As most of you now know, Adelle and i are no longer together.
The aftermath has been difficult but sobering. My friends have helped me gain perspective— a perspective that i was missing because:
- It was Adelle who was my closest friend, lover and someone that just a few weeks ago, said she wanted to be Mrs. Adelle Tumbleson.
- She had hurt me tremendously with a cruel, cruel e-mail that she’d sent weeks before. But me being me, i (very stupidly), thought the demands she made in this mail- that we change our relationship from a couple looking to get married to being friends-with-benefits (there were other assaults and absolute demands that made it clear i no longer had a right to discuss any aspect of our relationship), that they had been said as moments-of-passion type things. I was wrong. My drive to seek understanding and to forgive her was deeply misplaced and as a result, i was unable to see the situation objectively.
Since then, i’ve had several conversations with friends, acquaintances and even strangers alike about a few subjects; communication and honesty being one of them.
Anyone that knows me knows that i’m an honest person. But honesty isn’t just the ability to speak truthfully, it’s also the ability to think truthfully. A woman i knew in my misspent youth, a B’hai, told me once that all honesty begins with inner honesty. The point really stuck with me and since then i’ve always approached my life with the understanding that if i am to be honest with others i must first be honest with myself.
For the most part, i do relatively well. Of the many aspects of the relationship that Adelle and i had, i would say that we made honesty one of the cornerstones of our relationship. When your outlook on love and relations is built on the premise of ethical non-monogamy (emphasis on “ethical”), honesty and communication take precedent over everything else.
And we failed terribly.
And in the jagged remains of shattered memories, broken dreams and betrayed promises, i’ve been left with the question: How did we fail so badly?
As the end of our relationship approached, as my issues of exclusion and abandonment were being triggered with all of the grace and subtly of being clubbed, i began to look deeper. We were being honest. We were communicative but our relationship was deteriorating. I did not see it nor feel it. In fact, i was falling deeper in love with her during this time. But she did and had for many months. And i now know she discussed it with others but she never bothered to discuss any of it with me. For her part, she had begun to exploit what she knew were my deepest, most complex issues. I do not know to what extent this was intentional or subconscious nor does it matter. To my shame, my response was to try and assert myself in a way that was indifferent or callous at the least and at worst, thinly veiled cruelty. And i am ashamed of this. I do not well when i am bullied and i was being bullied in a way that i will discuss in another posting. If i decide to post portions of what is now known as The Shitty e-Mail, you’ll get a sense of what i was dealing with and you’ll hopefully understand why my responses to such provocations were unworthy of me, yet understandable.
And therein lies my responsibility. I allowed myself to respond to her provocations out of fear when what i really should have done was to understand what i’m about to say.
We all have needs. Beyond our needs for food, warmth and shelter, we all have emotional needs. The dynamic of a polyamorous relationship is made much more complex because there’s a mandate to express your needs and to work with your partner(s) so that you can work toward a compromise.
Some people believe any sort of compromise is an anathema to their freedom. I believe compromise is how you achieve freedom, ESPECIALLY when you and your partners need to express yourself in different ways to different people. When you have someone that takes and takes and takes without compromise, that’s not a relationship, that’s absolutism- and absolutism is where all fundamentalism, jingoism and fanaticism are born. A relationship without compromise is nothing short of assault. It’s the behavior of bullies- and bullies are always ruled by their own fears. In a polyamorous situation, compromise allows you to have your emotional needs addressed in a positive way. Boundaries (NOT rules) should be discussed as should expectations.
This is common sense, right?
We were honest.
We discussed our needs.
What we did not do is discuss WHY we had needs. There were a series of agreements we made a bit more than a year and a half ago as she began to date someone else. They were very common sense rules and every one of them over the next year and a half would be forgotten and broken. That was bad enough but in each case, she did not tell me and i had to figure out that each agreement had been broken by deduction. The first two times, i voiced my displeasure— especially as i learned one of the agreements we had had been broken by a Facebook posting from her secondary. Then a couple of months ago when i realized the third agreement had been violated (and repeatedly) i just shrugged my shoulders in a “whatever,” kind of way. I no longer cared. There was a fourth rule that she had adamantly agreed to. I have to say, i was actually okay with that one being broken although in hindsight, the reassurances that i was given were… well, it’s probably best that i don’t let that thought finish.
By this time, i had allowed myself to sink into a very negative space where i felt ignored, belittled and marginalized- each the bastard children of the issue that will dog me for the rest of my life: abandonment. At this point, i love her dearly but i realized that those things that i asked for because i needed to protect my emotional security- they were never going to be honored and i could no longer trust her to keep her word nor expect her to understand why these things were important to me in the first place.
So why bother being disappointed?
I want to stop right here and explain something. Even now, even after what she did to me and what she did to us, i still love her and i am still in love with who she was just a few months ago. She is a blindingly complex woman who, when healthy, is as bright and as beautiful as the warmth of the sun after a long winter (and by virtues other than her incredibly perfect smile). She is an incredibly giving, affectionate and loving human and i am a better man and a better human for having loved her. But that’s not what this is about. I just don’t want anyone to think i am trying to liable her. She is beautiful and sensuous beyond description.
But here was my mistake:
No. This is not entirely on me. I will not be a martyr.
Here was our mistake: We did not discuss the REASONS behind our needs. I live two and a half hours away from her while this other person lived only a few minutes from her. Before she began to date him, i needed some boundaries respected because i needed to maintain a sense of emotional well being. She failed to discuss with me any sort of misgivings that she may have had at the time. Everything i knew about polyamory at the time was based on observations and theory. I had never been in a polyamorous relationship. She had been in a few. And while i do not mean to speak for her, i believe she kept frustrations to herself from the very beginning of our relationship; only voicing her needs after three years of being together. As an aside, i will say this was a good period for us as i took her to Texas to see the world i grew up in, so that we were able to be in a positive and fun place where we could really talk about how i could get to a place of comfort and security so that she could express herself with a guy that lived only a few minutes awaya… a relationship that’s referred to as a “secondary”.
As things progressed and i became more comfortable in their relationship, she should have come to me to discuss and renegotiate any of her needs and explain why they were her needs in the first place. But she didn’t and i made the mistake of believing there were no problems. I am (as anyone will tell you), stupidly naive at times. Then when confronted with each of the boundaries that she agreed to, but were broken, i just tried to “tough it out” and let it roll off of me. The intent was admirable but in hindsight, i should have stopped everything so that we could have understood our needs and wants better and reassess things.
Toward the end, my subconscious responded by maintaining my indifference by being cold to her at times. I am not proud of this. I’m ashamed, in fact. I had loved her, shared all of my secrets with her as she had with me (with one glaring exception that was and is unforgivable). Looking back, i went into preservation mode. As things deteriorated, my life long issues of abandonment and exclusion took over my personality. My confidence became rooted in self preservation instead of my love for her and my love for myself. I began to respond to things with a surgical precision and a callous indifference because… well, we all have rents. We all have wounds. Despite being a brutally self aware man who will always live with an uncomfortable truth instead of an easy lie, i did not take the time to stop and talk to her about my concerns and needs.
And while i do not mean to speak for her, i believe she began to see me as someone trying to control her— which is the absolute worst fucking thing to do to her. But once she had that perception of me in her, a perception compounded by many difficulties from her childhood and adolescence, that perception became mythology. Then mythology replaced reality. It does not matter that in the past i forgave and moved on. It does not matter the years of listening and understanding her so i could be a better friend and a better lover. It does not matter that even though i had some very justified concerns a bit more than a half year ago when she wanted to live with her secondary as a roommate, that i was able to receive her reassurances, that i was able to believe in her and that i eventually supported her living with her secondary. Those things were (and perhaps still are) forgotten because once she began to perceive me as a paternal, controlling authoritarian figure, all memories and all communications had to be wrapped around THAT mythology.
And by this time, mythology had consumed reality.
Why? The funny thing about religion, about dogmatic beliefs or any other sort of fundamentalism, is you have to twist facts to contort and bend them to conform to your beliefs. Facts and reason cannot be allowed to intrude on your mythology… on your beliefs. Once i became a representation of her worst fears and broken childhood, anything i said and everything i did was remolded to conform to that dark archetype.
There were two other profoundly significant factors to this as well but i’m not going to go into those here.
By this time, there was nothing i could do or say to assuage her. Then in early October, The Shitty e-Mail arrived. It was a vicious, cruel, vindictive piece designed to damage me in my deepest places… and it succeeded with more carnage than i can describe. Even though i tried to rectify and clarify things that night, the damage was far, far deeper than i realized.
I am terribly naïve at times. It doesn’t help that i loved her so much that i didn’t have the ability to read it objectively. Where i was concerned, she was angry at me. I had hurt her. In our relationship, i had two guiding principles:
- To do whatever it took to see that she was happy and fulfilled
- To do whatever it took to make sure she was never hurt
To my fault, i will often take blame for things that i do not need to. It’s not a matter of my being a martyr but it’s often an attempt at being a responsible adult and taking accountability for things without always understanding that it’s not always my place TO take accountability.
But both guiding principles had been broken and i would do anything to set things right. It was a matter of principle. It was a matter of honor, of dignity and of fighting for our relationship. I am terribly naïve at times and i will rush to forgive when perhaps i should not. In hindsight, i should have forwarded it to some of my friends right then and there for their take. I didn’t then but i have now and their observations have been sobering to say the least.
This segues into the next component of things but i do not know when i’ll get around to posting it. It’s a difficult place for me to go because i do not do well with someone that i love unleashing their anger and malice on me. I have lived through that before and yes, i am living through that again. It’s like going back to an intersection where you lost your best friend in a traffic accident except that the corpses are still fresh, their eyes open, their mouths agape and unable to speak. The cars are still there and the blood hasn’t yet dried.
Even though i now have the input and objectivity of my friends, it is my newest wound.
That may sound like a contradiction, “…the objectivity of my friends,” but it’s not in this case. It’s actually another segue into another aspect of the aftermath. Given the choice between the two, i’ll probably discuss friends next. Shelly and others have pressed me on this— are my friends supporting me blindly or are they the kinds of people who’ll take me down a few notches if i do something unjustifiably dicktastic?
I have to end this. There’s nothing left to say except for these things.
To those that would learn from my mistakes, it is not enough to just be honest. You have needs, wishes and desires but underneath those things, you have reasons for those needs, desires and wishes. Those are what you have to explore. That’s where you have to be strong enough to peel your wounds away and stare into the mirror with unflinching devotion.
Boundaries are better than rules. Rules are rigid and inflexible. While your morals and ethics should determine what your hard-and-fast rules are, boundaries can be observed, understood and negotiated. It’s entirely possible to have a boundary based on a previous experience only to find that your partner can help you understand they have no intent nor desire to do to you what someone in your past had done. I had and have rules regarding what i can and cannot do with someone but even rules can be changed. For example, after her very gentle coaxing for two years and helping me understand why she found something so desirous (that i will not list here), i found that something i had regarded as unthinkable became something i enjoyed doing for her. It’s a trust thing- and i have a deep and profoundly sensuous relationship with trust. My point being that once i had empathy and understood her needs better, i was able to take that hard-and-fast-rule in my mind and suspend it long enough until it became a boundary that i might apply to my other lovers but no longer had to apply to her.
This process is also known as “growth.”
Communication must always be done with the deepest amount of empathy for your partner as is humanly possible. This is damned near impossible. When i’m trying to communicate my needs, it’s because i’m trying to address MY needs. But at the same time, it’s easy to forget that in doing so, i have to consider the health and well being of my partner(s).
There are other aspects to this summary but i forgot to jot them down. I’ll come back and add them as the voices in my head remind me as to what they are. Also, i will continue to refine this entry over the next few days. I think it’s some of the most insightful writing i have done in a while.