There are so many reasons to love Sundays. Sleeping in, Sunday brunch and Guy’s Stories to name my top 3. Some of my newer readers might not know this. Every Sunday I feature a story by a male guest author, my “Guy’s Story” of the week.
“As I mentioned, I began boxing myself in to fit the confines of Emily’s world. This probably sounds like foreshadowing, that I was violating the Shakespearean (not to mention late 20th century) proverb, “to thine own self be true.”
I’m a fairly adaptable person and can adjust to a lot of things. For example, my ex-wife is very picky about things having to be “just so” – from where we sit in a restaurant to the brand of detergent we buy – whereas my natural inclination is to go with the flow and be efficient in the process. And yet I managed to deal with her pickiness most of the of the time (at least enough that it wasn’t an issue in our marriage).
I thought I could do this with Emily. I really did. But remember when I said we had miniature arguments every time we talked? There was a psychological reason for this: my own feelings of inferiority, which often emerge as defensiveness. Combine that with the fact that I was little starstruck by her and, well…
One day one of our arguments spun out of control and I yelled at her. (Ironically, the argument sprang from something her previous boyfriend had written on his blog.) I only yelled one word - “LISTEN!” – because I was trying to respond to her accusations, but she kept talking over me. But that word was one to many. A no-no. For while I have problems with defensiveness, Emily likewise has problems with yelling. She was severely abused as a child. To yell at her is to make her relive that emotional trauma.
After that moment, I knew the relationship was in trouble. This was not just an argument, this was a triggering event. From her perspective, I was no longer her boyfriend. I was something closer to her abusive parents.
She became distant. Emails went unanswered, phone calls direct to voice mail. We had already scheduled a meetup in Seattle, and this preceded it by just a few days. I told her I felt anxious about things and she deflected it, saying I should focus on the good time we would have together. I told myself the anxiety was a side effect of a supplement I had just started taking.
What happened, of course, is that Emily snapped out of it. She has children. She lives a thousand miles away. She has professional responsibilities in her hometown. I was not a knight in shining armor. I was just a guy she liked who lived a long way away, and a long distance relationship was insane for her. And so when we met up in Seattle, she told me it was over. She initially didn’t even want to stay for the night, but I guilted her into it by pointing out I had paid for the hotel in advance.
We ended up having two great nights of lovemaking and two so-so days of me trying to get her to do things with me. Like, say, going out to dinner. That was a dumb idea – remember I said she doesn’t like to go out? For her it was mostly a great work session because she had quiet time away from the office and her kids. Oh, and a great opportunity for her to work on her blog.
I gave her space to do these things, but not enough for my own good. On our second day together I couldn’t help reading an email over her shoulder in which she was telling a co-worker that she had “dumped that guy.” It made me feel bad but I didn’t say anything about it to her. What could I say? It was the truth.
That bad feeling eventually morphed into a nervous breakdown, one from which I’m still somewhat recovering. (It didn’t help, two months later on a podcast, to hear her refer to our last trip together as a “train wreck.”) I’ve unfortunately had breakdowns before, but the last one this serious was, alas and of course, also over a girl – my first love who broke up with me when I was 19.
I do have enough distance, however, to have some perspective. One thing that helps is to make lists. For example, here are the good things that I’ll always remember:
• The first kiss. She was sitting in her chair in her hotel room and I leaned in.
• Shortly thereafter, rolling around on the bed for our first makeout session.
• After that session, on our way back down to the hotel lobby, throwing her against the wall in the elevator and kissing her
• Pillow talk during our first night together
• Exchanging a thousand emails and texts a day, like 10th graders
• Being tired at work the next day after talking and IMing late into the evening,
• Helping her with a PowerPoint late one night
• Being thrilled to give her business advice when she asked, being glad that the advice turned out to be useful
And here’s another list – the upside of the breakup:
• I no longer have to assume I’ll spend nights alone for the next 18+ months.
• No more late nights on the phone, which in turn leads to sleepwalking through work the next day.
• I’ve returned to using email for business instead of an all-day chat line.
• I’ve returned to my old reading habits, which for a while focused almost exclusively on Emily’s writing.
• No more worries that we might end up together, yes, but bankrupt.
• I see the wide-open possibilities of meeting someone who complements me in a positive way rather than feeling I have to constantly adapt to her world.
As it happens, I have recently been seeing someone who very much fits that last bullet point. I met her within a month of the split with Emily, so life has moved on reasonably quickly. We have a lot of good times together, very little drama, and we don’t engage in lifestyle porn fantasies of moving in together. That is a good thing for me.
I’m anonymous, but you probably know me. I’m a successful technology business guy living in a nice suburban town. I go to networking events, work out at the gym, am close with friends and family, have a great job and a lot of great relationships. This just happens not to be one of them. Thank your for reading this. Perhaps I’ll meet you at an industry conference one day.”
Tags: anonymous, blog, blogger, long-distance-relationship