Tag Archives: relationships

No Mountains

I find that people can be offensively curious, and we live in society that has become unapologetic about asking the tough questions that would have once been saved for quiet contemplation outside of one’s presence.  “Why are you single?” is one of my favorites, and over the years I’ve crafted a whole bunch of responses I’d like to give to that particularly obtuse question.  “Because I hog all the covers.”  “Because I killed my last husband and everyone I’ve dated since that time has found that to be pretty intimidating.” “Because I have huge, malodorous lesions all over my private parts and no one can seem to get past it.”  The responses I concoct in my head get more and more crass as the years pass by.  I keep them to myself.

My second most favorite obtuse question, which is actually in the same family as the first obtuse question is, “Why did you get divorced?”  Which is really just a slightly more polite way of asking, “What did you do to screw everything up in your marriage?”  Or at least that’s what I hear.  And to that, I do have an answer that doesn’t involve any snark or defensive deflection.  Of course, it’s taken me the better part of 11 years to perfect my snark-free answer, but that is beside the point.

When asked this question (which I must add, you might be surprised as to how often it is asked) I say that I married a man who was a lovely man but who was also a people pleaser. And day after day, year after year, he made a habit of letting people (namely, me) make all his decisions for him. So much so, that we would go to a restaurant for dinner and when asked by the waitress what kind of dressing he wanted on his salad, he would reply to her, “I don’t know.  You decide.” I mean really!  Who does that?  There are many things in life I don’t care about or even have the required knowledge to have formulated an opinion.  But salad dressing?  Please.  We all have a favorite salad dressing.

So anyway, as the story goes, this very lovely man spent 13 years letting others (namely, me and the occasional waitress) make decisions on his behalf and stuffing his opinions (if he had any) deep inside.  And conflict?  Forget about it.  If there was conflict or even the foreshadowing of conflict, he did what any good, stoic man of Scandanavian descent would do:  He swept it under the rug.  And after 13 years of sweeping his garbage under the rug, lo and behold he came home one day and there was a ginormous, insurmountable, irritating-as-all-get-out mountain under the rug. Right there in the living room.

And that’s when the proverbial shit hit the fan.

Yes, as I say, after thirteen years of seemingly not caring about much of anything, he suddenly cared a whole lot. Because he had had enough of others (namely, me) bulldozing him and making his decisions for him and he couldn’t take it for another second.  Once he achieved this realization, it didn’t take long for things to unravel.  Not only did they unravel,  they unraveled in such an unpleasant way.  As  I have looked back and have tried to take the lesson from it all, I know this for sure:  That mountain is a dangerous thing.

It’s a dangerous thing, but it’s an easy thing to contribute to.  As you start a new relationship – when everything is bright and shiny and you are determined to put forth your best self – it can be hard to assert yourself.  But to deny your voice, in the beginning, the middle or the end really, is a dangerous thing.  Because to deny your voice is to contribute to the mountain.   I can’t tell anyone else what to do, but I for one have made a commitment in all of my relationships – especially those that matter the most – that there simply won’t be any mountains. I’ve been there, and in spite of what people might say, the view just isn’t that great.

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I Love You Still

People seem to act surprised when someone they love hurts them.  “But I thought they loved me. How could they do this?”  To which I say, “Duh.” Really, it’s no surprise at all, nor should it ever be.  It’s no surprise, because the only people who can hurt you are the ones you truly love. Who else did you rip open a piece of your heart for to allow in for permanent, painful residency?  Who else did you give a front row seat to your most sacred vulnerabilities?  Who else did you show over and over again, even to your own detriment, how much they mattered to you? Then who else, I ask, has the capacity to bludgeon your heart for a moment or two?

No one, I tell you.  No one.

But that is not what really matters.  It doesn’t matter, because every human will eventually fall short of their own standard to never hurt the ones they love.  So putting it aside that it happens – because it will – the only thing that truly matters is what happens immediately after.  If after the knock-down, drag-out conversation of “I-can’t-believe-you-thought/said/did-that-thing-to-me-I-hate” you can look at the other person and think, “I love you still,” things are probably about as right as they can possibly be.

Making Your Bed and Lying In It

“It is better to be alone, than to wish that you were.”

These words of wisdom with honest, gritty staying power were shared with me by my former colleague Sandy (may she rest in peace) as I was wading through a path of post-divorce rubble about ten years ago.  They have carried me through days of doubt and angst and loneliness, and in a way, have been a guidepost for my new-but-not-so-new life.  ‘Tis true, Ms. Sandy, it is better. Thanks to you, I won’t forget.

On the heels of “Singles Awareness Day” which is otherwise known as “Valentine’s Day,” I find it is near impossible to avoid reflecting on my current state.  Sure, I am single and I have been now for a good long while.  And sure, I’ve grown accustomed to it over the years.  I long ago let go of the fact that I won’t be able to wear a dress that buttons up the back (like I ever would) and that there is no division of household labor when you live alone (but guess what, you can hire people to do pretty much anything).  I’ve settled in and I’ve found my way, but I’ve done a whole lot more than that.  Just shy of full-on embracing it, I’ve acknowledged that I’m really good alone.  Really, really good.

I think part of the reason I’m so good alone is that there is no one here to fuss with.  I have long believed that it is the minutia in a relationship that has the greatest chance of killing it.  People joke about the age-old annoyances of the toilet seat being left up or the toothpaste in the sink, but it’s true…if you let these things bother you (and many of us in the human species do) resentment can seep in and create cracks which turn into fissures and then huge, gaping canyons.  It happens all the time, and most people can’t find their way back from that.

I heard a story recently that was the greatest and saddest example of this I had heard in a long time.  A friend of a friend of a friend (or something like that) was in a long-term relationship and had been living with her boyfriend for several years.  Recent word had come about that they were breaking up, and then this story was revealed.  More than five years ago, the two had an argument that was reportedly the beginning of the end.  The argument was not about politics or religion or your mom is so rude to me or why did you have to flirt with the waitress like that.  It wasn’t even about I can’t believe you depleted our savings account at the casino or what do you mean you accidentally slept with your ex-girlfriend.  No, no, no.  The argument was about who was going to put the linens on the bed.

So five years ago, neither of them wants to make the bed and so neither of them does.  Each of them is secretly resenting the other for not making the bed and holding their ground that I will not be the one to make the goddamn bed.  One holds their ground and sleeps on the couch, and the other holds their ground and sleeps in the recliner.  Day after day this goes on and and then before you know it, five years have passed and no one has made the bed and probably no one has had a good night’s sleep in half a decade and now here they are breaking up.  And still, to this day, the bed remains unmade. Five years of this!  Unbelievable.

Now, it is pretty clear that the unmade bed is the symptom of the problem and not the actual problem.  I don’t even know what the actual problem was, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t it.  In fact, they probably didn’t have just one problem, they probably had a whole lot of them.  But what if it really did start right there, with a set of clean linens and a six minute task standing in the way of this couple and their happiness?  The problems had to start somewhere.  Maybe it started there.

And so, my point is this:  Whatever your relationship status is at the moment, you have a choice.  Believe it or not, you can always choose happiness.  If you are alone like me, love the fact that the only mess in the house is yours and that you can have peaceful, joyful solitude every minute you are home.  If you are in a relationship, take stock in the fact that you have someone to ask how your day was and snuggle with you while you watch Dexter.  The truth is that every situation has something that can make your heart sing, and every situation has the potential to incite the screaming in your head.  You get to pick if you feed the singing or the screaming.

There’s an old saying:  You made your bed, now you must lie in it.  Or in this case, you didn’t make your bed, now you have to sleep uncomfortably in a recliner.  Please, I am begging you, don’t be that person.  Be the hero in your relationship.  Or if you are single like me, be the hero in your own life.