September 5, 2020 at 3:55 pm #366223
“You are beyond words the best person that has walked into my life besides my son.” –My ex, September 2018
I wrote here a few weeks ago, so forgive me if I’m repeating myself, but I still find myself struggling mentally. Some backstory…
I’m in my early-40s, twice divorced, with a grown daughter who lives in another state (where I lived before my ultimate relocation here in the Midwest). I served about a decade in the military before I moved back home to be closer to my daughter, who was just entering her teen years. (My first wife and I divorced shortly after we arrived at my first duty station, so they moved back home across the country when my daughter was about 4-years-old.) I knocked out my bachelor’s degree and worked for the local government for a few years. Lived with my parents for five years or so, which was humbling as a man in his late 30s. After my daughter turned 18-years-old, I did a summer out West serving in the AmeriCorps with some fellow veterans. About a year after I returned from my summer with the AmeriCorps, and since I felt that the 10-years back home near my daughter was sufficient, I landed a job with the federal government and took a job near Washington DC—with the help of an old military friend—which ultimately took a year and a half to start. Unfortunately, the job did not pan out and I transferred to another federal job in the Midwest—arriving here in January 2020. I should add that I began grad school after finishing my stint with the AmeriCorps and graduated this past March 2020. I don’t say all this in a braggadocio manner, but rather to state the personal/professional goals I’ve achieved—all while battling what is called “persistent major depressive disorder.”
I’ve battled depression for as long as I can remember. Introversion and a lack of self-esteem as a child, combined with an emotionally neglectful mother, let me with a sour view of myself and the world. I was never close with my parents, so I still struggle to share parts of my life with them. Honestly, there are very few people who I am close with, which has obviously caused failures in relationships. To that point…
In mid-2017, in the weeks after I applied for the job near DC, I met someone in a training class at work. We exchanged numbers and went out for drinks. I was open with her that I had applied for a job in DC and would likely be leaving in the fall. She had an 18-month-old son at the time, so we tried to have a causal relationship knowing it would likely end in a few months. Well, being the US Government, I did not end up starting the DC job until the fall of 2018. By then we had been dating for 16 months and it had grown into something more serious. However, I kept the myopic mindset that I was leaving and never gave her as much of me as she deserved. I was dishonest with her. I cheated on her a few times, which I never told her about. I did not make the commitment to her that she made in heart and mind with me. As she said in a text before she left to return home:
I know you care about me but I don’t necessarily have the energy to devote to you. And you don’t care for me in a way that leads to a life together and so I have to move on. It takes a village to raise a child and I don’t even have a partner. So I have to go back to my village. I’m afraid to leave you because I don’t know what will happen to your mental health without us here. Maybe it will improve because you can exert more energy on yourself? Maybe it will get worse because you’ll spend too much time locked away in your room eating away at yourself in your head? I’ll hope for the aforementioned. Winter will be hard but spring will be amazing as you finish school and the season changes. Ideally, you’ll take that opportunity to focus in on yourself and breathe in a fresh lease on life. Not everyone is going to be something extraordinary but that doesn’t make them any less important.
When I arrived in DC in the fall of 2018, she wanted the relationship to continue. She asked repeatedly to discuss moving up there and the three of us moving in together. As I mentioned, the job was not what I thought it would be from the start. (It was an internship that led to a career-appointment in the federal government.) Unfortunately, there was a non-existent training program, and for the first few months, they did not know what to really do with me. My boss was new to the role and did not understand that being an intern meant I knew very little about my duties—even though I explained this to her in our initial meeting. As my new position was floundering, my home life wasn’t faring any better. My friend, who helped to get me the job, was married with a young daughter. He had served in the federal government for some time and had a multistory home, of which he rented out the finished basement to me for a low price. However, his wife claims she didn’t know I was coming and quickly became passive-aggressive with me. Talking to some coworkers at the time, it turns out she was extremely jealous of all his friends and he was essentially not permitted to socialize with them. Therefore, I immediately felt unwelcome in their home (even though I spent my nights in the basement and weekends away doing homework for grad school).
Within a month of my arrival there, my ex had to land a job with a top multinational consulting firm based in DC. While the money she made was more than I was making, it was going to be tough for her to live alone. She wanted to free me from the stressors of living with my friend and family by getting a place together. I remained noncommittal and she ended up getting a small one-bedroom on her own. She would relocate to DC shortly after Christmas 2018—less than two months after my arrival there.
If I’m honest, while I cared for her and her son deeply, I saw DC as a fresh start with me. I would “start over” there with a job that had the potential to reach nearly six figures in a few years. I had dreams of living the city life, seeing the sites, bar hopping, and meeting other professionals. I did not envision a familial life there with her and her son.
And it isn’t as though I didn’t love her and care for her and her son deeply. I worked to help her see herself in a better light. Encouraged her to enroll in grad school and bought her a laptop so she didn’t have to share her mother’s. I tried to do things for her to show her how important she was to me. We spent most weekends together and her son grew to adore me. Nearly every time I’d visit until they left to return home in the fall of 2019 when I would walk in the door of their place, he would run around and scream, “[My name] is here! Mommy, [my name] is here!!” I knew the three of us had a special connection.
Yet, there were things about her that I could not get past. She battled with the guilt of feeling that her son robbed her of her life. He was an accident and the father would largely abandon them after her son was born, which led to her moving back home to live with her mother. Before we had met, there was a discussion of having her mother raise her son until she was ready to be a mother. She also dealt with depression and anxiety, which she continues to deal with I’m sure. I understood her battle with depression, and we both worked to lift the other up and see ourselves in the light the other did. However, there we too many times when she would grow frustrated with her son and yell at him. It just always felt that she did not relish in being a mother, and I questioned if I could spend a life with someone who did not take to motherhood—which, perhaps, is selfish on my part.
And I battled if I was ready to be a father to a young boy. On one hand, I felt such a bond with him and knew I could be the father to him that his own absent father wasn’t (and a father I was not to my daughter for the first half of her life.) At the same time, if I made that commitment and my heart was not in it, I would be doing the same thing to him that I did with my daughter. This was the war I waged in my heart and mind until they left to return home late last year.
Ultimately, our relationship as a couple ended within a month of their arrival in DC. Things would be difficult for her there. She was largely alone in a city she could barely afford, and soon began job hunting back home. As we were both in graduate school, our time together was limited. I could occasionally stop by work during the week but always kept a day on the weekend to spend with them. I put so many miles on my vehicle exploring the area with them, and some of the memories I will treasure forever. I always made sure she had groceries and clothes for him as the seasons changed. Still, she was largely alone in a new city with only her young son. Having been alone here in a new city for much of this year, I can now appreciate how excruciatingly painful this was for her. She obviously held a grudge about me not moving on, and even though she claimed she did not move for me, I know that she did. There were quite a few nights that she was just awful to be around, and we would part on bad terms. So, she ultimately took her son and returned home.
I was offered and accepted this new job a few weeks after they left and would move her after Christmas 2019. I finished grad school in March and then the pandemic hit. I did not have time to form friendships before we shut down, so my time since March has been spent inside working from home. I walk for 30 minutes nearly every night, but I know my depression holds steady. I have struggled with focus at work. Frequent inability to concentrate and my memory is shot, even though I’ve tried to minimize distractions. This time has afforded me ample time for rumination, which I’ve tried to journal. I want to return to a gym next week, as I have not been since I began grad school back in late 2017.
My ex had a bad first few months back home. She fought depression and suicidal thoughts and the idea of returning home and the end of another relationship. She wrote:
I’m just always kept within arm’s reach of relationships. I’m the one that got away. Or the relationship is everything except a complete commitment. Or I’m good to talk to and dating me sounds like a good idea then it’s a rain check. Always. That is my relationship summary for every relationship I’ve had since fucking middle school. I don’t get it. I don’t know what I’ve done wrong. What I do wrong. Mentally I’d rather be alone. Physically I can’t stand being alone. Any physical touch is so much to me. But I’m tired. I’ve wanted to be that couple that looks back at 60 years of marriage since I was a kid. And it won’t happen. Ever. And I’m tired of trying. Tired of waiting. Tired of failing. Tired of dreaming. It’s just not meant for some people and I think I’m some people.
Ultimately, she has found her groove in her new job, and met another coworker in April, and has been seeing him since. This, obviously, stings a bit still but I do want her to find happiness, even if it’s not with me. Even after she returned, and until she told me about dating someone, I continued buying her little gifts, which may be seen as quite pathetic. I just knew that money continued to be a struggle for her, and I thought a few practical things would help.
Is a woman’s love an addiction for me? A way to fight the loneliness? Why do I constantly feel like a woman can save me, even though I continuously push women away who get close to me? Am I too weak to be honest with them, and end up hurting them more because of my fears?
My apologies for this turning into a novel. I don’t expect anyone to take the time to reply. Honestly, it felt good just to get it out. last fall but truly ended a year and a half ago. I am resilient and will bounce back, but I cannot continue to enter relationships with women, only to know there is no future. Obviously, I cannot encompass all that was our relationship here. Only I just cannot understand what/why I still pine for in a relationship that ended a year and a half ago. I do not know why I miss them so damn much.September 5, 2020 at 8:04 pm #366239
“it felt good just to get it out”- you are welcome to post anytime, just so to get it out.
“Is a woman’s love an addiction for me?”- it is a great desire, beginning with desiring your cold, emotionally unavailable mother’s love.
“A way to fight the loneliness?”- we are social animals, we are not meant to be alone for long.
“Why do I constantly feel like a woman can save me, even though I continuously push women away who get close to me?”- maybe because what you see in a woman (beginning with your cold, emotionally unavailable mother) is both love and rejection: You gravitate toward the loving part and run away from the rejecting part.
anitaSeptember 6, 2020 at 6:57 am #366245AnonymousInactive
Ry, Sometimes we humans focus on other people because doing our own emotional work is challenging. It sometimes is easier to stay stuck in thinking and focusing on the other person and why they have done whatever it is that hurt us or rejected us. Maybe a woman’s love is an addiction for you because it allows you to focus on something other than the hard work of changing for the better. Being in love is our mistaken notion that this will fix us or make us happy. But being in love with a damaged or difficult person doesn’t always bring happiness. I just read this quote today and I wrote it down for myself to ponder on: “Growth always takes place out of your comfort zone.” -Damon West. Being out of our comfort zone is disquieting and weird feeling but when you are there, embrace the road of change that your soul is longing for. “Love” can be the addiction, like any addiction, that keeps us in our comfort zone, happily (at first) but temporarily medicated and later in misery. You ponder about this woman but she is simply the messenger in your life. The things you quoted that she said or wrote to you sound like she is also struggling in her emotional wellness and maturity. It appears to me that you are pondering that which is not fixable by you and has no reasonable or rational answer. You have attached to someone who can’t give you what you seek in life. If we want better in our lives, it has to start within us. People often get angry at me when I say this because it challenges them in their comfort zone. I think the lesson of her is that you have to rise up in your “stuff” so that you attract an emotionally healthy partner. Perhaps the push and pull you feel for women is your soul saying it is not time and there is more work or lessons it wants to achieve. A year and a half is perhaps common in grief, although there is no normal time in grief. If you are ready to focus on progressing within yourself now and to accept what happened and how she is and how you are, then it is time to move forward. You can stay stuck in this place or you can work out of it, through good counseling, or reading some self help books, journaling, meditating, asking God to give you wisdom and courage, and other things I can’t think of right now.September 7, 2020 at 7:18 am #366295
Anita and Rose:
First, that you so much for taking the time to reply. It was nice to get something return when I scream into the ether.
To your point Anita, yes, I feel that I have traditionally “gravitated” toward the loving part of my relationships but kept the deeper connection at bay so I could control the rejection. This, of course, would typically fail and cause me more pain, because when the time came that I chose to reject the woman and end things, I was emotionally invested and would grieve more when the feelings that remained were unrequited. It is obvious that these women must protect their hearts, so why would they give anything more to me once their heart has been broken?
And, Rose, I certainly do not disagree with your perceptive impressions. I foolishly thought there was something deeper there. And maybe that’s on me? Maybe there was/is but, as she once said to me, “I’ve learned to protect myself and rebuild my walls once I start seeing red flags.” I believed that even though I could not make the commitment to her that she wanted, we had built a deeper friendship at least; however, either she does not want that, or she is not emotionally mature enough to have that.
I think the turning point in feeling ashamed of the mistakes I’d made, and grieving for what I thought I saw through clouded lenses, was this past Father’s Day. I had sent her a gift and a card for Mother’s Day—even texted her in the morning wishing her a happy one. When Father’s Day rolled around a month later, I got a text at 9:00 at night. “I’m an asshole. Happy Father’s Day! Sorry, just forget you have your daughter sometimes because she’s so grown.” My ex spent a lot of time with my daughter, so this was a real punch to the gut. Granted, she had begun seeing her latest beau in late April, so perhaps she did not owe me anything more than that? She tried to date two people shortly after she returned home, and has dated her current beau for a few months now, so I do not think she is comfortable being alone and simply focusing on her son.
And perhaps there is a part of her that is jealous of the relationship I had/have with her son? My ex would try to allow him to call me during the height of quarantine but that has dwindled now, which may be best for him long term? My ex’s mother and stepdad still text photos of him just about every weekend when he spends the night with them, but we do not have any regular interaction. I do know a large part of my grief was losing him in a sense and knowing that while she claims she wants him and I to continue to have a solid relationship, she has done little to maintain that.
I have been working with a counselor for a few months now and have focused on the issues you two identified above. I know that if I continue to put in the work on myself, any future relationship (with the right, emotionally mature woman) will be that much better. While I miss intimacy and sex, I have purposely not sought any relationship here. (Un)Fortunately, being in a town of fewer than 30,000 people—in the middle of a pandemic—helps to make meeting someone that much more difficult.
Again, thank you both for your replies. I am beyond grateful to know I am not alone.September 7, 2020 at 7:57 am #366298
You are welcome and post again anytime you want to, share your thoughts, your feelings, your progress in counseling… Good to read that you identified your issues, and that you are working with a counselor to address and resolve these issues as much that it is possible for you to do so.
As you shared about your ex in your recent post I noticed anger toward her for not seeing to it that you have regular contact with her son, for having dated a few men after the breakup with you, for dating her current boyfriend since April, and for calling you on Father’s Day at night, instead of earlier in the day.
anitaSeptember 7, 2020 at 9:28 am #366305
Yes, and thank you. I will continue to share here as I work to address/resolve these issues as best I can. I want to ensure–as best as I can–to have healthy and happy relationships in the future.
And, yes, I’d say anger is an accurate emotion. While I wish that she would focus on herself and her relationship with her son, we split up early last year and remained friends due to our proximity and truly having only each other. However, I cannot fault her or be angry for her seeking companionship and happiness in her own way. Father’s Day did upset me but her mind is elsewhere and that is okay too I suppose. However, the lack of any true semblance of involvement with her son does make me angry. Primarily because she said how much she wanted my relationship with her son to continue. However, the fact that my ex only calls when it concerns something she needs speaks volumes about my future relationship with her son.September 7, 2020 at 9:38 am #366307
You are welcome. As far as being angry with your ex, I don’t know her personally, but when you mentioned earlier that she yelled at her son, and if I understand correctly, that she was/is in the habit of yelling at him, and otherwise expressing her impatience with him, well.. I am angry too.
I wish she had the motivation and the self discipline to never yell at him, and to be as patient with him as possible. The more peaceful her life, the less she will yell at him, but unless she is motivated and disciplined, she will yell again when distressed, because life is not and cannot be always peaceful and problem free.
I would say that if she is still yelling at him, it is not the lack of regular contact with you that is continuing to damage him, but her yelling and impatience.
anitaSeptember 7, 2020 at 3:14 pm #366316
The yelling, or at the very least, the general frustration with her son was the primary red flag for me early in the relationship, Anita. My ex suffers from depression and anxiety, but it seemed so often her frustrations poured over onto her son. He was a toddler, and that isn’t easy, but everything just always felt so frustrating for her. She claimes that she yells/fusses/etc. at him much less now that he is older (he about 4-1/2 now). Perhaps things are better in her life but I know there are moments of frustration still. As she used to tell me, “Thick skin is required in this family.”
And, now, I do not feel my lack of a physical presence is his life is damaging him. He has his mother and stepfather there to dote on him. Now the distance is more damaging to me, as I know there are times when it’s jsut the two of them there when she could have him call. Oh, well.
RyanSeptember 7, 2020 at 7:44 pm #366318
I hope you grieve the ending of this relationship you had with this woman and her son. Let it go, as part of your past, a past that is gone. Your life now is what it is, where you are, doing what you’re doing. But there is more to it, more to learn, more to see right where you are.
anitaSeptember 8, 2020 at 9:21 am #366345
Thank you and I am, Anita. I’m certain that the move to a new town and the pandemic that brought upon the isolation allowed me to grieve more than I should have. I’m certain the FaceTimes and chats with her son only prolonged my longing. However, the past few weeks have brought some realizations that she and her son are a part of the past. She stopped making an effort for her son and me to continue to have any sort of relationship, and she truly only calls when she needs something. Lessons we’re learned and growth has slowly occurred.
RyanSeptember 8, 2020 at 11:20 am #366353
You are welcome. When you write that “she truly only calls when she needs something”- what do you mean, what needs does she express to you when she calls and do you satisfy those needs?
anitaSeptember 8, 2020 at 5:50 pm #366390
The previous few times she’s called (FaceTimed), she has called to discuss work or something related. Of course, she FaceTimed tonight to initially ask about some pre-K books that her family and I purchased for her son. This led to about a 45-min talk about work, goals, our vehicles, her son, etc. He was on the sofa with her so I was able to chat with him, which is great. It felt good to talk to her–it’s very easy and natural–and she mentioned coming up next year to doing some off-roading in the mountains her. However, she did mention her son learning to swim in her boyfriend’s pool over the weekend, so any hopeful notions were swiftly negated. All in all, it was a good conversation between…close friends?
Don’t get me wrong, Anita. I know the relationship is over and I’m finding myself more accepting of it. There will remain the sense of loss–moreso when I see her son and how tall he’s grown in the 8-months since I’ve seen him. While my ex and I were instrumental in pushing the other to be better, for her it was all or nothing. Who knows what the future holds? I’m not referring to reconciliation, but rather, perhaps I can continue to contribute to their lives in a sense…as long as I don’t compromise my own happiness.September 8, 2020 at 7:46 pm #366413
I will be able to read and reply to your recent post (and anything you may add to it) when I return to the computer in about 10 hour from now.
anitaSeptember 9, 2020 at 6:11 am #366426
Thank you, Anita. I cannot express how wonderful it is to myself (and others) to have this interactive forum. 🙂September 9, 2020 at 6:46 am #366429
You are welcome and thank you for expressing your appreciation of this forum.
You wrote earlier that “she truly only calls when she needs something”, so I wondered if you meant that she calls only if she needs material help from you. But what you described regarding the pervious few times that she called/ Face timed, does not include any request for money or anything material.
For 45 minutes you talked about work, goals, etc., and you were able to chat with her son. She also mentioned doing some off-roading in the mountains, with her and her son, I imagine, next year.
So far, so good, but then she mentioned her son learning to swim in her boyfriend’s pool over the weekend, and I guess that stung: that you may be with her and her son next year, while he will be with the two of them this very weekend.
You wrote: “any hopeful notions were swiftly negated. All in all, it was a good conversation between.. close friends?”-
– from all that you shared, she is not a good mother to her son, but she has been a very good girlfriend to you while in the relationship. Because of the latter, if I was in your place, I will calm down any anger I have about her being in a relationship with another man: what was she to do when rejected by you.. after moving to a new city to be close to you, after waiting and waiting for you to move in with her…?
“I know the relationship is over and I’m finding myself more accepting of it. There will remain the sense of loss”- I understand the sense of loss: she was a good girlfriend to you, she tried hard. and you had the opportunity to be a good step father to her son. As sad as this feels, better endure the deep sadness because it will lead you to a better mental health.
“Who knows what the future holds?”- yes, no one knows. Her relationship with her boyfriend may end, and maybe, if the two of you are able and willing, there may be a new, improved relationship for the two of you to have. Don’t make any move in that direction though, not for as long as she has a boyfriend.
“perhaps I can contribute to their lives in a sense.. as long as I don’t compromise my own happiness”- you are and can continue to contribute positively to their lives in the current situation. About compromising your happiness.. what happiness are you referring to?