A charming man

To support NaNoWriMo this month, I’m finishing the 30+ odd drafts laying about and posting them through the month of November.

Late summer or early fall of 2007, TheEx and I made the joint agreement to apply to grad schools together. The plan of attack was to apply to schools that offered programs for both of interests (he, urban planning; me, library and info sciences). We made plans, contingent plans, and back-up plans for almost every possible outcome.

Except for breaking up.

I mention this because on in August of 2008, TheEx moved to Ann Arbor to attend U of M while I’m moved somewhere in the general Detroit area (location undetermined as of yet) to attend Wayne State for my MLIS program. Over the course of the summer of 2008, shortly after we broke up, we’ve started hanging out once or twice a week by going to movies, seeing concerts, and having dinner.

After a few awkward steps of figuring out the deal with how to proceed with the fallout of the break-up, since I came back from the U.K. in mid-June of 2008, things have gone fairly well. We see each other when we see each other, I honestly didn’t think twice about the arrangement (And no, I’m not kidding myself.) and just thought that things being as they were, I was/am okay with the set-up.

And for the better part of that summer, I was told over and over and OVER again by everyone and sundry that I was making a huge mistake. I was making things worse by continuing to be involved with someone when the healing process of the break-up had yet to begin. I was putting myself on the line for something that may or may not ever pan out, regardless of which direction. I sought out therapy (paid and friends), walking, knitting, trips, yoga, doing sage cleanses, and seeing a palm reader. (Who, incidentally enough, predicted the break-up two days before it happened in which I poo-poohed her decision. I thought everything was fine between TheEx and I, only to find out said two days later, it clearly wasn’t.

And I’m stubborn.

I ignored the commentary from well-meaning friends, because if I was okay with how things were going, then isn’t that the main concern? And if I could reconcile the past and put forth energy into the future with being friends with him, and was totally okay with that, isn’t that what it is ultimately all about?

And lastly, I had already thought long and hard about the probability of him seeing someone else, thus, knowing I wasn’t going to be happy about it (more so with my ego over anything else), but you know, I’m an over educated woman of the ’00s, I’ve been around the block a few times, I know how these things work. You meet someone, you date, it ends, you grieve for X amount of time, you move on.

But how the relationship ended, why it ended and the after math were different from prior relationships I have ever been in and thus, I had no road map to work from. I made mistakes in the beginning of the break-up, lost some footing and floundered once or twice, but I always quickly regained my steps and I made sure to always put myself first before anything else.

Because he was leaving G-Rap (more than likely for good), we decided to get together for one final hang out session. Change is afoot and change is never really easy, as we all know. I picked him up and we opted to head for dinner at a place we’ve frequented before and for ice cream afterwards; a typical TheEx and Lisa evening. Dinner was fine, we were having a good time talking about our upcoming school plans and walked over to grab ice cream afterwards only to discover the line was too long. We then opted to head to another favorite place, walking there from his current adobe and enjoying the same brand of ice cream with very little wait.

As we’re sitting outside, he totally getting into his mint chocolate chip in a waffle cone and me attempting to eat a very messy soft serv Twist dipped in hardshell, TheEx brings up that he has to talk to me about heavy topics.

“Is this about the New York Times billing?”, I inquire while ice cream drips all over my hands and onto the ground.
“No,” says he.

He then launches into what now sounds like a pre-rehearsed monologue about how he may begin dating in three weeks, three months or three years and I need to be happy for him. And if I’m not happy for him, then the onus is on myself. (I’m paraphrasing the later, not the former.)

I’m stunned.

I toss my now soggy cone into the garbage and attempt to collect my thoughts but I find that I don’t really have anything to say. Prior to our meeting, I had thought of some things I wanted to say to him this fine August evening but decided that by doing so would be pointless, some things were just better left unsaid. I just assumed that our relationship, with the change in geography and lifestyles, would eventually peter out and we would go on with our own lives in much different directions. I had maintained the relationship for most of the summer by almost sheer force of Lisa-ness: Most of the planning, getting together and encouraging friendship was my idea. At some level, he really is an ultra-cool guy but he’s a loner, who barely sees anyone outside of his family even when he was working and had cultivated work relationships. Most of his friends, his longtime friends, lived outside of the city or even the state. Those in city are busy with their own lives, as people are wont to do. Our social life when we were together was cultivated by my social circle, not his and when we split, he moved back into hermit mode once again.

And we talked about this, his lack of making the effort for anything when we were together as a couple and later, as we attempted to build a friendship. A lot of the decision process in regards to social activity always tended to lay on my shoulders and I was growing more frustrated as our intimate relationship grew and later our platonic relationship and he said he knew that was a problem with him and he needed to “work on it.” Whatever the hell that means, I’m now guessing.

We stumble over conversation for a bit and it was getting difficult to talk while people were coming in and out of the ice cream store. I requested that we head back to his place and sit on the front porch to finish this discussion. We walk back in silence and I’m attempting to formulate my thoughts but I find that I’m angry? Pissed? Upset? I can’t name the emotion that is bubbling towards the surface. Other than a drunken faux paus I made last weekend when we were at a wedding together, I had not made the moves towards him romantically — I can’t handle a romantic relationship with anyone right now. Yes, deep in my heart of hearts, perhaps I did want us to “date” again but when things were better, when stuff was more settled and I could handle knowing what I know and reconcile all of this together. Dating him now would be too easy, it wouldn’t be worthwhile for me emotionally to go through all of this again.

I know this, rationally and logically, I have gone over this a gazillion times with my shrink, my friends and with myself. I know a lot of things about why this relationship wouldn’t work, why I would ultimately would not be happy and why I am doing nothing but beating myself up against the wall. But there is something, something I cannot name that pulls me to him. When he calls or when I’m around him, I’m like a 15 year old girl. Call it love, call it infatuation, call it a crush but one thing that is agreed upon by people who know him is that he is a charming man.

I don’t know how long we “talked,” an hour? More? Less? I keep trying to put together the conversations, stilted.

“I did not or have not felt romantically towards you all summer and I have no desire to pursue a relationship with you now, or ever.”
“Did you fall out of love with me,” I asked.
“I guess, if you want to call it that” says he.
“Are you still attracted to me,” I venture further. (Masochist, I am.)
“That’s irrelevant,” he responds. “I cannot be in a relationship with you because I cannot commit emotionally or physically with you or with anyone. I do not want to get your hopes up. It doesn’t feel good, for me, to think that way.”

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The above was written sometime in late 2008, before TheHusband I got back together and when I was still reeling from the aftermath of my relationship with TheEx. There is quite a few more posts about TheEx lurking about my draft box, hundreds of words that I cannot bear to trash and that need to be made public to the world.

Update: September, 2013
I haven’t spoken to TheEx or seen him since the above conversation took place five years ago. Reading this now, one would think the relationship broke off due to any myriad of usual breaking off reasons. TheEx and I broke up because he hit me. We broke up because he has a long history of physically assaulting his women, which I had found out via happenstance when we were still together of the depth and breadth of the assaults that lead to police charges and jail time.

TheEx is also Bipolar, with various other mental ailments but on a much larger, and more dangerous, scale then I could ever be. Whether or not his physical abuse is tied to his mental issues is a blurred line, but despite the 2x a week shrink he was seeing by the time we met and the rainbow of drugs in his life, these treatments were obviously not enough.

I thought I could change him, having just come off my time in behavioral therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder. I thought I had changed him. I was wrong. After he had hit me, and the furor had died down, and he had moved out, I wanted to immediately protect him. I wanted to comfort him and tell him that it was a one time thing and would never happen again. I wanted to forget he had hit because he would never do it again, previous history of police charges notwithstanding.

His close friends and his family all blamed the brain disease – this wasn’t TheEx! This was the chemical problem that lead to these problems. It didn’t matter it had been going on for nearly 20 years, that he had run ins with police and safety departments, and so forth and so on. This wasn’t him!

While I was the victim, they turned him into a martyr. I was shut out from his family, from his friends who had offered up phone numbers in support “in case something happens,” and treated as a non-entity when I called for help. He was back to being protected and that is all that mattered.

I was pretty angry after we broke up, ever more so after those close to us disavowed me. I was the one who was abused but he was the one who must be protected. I wouldn’t go to Ann Arbor, where I knew he was living for fear of running into him. I found out a few months before TheHusband and I were to move from Royal Oak, he was now living there and then I found it difficult to leave the house for fear of seeing him.

In some ways my life was crippled because of this and I have yet to find the freedom in letting go.