechdel cartoon featured a therapist discussing lesbian breakups. She held Silly Putty in her hands, and explained that a breakup should be quick and clean, as demonstrated by grasping the Silly Putty in both hands and tugging it quickly and sharply into two even pieces. Instead, lesbians often, the therapist explained, slooooooowwwwly separate, as when you take the Silly Putty and slowly pull it in separate directions, so that there's a long string between the two pieces, and no final separation.

And this is the pattern I've followed with both of my long-term relationships, the first lasting nine years, and the most recent. With the first, the final disintegration was more obvious, in the way it must be when the two of you are screaming at each other in the street at 2am on the way home from a party. She was a passionate, intense, sometimes volatile person--so you can see why I was attracted to her! But, the fact is, the gulf between our interests had widened considerably over the previous years, and I always seemed to be heading off in a new direction. Clearly part of me knew what I needed to do.

What happened with this last, longer relationship is much quieter and sadder. Neither of us knew how to argue, really (my previous fights had been huge, scary, out-of-control things, not intelligent conflict that worked to resolve differences). What we did--and we knew we did this--was get quieter and quieter. Well, we finally got so quiet that when she finally announced she was leaving, I was shocked.

I wasn't so much shocked about the leaving--I'd thought about it, too. But that she'd not brought up any concerns previously. How could she? We just didn't do that. We circled around problems, hinted at them obliquely. For me to directly address a problem, to say what I wanted or needed, would leave me open to rejection.

And I hate rejection. I hate being judged.

Now, we all hate this. It's awful and terrible and it hurts. It's also a regular part of life.

My new mission: learn to cope with this. Or, at least, to develop strategies for dealing with it if and when it happens. Instead of assuming it will happen, and just not ask.

Maybe someday I'll tell you about the wild rabbit I attempted to adopt, and killed in the process. That will explain a lot about me and the challenge of asking for what I want.

1 comment:

runningburro said...

My dear partner's father is very zen about relationships. He was divorced twice before the end of his 40s, and his attitude is, "hey, no relationship lasts forever [people die, leave, what have you], but that's okay. I can enjoy each person for as long as he or she is around and then move on." Of course, he's very zen, so this seems reasonable coming from his mouth, but I can't help but think that this is a rather healthy attitude to have.