Tuesday, 31 July 2012

A Little Retrospection

Erin got me thinking a lot about the past lately, in a melancholy, late-fall kind of way.  In the late-fall, where it gets dark at about 6 pm, this is okay.  Then is the time to take stock and reminisce. 

Not at this time of year.  This is summer.  The time of more doing and less thinking, at least for me.  But it has been miserably hot and humid out, the worst it’s been in a long time.  I've been playing soccer, but my ankle's been flaring up tenderly with the humidity.  I've been doing work at my mom and dad's house:  building steps, painting, digging out and laying sidewalk blocks and landscaping, but that work is going slowly.  Partly time, partly mom and dad's waffling about what they want to do, and partly the oppressive heat.  And of course, Nick and Gerry get my attention over everything else.

Annie was kind enough to enroll Gerry in daycare and tell me, oh... about 12 hours before his first day.  She now has her hands out for my half of it.  In the past, her mom and sister took turns looking after Gerry while Nick was in school, and we split the cost of feeding them.  Manageable.  Now there is an extra $178 a month I have to pay out.  Now, I'm legally (and feel very morally obligated) to do so.  I don't begrudge it at all.  But some notice (also legally obligated) would have been nice, considering he more than likely has been on a waiting list for months.  An extra $178 a month is doable, but I am going to have to give up a few comforts, cut down on going out and the like, which is contributing to my homebodiness.  I can no longer simply quaff a pint at my pub when I’m bored and craving a little fellowship whenever I feel like it.

I have to face the prospect that my current job, as much as I love it, isn’t going to be sufficient to keep me going anymore.  And that is sad.  I make a decent wage where I work, but it doesn’t exactly allow me to live like a jetsetting 30something playboy.  Especially since I do want to spend some time traveling in the near future.

I have had offers from other places over the last couple of years.  More money, but significantly more stress and responsibility, which isn’t exactly meshing with my downshifter philosophy.  Some might call me immature and irresponsible and Not Living Up To My Potential, but I’m not so nearly insecure about those kinds of comments as I used to be.  Happiness is an undervalued commodity in today’s world and right now, I am (mostly) happy.  But I’m increasingly reaching a spot where I’m going to have to give in and take one of those jobs.  I’ll adjust and manage.  I always do.

The ex has asked to take the boys this weekend (my turn), because her soon-to-be new husband is going to have family in.  I’m fine with that, even though I do miss the boys terribly.  I’m not going to be a stickler for the rules, as long as she cuts me the same courtesy when I request it.  And so far, I’ve had little trouble.

In my current spate of retrospection, I’m also finding myself thinking about our marriage and why it failed.  I don’t indulge in this too much… in fact, I haven’t thought about it much at all.  I was just so relieved to actually be out of such a toxic relationship that I haven’t spent a lot of time analyzing it.  I do know that we were both avoiders of conflict and we both have struggled with issues of anxiety and depression.  Despite her cheating, which for me was the final straw, there was plenty of nonsense on both sides of our relationship to contribute to our downfall.  If it hadn’t been her cheating, it would have been something else, surely.

My stance has somewhat softened with her the further I move on.  Instead of being angry with her, I find myself pitying her.  She is with her fiancée now, a man who seems content with providing her with all indulgences and whims.  But for all of that, she doesn’t seem any happier.  In fact, she’s about the same as she was when we were married.  Perhaps her antidepressant medication is playing a factor.  But I think her self-denial wins out.  Annie is just not a happy person.  She can fake happy when she has to; God knows we both did it enough in our marriage, but she is a fundamentally unhappy person.

I’ve been to personal counseling twice in my life.  The first time was in 2007, there was a clinic that a university friend recommended me.  It was pricey, but I had felt painted into a corner, relationship-wise, and I needed some perspective.  We had about a half-dozen sessions together and while I’m not willing to talk about most of what was talked about, a couple of things did hit home.  First was that I was completely compromising who I was as a person in a fundamental way to conform to what her idea of a husband should be.  That was undeniably true, and it was something I knew, but it was especially poignant to hear it coming from someone else.

But the second was a stunner.  The second revelation was that, based on what I had told him about Annie, our relationship, our intimate relationship, and her attitudes about love and sex and marriage, it was his opinion there was a strong likelihood that she has suffered some form of sexual abuse at some point in her life.  This was something that literally never occurred to me beforehand.  And yet it made some sense, and considering the staggering numbers of people who do suffer at some point in their lives, it was certainly a possibility.

No, I didn’t confront her about that possibility.  Should I have?  Maybe, but I’m thinking that if it were true, it would have been another avenue of denial for her, and if it were false, I didn’t want to make her even more self-conscious than she already was.  I’m not sure how she would have reacted if she felt she was projecting the image of someone hiding abuse.  It was something I had felt she needed to deal with.  I tried to be open to conversation, but by then she had circled her wagons pretty tightly and never strayed out of ‘safe’ territory.

My second bout of counseling began and ended fairly quickly a few months after our separation.  The therapist said that I was actually fairly stable, considering all that’s happened and after another few sessions concluded that I didn’t need to see her anymore, but could continue to do so if I wished.

When going through my history with Annie, I told her what the other therapist said and she seemed to agree that she exhibited a lot of the signs of sexual trauma, but was hesitant to make a diagnosis from second-hand information, only that her behaviour seemed to suggest something happened to her.

Of course, I do have a vested interest in our children, so it does concern me that she may potentially carry this baggage and in turn, burden our children with it if she chooses not to deal with it in a proactive way.  But ultimately, I’m not her keeper, and cannot even say for sure anything like that has happened to her.  She needs to deal with her shitpile as I need to deal with mine.

I find myself steadily craving an intimate relationship, but those feelings have not yet reached a fever pitch.  I’ve been out on a lot of dates (at least a lot for me) in the last 6 months, but nothing seems to be clicking.  Either her interest isn’t there, or my interest isn’t there or a combination of both.  This really hasn’t been a bad thing; I’ve met some good women and a couple of those women I’ve kept in touch with on a platonic level.  And after the last woman I dated turned out to be a total flake, I’ve been wary to get back into the pool.  Some of that is vulnerability, afraid not only to be hurt, but to change into a person I no longer recognize, like I did during my marriage.  It’s not an irrational fear, but at the same time, I don’t want it holding me back experiencing life the way it should be lived.  I lived much of my life in anxiety and despair, and I don’t want to waste another second of my life living that way again.

I feel a little lonely right now.  But it’s not an aching, desperate loneliness.  And I have been busy and productive in my solitude.  Things will bounce back, I’m sure.  


  1. As trite as it sounds, it seems to me as if you were lonelier when you were married. And that is the worst kind of lonely, when you are with someone and yet so alone.

    It's good that you're putting yourself out there, though. I dated a lot for many decades. And like you, I just couldn't find anyone who met my list requirements (and we all have them) or I couldn't meet theirs. And during this time, I was counseling others too! I often felt like a fraud, especially because I was profoundly talented at figuring out how to solve other people's problems but didn't have a clue regarding mine.

    When I was nearly 46, I finally admitted what I had secretly know all along, that the person for me was the woman who had been my best friend for years. We had tried the relationship thing previously and I just sucked at it. With age...I really did gain wisdom.

    I think you already have the wisdom, you just have to find the right person. And therein lies the rub, yes?

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