I’m a hopeless romantic that doesn’t believe in
marriage relationships. That statement alone suggests a need for therapy, but hey. The thing is I don’t really understand ‘eros’. That form of love where you want to be around another person all the time. It’s fine for other people … just not for me. I get bored after a while, so no matter how much I adore someone, I need to take a little stroll, just so I can have some me-time. It’s why I doubt I’ll ever cohabit with anyone (again). I’m usually cool after a few hours minutes of down-time though.
My ideal ‘relationship’ would be with a guy that gets me (and isn’t sparkly), and that lives in his house while I live in my house (with my baby) and we can have sleepovers four-to-five nights a week. Basically, he lives his life, I live mine, we have sex, we hang out, we connect on physical, emotional, and intellectual levels, he’s nice to my daughter, and we ignore all concepts of joint accounts, family gatherings, or in-laws. Also, no blowjobs, pole-dancing, or rear-entry experiments.
It’s hard for me to get why two people would live together, especially if they’re not married and don’t have kids. But that’s just me. I’m maniacally protective of my personal space, and have trouble letting anyone inside it for prolonged periods of time. Even my precious baby girl, my whole reason for existence, knows that when mummy gets a little antsy, it’s time to find an imaginary errand – preferably in another room – and give mummy five minutes of breathing space.
That said, I don’t understand organic break-ups. I mean I get splitting up because of infidelity, crime, or abuse. What I don’t get is this whole thing of growing apart and irreconcilable differences. How do you spend a year, a decade, a lifetime with another person, then suddenly wake up one day and realise you’re no longer compatible? You could argue that your partner has changed, but surely, you were there the whole time. It didn’t happen overnight!
Well, guess who just split up with someone. Over – yes – irreconcilable differences. I didn’t understand what that ish meant until it happened to me. In my case, it was pretty simple. After being close to someone for more than five years, I woke up and realised I really didn’t know him at all. Unfortunately, he realised the same thing, at around the same time.
So how does that happen exactly? Well, it turns out it’s really easy. All it takes is for one person to stay quiet, and the other person to wrongly fill the silence. See, this boy that I love is quiet. He doesn’t feel the need to share his opinion or his thoughts. Me, I’m a chatterbox. (My workmates claim otherwise.) For most of the relationship, I’d say stuff, he’d nod, and I’d assume he (a) understood me, (b) agreed with me, and (c) accepted me. Turns out he simply didn’t want to start a fight.
What changed? I’m not really sure. All I know is a few weeks ago – at the height of my depression – he exploded and said a few things, and I realised I didn’t know this man at all. It turns out some of my ‘best’ qualities drive him to distraction, and some of his ‘worst’ ones are things I didn’t even know existed. We had a huge argument that had been silently brewing for five years, and I was so shaken and traumatised that for three days, I couldn’t say a single word to him beyond ‘hello’.
When we finally got to talking again, I said it was hard for me to be with a person who can’t share himself with me. He said the reason he can’t share himself with me is that I don’t accept him, so he’s not free telling me things. I realised he was right. He’s always been quiet, but earlier in the relationship, he was a lot more vocal. I guess I just shot down his ideas so often that he stopped sharing them. I asked if he could try to be more open if I tried to be less analytical, but it seems the damage I’ve done is far beyond repair. He doesn’t think it’s possible, and he’s not willing to try.
I read a tweet once that said people should learn how to fight instead of rushing to break up, and for some weeks now, I’ve tried to ‘fight’. But it’s hard to fight with someone who won’t engage. He says he has never spoken up because he’s not at ease around me. He feels like he has to constantly explain himself, and it annoys him, so he doesn’t even bother.
And the more I think about it, the more I realise the reason he has to explain himself is because I judge him. His opinions and values are so different from mine that I automatically feel like everything he wants to do is ‘wrong’. For example, he asked me to do something I was deeply uncomfortable with. In my mind, the fact that he even wanted me to do it was disrespectful. In his mind, the fact that I wouldn’t do it meant I didn’t trust him. We argued about it for days before reaching an impasse. It’s one of those things where you can’t really compromise.
It’s like having a baby. If one partner wants kids and the other doesn’t, there’s no middle ground. You can’t have half a kid. Either one partner agrees to live without children, or the other partner agrees to sire (or adopt) a child they don’t want and might never learn to love. It’s an awkward sort of ‘compromise.’ And those are the kinds of differences we have.
In today’s world, couples discover differences like that days, weeks, or months into their marriage, and depending on where they live, they get a quickie divorce. Sometimes divorce doesn’t happen until the kids are grown and there’s no social reason to stay together. Sometimes the divorce happens sooner, when the differences drive one partner out of their home, or into someone else’s arms.
I’m sure that in the past, couples had differences like that too. Thing is divorce wasn’t as readily accepted, or as easy to procure. In my case, I guess I should be glad that our ‘differences’ showed up before we made a permanent commitment. But then he always told me, ‘forever is as long as we’re both happy.’ And right now, neither of us is happy.
There are issues in relationships where you can meet halfway. There are others where one partner can cede their rights and let the other partner ‘win’. I learned at Landmark that the entire story of humanity is, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong.’ So in this relationship, if one of us simply agrees to be wrong, then we can work things out. But I guess we’re both pretty set in our ways, so maybe letting go and walking away is the kindest thing for both of us.
We’ve split up and gotten back together lots of times over the years, but no disagreement has ever felt as final as this one. The weird thing is this feels like my first ‘real’ break-up, even though I’ve had lots of others. Maybe it’s because this is the one man I kept coming back to, the one I thought I’d be with, no matter what. It’s hard to let that kind of conviction go.
I’m glad that the basis of ‘us’ was friendship, and that we’re managing to hold onto that … barely. But I still feel really really sad that this man I love is suddenly a stranger to me. There’s a whole world of harm in things left unsaid. He told me he hopes I find a man that’s open and honest, and that he needs a girl that’s open-minded and understanding.
I hope he finds someone that will not find his deepest desires and opinions to be so fundamentally polar that she can’t possibly come around to them. I guess just because you love someone doesn’t mean that you can be together. My psychology professor said that once. I finally understand what she meant.
♫ Burn it down ♫ Linkin Park ♫
121 thoughts on “Irreconcilable differences suck”
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