I debated tonight about writing about any of this. As someone who has been through some shit, often times when I experience conflict, I retreat, I tell my friends that I love them but I’m going to be away for a few days. I’ve read that people who do this often had childhoods where they had to rely on themselves when experiencing trauma, and now as an adult you can only count on yourself to pull yourself out of the pit.
Tonight, I knew I was doing this. I decided to have a hot bath and watch a Brene Brown TED talk. She usually helps. Maybe it’s the equivalent of a quart of Ben and Jerry’s and Sleepless in Seattle for some people.
Here’s the thing. In the last few days, I’ve been through some shit. I vaguely explained it yesterday in a post. I needed to get the words down. That’s how I process. I’m a writer. That’s what I do. (See the Scorpion and the Frog parable). Even if I sting and seem to drown myself.
I decided to stop being vague.
Domestic violence has been something that has been woven into the threads of the human experience and it seems to only go one way. That’s why the majority of domestic violence calls involve the police showing up and dragging the man to jail. Even when stats show that it’s really about 50/50 if not 60/40 with women instigating domestic violence and emotional abuse. There’s a couple reasons for this. Men are generally larger and more powerful than their female partners and if it comes to assault, men do more damage. Also, if a man defends himself and pushes back, he is the abuser, because men are supposed to always be in control of their emotions. They are never supposed to show weakness. Even when their wife is climbing them like a spider monkey and shredding their face with their nails.
Trust me, I’ve been there.
Here’s where I overshare. Here’s where I catch a lot of shit for being emotional and not keeping my mouth shut, because men are just supposed to take it and shut up or else we are weak. Fuck that noise. I’m a writer.
So, yesterday, I was in the middle of a conversation with a friend who introduced me to the person I was in the Situationship with. To recap the end of the Situationship, things fell apart even though I tried my damnedest to fix them from my side. I wrote probably around 30 letters. Some love letters. Some just letters of encouragement. Call me old fashioned. I sent one letter which was filled with sticky notes with all sorts of nice sentiments she could put up on her bedroom mirror in case she needed a reminder of how special and important she was. I always told her to let me know if the letters were too much and she said she would (though she never did).
She moved on with someone else in December. I was devastated. I drove some friends nuts with it. I was emotional.
So, last night, a mutual friend told me that all those letters and all that effort would have driven her nuts. That I was smothering. It would have annoyed her, which is why I wound up driving this woman off. When I said, “I just wish she would have talked with me three months ago,” the friend told me that the woman had reached out to her. She had seen my blog post. She said I sounded hurt and wondered if she should reach out.
“Only if you want him to tell you to fuck off,” the friend had told her. Then she said, “If you want to be in an abusive relationship, by all means, reach out.”
She went as far as to say, “If someone wrote something like that about my daughter I would show up at their house with a shotgun.” Wow. You see, I have a daughter and two sons, and she doesn’t have any children. So I don’t think she knows what the fuck she’s talking about.
If that much shit talking was going on, I cannot imagine what else was being said.
In hearing this, I just don’t even know what to say. For 20 years, my ex wife has gone around telling everyone I am an abusive asshole. She has told this to the police, my kids, my kids’ schools, the courts, CPS. EVERYONE. And for my “friend” to tell someone who has had experience with domestic abuse herself, that pursuing anything with me will put her in an abusive relationship…hell, it’s no wonder I never heard from her again.
For this friend to tell me that I was the very thing that has cost me everything, a stigma I have continued to fight for 20 years and have it attached to me, gutted me. I’ve never been cut so deeply. I guess she can add that to her CV.
Why then was I “abusive” according to this friend? Because I wrote about my feelings? Because I said I couldn’t be in someone’s orbit anymore? That I had boundaries I needed to uphold? Because I said her behavior sucked? Okay then.
“He treats her well,” she told me about the woman’s new guy. Which I hope he does. But the implication was that I didn’t. After all, she just called me abusive.
As a man you are expected to withdraw, keep your mouth shut, and never say, “Hey, you know what? This is bullshit!” Calling someone out isn’t abuse. Diliberately poisoning a relationship for your own amusement on the other hand is unforgivable. And that “friend” took control of our narrative, even though the woman I cared about was on the way out.
The missing piece of the puzzle had fallen into place.
This “friend” called me abusive behind my back and then pretended to be my friend for another three months. That isn’t what friends do. All the while talking shit about the woman I lost to make me feel better. But I defended her, even though I knew she was no longer in my life. I guess that was “abusive” too.
When I said, “This whole mess has divided us. You don’t even like her. And I hoped you would have had my fuckin’ back,” she accused me of swearing at her and hung up on me.
Remember the bit where I said “I am a writer?” Yeah. I’m not great at parties. If you can’t act right, don’t make friends with writers. We will describe you. (Sometimes we say “Fuck” too). But I’m supposed to keep it a secret. You know, sorta like how…abuse works?
So, I’ve been stewing about this for the last 24 hours.
I watched the Brene Brown TED Talk, and I realized something. I’ve been doing the work. I was vulnerable. I put myself out there 100%, and it didn’t work out. I felt a lot of shame and frustration in that, and shame thrives in a vacuum of self-isolation and lack of empathy. It is when we find empathy that the shame cannot survive. I’ve been doing the work, and in this “friend” shutting everything down with any discussion with the woman I was trying to hold onto, she flooded the whole mess with shame and fear. She triangulated and made it about her, even though I’m sure the rest of us were hurting a lot. And I have to say, she wasn’t any friend to the other woman either.
I blocked her. She’s not my friend anymore. Probably never was. And she would definitely criticise me voicing this here. But you know what? It’s my story to tell too. And though I’m sure she lurks this page, that’s not my problem. Yes, I burned the bridge. She would have told me she wouldn’t have done it this way (because what she did was morally superior). Like I’m a child who has to be told the “right” way to do it. Guess what. I don’t care how someone else would have done it. I don’t live by committee approval anymore.
No, she would have just snuck around and told someone I cared deeply for that I was abusive. See how that is so much better than burning a bridge with a blog post? I just hope she doesn’t show up with a shotgun, or Will Smith, since physical violence is already on the table.
There is nothing more dangerousDead Can Dance, “I Can See Clearly”
than a man with nothing to lose
Nothing to live for
and nothing to prove.
So the point of this… rant. It’s something that was getting in my way. A block, because I cared more about being liked than telling the truth. I have been getting in my own way for a long time, keeping things behind closed doors when I should be saying, “NO!” I had more loyalty to this person than I had to myself, and that is bullshit. I got into the arena. I dragged my sword in the sand, bleeding, weary, and trying to put one foot in front of the other, daring greatly. And the final blow was a woman who was jealous that someone would try that hard for someone else.
I’ve seen a pattern lately, and this is important. The things in my life that no longer work with my values seem to just be falling away from me. It’s like the dream can no longer be denied. It has momentum now. And though you might not agree with what I have made “public” they are my words, and my experiences. There are other things you can be reading if you don’t like what you see here. The world is messy and lonely. Maybe you’ve been through this yourself. You aren’t alone.