Archive for February, 2011

I now haven’t slept properly for 2 1/2 weeks and, Dear Readers, it is a drag.

Literally, since I am dragging. I am the drag that is life without sleeping properly.

I know I’m making the right decision. In a moment of weakness over the weekend, I even read Lori Gotleib’s Marry Him, figuring that if anyone would tell me I was being too harsh and should give the guy a chance, it would be her. Nope. According to Ms. Settle-for-what-you-can-get herself, this is a relationship that should end. I feel like I’m ready to be single again; I even took eHarmony’s profile quiz (leading to its own set of problems, but more on that in a minute). Actually since we’re on a ‘break’ I am single again, technically, though I haven’t made it permanent yet. I feel like I’ve mourned what I thought our future was going to be, at least in part because I’d stopped believing so much in it a while ago. And no sense crying over spilled months.

But here I am–not sleeping. No appetite. Forgetting keys and insulin doses. Misplacing things. Forgetting appointments. Spending my time surfing the web instead of reading something of value. I’m cold when I shouldn’t be cold.

Partly it’s PP. She’s spent fewer than one day a month with him, thanks to the Trader’s travel & visitation schedule. But I’m worried about the lessons she’s learning from my break-ups and the impact they will have on her, and I hate to think of her losing Trader-Tot. She’s only played with him, I think, 2 or 3 times but they really like each other and get along well. For that if nothing else I’d like to think the Trader and I could be friends, or at least friendly, at some point in the future. (But we all know how well that worked out before.)

Partly it’s the Talk. I keep rehearsing it in my head. I wish I could turn it off–it’s not like he can hear me!–but there’s this mental loop that keeps playing, the what-I’ll-say-and-how-I’ll-say-it, that is driving me nuts. And then there’s the “how’s he going to take it” loop. I fear this will not go well. 1–there’s the history of him not hearing what I try to tell him. 2–there’s the other history of him trying to argue, talk or order me out of my feelings and decisions (that sounds worse than it is, but this has been an ongoing issue). I am expecting this to be crazy-making at best. What I need to practice and get comfortable saying is “my mind is made up, whether you understand and agree with it or not the relationship is over.”

In the meantime I’m going to be sleepless and nauseous.

This is different than it was ten months ago. Then, I thought I’d messed something up that could or would have been great. Now, I think it’s something that should have died sometime between then and now, and I’ve been keeping it alive in the hopes that it would somehow magically become what he’d promised me. Once I realized it wouldn’t, ever–there’s regret, but there’s no confusion.

And there’s anxiety. Let’s not forget that!


So, the eHarmony thing.

I didn’t want to go out to a club, per N’s suggestion, but I did want to see who else might be out there. So I browsed a couple of dating sites and tried to browse eHarmony but it won’t let you unless you fill out their questionnaire. So I did. Funny, I realized this go-around from all my reading over the last year or two that it matches you up with people based on your Five Factor personality score, because that’s what the quiz is. Which I didn’t mind so much this time because, let’s face it, my track record is not so great, and maybe it’s not a bad thing to have a computer prevent me from meeting and/or interacting with very outgoing, fun and attractive guys who don’t keep promises and put themselves first, you know?

Anyway, I filled it out and it told me once again that I’m high on openness low on extraversion yadda yadda, and I searched for people, and lo and behold, there are guys in Beyond Bob in my age range who pass eHarmony’s rigorous personality match process whose pictures I can’t see because I haven’t yet subscribed. That is good. But I couldn’t figure out how to go through all this and not let my profile be visible, which is bad. “That’s ok,” I thought. “I’ll figure it out later. For now I’ll leave it incomplete and not post a photo. No one will respond without a photo.”

Wrong. Within an hour I had two messages from two guys in my age range in Beyond Bob, both of whom look like decent people (whose pictures I can’t see). So I went back and completed the profile and put up a photo, and have convinced myself that it’s ok to take a few days/a week to reply or at least figure out what I want to do. Not that I’m necessarily interested in dating those guys, certainly not just yet, but I don’t want to be rude. (You don’t have to say it. I know.) In the meantime, a bunch more messages have showed up, mostly pre-photo.

So, there’s the first thing: how to balance my need not to be rude or perceived as rude with the fact that I am certainly not ready to date these guys and would like to give myself at least another month before I think about it.

The other thing is the photo.

See, the Trader asked me to promise that if we ever broke up I wouldn’t use the pictures he took of me during our outings on a dating site. And I said yes. But that was back in the day when I thought we never would break up, first of all, and it seems an unfair promise to ask, secondly–I’d never ask him for that and I’m pretty sure that pictures he had on his profile were taken by an ex-girlfriend. I’m thinking this falls in the “promises I shouldn’t have made to begin with” category. I’m thinking I should ignore it, and use the photos.

But I hate breaking promises.

You know, thinking about it, this seems awfully possessive. Doesn’t it? Even after we break up, he gets to tell me what to do with pictures of myself? But only so far as it might help me to replace him. I could put them on a billboard or a circular in the Sunday morning paper and that would be ok.

On eHarmony there’s no chance he’d ever even know since the site would never match us given our very different personalities. The pictures are recent and reasonably nice. I want to use them.

If it were you, would you?

I know these don’t even qualify as molehills and I’m not saying they do. But humour me here: pat me on the head and say “there there” and that I’m not an evil person for breaking this one.


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more blathering

Monday was a day of epiphanies. Monday was also a day of reading a lot of relationship blogs (like Baggage Reclaim, easily my favourite) looking for The Answer because, apparently, I want someone to validate my needs and wants and action plan before I carry it out. Which is dumb, but there you have it: it’s still not ok for me to just need and want what I need and what, and ask for it, I need to have someone else tell me it’s ok first based on some study or whatever.

That was the first epiphany: I need and want what I need and want, and it doesn’t need to be validated by an objective outside source, and it doesn’t need to make sense or be fair, it just is what it is and I should act on it regardless.

Epiphany 2: I have been putting almost all of my focus and energy into making sure the Trader’s needs and wants are met, while my efforts to get my own met, as tentative as they are, have been running into various brick walls: he doesn’t hear me; if he hears me, doesn’t understand; if he understands, he doesn’t remember; and if he remembers, he often doesn’t follow through. Nothing changes until I give him an ultimatum (this is at least the third), then he pulls out the stops to make sure I don’t leave. It’s a shitty pattern and it’s not one I’m prepared to live with.

Epiphany 3: Just because I told him I was going to spend the three weeks thinking about what I could believe and accept, and what I wanted to happen next, doesn’t mean that I need to come up with something! If the answer is “nothing, nothing, nothing,” then the answer is nothing, nothing, nothing, and that’s what I should say. If I accept an action plan that I don’t want to accept, because I think I should instead of because I want to, then I am again putting his needs ahead of my own, and I will resent him more. It won’t solve anything.

Epiphany 4: I have communicated with him. OK, I’ve often been mild and gentle about it, but increasingly not–and it doesn’t matter how I talk to him about things, he doesn’t respond. Instead of blaming myself for not being able to get through to him, instead of taking responsibility for his listening skills, I need to assess just how much communicating I’m willing to do for this.

Epiphany 5: What’s irritating me and causing all this resentment is that he is just not the partner I need. I need someone who will listen to me and understand what I’m saying; he doesn’t. I need someone who remembers and follows through; he doesn’t. I need someone who will think about the effect his words and actions have on other people before he’s hurt them; he doesn’t. I need to be with someone who can manage his own emotions, instead of using me as a human airbag; he doesn’t.

He’s not a bad person, or even a bad boyfriend for someone else. He’s generous, he tries to be thoughtful, he’s willing to work hard, he wants to commit, he’s loyal, he’s clever, he’s funny, he has a lot of energy, he’s in good shape, he’s smart with money, he’s fun, he’s a loving and hands-on Dad–lots and lots of good things, with a lot to contribute to a relationship. Absolutely. It’s just not what I need. And I know he has the capacity and the willingness to try to become what I need, but I don’t have the stomach for asking for such fundamental changes, nor do I have the patience to wait as long as it would take to bring those kinds of changes about. I’d be asking a basically mouthy, opinionated, pushy, act-first-think-later, be-tough kind of guy to become soft, sensitive, and thoughtful.

I went to bed Monday night thinking, ‘We’re going to break up!’ And I went to bed with a smile on my face. I woke up happy. I walked to work with a song in my heart, truly, and when I got there posted on FB about what a great mood I was in.

Twenty minutes later the Trader responded to the email I’d sent him a week before.

I’m trying not to see that as intentional, but it brought me back to earth with a thud regardless. I spent the day, evening and night resenting him again, because, why should he? Why should he get what he wants? Why should I try again if I don’t want to? And the answer is, I shouldn’t. I should not. But I have a hard time believing in the validity of that.

I need to say something to him about this. I considered bringing it all up just when we get together to talk, but here’s the problem with that: a) he’ll be ambushed, b) I’ll feel resentment, as I am stifling my need to discuss all or at least part of this in advance in order to meet his need to enjoy his visit with Trader-Tot.

I’ve got to tell him. It can’t wait until the 6th. Not all of it–I don’t need to do the full it’s-not-you-it’s-us until then. But I can’t just sit here and stew. Because the thing is, Dear Readers, right now, I don’t miss him. I miss the good stuff and the stuff I thought we had, but I don’t miss the drama and the tactlessness and the exhaustion and resentment. I blocked his updates on FB and I’ve stopped checking his page. I’m under no illusions that this will be the case if/when it’s finalized in early March, and I’ll still curl up in a ball and cry and call in sick to work. There’s so much good! But if I can’t talk to him, and he can’t hear me, then what the fuck is the point?

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Now I’ve gone and done it: I’ve modified my FB privacy settings so the folks on my “crazy family” list can never see a thing I post.

It was bad enough a few weeks ago when I posted something innocuous about wishing my friends were getting better luck, only to have one of my aunts post some obnoxious jews-for-jesus crap in response, made doubly fun by the fact that one of the friends my post was for IS JEWISH. Bad enough that everything I put up gets God-this and Jesus-that and Bible-bible-bible. But recently, when I posted a link to a bible verse they don’t like, I got swarmed by multi-posting. One Aunt posted THREE TIMES about how much she didn’t like my link. I deleted the multi-posts. She came back and POSTED AGAIN.

Hence, a crazy family list. Seriously, I do not need that shit. The peace and quiet of not watching them go biblical over every little thing I say is heavenly, ha ha ha, pardon the pun.

So you might think this would top my list of things I wish I’d never done, but no, it’s still pretty small potatoes:

1. I wish I’d never had anything to do with the Engineer.

2. I wish I’d never given the Ex so many chances.

3. I wish I’d never broken into that house. Yes, you read that right.

4. I wish I’d never had anything to do with First Husband. (Quote on his FB profile: “What has 142 teeth and holds back the Incredible Hulk? My zipper.” 1: EWWWWWWWWW. 2: Not true. His dick is completely average.)

(Sorry, Niamh. That was more than you needed to know.)


… I am struggling here. Who knew it would be so hard to come up with six? Lots of things that I regret in themselves led to things I value, like marrying the Ex=PP, so that I can’t say I wish I’d never. Surely there are two more? Don’t there have to be? Six isn’t that much.

5. I wish I’d never taken that first job out of university. The whole thing was a huge blow to my self-esteem, what with the not-having-any-work-and-blaming-me-for-it, then letting me go when I wasn’t happy sweeping floors and filing things instead of the work I’d been promised–when in reality, it was just a restructuring thing and they didn’t want to say so.¬† I don’t know how I could have known in advance, though.

6. … I really don’t know. Even if the Trader and I end up breaking up in a couple of weeks, I’m not going to wish I’d never taken¬† him back in April. I might wish I’d known enough back then to trust my instincts at the time and stick to it, but I wasn’t, and I didn’t, and I’ve at the very least learned something. So. And then I could wish I’d never let the Ex manipulate me into that abortion, but he did, and I did, and if I hadn’t maybe I wouldn’t have PP.

I’m having a hard time scrounging up enough regret to fill up this meme. Maybe I should just let it stand, Dear Readers, and be grateful.

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Broken Robot

Last night I had a dream that I was in a large gathering of, I think, famous nineteenth-century intellectuals I somehow knew. One of the gathering was a very small, really annoying sentient robot. It looked just like a robot in an old black-and-white sci-fi TV show, with knobs on the front and big round metal eyes, stick arms, tracks for feet. It kept saying mean-spirited, irritating, meant-to-be-funny things. I had to shut it the fuck up. I was convinced that I knew where to find the broken piece that made it the way it was, and if I could just find it, I could make it stop talking and be a happy, friendly sentient robot. I took one piece off and another, and still it kept talking, annoying and irritating me, until I broke it and ended up with a lap full of robot parts and no robot.

Thank you, subconscious.


Scene 1:

[At breakfast during our trip last summer, the Trader is entertaining the table at the B&B with tales of how controlling and possessive I am. These are ‘jokes.’ I am mad.]

Trader, in the room after: Are you angry at me?

Maeve: I keep telling you and telling you. OTHER PEOPLE DON’T KNOW WHEN YOU’RE KIDDING. They don’t know you’re making that up! You made me sound terrible!

T: But I was just kidding….

M: How are they going to know that?

T: Isn’t it obvious?

M: No!

T: Well, what do you want me to do?

M: How about NOT INSULTING ME IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE? [Thinking: he needs to hear this?]

[The next morning over breakfast, he is over the top in his praise of how non-possessive and non-controlling I am. The other guests are perplexed. I am embarassed.]


Scene 2:

M: No, look, THIS is how it works. See? [draws a flow-chart of an engine]

T: Yeah, I know that, all I’m saying is that the actual electrical engine isn’t as efficient because it doesn’t charge on braking.

[long pause]

M: You’ve never actually said that.

T: No?

M: No. You just kept repeating that it needed gas to charge the battery, which isn’t true.

T: I did?

M: Yes.

[long pause]

M: I’ve said this before but, you know, I can’t actually know what you’re thinking if you don’t tell me. I can’t read your mind. It’s up to you to put your thoughts into actual words. If you don’t, I can’t be responsible for not knowing what you mean and reacting to what you said. That’s your responsibility.

T: Oh. OK.


Scene 3:

T: But it’s my job to make you happy.

M: No, it’s not.

T: OK, well it’s not my job NOT to make you happy.

M: It’s your job not to be a jerk. That’s your job. You’re not responsible for my unhappiness because there are too many things that go into that and that aren’t under your control. But you can not make me unhappy.

T: That’s being a jerk? Making you unhappy?

M: Ummm…yes.


Scene 4:

T: OK, I get it, I screwed up, I was flippant.

M: You were mean.

T: I wasn’t mean! I wasn’t trying to hurt your feelings!

M: No, you just did it by accident by not caring about the impact it would have on me until after you opened your mouth.

T: OK, so I was flippant!

M: You know, I work really hard to be considerate of your feelings. Half the time I wonder why I bother because it seems like I could bludgeon you with insults and you wouldn’t notice, but I do. I think about how my words will be perceived by you, and what impact they will have, BEFORE I speak. I do that for everyone, but especially for the people I care about. It really bothers me that you can’t do that for me, that it’s too much work for you to stop yourself from saying things that hurt me.

T: When I have ever said that?

M: You’ve never put it into those words, no, but whenever I try to tell you that you’ve said something that hurts me, the response I get is that it’s too much work for you to put a filter on your mouth and I’m supposed to know what you really meant anyway.

T: Well, but I’m not trying to hurt you. I don’t WANT to hurt you.

M: No, but you do it all the time just by being careless.

T: OK, I was flippant!


When things are good, they’re great. But there’s something–I don’t know. He doesn’t hear or see himself, he doesn’t see the effect he has on those around him, but he thinks he does and that everyone else finds all this as funny as he does.

And there are so many things that in his early forties, he should know. Like, saying intentionally provoking things about politics to your girlfriend isn’t fun for her, and why is it fun for you to rile her up? Or, when a girl gets her period, she is by definition not pregnant (this he chalked up to poor sex-ed in middle school, which might explain not knowing this at nineteen–but early forties, divorced with a kid?). Or that if you stand your girlfriend up because someone at work who you don’t like calls you up desperately demanding career advice, she’s going to be angry and point out that the other options is to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t talk right now, I’ll call you back later/see you at work tomorrow.”

This relationship is in part a small, sentient robot that likes to say mean-spirited meant-to-be-funny things that I am supposed to appreciate and find funny. I keep thinking that I can fix it if I can just get it to stop saying those things, but every little thing needs its own fix and half the time, there isn’t one. I keep thinking this because he tries so hard and wants so badly to make me happy; he just isn’t all that motivated to prevent himself from making me UNhappy.

Four options:

1. This is the Robot. The Robot really does love me and tries hard, so if I want to keep it, I’m just going to have to accept that it says mean-spirited meant-t0-be-funny things and get better at overlooking them. But I have been and do try to overlook them, give him the benefit of the doubt, not be bothered by it, and without much success. Or any success. Or success that is deteriorating over time as I get worn down by the constant stream of “jokes.” In addition, I will have to understand that the Robot is essentially clueless about many aspects of adult life and relationships, and shoulder those without complaint. As a long-term situation I think this very unlikely.

2. I can keep picking at the Robot, and end up with a lap full of Robot parts. We’re practically there now. I do not want this.

3.The Robot can do something to fix itself, instead of making it my responsibility. This would require a level of self-awareness that I’m not sure it possesses, but I’ll find out in two weeks. This is my preferred solution, but I am skeptical as we’ve had these conversations so often and they don’t register.

4. I can set the Robot free to find happiness in its natural habitat, which is not a salon filled with nineteenth-century intellectuals. If I were a betting woman, this is where I’d put my money.

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yep, more

Maeve: It’s funny. Working at the old job I felt so young because everyone else was so much older than I was. But here, I’m like the oldest person in the office. All these mid-twenties kids going out for drinks and to dance clubs and talking about dating and stuff. I mean it’s fun and they’re great and I like them a lot but, yeah, I feel a bit old sometimes.*

N: You should get them to take you to a club.

M: Hmm? You mean, see what’s out there?

N: Yeah. Next weekend. Before you make up your mind.

I have to admit the idea has some appeal.

She also remarked on how well I’m doing, compared to how she did herself when going through something similar at a younger age. I don’t know, it’s weird. When the Trader and I broke up in April I was gutted. I screamed, I cried, I felt like someone had burned off all my skin with acid. It was awful. And either I’m doing a much better job of pretending to myself that I wouldn’t feel just the same way if this turns out to be permanent, or something major has shifted in the ten months since then that actually is making this different. Or both, I guess.

I’m very sad. I miss him, a lot. It’s hard not to talk to him when I see him online. I think more or less constantly about what I’m going to do or what I should do, what’s right, what’s my own craziness talking, but it feels like I actually have some critical distance and a sense that things would actually be ok–not right away, but eventually–if we broke up. Lots of dreams I’d pinned on this one but had already half stopped believing in because I was already losing faith in his promises. Some realization that I might actually be better off chasing those dreams on my own than waiting for him to make good.

I’ve become conscious of a thread of resentment. Maybe that’s it. I feel, whatever the merits of the case are, as if I give a lot more than I can ever expect to get back. Intellectually it seems so unfair because I recognize how hard he’s working and how much he’s trying, but all of that effort isn’t getting him to a place where he can even consider the effect his words will have on me before he opens his mouth, so I make allowances and try to be tolerant. It becomes another area where I expend a lot of effort and energy, not being bothered by things. And then underneath that, the feeling that somewhere, things just aren’t adding up. With all the effort he’s putting into being the person I need him to be, who the hell is he anyway? I mean, changing for your partner is excellent and necessary up to a point, but there’s a point at which you end up partnered with the facade, isn’t there?

At least, if you’re not really changing so much as putting a lot of effort into making the appearance of having changed.

At what point do you say, “I need this, and you aren’t this, nor should you try to be“?

Who knows. Maybe he’ll surprise me.


*Not bad-old, just bemused-old, with all my concerns about schools and chores and bills etc.

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If you think I’ve been writing a lot lately, Dear Readers, you should see my paper notebooks. Reams and reams of my trademark illegible scribble.

I know I’m trapped inside my own perspective and I’m sure there are things I’m not seeing clearly that could help. The fact is that this is all I’ve ever known how to do: I put up with it and put up with it until I can’t put up with it anymore, then I leave. I ask for change and then, if I get a promise, feel like it’s my job to back off and let the other person handle it and it’s not right to ask for more, until the next time when it’s clear that whatever change I asked for wasn’t made, then we blow up again. I hate conflict and I hate asking for things so instead of “being demanding” I work to be accommodating and not care so much, even when I do care, even when I care legitimately. (My husband’s cheating on me–huh. Well, we have a house to live in and he’s not beating me up, so I guess I should be grateful.)

I have never seen my parents fight. I have seen them hate each other for long periods of time, but I have never seen them fight. I’ve seen my Dad put up with my Mom’s shit for decades and never raise it as an issue, and praise his own father as a role model for doing the same with his mom. I put up with their abuse for 19 years, then left; it was my only option at the time. Regardless, I have never seen nor learned what might be an alternative to what I can SEE is a problem, a destructive pattern. It has to change, but what do I change it to?

This is my own contribution to it, I know:

I find myself in relationships with people who have problems because I grew up with crazy and it feels normal. (I also find myself in friendships with people who have problems because I grew up with crazy and it feels normal; I was thinking about this and I don’t think I can number a single one of my close friends as someone with a happy childhood.)

When I do see it and it starts to hurt, I blame myself for being bothered by it rather than addressing it.

When it really hurts and I try to bring it up, I let it go with token assurances or promises because I don’t know what else to ask for or what else to do, or what is appropriate for me to demand.

When the promises get broken and I get hurt again, I repeat the above, ad nauseum, until I can’t take it anymore, and then I leave.

It’s exactly what I’m doing here. I’m too far past the first step to be worrying about it now, but I do need to stop blaming myself for being bothered by this, address it directly and demand something other than token assurances and promises. I just wish it didn’t make me feel so sick to my stomach.

This all feels so drastic, this, “I need a couple of weeks off while I think about what I can believe or need or want to do next.” It is drastic, too. It would be better if I could just stay, and talk it through; but I know if I did I would just lose myself and nothing would be resolved. It’s sad, but the only way I can be sure of what I need or want is by figuring it out with no one else around.

(I didn’t say it was healthy, just true.)

I’m also not going to know what to say until I can write it out. Given the volumes I am capable of writing on this subject–it might actually take me the whole 3 weeks.

I read a bunch of stuff yesterday on asking your partner to change, or making change a condition of the relationship–I don’t even know how to phrase this. That thing that I’m trying to learn how to do. That not-putting-up-with-it-not-running-away thing. That. I read some stuff on it yesterday, and some of the articles made the point that someone who is actually going to change is going to understand what you’re saying, that they will be able to see how their issues or actions have been affecting you. It seems true. God knows the Ex never knew what I was going on about when I’d complain about him cheating on me; I mean, he understood that he was cheating on me (after I presented him with documentation) but never seemed to grasp why he should care, or that it was hurting me. And it does seem true, looking back, that if after any one of those fights he had ever seemed to grasp that he was hurting me and made a commitment to change based on not wanting to hurt me anymore, our chances would have been a lot higher.

So I think maybe I need that too, that he understands–not only that I need this to stay together, but that this behaviour is hurting me and hurting us. Is that fair? Or do you think something like this could actually change without that kind of realization? It seems unlikely to me but, well, see above: my perspective is limited.

This makes me much more nervous than the other one, requiring him to actively do something to address it, something that I can see him doing. I’m sure that if I laid out a ten-step program for keeping the relationship alive (1. Find Shrink, 2. Visit Shrink, 3. Roses in weekly dose, etc.) he would do it. But if I want it to actually work, if I want this to make our relationship better, then I need to be able to believe him, I need to know that he gets it. An alcoholic just going to AA meetings without any conception that they are an alcoholic is unlikely to get far, I think. Likewise a guy who believes his fear is rational and his vigilance is required is unlikely to be able to see that he’s hurting me, or to change.

I’m not sure he can.

Is this fair?

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