Last Thursday, I wrote an email to L. that expressed my unhappiness with a pattern of her behavior. She ignored me until the following evening, when I found out that she thought that it was a “Dear Jane” letter. The whole conversation that Friday evening was spent trying to dispel that misunderstanding. There wasn’t much success because we still ended the phone conversation with her upset and me concerned about her emotions.
Funny how I would approach a problem I’m having with her and she manages to turn the issue around as if it’s my fault.
She ignored me again all day Saturday. Even after repeated phone calls from me throughout the day. I finally caught her online that evening, but she wouldn’t talk on the phone because she had on a “face mask.” How true that was… her excuses for why she did not call me back the whole day were plausible truths – the kind that you know is factual, but the intent was deliberate. She was avoiding me. She wouldn’t talk even when I managed to get her on the phone later on. To my discredit, I got frustrated and told her to call me back when she stopped victimizing herself.
Harsh words that reflect genuine pain. And a sense of injustice. It’s not right that I’m treated this way. Sure enough, any criticism is difficult to bear. Yet, I couldn’t just brush it under the rug. I couldn’t ignore the way she was treating me. Something had to be done. She needed to be nicer to me even when she’s under a lot of stress.
In L., I see a woman who can be my wife, a person whom I can share all of life’s joys and pains with, a lifefriend whom I can grow old with. I can see her as the mother of our children and as my partner in business. She is absolutely wonderful… in theory (as a cynic would say). In truth, I believe she can be all that. She is beautiful, intelligent, ambitious, strong and full of family values. But… I’m not a priority. Our relationship is not a priority. Not even Number Two. No, we’re sadly in third place, after Career and H.I.F. (Her Immediate Family).
I have always known. It was established at the beginning of our relationship that nothing can be more important than her absolute perfection in Pharmacy School. Initially, I thought I was in second place, but her actions soon told me that that was wishful thinking.
But who can blame her? Especially me, since I, too, espouse those priorities! Ah… but I only sing the tune, not march to it.
And, here lies the overridding problem: our priorities are not the same. I thought little of it because I believed L. when she said that her priorities would change after Pharmacy School. But I know that’s not true. There will always be her Career Track. Then, Our First Child. Then, Raising a Family. And, Running Our Own Business. There will always be some kind of stress, some other important obligation or self-imposed pressure that will always be more important than “Treating Your Beloved with Kindness, Respect, and Affection.” There will always be an exception to “Treat Others as You Would Like to Be Treated.”
And, I think that has a lot to do with her values. Going through high school, college and now graduate school in an impoverished, predominantly black neighborhood where the ghetto personalities will try even the most patient of persons, L. developed an edge. She has this curtness about her. She gets exasperated and her attitude would border on rudeness, although one can’t really label her behavior as that just yet. I lack the adjectives to describe it succinctly, so I say that she’s not very kind and not very nice sometimes. So, through those years of having to work in her parents’ downstairs deli/corner-mart, she grew to believe that you can’t be soft with people or else they’ll take advantage you.
In those years, she lost her ability to empathize. Every time I ask her to put herself in my shoes, to look at a situation from my perspective, she can reason out what I want her to understand. But she still can’t feel my pain. And… even more disappointing, even if she can feel my pain, understand my pain, acknowledge my pain – it’s not as big as her pain. The current situation is a great example. I wrote her that email because I felt unhappy with her pattern of unkindness towards me. I criticized her for not having a soft personality, for having an edge of meanness even when our relationship is going well. I wanted her to be nicer to me even when she was stressed. The fact that I asked for comfort first did not even register with L.. Although my email alluded in no way to a break-up, she did not take the steps for clarification. She focused on the wounds that the email caused her and the (false) implications my unhappiness meant.
What put the first nail on the coffin was that she didn’t even fight for my love. Even misunderstanding my email as a Dear Jane, she did not call me up and tell me her behavior is not worth giving up a future together. She was ready to let me go. She cried and cried to her closest friends (one of them probably Mr. Conflict-of-Interest). Rather than coming to me to clear things up, to make sure whether or not I was really giving up, she was already going through the (e)motions of a break-up.
On Sunday, I reassured her that I was in no way ready to give up on the relationship. I just wanted her to be nicer to me. So, I asked her whether her persistent distance from me was because she wanted to break up with me. On that query, she choked up and refused to answer. End of phone conversation.
That night (last night), I went to bed early because of a big exam the next day (today). But, as anyone could’ve guessed, I couldn’t sleep. Try as I may (tried as I did) to avoid the facts, the facts became clear. L., the woman whom I love so dearly, the woman whom I was sure I wanted to marry, to be my partner, to be my children’s mother, to be my one-and-only… wanted to break up with me, but did not have the courage to do it. She just could not do it.
And, so I have to be the bad guy. I understand. I understand perfectly well because I didn’t have the guts to break off my first relationships even though I knew they weren’t going to work out. But, I didn’t want to end this relationship for her because I still love her.
I called one of my friends who was wise in the matters of the heart. He echoed my earlier thought on how women have this ability to turn an issue into your fault. He said that when her beloved gets this mad, he switches to damage control. He accepts all fault and all the blame. He does what it takes to calm her down and make her feel loved and accepted. Oddly enough, he mused, she will always come around on her own. Certainly, he has wisdom beyond his years.
So, I swallowed my pride and mustered up my humility. And I wrote an email of complete apology and regret for even having brought the issue up, let alone at an inopportune time.
To no avail.
Even tonight, there was no call. No voicemail or messages letting me know that she misses me, that she loves me, that she still feels hurt, but wants to stay in the relationship. I asked her not to leave me, that I am currently afraid that she wants to end the relationship because I’ve pressured her too much when I’m not her priority.
Her dog of 12 years died today. Gigi always whined with excitement when L. came home late at night. Her dog would always be wagging its tail, happy to see such a beautiful woman come home. She wrote an email, but it wasn’t to me. It was a mass email letting all her acquaintences know about Gigi’s long life as her best friend. How deeply those words reverberated in my heart. L. and I have known each other for over a decade. Eight years we’ve been best friends. And these past two years have been the most fulfilling of my life. All my dreams of love came true. Gigi’s passing is a sign. My relationship with L. has come to its final days itself.
She is still a wonderful woman. L. is as close to an ideal woman as I have ever met. She let me love her with all the passion, all the ardor, and all the blessed joy that I felt each day. She was my best friend and my best lover. She and I held some great dreams and plans for the future. I cannot articulate the sadness in having to end this relationship.
- I am not her priority.
- She wants this relationship to end, but hasn’t the reason or courage.
- She has difficulty showing her affection, even in private.
- She offers me no comfort even after knowing she’s hurt me.
- She is only kind to people when she feels like it.
- When criticized for being the cause of pain, she makes herself as the person who is suffering pain.
- She lacks humility.
- She lacks empathy.
- She lacks conflict-resolution skills.
I still love her, faults and all, but nothing in her behavior, in her expressed values, or in her speech tells me that the above will change.
When the issue of her relationship abilities came up in the past, L. asked me to wait and be patient. She’s still new at this relationship thing, she said, and needed time to learn. She has grown a lot. No doubt, there have been lots of improvements. But they have been spot improvements. Those improvements have all been spots that I’ve managed to convince her to clean. I’ve pointed out a lot of spots over these past two years. And, I believe my email last Thursday left a lot of blood on the carpet, and L. is angry that she has to replace the whole damn thing. I had hoped that she would have examined the carpet herself and see that the stains were already there. My approach was too harsh. My criticisms (explicit, implicit and extrapolated) only made her see red. I fear that the replacement will not be a soft, plush carpet, but a cold, hardwood floor.
Offering my undying love now is like receiving first aid from the hand that shot you in the first place. No amount of professing my heart will change her anger, her pain, now.