In last week’s post, “Getting Over the Guy Who Got Over Me,” I addressed the arduous process of relationship recovery. Of the many steps involved is the one I called the “rose-colored glasses off” phase, a stage whereat you begin to see the relationship (and him) truly. (Read to mean: as it [he] WAS—and NOT as you WANTED it [him] to be.) Hold this thought.
I also spoke of wanting (needing!) closure. Most women do, especially because we are usually left in the dark with unanswered questions as to why. Rarely, however, do men give it. The chances of an explanation, an apology—fuck!! even the acknowledgment it’s over—is as likely as Saudi Arabia taking Olympic gold in men’s ice hockey. That doesn’t mean I don’t still want it though . . .
What I actually want is to confront the bastard. I know it won’t change a damn thing, but I still want to. I actually run lines of dialog in my head. (A habit left over from my novel writing days? Probably.) In these imaginary conversations, I don’t only speak my mind and say my piece, I also anticipate his responses. Weird? Probably. But after 2 ½ years I know how he thinks and reacts to accusations of wrongdoing. And God knows I’ve got his speech patterns down cold—blue collar profanity and wrong grammar mixed with Philly colloquialisms and the occasional, wholly unexpected, impressive vocabulary word used in its correct context.
Another technique/tool I use to obtain the closure he has denied me is to write him letters. I doubt I will ever mail any of them. It helps nonetheless as a form of release. It gets out what needs to, which in turn helps me to process my emotions. Not to mention, remind myself of his bullshit behavior and cowardly denials, his steadfast refusals to accept any accountability.
The following is what I envision his written response would be—should I ever decide to lick a stamp instead of my wounds. Some might think I’m ripping off the scab by revisiting the past. But this harkens back to my earlier point about needing to view the relationship truly. As it was. Too, recounting (and reliving) his actions in print serves to remind me not only of the narc he is, but what a fool I was—valuable beyond measure and vital for those moments when I weaken and think to contact him . . .
Just to be clear. My conscience is clear. I am not responsible for your broken heart. In the beginning—let me reiterate that—in the very fucking beginning, I warned you. I told you this me. This is how I am. I never told you we were going to be an item. I never gave you a promise ring or promised you a rose garden. That fucking shit is for kids! Hell, Judith! I told you not to love me!
Never mind the mixed signals. The times I told you you were important to me and that I needed you in my life. The times I said I didn’t want to lose you and that we didn’t fuck now—we made love. And when I told you I loved you . . . Boo! Babe! It’s how the game is played! First, you undermine a woman’s defenses. You tell her your heart is guarded because of the hurt other females have done. By nature, women are nurturers, so most of them will eat this crap up! They can’t help themselves. They want to kiss the boo-boo and make it better. Next, you tell her the shit she wants to hear and the shit that makes her feel beautiful and desired—and unique. You tell her she’s not like the other girls and women you’ve been with. Without ever actually saying it, you let her think she’s THE ONE. The one that can turn a bad boy into a good man. It’s the fucking fairy tale all women want to believe! And it works like a fucking charm every fucking time! Last, you bait the trap to lure her in. You tell her shit that makes her think you’re going to be together in the future . . . like you want to meet her sons or she will meet your friends. You talk about doing stuff and going places. It works every time, and in no time you’ve got her hooked. But like I said, it’s all a game. And I’m a fucking master at it.
You never stood a chance. Despite your education and intelligence (and yeah, you are the smartest woman I’ve fucked), you were still a novice. Despite your worldly travel and the books you wrote, you were just as dumb as the all the dumbass bitches that came before you. Older than the 30-year-olds I prefer, you weren’t no wiser. In a way, you were actually more naïve. Or maybe just more desperate. It’s not like a sixty-year-old can compete with a thirty-year-old. You said so yourself the night we met. You asked “Why go with a sixty-year-old?” I answered, “Intellect. There has to be something there for later.” Fuck! What a comeback! I had never used it before, but sure as fuck have since! So thanks for that.
I will admit though . . . you were a bit more a challenge. It took me a good while to totally figure you out. It threw me at first how little you wanted. You didn’t need to go out so you could show off to the other bitches in the club. What a fucking waste of money some females cost! And time. Waiting hours for them to get ready because they need to look good. You weren’t a pain in my ass about calls and texts neither. I could disappear for a month and never talk to you or not see you for . . . what? It was like 4 months . . . But when I showed back up, you took me right back into your life—and bed. Speaking of . . . there wasn’t no questions about other women I was seeing and fucking neither. When I told you I can’t give you exclusivity, you said you weren’t asking for it. Fuck, Judith! You made it so easy! I really thought there was a catch—until I realized it was just an indication of how little you valued yourself—that you were happy with so little, though you gave so much.
And you did. Give. I mean, who just hands over a check for $2500 without hesitating—and without an IOU? I know it’s been 2 years and I haven’t paid you back. And just so you know, I don’t intend to. It’s not going to kill you. I give to people all the time and don’t expect nothing in return. Besides, I fucked you for over 2 years. I figure the best sex of your life is worth $2500. Oh, and by the way, when you asked me to pay you back in October. . . I shut that shit right down. I called you a fucking nut and told you you were looking for something that had nothing to do with money. I told you I would do what I could do when I could, and you dropped it. Yeah, you might have a temper at first, but I knew you always calm down and come back around. You wanted to be with me so whatever I gave you were happy.
I have told you plenty of times. Don’t ever think I don’t have appreciation for everything you have done for me. I appreciate you took care of all the details with work when I went to rehab. You drove me all the hell out there and brought the FMLA paperwork out. You saved my job and probably my life. You bought me cartons of cigarettes and new clothes and came very Sunday to visit me. It helped break the boredom at that damn place for sure. But I KNEW you were going to think it meant more than it did. Especially when I got out and stayed at your place for 6 weeks. I pulled back on purpose but fucked you a couple times so you would think there was still something between us. You planned that trip to Venice and I took vacation. I still wanted to go. I don’t know shit about traveling to foreign countries. When I went with you to Munich, we saw some great shit. I knew Italy would be good so I kept acting like we’re friends and I was going to stick around. But seriously, Judith! Your first clue should have been when I went back to my place and never talked to you for 2 weeks until the day we left for Italy. That one surprised me, I got to admit. I expected temper. But you never said a word. That’s when I realized what a door mat you really are. I knew how bad you wanted to be with me. But I just wanted to go to Venice. That’s why I was careful it wasn’t a romantic trip like we were a couple. Yeah, we had sex a few times. But sex is sex. It don’t mean nothing. Hell, I didn’t even bother to introduce you to my buddy from work and his wife when we ran into them in the square. But you never said nothing. Toward the end I was getting tired of you. I always do with every female. I need to just do me.
That’s why when we got back, I disappeared. You tried to text a couple times. I told you I was busy with my life and working a good bit and you dropped it. I did come through to put up your Christmas tree. I was thinking it would keep you off my back about the money. It’s why I showed up in January. It’s why I fucked you when you asked. I can’t believe you can’t get dick, Judith. You can. You just want me. But you can’t have me. No woman can. I’m a gigolo. I go my own way, see who I please, when I please. You can ask any of the females I have been with and still talk to and sometimes fuck . . . I fuck who I want. When I want. I thought you knew that because I told you.
I do have appreciation you have not been bothering me with dumbass texts trying to make contact. If I wanted to see you, I would. It’s funny as fuck how you females don’t get that! If we’re not around, it’s because we don’t want to be. I told you when you asked my opinion for your friend, there ain’t nothing a woman can put in a text to bring a man back. If he’s 50 miles away, her bugging him will send him 100 miles away. I told you if you tried that shit with me, I’m gone. I also told you if I left, you’d fucking know it. I’m guessing you know it now since I have not heard from you in a couple months . . . except for that bullshit letter you sent which I am answering now. Why do have to be so fucking analytical anyway?
I’m sorry you got hurt. But like I said, I warned you. I told you not to love me.
I started this piece months ago and then shelved it. “Oh, Lord . . . not another ‘poor me, I got dumped’ themed post,” I thought. Of late I’d written so many on the subject I feared I’d become a one-trick pony. Besides, sufficient time had elapsed since Sunday’s fade to black disappearing act had commenced, I was determined to let the bastard bygone lover be bye-bye gone. Life-wise I had turned a corner. I didn’t need to announce it. Writing-wise, I needed to move on.
Then I read an online post in one of the divorced, women-only, starting over groups I follow. The writer posed the question, “How do you get over a broken heart?” Trying to recover from a failed post-divorce relationship, she was W4 struggling (wallowing, weeping and wondering what went wrong—while wanting to do anything to recapture what was.) I knew exactly what she was feeling and how she was hurting. She was me—or rather, me 6 months ago. And in that moment, I knew I needed to write this after all . . . and I apologize upfront for its length.
Poets and songwriters like to claim it’s the price of loving—the pain of losing. But that seems oversimplified—if not stoically cavalier—and definitely abridged. Let us omit not the feelings of rejection and self-recrimination also engendered, addition layers of suffering to add to a sometimes nearly unendurable burden of pain and grief and sorrow. Can it be any wonder the spirit breaks and the heart shatters—and for a while, one might seemingly fall to pieces? I certainly did. The depression I fell into was deep and dark and overpowering, and I wasn’t sure I’d survive it. An embarrassing admission to make, to be sure. Broken hearts are supposed to be for the young and naïve and inexperienced just learning about love—not for a mature, experienced and jaded 62-year-old divorcee. Or so I thought. But like most everything, thoughts can change over time.
In his introductory lines to A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens may have arguably (or at least in my opinion) written the best intro of all time (no pun intended) to “time.” And life. And love won and lost.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
Certainly, my relationship with the mechanic I dubbed “Sunday” hit every Dickensian milestone: Born in the spring, it died in the winter. Too, it was an involvement rife with “times.” Times when my heart soared, and I believed the near impossible . . . And times when I weltered in doubt and confusion and cried myself to sleep. Times when I foolishly believed his lies and manipulations—and even more foolishly, clung to the belief I could change him and be “the One”—the one to stay the rolling stone.
But that is the nature of a woman falling in love, especially a woman with an empath’s caring and giving heart. What is the point of loving if one doesn’t go all in? And so, I trusted. I trusted my instincts, my intuition and my emotions. And above all, I trusted his words—all the while turning a blind eye to the obvious flags and his actual actions. Which do, ladies, speak oh so much louder than words. (damn clichés!) But chalk that one up to the “Hard Lessons Learned” column. “I love you. I need you. I don’t want to lose you. I won’t hurt you.” Words. Just words. If a man doesn’t follow them up with actions, then we’re talking meaningless noise—ala Charlie Brown’s “wah-wah-wah.”
But it’s all in the past now. After a September trip to Italy, followed immediately by a now nearly 8-month physical disappearance (broken only by a New Year’s visit, a single February phone call and a handful of texts of which 90% were initiated by yours truly), the writing on the wall I hadn’t wanted to see is crystal fucking clear. And speaking volumes: I fell in love with a narcissist. A broken man I thought I could fix—who doesn’t think he’s broken. (textbook, btw) When confronted, he blamed me (also textbook) ala I “caught feelings.” After all, he’d even warned me, right? Told me not to love him. (textbook, too) Ergo I fell in love at my own peril, and his conscience is clear. Further wiped clean by his modus operandi of keeping past lovers as “friends.” (Read to mean: numbers in his phone he might call once or twice a year, aka women he might sometimes see and occasionally fuck.) BTW, in an irony of all ironies, I asked him in the beginning what the signs were I should beware—the signs I was being moved to the phone friend zone. He told me not to worry about. He told me that wasn’t me. But it was me. It is me. And make no mistake, I fought not to believe it. I told myself every lie we women tell ourselves: he’s busy, he’s afraid, he needs time . . . Ladies, let me repeat myself. Lies! The truth is this (memorize it, stencil it on your wall or tattoo it upon your heart—whatever it takes): If he wanted to see you, he would! And so, eventually and finally I called “Game over.” Only then did the process of getting over him commence.
Let me repeat that as well . . . the process. ‘Cause getting over the guy who got over you is a process. A progression of stages and steps and phases that take time. There is no love potion #9 formula in reverse. Albeit, women replying to that aforementioned question posted online did so with scads of advice (ala cry if you must, but keep putting one foot forward; believe God has a better plan; grow and learn; love yourself ) and suggestions (ala read self-help books; spend time with friends; join a gym; take a class; start a hobby; go to church; volunteer; indulge a wish list or bucket list item; travel, journal, yoga or meditate; find a new guy). Know, however, these are merely means to beneficially fill the aforesaid fix: TIME. Especially in the beginning you need to divert focus on something—anything!—else. Just think of it as an external scabbing over of an internal open wound interval. It’s a needed interim and occurrence that will allow the healing within to eventually begin. (I owe mine to George R.R. Martin. Finally reading and realizing the truly justified hype, I got hooked on Game of Thrones. Over the course of my 3-month scab over period (the deeper the wound, the thicker the scab), I read all 5 books and binge watched all 7 seasons. At 4278 pages and 67 1-hour episodes, we’re talking huge focus diversion and major lonely hours filling!)
The real relationship recovery steps—btw, all necessary, mandatory, required, ain’t no way around ‘em phases—were first coined by Dr. Kubler-Ross during her work with terminally ill patients. She called them the “5 stages of grief.” These are they:
Like Kubler-Ross’ stages, the five steps to mending a broken heart do not happen on a linear timeline. It’s a roller coaster cycle of forward progress and backward relapses. So when you backside—and you will!—DO NOT beat yourself up over it. The recipe for relationship recovery is full of repetition that takes . . . yep, you guessed it! TIME. As much as you want to, you can’t DSL the process and expect satisfactory results. In a recipe metaphor reference, you can’t crank up the oven. You’ll ruin whatever you’re baking. (FYI, rush into a new relationship to band aid the wound of the old and you may do more damage and end up with a worse scar.) So, trust me on this. And know you will backslide and relapse and cycle (and recycle) through the stages again and again and again. You will lament and resent, isolate and insulate. You may over eat, over drink and over sleep. You will likely let yourself go—hair stays unwashed, work-out routines cease, things that mattered, don’t. If you don’t actually say it, you will think it (at least subconsciously): “He didn’t want me at my best so fuck it, I’ll be my worst.” It makes no sense—except somewhere in the pain, it does. Self-loathing is a real component of relationship recovery for women. We blame ourselves . . . we weren’t enough . . . we were too much . . . we shouldn’t have done X, Y or Z. (FYI, Men, on the other hand, typically blame the woman, acknowledging little to no personal fault or blame for a relationship’s demise.)
Granted, I’m no expert or trained professional. What I may be saying may be the worst advice ever. But I know whereof I feel—and felt. And I’m here to tell you, what you are doing and feeling is not not normal! Before I move on to the subsequent steps, let me make two final comments about all the advice and suggestions previously mentioned. As activities and goals, they are absolutely worthwhile undertakings! But they are, in essence, diversions to make time pass more enjoyably and productively—not faster!! Time only seems to pass swifter if you are physically or mentally occupied. Too, be careful. Too much is just avoiding. Eventually ya gotta deal. In GoT terms, you can’t defeat a white walker (or any monster) by hiding from it—ultimately, you’ll have to confront it, go toe to toe with the foe, take your licks and suffer the blows, bleed and cry. It’s part of moving on. And speaking of, let’s focus now upon those 5 steps . . .
Make no mistake, at first (and for a looooooong while) I absolutely lived in the Land of Denial and Excuses, willing—no, make that wanting—to believe it wasn’t over. (See the “lies” reference above.) It didn’t seem possible that after all we had been through together, he just woke up one morning and decided he was done with me. But he did. And he was. Whether he had felt it—or faked it—I probably will never know. Nor will I ever know why. Ladies, this is bar none the most difficult—the not knowing why. But in the end when it ends, it doesn’t matter “why.” Moving on past the past involves abandoning the past. Sure, I missed him. I wanted him back. (I did!) But slowly I came to realize (or acknowledge) I missed him as I thought he was or as I wanted him to be. I missed what I thought we had. I missed the dream, the fun, the way I felt with him. But not him. Too, with the benefit of distance and time I acquired the perspective necessary to see the narcissist he is and the one-sidedness of the relationship that was. Which prompted the next step: anger.
Hell, yes! I was angry. (And still am.) Furious, in fact. I called him every name in the book and swore to friends and family I was over his shit and done mourning his ass. But the truth was, I missed him terribly. (The distinction that what I might really have been missing was the sex, excitement and connection was one lost to me at the time.) And so came the bargaining. I bartered with myself like a huckster at a flea market—trying to convince myself the crumbs he might still toss to me were better than nothing. (This accounts for his January appearance at my foolish [desperate] invitation). After all, the pickings in today’s dating world for a 62-year-old woman are beyond slim. Making matters worse, sexually he was exceptional. It had been instantaneous fireworks from the beginning with him. I couldn’t bear the thought that celibacy would be my future. But eventually pride and reasoning won out over the sheer fear that my sex life would become a nightstand drawer reality. (Not that it doesn’t remain a stinging irony that the man who taught me intimacy and delivered amazing sex has now robbed me of my desire for either.)
And then in November I round-abouted back to anger and made a sharp turn into depression. Crippling, devastating deep depression. As real as tears and fueled by hate . . . But I didn’t hate him. I hated me. First, for not being enough: young, attractive, thin. And for being too much: intelligent, independent, strong—all the characteristic that had seemingly turned men off my entire life. Self-recrimination merged with self-loathing. How could I have been so blind? So stupid? It would be months on anti-depressants before I was able to transfer my hatred of self to him. Eventually though, I did. When my hair started to fall out from the Wellbutrin, my sense of self-preservation reared and self-value returned. I stopped the Wellbutrin and started hating him. (Or at least professed to.) At first for what he had done—and then (there is a distinction) for being a person capable of doing what he did to someone whose only wrongdoing had been to love him. We had never fought, never clashed or argued. Even living together for 6 weeks and being together 24/7 while traveling had been effortless. Didn’t he miss what we had?
Eventually I stopping reminiscing about the good times and focused instead upon the bad, the times he had treated me like an option. Friends and family had been telling me for months I deserved better. Only now was I beginning to believe it . . . ‘cause I was finally able to see it. This “rose-colored glasses finally off” phase was when I could finally see the fault is his. He is the one lacking. With two failed marriages and a string of women in his past he’d done the same thing to, he is the one damaged beyond repair. There will never be “the One” to heal him because he doesn’t want to be. He sees nothing wrong with the way he is.
Sometime in March—the month of still frigid weather and blustery wind and teasing occasional days of cold sunshine that promised warmer days ahead, I realized I wouldn’t take him back even if he did show back up. He had done this to me twice now—in the same pattern of appearance, disappearance, reappearance. (Yeah, I know. Love cannot only make you blind, it can make you unbelievably fucking STUPID!) There would not be a third time! Reaching this phase indicates huge progress in the process—but it has destructive ramifications. At least for me it has. I struggle not to be bitter and jaded—and even more guarded than I was before I met him. I have vowed never to let another man do to me what he did—use me, hurt me.
I realize such logic is akin to refusing to ride a bike again because you fell off and got hurt. Too, building walls to protect yourself from being hurt again has consequence. Walls don’t just insulate—they isolate. Keep out the pain and you’ll keep out the joy—or the possibility thereof. Just saying. But it is how I feel. For now. Which begs the question: Am I sadly (and self-fulfillingly) setting myself up to be alone for the rest of my life? Or am I smartly preparing myself for a very real reality in today’s dating world? I hardly ever see an age appropriate man I even find attractive. On the rare occasion I do, he’s wearing a ring. On the rarer off chance he isn’t, my thoughts go like this: “He wouldn’t be interested in me anyway.” It’s a thought daily reinforced and proven by the sight of over 50 with women decades younger. Two years ago when I wrote I Still Want Fireworks (my humor book about online dating), I spoke at length about not settling. I still can’t. And won’t. Now more than ever, because now I want more than ever: fireworks, intimacy, respect, affection and love.
I would do a disservice to this topic if I didn’t address a lingering aftereffect of the pain of a breakup: resentment. It’s hard to look at couples in general (and my age in particular) and not feel it. Two of my closest single girlfriends have recently found guys seemingly perfect for them. Make no mistake, I am absolutely (!) thrilled for them. But it hurts to hear their joy, because I wonder “What is wrong with me?” Btw, “It’s not your time yet” (there’s that fucking word again!) is a statement I despise! (Nearly as much as “It will happen when you aren’t expecting it.” See Fools For Fairy Tales conclusion to read more on this subject.) Again, I’m only being honest in the hope my experience might help another woman through her own failed relationship recovery. I believe with all my heart in commonality there is comfort. Humor and entertainment aside, single@60sucks was always intended to be above all relatable. If what I write does not resonate, I have failed.
Nowadays I still hover between hate and the next (and final stage) of love’s loss: apathy. You see . . . the fine line that separates love and hate still denotes the existence of emotion. Ergo, is apathy (and the total absence of any longer giving a shit) the true goal. And believe me, it takes . . . yep! TIME. Time to reach and time to achieve. So, no. I’m not fully there yet. There are days when I still relapse and return to the earlier stages of depression and loneliness, anger, bargaining and denial. Memories are my enemy: smells, certain words or phrases, foods, a song or a subject that reminds me of him . . . and then the scab gets ripped off. I remember and I miss. But as the memories fade (thanks to time) it has become harder to conjure the details and images that once lived so vividly in my mind. The times between these relapses has gradually increased so that I know I am getting closer.
Just a few days ago, I crossed a new threshold when out of the blue I realized I can no longer picture myself with him again. (Although I’ll admit I still run dialog in my head wherein I get the opportunity to confront and tell him off. I write him letters as well I’ll never mail—but which may at some point appear here . . . or not. Remember, single@60sucks is my way of figuring shit out . . . ) To take him back would negate the growth I’ve achieved. What would that say about this new level of self-respect and worth I have struggled so hard to achieve—to take back the man who had so disrespected me? What he took from me is immeasurable, and I don’t know yet if it’s recoverable. Which leads me to a final topic in this discussion. I may be close to being over him. But I am nowhere near being over the damage he did to me. My faith in love (for me) is gone. My trust of men is nonexistent. And my trust in my own instincts has been so destroyed it may be irreparable. I tried so hard for so long because I was so certain it would work. How can I ever trust myself again?
The final—and cruelest irony—is this: Going into my 9th month of my recovery, I’m stronger—and yet more damaged—than I have ever been. There’s a reason we speak of a heart being broken, of faith or self-esteem being shattered, of falling to pieces. But where will surviving and recovering and healing leave me, I wonder. Inspirational memes love to speak of beauty in scars. But seriously, really?! Like a vase put back together my heart is crisscrossed with cracks that have been filled in with a super glue sealant called life’s living and lessons’ learning. And while in appearance it stands intact, the question of function remains. Either stronger—or weaker—for the repairs, is it a vessel that will—or can—hold love again?
Writing this, sitting outside with the tress in bloom and the robins flitting from budding branch to budding branch, I know spring is here. I have survived the winter of my despair. The spring of hope is as alive as the open tulips in my front yard now swaying in a gentle breeze. Recent tragedies (my brother’s terminal diagnosis and a dear friend’s loss of her daughter) have reiterated valuable truths we often lose sight of in the face of a love’s loss: Life goes on. And even in its worst, life is a gift.
And so I sit here and count my blessing: my health and financial security, a job I truly like (and even sometimes love), my sons who have always been the reason for my living, and my grandchildren who are the truest joys of my life. There is a peace and calm—a serenity that descends in acceptance and in living in the moment and finding grace and happiness in the simple gift of waking each day to live another. I have plans for the future, too. Several trips to cross off items on my bucket list. While I don’t necessary believe in that trope that following the worst mistake in one’s love life, one will find the one for whom waiting was worthwhile, I do believe I am a better, wiser, stronger person for having learned what Sunday ultimately taught me: That to be a man’s option is no option.
In this final installment of “Fools For” let’s talk “Fairy Tales” that are not the make-believe scenarios and juvenile concepts of childhood bedtime stories and Disney movies (see parts I & II). These fools’ tales told are the made-up truths we grown-ass women tell ourselves (and others) in the well-meaning intent to comfort and inspire.
Axioms, sayings and quotes . . . sometimes even rambling long-ass paragraphs of life-lived/lesson-learned insight . . . usually calligraphed across breathtaking color pictures of nature or artfully posed models in black and white photographs of classic elegance . . . I know you know whereof I speak—these images and words masquerading as messages of hope and wisdom and motivation. We all know them because we all post them and share them—and worse. We interject them in comments to complete strangers as offerings of sympathy, strength and support—these expressions of care, concern and commiseration that function well as well as advice and problem solving. But in reality (or at least in my most cynical version thereof) they are doing a disservice—these banal statements and tired platitudes and one-size-fits-all-always panacean cure-alls. A truly “who knows if it’s true” truth we want to be true. In short . . . fairy tales, ladies, fairy tales, tailored to the situation like the emperor’s new clothes (It’s a metaphor. Read to mean: really not real at all—but because no one speaks up to say nay, the lie abides).
In terms of relationship breakups and moving on the most common bromides (and the ones I personally am sick to death of hearing) are these:
You deserve better.
The Universe has a plan.
There’s a reason.
There’s a silver lining.
Work on you and it will happen (when you least expect it!)
The right one will come along (when you least expect it!)
Be the best you can be and someone amazing will find you.
Not that there isn’t a time, place, purpose for—and, yes! a true value in—the above. Nor should the heart-felt desire to pick up another when she has fallen ever be mocked! Please know such is not my aim now. But as one who has heard the spiel one time too many, let me address the unaddressed and point out (STILL a metaphor) the emperor’s hairy ass . . .
Believing in the above en masse as gospel begs the question: Who then is at fault if my deserved, better, Universe-planned, silver lining, right and amazing one doesn’t come along? (‘Cause in an unfairytale world HE MAY NOT.) Ergo, I must have fucked up. Right? Either I actually don’t deserve better—or I didn’t believe enough, work enough, heal enough to be that evolved version of me Mr. Amazing was supposed to find (when I least expected it). And speaking of evolving and improving . . .
I call bullshit.
Think about it, ladies. We have all known royal bitches, certifiable nut jobs, tiring drama queens or perpetual damsels in distress IN relationships—AND WITH NICE GUYS—sometimes GREAT guys. Yet according to the fairy tale, I have to be the best I can be? Well, why the fuck don’t THEY? No, I’m not perfect. Far from it, in fact! But neither am I broken. Certainly not so as to need fixing before love can find me. So, yeah. Bullshit.
The unfairytale truth is this: In spite of our best efforts and sincerest desires, IT DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK OUT THE WAY WE WANT! PERIOD. And here’s a second shocker: SOMETIMES THERE ISN’T A DAMN THING YOU CAN DO TO CHANGE IT! Call it destiny?
The ancient Greeks and Romans believed the destinies of we mere mortals were tapestries whose weaving was overseen by three goddesses called “the Fates.” They held and controlled the mother thread of life, watching to ensure that the fate assigned to every being might take its course without obstruction. Islam believes all is written at the time of our births in a “Book of Fate,” including the time of our deaths. (Here’s a fun fact: So strong was the belief, during the Crusades some warriors rode into battle sans armor—‘cause hey! If it wasn’t their time, it wasn’t their time.) In the 16th century, Protestant Calvanists believed in something called predetermination, a theological little notion that since God has foreordained every event throughout eternity, men (and women, I’m guessing) are preordained either to everlasting happiness or to misery. (I don’t know about you . . . but in each of these I’m seeing a thread . . . and it’s a mother all right!)
Unsurprisingly, modern man (and woman) rebels against these concepts of a higher being deciding in advance our lot in life. We cite “free will” and “all men (and women, I’m guessing) are created equal.” (REALLY?!? I’m looking at Bradley Cooper on Irina What’sherface’s arm at the Oscars and I’m NOT seeing equal. Just saying, but I clearly drew a short thread compared to hers!) Nonetheless, we believe we control our fates, our destinies, our lives. What decides our fates, are our choices.
But let me play Devil’s advocate a bit more. Let me ask this: Have we not all known people who just seem blessed? (My mother used to call them the ones “who can fall in a pile of shit and come out with a rose between their teeth.”) Others, however, are like that cartoon figure with a perpetual cloud hanging overhead. Either way, we call it “luck.” And some have it—and others don’t. Who’s to say, though, that bad luck isn’t punishment for the sins of a former life while good luck is the reward for past good deeds? Seriously, who knows?
Naturally I realize this flies in the face of most popular self-help routes: The build it and they will come pathways to success and happiness . . . ala the “dream it, see it and achieve it” super highway Oprahites so favor . . . or the nowadays “affirmation” avenue that is all the craze . . . Doubtlessly some reading this will refute me. They will say such negative energy and thinking blocks positive energy and the change the Universe has in store. But hear me out.
I am not advocating total surrender, ala giving up and throwing in the romance towel. Nor am I saying we shouldn’t try to effect change. But “try” is a road without a guarantee of destination. Hope and try and dreams are all means to what we want to be real. But “want” and “real” are not inclusive. Neither are they absolute truths—as are these:
We don’t always get what we give—or deserve.
We can’t control everything.
It’s the expectation that often makes us the unhappiest
The intent of this post is to let those who are similarly tired of being fed the aforementioned fairy tales know they are not alone in their frustration. This is not to say I don’t still desire the dream of romantic love . . . but when it comes to believing it will happen . . . I’m far less a fool for the fairy tales than I am a pragmatist for the reality that those bitches have very well pulled the romance thread from my tapestry . . .
Postscript: Ladies, if ya still gotta have ‘em . . . the best words this cynic can offer in her well-meaning intent to comfort and inspire are these:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
When is the seed planted? The notion of romantic love—and the desire for all its accompanying accoutrements, i.e. red roses, candlelight dinners, diamond rings, etc. Are we women simply conditioned in childhood with fairy tale Prince Charming scenarios to believe someday our White Knight/Mr. Right will come? Or is it an innate trait? Some leftover primordial hard-wired Cro-Magnonesque species-survival instinct? FYI, said cavemen’s cave was found in France—the land of romance. A coincidence? (I think not.) Or is it something deeper? Say . . . DNA deep? Is there a romance gene?
I have no clue. But I do know there is something. Something within us that causes us to crave it. Like dumbass moths to a flame (maybe that explains the candle thing?) we otherwise seemingly intelligent and even well-educated women gravitate toward the men who make us feel it—even when logic says he’s a prick! Or maybe that’s just me? (I think not.) Whatever the source, it exists. We believe. And we want—and we feel lacking without. No matter how in all other ways our lives are full and fulfilled, we feel as if something is missing. Or maybe that’s just me? (I think not.) There’s a reason Valentine’s Day is the single woman’s most hated holiday . . . just saying.
And while I know it doesn’t help, hear me out. Ladies, we are buying into a lie. And speaking of buying . . . it’s long been a staple in selling. Marketing 101: sex sells. But here’s a distinction rarely made—sex sells to men. Ergo, bikini-clad bimbos at car shows, naked pin-up girls on tool and tire calendars and buxom broads on beer labels. A perfect case in point, the short-skirted, hair-blowing, lips-pursed girl the dork wishes to see bare (causing an actual bear to appear) in that STUPID spicy Doritos commercial. Seriously? But let’s be realistic—even if the ad is not. Who eats that shit? (Answer: every male in my family—including the 15-month-old!)
When to comes to women, however . . . it’s romance that sells. Aside from the obvious—the movie cable channels that keep the lie alive with their cheesy predictable plots and B actors and the no less cheesy and predictable novels (I know, ‘cause I wrote ‘em) that annually rake in over $1B while accounting for over one-third of all mass market books sold—there’s the advertising campaigns, magazine lay-outs and TV commercials that perpetuate the pap. Often truly asinine, these ads typically use tried and true techniques. (Think erotic slo-mo body part montages, soulful glances, billowing clouds and crashing waves—all to the accompaniment of mood music ala Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game). While the products they hawk sometimes have a recognizable correlation to romance (ala perfume ads), it’s an equal bet romance is irrelevant to the product at hand. Not that it matters—’cause remember, romance sells.
My favorite (not) is an ad currently airing for Glade 3-wick candles. (Somehow better than 1 wick??) If you haven’t seen it, let me enlighten you (no pun intended). It’s tagline is Love . . . we have a scent for that. Only 14-seconds long, the spot nonetheless manages to get the full romantic love fantasy in . . . or at least what the marketing masterminds have determined that fantasy is . . . rose petals up the stairs leading a waiting guy with a balcony behind him and a European view. But wait! It gets better! He’s on bended knee with a guitar (wtf!) and a ring (double wtf!) in hand. SERIOUSLY?!?
Now to be fair to the geniuses behind this commercial, scent is a powerful sense. In fact, it is the most powerful of the senses because it is the only one capable of triggering both a reaction and a sensation. Unlike a sound or a sight, a touch or a taste, a smell can transport you back to a moment in time. (The smell of diesel instantly takes me back to Germany, while the odor of old beeswax in an antique store transports me to my grandmother’s basement where she stored old furniture. And we won’t even talk about where I go when the random guy passing me on the street smells like the same bodywash Sunday uses . . .) There’s actually an anatomical reason why smell triggers emotions and subsequent memories. Sense of smell is the only one of the senses biologically linked to our limbic systems. That said . . . I have a newsflash, S.C. Johnson & Sons . . . love doesn’t have a scent! However, as anyone who has gone at it for an extended period of time in a closed space knows . . . sex does.
Now there’s a marketing match made in Heaven. Simple a equals b and b equals c transitive law logic . . . sex smells and sex sells . . . Hell! Who knows? The post-coitus funk smell of sex could be coming soon to a candle near you . . .
As a generation, we women of the Boomer persuasion (and by definition ergo reared on Disneyesque fairy tale “happily ever after” endings– see Part I) are fucked. Too harsh? Too vulgar? How about this: We are screwed because our perception of what “should be” is skewed. Better? It shouldn’t be. ‘Cause the message is the same . . . And it’s even worse (and yet easier, so read on) for so-called Gen Xers and Millennials—and please, DON’T even get me started on Millennials—it won’t be a pretty picture, I promise you. But yes, for the self-absorbed, selfie-filtered, for whom every minutia of mundane daily life is social media-worthy ‘cause they are sooooo special—as their helicopter parents indulged them to believe since everyone gets a trophy—generation, it is much much worse (and yet better, easier . . . keep reading, I’ll get to it). After all, they’re the generation nurtured in the land of “No,” an Oz-like, safe space world with no challenge, no failure, no responsibility, no disappointment, no work ethic . . . Oops—See! I TOLD you not to get me started!
<insert sound of rewind>
Since the 1950s romantic fantasy and romantic love have been inextricably linked, ala the fairy tale/someday my prince will come/happily ever after scenario which still exists and still endures in popular culture, movies and books. My theory as to why is this: Once arranged marriages went by the wayside (circa second half of the 20th century) and at about the same time (coincidence? I think not) when women entered the workplace en masse, not as Rosie the Riveter stand-ins for off-at-war men but in their own right, seeking their own place, earning their own money and independence and escaping the preordained path of their mothers and grandmothers, they were finally free to choose their future mate.
Not surprisingly, they envisioned story-book, fairy tale, ideal love stories for themselves. (After all, who is going to dream of bad or so-so shit happening?) And so the fantasy was born (and put on celluloid by Disney): True love. Love at first sight. Love everlasting. In short, perfection. Not only in their mate. Which meant a heart-thumping, butterflies in the gut feeling initial attraction that endured through adversity (but only a little) to culminate in a white dress and veil (or a ridiculous bird hat—if your name is Carrie Bradshaw and you’re a fictional character on TV). But also perfection as in a “they lived happily ever after” afterlife.
Ironically, however (and to prove my point) up until the 20th century, the greatest love stories in western history and literature were not happy ending stories—they were, in fact, tragic. Furthermore, not only did most of these couples die (Is that what they mean by happily ever after??), more than half of these immortal lovers were married to someone else! Hello? (BTW, several of these couple are circa the Medieval Ages–a possible origin for that whole “knight in shining armor” shtick?) But judge for yourself. And if you don’t know who the hell these pairs were, blame the lack of classical education in modern education ‘cause now we have to teach to the test and the lowest common denominator—‘cause everyone gets a trophy–I mean an A—otherwise Sikorsky Dad and Bell Mom will sue. Uh-oh. I feel another rant . . .
<insert sound of rewind>
Rather universally (or at least according to my internet searches) the following are regarded to be history and literature’s greatest love pairs: Romeo and Juliet (a couple synonymous with love), Cleopatra and Marc Antony, Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, Paris and Helena (of the thousand ships launched beauty), Orpheus and Eurydice, Napoleon and Josephine, Odysseus and Penelope (She waited 20 years for his ass to return!), Paola and Francesca (huh?), Abelard and Heloise (Dude sacrificed his man parts for love—how could he NOT be on the list?), Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler (the personification of the love/hate, can’t live with/can’t live without attraction), Jane Eyre and Rochester, Pyramus and Thisbe (half a huh), Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy, Queen Victoria and Albert (Vickie mourned Bertie’s death for 40 years and wore black til the day she died. . . Props for walking the walk, girlfriend! Serious props. A woman who’s going to sacrifice fashion and her wardrobe for love, sure as fuck deserves to be on the list!)
Given the above as role model examples and templates, can it be a surprise that once modern, emancipated women could choose, they kept the love part and 86ed the rest? They disappeared the adversity and separation and other trials and tribulations, idealized the whole relationship into a fateful, meant to be soulmate scenario—and then rewrote the fucked up ending into the fairy tale ending of their childhoods. But besides scripting an ending for a beginning, where’s the harm? Happiness ever after is just an ideal. So again, where’s the harm?
The harm is here: an “ideal” is also a hope, an anticipation, a belief, an expectancy . . . DING DING DING (and there it is). The harm is in the expectation—because the ideal of perfect happiness contains the expectation of perfect happiness. So when expectations fall short—as they will ‘cause life ain’t a fucking fairy tale!—what happens? Unhappiness. Dissatisfaction. The question: Did I make a mistake? For a generation, in particular uninured to challenge and never taught disappointment, hard work, time investment to obtain goals . . . a generation weaned on want and a world of instant availability and innumerable choices all a keystroke or finger swipe to the left away, this can mean disaster, which starts with a D—as in divorce. In short, whether marriage or relationship, they opt out and move on to the next possibility. Easy-peasy. (Told ya I’d get to it.)
But for we women Boomer-born . . . we who were taught the value of hard work and not everyone gets a tropy ’cause you have to work your ass off and sacrifice, we who have known challenge and failure and disappointment and hurt feelings without safe spaces, what do we do? We persevere. Stick with it. Try to make it work. Overlook the flaws. Make excuses and make do. We lie in the bed we made—though it might mean we will toss and turn like the Princess and the Pea fairy tale. And there’s the segue back! As much as we recognize reality, we also understand time and effort and reward. And we also believe. We believe in the fairy tale ending. So we stay when we should go. We put up and shut up. Even when we know we are being foolish, we still hope because we are fools. Fools for fairy tales . . .
Maybe it’s not even our faults? After all, weren’t we reared on the Disneyesque “once upon a dream” dream? Those “happily ever after” stories and movies featuring Prince Charming—in all his many manifestations: either real prince or half god or bad-boy prince turned beast or bad-boy prince turned frog or (oooh, hey, let’s mix it up!) bad-boy street urchin thief turned carpet-flying prince. Hell, even the ones starring cartoon foxes and spaghetti-eating dogs feature an “outlaw” and a “tramp.”
Argue if you will. It won’t help. It’s my blog. Besides, I’m right. The bad-boy (prince or no—but always better if so) transformed (sometimes literally!) by the love of a good, brave, caring, gutsy girl and their forever happy life ever after is the staple of nearly every Disney movie ever made. At least the ones my generation watched. (Merida, Disney’s feminist princess, was decades away from the drawing board.) And did you ever know a little girl who didn’t watch her favorite a zillion times?
Small wonder the tripe—and its repetition—has served to subconsciously imprint an enduring feminine romantic fantasy that is nearly DNA deep. (If not totally indelible—it sure as shit is Sharpie-permanent.) It’s still the principal plot of most romance novels—only now we are more inclined toward whip-wielding billionaire playboys (Seriously, people! Seriously?!?) or war-scarred SEALS or haunted ex-cops (or twice divorced mechanics?) or any other seemingly unattainable, but built like a brick shithouse hunk of hurt in need of healing. Yep. The bad-boy turned good by the love of a good woman . . . a childhood fairy tale scenario that endures ineffaceably far into adulthood . . .
But there is a Magic Eraser (metaphorically speaking). Apply a little water (a lot of tears) and with effort (and time), it’ll wipe that shit right out. It’s called “reality.” And fortunately for some of us, it does come in a multi-pack—‘cause sometimes once just ain’t enough to unlearn the lie. The bad-boy remains bad. Ladies, listen up. And repeat after me: The fucking frog stays a fucking frog! And the good woman is left feeling like a fool for the fairy tale she envisioned wherein she could “fix” him.
Yet that is only half of the fairy tale fallacy. Even worse is the “happily ever after” programming whereby we fantasize a fairy tale ending to what is a beginning. Newsflash: Unlike books and movies—and fairy tales—life continues past the final page turned or the fade to black kiss. The credits don’t roll. And there is no Oscar-worthy theme song . . . though I am partial personally to Adele’s It Matters How This Ends . . .
I have always resisted labels. They generalize and simplify so as to create a convenient (and lazy) “one size fits all” uniform designation for dummies. Great for cookie cutters and cookies. Not so much for people.
But recently I read an article that hit uncomfortably home. Entitled “Why Do Empaths End Up With Narcissists?”, it was one of those author unknown relationship-related pieces of the ilk regularly posted and shared on women’s Facebook groups. Like men sit around and read that shit? But a woman looking for answers to love or why her relationship failed . . . yeah. Don’t kid yourselves. We eat up that trope by the tablespoon. Sorry, ladies. But it’s true. Come on. Be honest. A case in point, how many of you took that ridiculous numerology-based quiz “Have You Found Your Soulmate?” (BTW, if you are curious . . . my result was that I “already have,” I “know it” and though we are not “physically together at this point,” we “will be.” Great. Just what I needed . . . more false hope on the subject of Sunday! But that’s a topic for a future post. Continuing with this one . . .
First of all, while I have never not thought that aforementioned man had narcissistic tendencies, I have never regarded myself as an empath. The connotation for me was one of passive gentleness and caring. Way too kind a label for this hard bitch whose own sons have called an “Ice Queen.” Yet in reading Ms. Unknown’s outline of the 21 stages of a common relationship that can take place between an empath and a narcissist . . . in a word—OUCH. Had she provided little check-off boxes, I would have had twice the number of little Xs needed to win Tic-Tac-Toe without 3-in-a-row. In short, I was able to answer “yes” to a whole lot more of those stages than I was comfortable admitting to openly—or even to myself.
If you haven’t seen the article, here’s a brief and abridged recap as to the points I personally related to. The actual article was much longer and detailed, but please know I am giving all credit to Ms. Unknown. Had I thought to actually screen shoot the article, I would be putting in proper MLA citation format (and quotes) her specific statements, comments and concepts. The statements in italics, however, are purely my own. They are my thoughts and reactions as to how Ms. Unknown’s concepts pertained to me.
A narcissist will attract an empath because the empath feels validated by someone in need of her care. (True for me and my ex—though I resented his dependence and grew to despise his lack of independence, I never had a problem with my kids’ dependence. I loved feeling needed—ergo wanted—it defined me and gave me purpose. So much so that now they are grown, I am lost without that role to play.)
The narcissist’s need of her care begins to develop into a strong sense of unconditional love within the empath. (“Unconditional” was a level I never reached with my ex. In fact, the first time ever in my life I felt such for a man was with you-know-who.) The narcissist, however, has no intent of returning that love—though he (or she, ‘cause it’s not gender specific, though for the sake of ease we will heretofore refer to the narcissist as a “he” and the empath as a “she.”) goes through the motions and gives signs and drops hints. He may even use the L-word. (He did.) Which, of course creates
The empath feels a real connection. (BINGO)
But the narcissist’s goal is not to connect, but rather to control. He manipulates the illusion to his end, which is to break down the empath’s self-esteem. Once he creates an unhealthy dependence, he is in control—which then results in a constant cycle of manipulation. (OUCH. Hard to consider as true . . . but hitting waaaay too close for comfort . . .) Not to mention, having this woman on a proverbial string is a huge stroke to his already inflated sense of self. ‘Cause what narcissist isn’t an egotist? (Call it by another name if you want–arrogance, swagger, confidence–but for yours truly? Yeah. One of those moth to the flame attractions that dooms me from the start . . .)
The empath’s intentions on loving the narcissist are pure. She wants to do everything in her power to heal him. Whether it be his pain from prior failed relationships or even addiction issues, she believes in (or wants to) that ole “all he needs is the love of a good woman” load of crap. (BINGO and OUCH) But her efforts WILL fail.
Reality is, the narcissist doesn’t believe he is damaged! (BINGO) He either believes or insists or deludes himself with an equally large load of shit: He is immune to love. Hell! He might even warn the empath: Don’t love me. (YEP BINGO and OUCH) Which of course only strengthens the empath’s resolve to persevere and succeed where all others have failed. (Or is that just me? The always has to get an A perfectionist?)
The “relationship” is all about the narcissist—his needs, wants, decisions, timetable . . . (YEP. If I heard it once, I heard it 100 times . . . “I see who I want when I want” . . .)
The empath begins to see imbalance. (Of Course she does–she’s not a TOTAL idiot!) She begins to question why she is with this man. (UH-OH…) The truth is, she is unhappy and dissatisfied because . . . (Pause. Wait for it) . . . she wants more. (OUCH OUCH OUCH) But she is afraid to end it. Or doesn’t want to. Or she hopes with time, he’ll become the man she wants him to be. (Yep, that ole nemesis “hope” and its ever eternal springing . . )
The narcissist-controlled rollercoaster/merry-go-round continues
until the empath hits her breaking point. (Personally,I didn’t so much “break” as I twisted myself in knots, trying to justify and rationalize . . . while writing such pointed and not so pithy pieces as Yo-Yo Romeo, Cherry-picking and The Emperor Has No Clothes . . .)
The delusion of the “relationship” finally falls away for the empath. (Ladies, at some point, ya just gotta see the writing on the wall!)
She speaks up. (When I finally did, it didn’t go well. At all. By then there was so much hurt on my part, it spewed like Vesuvius.)
(Note: I don’t recall what Ms. Unknown called the remaining stages—so I’m calling these that reflected me and Sunday’s relationship what they were for me.)
When the empath vocalizes her concerns—or finally speaks her mind—the narcissist reacts with anger. (To put it mildly . . .)
He calls her “crazy” and “delusional.” He invalidates what she feels, denies the facts and throws the blame back on her. He claims innocence (ala “I never done you wrong.”) before hurling that notoriously male accusation which serves to absolve him of any complicity: You caught feelings. (CHECK CHECK CHECK CHECK CHECK and CHECK)
The empath questions herself. Her innate insecurities surface. If she can’t be loved by this man to whom she has given her heart, then the fault must be hers. She must be “not enough” or “too much.” Either way, somehow she must be unworthy of being loved. (I went down that road over and over and cried enough tears to flood the fucking thing!)
The narcissist has no such feelings.
The empath stays and continues to wait for crumbs. When he doesn’t metaphorically speaking drop any, she texts or calls in an attempt to get him to toss a scrap of his attention her way. All the while she continues to delude herself with excuses to explain his behavior, which is in truth quite explainable: Honey, he’s just not that into you! (But “anything is better than nothing” is a freakin’ flotation device that will keep you afloat on false hope. Besides, if you truly deserve better, why doesn’t “better” come along?)
At last and eventually (Remember, she’s not a total idiot!) the empath begins to realize the bitter truth. The narcissist does not deserve her love, care, affection. He will never change. She can’t him “fix” him. With this painful awakening she is finally strong enough to break free of his control. And does (or tries to). But before she can begin the process of healing . . .
The narcissist has recognized the tip of power, his loss of control. And he reacts to maintain it. If he was gone, he returns. If he was distant, he becomes affectionate. He says what he knows she wants to hear.
Which brings the empath to a crossroads. . .
Faced with his face (i.e. his presence back in her life) the empath falters. Hope or fear or what she mistakenly believes is “love” may well weaken her resolve. Against her better judgment and the advice of caring friends and concerned family
she and the narcissist pick up where they left off and the whole damn cycle and the previous 8 stages repeat.
But if she has finally seen the light, the final stage will finally commence . . .
The empath will stop the cycle.
She will accept the fact this “intoxicating” relationship is in fact only a “toxic.”
She begins the process of healing, severing all contact with the narcissist.
With time (and perhaps professional help) she will come to recognize her worth. She becomes stronger and wiser–and more cautious of whom she gives her love to in the future.
The narcissist has no such improvement. He moves on like nothing happened to find another.
This post is by no means an authoritative treatise. There are countless articles written by true experts and educated professionals available online regarding this oh-so-common pairing. If you recognize yourself in any of the preceding, by all means do some research and delve into it.
Remember the old saying “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”? Understanding the dynamic between an empath and a narcissist may help to shed a light. That light may not serve to illuminate an actual way out, but it can make sitting in the dark a tad more comforting. At the least it might make visible the writing on the wall . . .
As for me? Fuck. Yours truly is still looking for more matches and candles . . .
Of all the Facebook memes I have read over the past year or so, the one that hits closest to home (and hurts the most) is this one:
We went through all of that just to be strangers again?
Yeah. We did. Like a healthy-looking house plant that suddenly begins to decline and die in a matter of a few days, I watched him fade away right before my eyes. In my home—sometimes even in my bed–he just began to disappear day by day. The man I loved, who could make me laugh and come and feel beautiful, he was replaced by a cold, indifferent–and sober—stranger.
But how do you stop loving someone who has stopped loving you? I mean seriously! HOW? There is no on/off switch to emotions. No feelings’ faucet with a handle to turn to the left. I wish there were. Realists and so-called life coaches and those fortunate enough to have never themselves experienced a broken heart or the devastating loss of a loved one answer that question with an oh-so familiar refrain: Time heals all wounds.
For those suffering from that aforementioned broken heart (also known as love, unrequited), the You’ll Get Over It song has additional verses.
Second chorus: It’s for the best.
Third chorus: You deserve better.
Fourth, fifth and sixth: Work on you.
There is someone amazing out there for you.
It will happen when you least expect it.
To which I now reply: BITE ME!
Bitter, Judith? Hell to the yes! Pessimistic? You betcha.
Pause now for a disclaimer of sorts . . . Regular readers have doubtlessly noted my absence. I have written very little in the last 3-4 months (and posted less). A partial explanation is that my job changed profoundly in November. (Thank you, American Airlines merger. NOT) I have less free time to write. But the real culprit is writers’ block. I attribute this malaise to a lack of inspiration, as the man who had inspired countless posts is now out of my life. For those tired of sad breakup posts, I apologize this is another of same. But I write what I feel. And I write in an attempt to cope and to figure shit out. Such is the following . . .
At 61, I fell in love for the first time in my life. (How pathetic is that?) But wait, weren’t you married? Yes, I was and for 36 years, in fact. But the man I married was not an “in love” type of love. Moreover, when the marriage ended, it had been such a long slow death over so many years, it barely registered on the pain scale. Not so with this relationship which held all the passion, excitement and intimacy my marriage lacked. But I guess the hotter the flame, the deeper the despair? Some cosmic cost one pays for joy. It’s an experience I would have preferred never to know—like bungee jumping or dining on monkey brains. (Thanks, but I’m good.) Alas, I didn’t get the choice. The Universe did not walk up to me with a contract with fine fucking print I neglected to read before I signed by the neon-pink sticky-note flag: Fall in love, but suffer heartache. I’m pretty damn sure if offered that option, I would have declined. (At least, knowing now what I know, I would have.)
I realize I am not unique. It happens. A LOT. The first “real” relationship after divorce . . . We were soooooo careful, weren’t we, ladies? We had learned our lessons, had had our trust broken. Hence, we had erected sturdy walls to prevent the same from ever occurring again. But then . . . we let our walls down. Albeit S-L-O-W-L-Y. But damn! We let them down though, didn’t we? We dropped the drawbridge to our hearts and the fuckers rode right in.
For me there are other factors that factor into my current state of hopelessness. My age is the biggest one. The line of men queuing up for a 62-year-old is shorter than a marine recruit’s haircut. Plus, this man managed to check so many boxes that had never before been checked, I find it nearly impossible now to believe lightning can strike twice. Despite all his flaws (and I am not oblivious to the fact there were plenty!) he was perfect. For me. And if I wasn’t perfect for him, I was damn good for him. A fact he recognized and vocalized. Until his feelings changed. The problem is mine didn’t.
So back to that question of how to stop loving someone who has stopped loving you. (Be advised, by the way, this is a do as I say/ not as I do recommendation.) Think of your feelings for him as a house plant. Stop watering it. In other words, stop dwelling on the memories of what was. Stop hoping it will change and he’ll come back. Stop talking about it with girlfriends. Most importantly, stop ripping the scab off. Stop finding excuses to reach out. If he wanted to talk to you, to see you, he would. Accept the fact it does not matter one damn bit what he might have said then. This is now. And now he is gone. His silence speaks volumes. Listen! Think snow. Yeah, he said he loved you, promised he’d never hurt you, insisted you were different and said he did not want to lose you. The words (his) stuck and the emotions (yours) piled up. Like a deep blanket of snow. But once it warms (and his heart freezes) the snow melts away. It’s gone forever. And so is he.
Personally, when I can’t remove him from my thoughts, I try to redirect them. I think about his shortcomings and the relationships’ short falls. I concentrate on the countless times and ways he failed me. I let my anger build and try to make myself hate him. It’s actually easy. Sometimes. Because the line between hate and love is fiber optic thin. Sure, it’s a lie. But if you tell it to others, they will believe it. At least, they won’t bring up his name. So, share your animosity, ladies. You might be surprised. My sons would deck the fucker on sight. It’s a small comfort–and one hell of a satisfying visual. Sometimes.
The truth though, is I do still love him. Against reason, logic and cause. But unrequited love is a house plant, remember? Ignore it and eventually it does die. Just nothing hastens the process. Short of poisoning it, you can’t kill it. It can only die in its own time . . .
This post is a blatant ploy. Pure commercialism. No tip-toeing around. Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts. These are they: I’m trying to sell a book (or two or four). Please don’t judge–or blame a girl for trying to make a buck.
Since it’s inception in July 2017, singleat60sucks.com has never strived to be any more than what it is: a free, non-monetized venting/humor/advice blog directed at women. My (very) personal musings on life and love with a bit of research and a whole lot of sarcasm thrown in (’cause hey, what doesn’t kill ya, makes you sarcastic) . . . each post addressed whatever issues I personally was dealing with at the time I wrote it. To no one’s greater surprise than my own, I not only hit a common nerve, I found a global audience. To date “sucks” has received over 10,400 views. Women (and men) in 107 countries around the world have contacted me and told me how relatable and true–and funny–my posts have been. “Like talking to my best friend,” one reader wrote. “Very clever, but with a message,” wrote another.
Because many of the pieces are no longer available for viewing online (and because I still don’t trust technology and want a hard copy and because I just like the feel of a book) I compiled the best of sucks into four little volumes. Each collection addresses a specific theme. They are all available for purchase on amazon.com in Kindle for $2.99 or paperback for $5.99. If you have read and enjoyed my blog (or don’t trust technology either or just like the feel of a book, too), I hope you will buy a book (or two or four). They would make great stocking-stuffers or Secret Santa gifts . . .’cause I can’t be the only sarcastic bitch at the single sisters’ table, can I?
Below are the titles, a brief description and a listing of the articles each contains. There are a few overlaps, where a piece will appear in more than one book because its topic fits a book’s particular theme. BTW, there are also two never before published pieces. They are starred *.
Fact is Stranger Than Fiction An overall collection of the blog’s most popular pieces and my own personal favorites: I Know What I Want; An Open Letter to Men; Where Have All the Good Men Gone; It’s in His Kiss; Let’s Talk About Sex; Fight or Flight; The White Knight, Prince Charming, Mr Right and Other Fairy Tale Romance Lies; Sex vs Intimacy; When You Finally Admit the Emperor Has No Clothes; Rejection is a River; Dating 2018: Women are Coats; Take a Look at Me Now.
Breakups & Starting Over A look at the hard “dos” and ever harder “don’ts” of letting go, moving on and starting over: Time to Say Goodbye; When Unbreakable Breaks; The Flip Side of Hope; An Open Letter to Men; Starting Over Means Getting Over; Finding the Place Called “New Normal”; Do You; Apples, Band-aids and Clowns; Seasons; Candy Land; Rejection is a River; Now Taking Applications.
Relationships Inspired by my own relationship with a man who doesn’t do them: How It All Began; Sex vs Intimacy (parts 1 &2); Seriously?! Again!?; Time to Say Goodbye; Cherry-picking; Yo-yo Romeo; Rules of Engagement; When You Finally Admit the Emperor Has No Clothes; Candy Store; Those Three Little Words*.
Men, Sex & Intimacy A look at the attitudes and behaviors that have long divided men and women: How Men Are Like High Heels; The White Knight, Prince Charming, Mr Right and Other Fairy Tale Romance Lies; S.M.A.R.T. About Men (a 4-part piece, discussing speech, motivation, actions, reactions and thoughts; Let’s Talk About Sex; Sex vs Intimacy (parts 1 & 2); Don’t Blame Darwin; It’s Not a Job If You Like It* ( a piece too explicit for the blog).
The military has them. Corporate business, too. Hell, even classroom teachers have a quasi-version thereof. In my day, we called them “tests.” But nowadays that harsh term has given way to the less threatening label “evaluation.” (FYI, heartless bitch that I apparently was, I also used *GASP* a red pen to grade papers. Thank goodness, teachers of the 21st century have seen the grievous error of those draconian 20th century ways. Now cognizant and conscious of students’ fragile feelings, they opt for less damaging-to-self-esteem colors such as mindful magenta and tender teal. Uhhh . . that would be S-A-R-C-A-S-M!) And I do digress. (Yeah. I do.) Back to the subject at hand . . .
The military uses the term “After-Action Report.” In fact (and as a useless piece of trivia), the very first AARs were developed waaaaay back by army generals, with one of the first (and supposedly best) being Julius Caesar’s “Commentaries on the Gallic Wars.” Keeping the concept (and initials), modern CEOS, workplace managers and government bureaucrats prefer the more touchy-feely nomenclature “review.” Occasionally, however, someone somewhere will strive to reinvent the wheel. In these instances, ye olde AAR is called an AAR/IP (improvement plan.) But regardless of what they are called (a rose is a rose is a rose), their purpose remains the same since Cleo’s paramour penned his on papyrus in the century before Christ.
After-Action Reports or Reviews (tomato/tomahto) are analyses of a past event whereby performance is assessed and decisions re-assessed for the purpose of considering possible alternatives to improve future endeavors. In other and shorter words, it’s a feedback tool to identify and correct what is euphemistically referred to in Businessspeak as “problematic elements.” (Oh, please! Why can’t we just call it what it is? It’s a fuck-up that needs to be fixed for the next time!) Jules explained such reasoning thus: “Experience is the teacher of all things.”
The argument of terminology aside, AARs typically have 4 components, colorfully (and grammatically inaccurately) displayed in the graphic that introduces this post. (I found it online under Goggle images and couldn’t resist . . . To bastardize Shakespeare’s Richard III . . . “A pen! A pen! My kingdom for a red pen!” Side note: People, is it so hard? The plural form of a noun DOES NOT have an apostrophe! Verb tenses do exist for a reason–use them! And I’m not even going to touch on the fact that “learnings” isn’t even a real fucking word . . . See what happens when you spare feelings and red pens?) Ok, rant over. Let’s return once again to the subject at hand. An AAR asks:
What was supposed to happen?
Why what happened happened?
What are the learnings from what happened? (yeah, I’m just going with it. You know . . . pick your battles . . .)
Proponents tout an AAR’s value and applicability in countless situations . . . for any small or large, simple or complex project/event, operation, endeavor or incident, including, but not limited to: natural disasters, public works, sporting events, training, seminars, deployments, VIP meetings and conferences. So . . . if AARs are such a time-proven tool for effectively assessing a completed project’s/event’s/incidence’s/endeavor’s success or failure, here’s a thought . . .
Ladies, who among you wishes there was an After-Action Report for ended relationships? (I DO! I DO!) Think about it. Wouldn’t it be beneficial and actually helpful to know what went wrong? When and where the failures were? And whose? In order the avoid making the same fucking mistakes AGAIN?
Consider the possibilities of such an instrument of evaluation I am hereby naming an ARR (After-Relationship Report). Like its inspiration, an ARR will ask “What the fuck went wrong?” (yeah, I added the “fuck”–’cause sometimes you just gotta) Herein we would examine the subtopics of “What was supposed to happen?” and “What did actually happen?” Specific questions to be answered might (should) include the following:
Were the goals held by each participant at the relationship’s onset mutual or at odds? (For example, was he merely just expecting a fuck, while she anticipated feelings?)
Were the goals held by each party clearly defined to the other?
Were these goals and expectations not only mutually understood, but agreed upon before any action commenced?
If the goals were clearly outlined and mutually agreed upon prior, what subsequent actions took place to cause a deviation from the negotiated course?
When and under what circumstances did the aforementioned digressions occur?
And by whom? (In other words, who failed to adhere to the plan?) Was only one party at fault? Or did both parties participate in the meltdown?
Were warning signs evident? Describe them.
Was any attempt made to realign the misdirection after identifying it?
What were the actions (if any) undertaken in order to “dial it back?”
On a scale of 1 – 10 (with 10 being the highest) how would you rate the success of these attempts?
What steps might have been taken that could have been more successful? (ie commencing re-alignment actions earlier or decreasing time spent together or lessening the number and/or scope of sexual interactions)
Did the ending party communicate said end in a timely fashion or respectful way? If not, why not? (Please note this question will likely have but only one answer. See paragraph * after next.)
The second objective of the ARR tackles the topic “How to NOT make the same fucking mistake again.” Note: This segment is much briefer than the previous. Essentially it consists of answering one question and then taking appropriate actions to correct the problematic elements identified. To wit . . .
Have you identified any personal behavior — or worse, a pattern of behavior– in the first objective that is a contributing factor? If you have answered “no,” then sorry. This concludes the exercise. You are fucked and men just suck.
However, if you were able to answer “yes” proceed to the next step.
Whatever it is, stop doing it! Period. Possibles actions (but not all) could include the following
Stop trusting without cause.
Stop making excuses for the red flags you clearly see, but are choosing to ignore.
Stop wasting time on a lost cause by thinking you can “fix” or change him. This means, stop counting on the potential you believe might be there. Let the reality of who he is add up to the zero he is now. In other words, stop hearing hoof-beats and hoping for a zebra. Speaking of stripes –or spots — trust me (voice of experience speaking now) the bastard isn’t going to change his. Which leads us to the number #1 action you can take to prevent making the same mistake . . .
In crudest terms . . . honey, you got a pecker-picking problem! And please hold your outrage. I mean no offense. (Besides, it takes one to know one. I’ll be the first to admit I picked a prick.) So, stop picking the same fucking man who just happens to have a different face or name! You know whereof I speak. And most of us are guilty of it, so pick a different type, look, personality . . . Trust me. The characteristics that draw you are probably the ones that doom you. I know whereof I speak! Me . . . arrogance, cocksureness, swagger . . . yeah . . . drawn and doomed. EVERY TIME.
Alas, there are 2 problems in my concept of an ARR and this very tongue-in-check post.
*The first is that in order for the damn thing to work, a AAR or ARR requires the participation and input of all parties involved. Good luck with that! Most (and I’m being generous, ’cause my heart-held contention is ALL) men don’t even possess the balls and respect for us to TELL us it’s over. Much less be willing to divulge their whys and how comes by contributing an explanation and recommendation for future improvement. Correct me (please!) if your experience is different, but mine is this: They fade, Caspar, disappear, dismiss, dump and ignore. Yeah . . . real brave. And should the bastard deign to discuss the matter with you, ala his asking, “Are we really going down this road?” (“Yeah, we are, fucker. We are.”) be prepared, ladies! He is going to lay the blame at your feet! Regardless of his own words, deeds or actions, you are the one who mistook them to mean more than he intended. In fact, a majority of men today utilize the same manner of instant dismissal. It’s a handy little phrase that acts as relationship Wite-Out, conveniently and completely erasing everything THEY said or did. It’s a 2-in-one, 3-word statement of finger-pointing at you and absolution of them. (Ok, a metaphorical show of hands now if you have heard it.) “You caught feelings.”
And ta-da and voila! He’s absolved.
The second problem in the summary and recommendations phase of an AAR, that “creating a plan for improvement” for the future part, is that such presumes the desire (or need) exists for a future attempt. Some of us–a lot of us–are not interested. I’m not. I don’t care what went wrong, because I’m not risking my heart again. My faith in men in general, my instincts in particular and even my sense of self worth have been leveled. Fucker dropped a JDAM on my she-shed. So closure and answers and analyses for future endeavors don’t matter. He lied. I believed. Ergo, this bitter pecker-picker is bowing out. I’m done.
However, in the spirit of presenting both sides to an issue let me offer up Jay Shatty, a former monk turned motivational speaker/vlogger/writer/filmmaker from the UK with roots in India. You have probably seen his videos and posts on Facebook. (Seriously! The dude has over 3 million followers across the globe!) He’s good. Upbeat. Positive. Inspirational. (all the things I am not) In a recent video, he talks to relationship issues such as unrequited love. Jay maintains that just because you loved someone, believed in someone, trusted someone . . . and they betrayed that trust, belief, love . . . that doesn’t mean you stop believing and trusting in love. Love didn’t betray you. He betrayed you. The fault is not love’s. So don’t stop believing in love. It’s out there. Open yourself up to it and it will find you. Ladies, listen to him. (As I said . . . I pick my battles . . . I’m not about to argue with a guy who has whatever 3 million minus 10,000 is more viewers than I!)
It’s ironic. They say all’s fair in love and war. But it’s not fair. War gets an after-action report and a plan for improvement. And love gets . . . what? Hope? Faith? Belief? On second thought . . . maybe it’s fair after all. (And Jay is right.) ‘Cause those are a lot harder to kill . . .