Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's All My Ex's Fault

I had a great session with my therapist today. We talked a lot about my last serious relationship prior to Pam. I will just refer to that girl as "D".. which is progress because I used to refer to her as "the C-word".. YES, that C-word!

I was almost surprised to realize that it was just short of a year between the time I broke up with D and the time my anxiety started.

The thing that is so funny about my relationship with her is that, at that time in my life, I was probably the most secure and confident that I had ever been in my life up to that point. I had quit my job to start my own web design company. I was more or less living pay check to pay check but I was okay with that. When D and I were together and she was job hunting (more on that later) I was willing to relocate pretty much anywhere she wanted, as long as I was confident we'd be there for a long enough period of time that I could build a business there.

But it wasn't all upside with D and that of course is why we broke up. We started dating in January of 2001 and were together until just after Thanksgiving on 2002. During the time we were together I went from living in my own place to living with her, even though I originally resisted moving in together. I had made arrangements to rent a room from a friend but she wanted us to leave together. We fought -- we did that a lot -- and I caved -- I did that a lot too -- and so I moved in with her.

And, looking back, that was the beginning of being trapped in my relationship with her. I didn't have anywhere else to go so I had to stick it out with her. I know that had I been living in my own place I probably would have broken up with her long before November 2002.  After living together in what had been her mother's house we moved closer to NYC so she could work in the city. I really thought that moving out of that house would be great for her, that it would help her and our relationship. It turns out I was wrong.

D's mother had passed away in 1999 and she had moved from Pennsylvania to Long Island to deal with her Mom's house and estate. Despite having two sisters, D took everything upon herself. I think this was part of her psyche though -- that she could, or more likely "had" to do everything herself.

I think D was very upset about losing her mother -- as most people would be -- but more than just because her mother was gone. D was on a cruise when her Mom died and I think D blamed herself, as though not being on the cruise would have made a difference. The only problem with that theory is that D lived in Pennsylvania so she would not have been with her Mom on the night she passed.

My therapist thinks that D was stuck in the grieving process and I think she is probably right.

During therapy in 2004 my then therapist suggested that I write a letter to D -- not one that I would ever send, but just a chance to vent. I've decided to include that letter here..

Dear D,

I’m sitting in my room in East Hampton listening to music that makes me think of our relationship –

I've lied to you
The same way that I always do
But this is the last smile
That I'll fake for the sake of being with you
I've tried for you
To do everything you wanted me too
But this is the last time
I'll take the blame for the sake of being with you

These lyrics makes me think about the end of our relationship – the terrible time I had at Thanksgiving and what a bitch you were and how I told myself that after the holidays, I was leaving. But I couldn’t even make it through the holidays, and I’m so glad that I left when I did. I’m just sorry that it took me so long to get up the courage too leave.There were so many times I wanted to go and I didn’t. The time we had the big fight at the house in Montauk – had I been living at Peej and Jess’ like I wanted too, I would have left then. But I didn’t take the room they offered because I chose to not fight with you over it. If I had stuck to my guns and rented the room from P and J, our relationship would have ended so much earlier.

I also think about so many minor modifications I made to my daily routine to please you, such as drying off in the shower so the bathmat didn’t get too wet. But the ironic thing about that was the whole reason you didn’t like it when the bathmat was wet was because you insisted on not wearing shoes in the house, and that was another change I made for you while living in your house in Montauk.
I look back, too, and compare you with N. Most outside observers would say that there are not similarities between you, and yet I see so many. You were both completely insecure; it’s just that your insecurity manifested itself in different ways. With N, it was her physical body that she attempted to manipulate through her eating disorders. With you it was your attempt to please everyone around you all the time, and to never be a bother. An example of this is bringing your own sheets and towels to someone’s house when invited to be an overnight guest. Your response to that would be that it is the “polite” thing to do, except 99% of the world would say the polite thing is for the person inviting you to spend the night to provide linens.

Another demonstration of your obvious insecurities were the way you left messages on people’s answering machines – and I remember noticing this when we first started dating. You would start with “It’s just me”, but in a tone in which the subtext was “don’t get excited, it’s no one important, just Dorothy.” What I would love to understand about you, but I know I never will, is why you are so insecure. You did well in school, you were a successful nurse, and probably could have been a successful nurse-paralegal had you stuck with it long enough. I can only guess you were trying to get the approval of your parents, but unfortunately, they had both passed away before I met you, and so I know that they was never going to happen.

Another thing I hated about you – and it’s funny that I use that word, “hate” – because you are the only one of my ex-girlfriends that I have feelings of hate and animosity towards. But on to my point – the way you looked at the world with such a negative perspective. It’s so sad to see someone with so much to vent about – so much anger. And I know that you would think I was the angry one in our relationship, but at least I expressed my emotions and then moved on. You insisted that your jadedness was based on life experience, and if that’s so, then I feel sorry that your life has been so miserable. And yet, having met your friends from Pennsylvania and your family, I can’t believe that your life was ever that bad that you would become so jaded.

How could you paint this picture?
Was life as bad as it should seem, 
that there were no more options for you?
Did daddy not love you?
Or did he love you just too much?
Did he control you?
Did he live through you at your cost?
Did he leave no questions for you to answer on your own?
Well fuck them,
and fuck him,
and fuck you,
for not having the strength in your heart to pull through.

The only thing I can think of is that you carry with you bitterness about B breaking off your engagement and resentment towards your sister Carol who got married around the same time you would have married Bernard. And so you carry anger and hatred towards both of them because your sister has the family you think you should have but don’t because B didn’t marry you. And of course, had you married him all those years ago, your mother would have been alive to see it and to most likely see grandchildren from you, and I think that is why you lived in somewhat of a state of denial about your mother being dead. I remember having an argument with you about the fact that you always spoke about your mother in the present tense, like she was still alive. And thinking how creepy it was that her room in the house in Montauk was basically untouched 3 or 4 years after she died. I was amazed when you let me move things around in that room to create an office. I know a part of me hoped doing so would be therapeutic for you, but I don’t think it changed anything. The ironic thing about all this is that I really did want to understand you, and on many levels you remind me of a younger me – when I was uptight and anal retentive and no fun to be around. 

But my experience with N, driving across country and living in San Diego for a year, away from my friends and family, and living with a manic depressive, bulimic girl made me a stronger person, and made me realize what was important in life, and more importantly, what wasn’t important in life. Things like money – which we fought about all the time. You worried about it constantly, yet you had a good job. I was struggling to make a web design business work, but I never worried about money. Because I knew, if I had to get a job, I could – and I would. Just like the summer we met and I worked at the hotel. You can always get a job and figure out how to live within the means you earn. But to contemplate that scared you. And I can relate to that because I was there. I didn’t want to live “pay check to pay check” and so I didn’t make the movie with B and C when I graduated college, and, although the movie wasn’t a huge success and C and B don’t speak to each other anymore, there is a part of me that regrets not taking the leap – the risk – and doing that movie. 

I know a part of me thought I could change you, because I felt like I’d been in your shoes before – but it took me a long time to realize that you didn’t want to change. I guess you either liked who you were, although I don’t think you did, or you were just scared of change. But everyone is scared of change, but that’s what makes it exciting and worth doing. Of course, being scared of change is why I stayed with you for so long – because I didn’t know where I would go, where I would live, what I would say to people about why we broke up. But I finally found the strength to make the change, and I guess that’s part of why I’m writing this letter -- because change has come to me once again. 

I’ve sold my half of my company and started working a full time job for DM, which, looking back seems so ironic. I always felt that part of you was waiting for me to give up the web design business and get “a real job.” I never felt like you supported me emotionally in any way, and I know you never supported me financially. But when I made the one offer to you – that I would move to Pennsylvania with you when I had finished the hotel program, and get a job working for someone else – but that to do so you would have to stick it out in NYC and pay most of the bills because I would not take on any new work, you declined that offer. I don’t know if that was because you were so obsessed with money, or because you didn’t have faith that I could find a job, or what, but you had your shot.

I never felt I got any support from you in the things I tried to do, and yet, any time you “did” something for me, it was always about how you made some sacrifice for me and how I should somehow be grateful or indebted to you. A classic example of this was one of the times we were visiting Montauk while living in North Bellmore and I had a meeting planned with G for the following morning. He called to see if we could meet during the evening of the current day and I asked you if that was okay or if you had too much to do to get back to East Hampton in time. You said it was okay, but then proceeded to storm around the house like you had too much to do and too little time, and you blamed me for putting you in that situation. Yet, it never crossed your mind that I gave you a choice and you made a choice and then didn’t want to take responsibility for the consequences of that choice.
So that’s what this whole letter is about – and why the lyrics at the beginning of the letter seemed appropriate to me… This is the last time I'll take the blame for the sake of being with you. How many times did we have fights, and how many times did you take responsibility for provoking me or perhaps overreacting to something I said or did? Zero. None. Zilch. 

And that’s why I’m still so angry at you. And it seems so ironic, given that you are a nurse, and were a critical care nurse before we met. Maybe that’s part of it though – in that line of work, you can’t make mistakes, because if you do, people die. And so maybe you thought that you were perfect, and that you didn’t make mistakes in your everyday life either. 

And that of course makes me think of, again, your bad attitude about the volunteer ambulance core in Montauk, and how you blamed them for your mother’s deaths – that they didn’t respond fast enough or do enough. You couldn’t accept that they did the best they could. I can guarantee you – no one on that crew decided that night that your mother’s life wasn’t worth saving. But that wasn’t good enough for you. You couldn’t accept that they did the best they could, because their best wasn’t enough to keep your mother alive. But I’m sure there have been times in your career as a nurse where patients have died despite the best efforts of the doctors and nurses at the hospital, and in those cases, I certainly hope that the families of the deceased didn’t blame the medical staff for a lack of effort.
The whole reason the idea of writing this letter came up is because I’m in therapy again – I’ve been having panic attacks since November of last year. The first one came while I was on my way to meet a girl whom I had made contact with over the Internet. The funny thing about therapy is looking back at the time you and I spent in therapy and what a farce it seems like now. I’m so curious to know what you talked to the doctor about during your solo sessions. And I so strongly believe that you only went because you thought I would change, and that you didn’t need to change. I like to write and I remember some snotty comment you made to me about how I wasn’t writing any more while we were together – but I was.. just nothing I could share with you, because it was mostly me venting about you. 

Of course, when we first started dating I gave you 10 or 12 poems that I wrote because I was curious to see what you thought of them, and I know you never gave me any feedback, and I wonder if you ever read them.

Probably not..

Ok this is a really long post so I'll end it here but I'm sure I'll have more things to add about D later.


  1. I find that writing letters to people is a way to really express our emotions to them. When I was having serious problems with my ex, I wrote him a "wake up" letter almost and it worked for the remainder of our relationship. Did you actuat give her the letter ? I think letters are amazing because you can just download everything on to paper and I feel that it just drains all negative feeling out of ky body. That's just my opinion though. I hope the letter helped you pin point exactly what was up with the relationship you two shared.

  2. No, I did not give D the letter. I wrote it 2 years after we split as part of an exercise for therapy. But I agree with you about how letters can be a good way to rid yourself of emotions, even if you never give the letter to the person its intended for.