Grief more bearable.

I’ve dated three guys who have died. All at different times in my life. Each relationship was at different stages. Nonetheless, I have experienced a lot of that kind of grief. Not the grieving at the end of a relationship, a breakup, divorce. Though, I’ve experienced all of those things, too.

I mean the grief of sitting with the reality that one of the most influential people in your life in grade school, whom you always felt you would marry some day or, at the very least, stay in touch with, fell from a friend’s balcony at a Halloween party. a freak accident involving the fire escape ladder. He is the reason I have the intimate connection with music that I do. We use to argue about which instrument was better – guitar or piano. I still have the cassette mixes he made me. I listen to them every now and then. I think of him often.

I mean the grief of working through the realization that someone you are just getting to know. someone who gives you butterflies in the tummy and you can’t wait to see again is no longer alive. He fell asleep while driving under a mile from his house. Our first kiss was only hours before. My last words to him were, “Are you going to be OK to drive tomorrow?” The last time I touched him he looked like he was sleeping but his limbs were hard and cold.

I mean the grief of getting a call at work from a friend who tells you that the person you have been trying to not develop too deep of feelings for because you are going through a divorce, but they’re just so damn wonderful, died in a car accident. He apologized once when he ran late, “Sorry! I pulled over to watch the sunset.” He was asleep in the back of a truck that his best friend was driving while drunk. I met his mom for the first time at his funeral. “Are you Odawni?” A blonde woman in black approached me outside the church. “I’m Tyler’s mom. He talked a lot about you. He said he really liked you but that he was also having a good time dating other people and he didn’t know what to do.” She said I could have anything of his, if I wanted. His dream catcher hangs above my bed.

I joked that I was cursed and warned subsequent boyfriends about my relationship history. Thankfully, I don’t have a fourth story to tell. I share these experiences with you not for sympathy. I’m not dribbling tears over my keyboard thinking, “Oh, poor me! What awfulness I have had in my life!” I share these because this is what life is and can be. Things like this happen. Experiences like this impact your relationships, your world. They have deeply impacted mine. These things, these people, these relationships – these losses help me keep perspective.

As I grapple with the spectrum of emotions that have been coursing through my body and mind after breaking up with Mr. G. As I grieve the loss of the relationship, the possibilities, the images in my mind of our future life together, I think of this grief. The grief of losing someone you can and will never have the option of seeing or holding or being held by again.

No kind of grief is more bearable than another. Loss is loss. Regardless of who or what caused the losing.

 

Conversations we don’t have.

 

“Is that from the Walla Walla trip?” I plopped down on his futon and looked over at the glass of wine in front of him on the desk.

“Yeah.” He half stood up nervously, “You want some?”

“Yeah, that’d be great,” I said. My brain teeth were clenched that there wasn’t already a glass of wine waiting for me (uh-gen).

He handed me a glass. I held it in my lap and threw my head back, “Hang on, I just need to settle in for a sec.” He knew that I had come over cause I wanted to talk. After a few sips of chilled rosé, I started.

“So, this is basically a continuation of the conversation we had last week. Like I said before, I want to make it clear that what I am about to say is how I’m feeling and what I see from my point of view. This does not mean I am right or that you did anything wrong or that there’s anything wrong with you. I don’t know how else to preface this conversation.”

He looked at me like he knew what I was about to say but had no idea what I was about to say at the same time.

I continued, “The past week I have felt more disconnected from you. I feel like you’re more distant than before. I feel like, after all that we’ve been through, that our level of intimacy should be on a deeper level. It use to be on a deeper level! What happened?!”

There were things I wanted to express and questions I wanted to ask but I felt as though there were no words. There were no verbal containers to hold the frustration and love and fear that emanated from my core. I had put a lot of thought into what I wanted to say. I was hoping for responses that could help me make sense of what was happening between us. I needed reassurance.

“We just started dating a few months ago,” the way he said it sounded like a question. and defensive.

“Yeah but we have been in a relationship for basically a year! I feel like our closeness is regressing.”

He looked at me, “People move at different speeds. Not everyone gets to the same level of intimacy at the same time.”

“I don’t want to philosophize and speak in generalizations! I’m talking about us. You. and me!”

(In hindsight, this is probably where I cut him off and shut him down. Who feels like sharing their feelings with someone who is yelling at you? No one.)

***

So that’s how the conversation started out – approximately – and ended in a break-up. But what if it happened this way?

***

“Is that from the Walla Walla trip?” I plopped down on his futon and looked over at the glass of wine in front of him on the desk.

“Yeah.” He half stood up nervously, “You want some?”

“Yeah, that’d be great,” I said. My brain teeth were clenched that there wasn’t already a glass of wine waiting for me (uh-gen).

He handed me a glass. I held it in my lap and threw my head back, “Hang on, I just need to settle in for a sec.” He knew that I had come over cause I wanted to talk. After a few sips of chilled rosé, I started.

“So, this is basically a continuation of the conversation we had last week. Like I said before, I want to make it clear that what I am about to say is how I’m feeling and what I see from my point of view. This does not mean I am right or that you did anything wrong or that there’s anything wrong with you. I don’t know how else to preface this conversation.”

He looked at me like he knew what I was about to say but had no idea what I was about to say at the same time.

I continued, “The past week I have felt more disconnected from you. I feel like you’re more distant than before. I feel like, after all that we’ve been through, that our level of intimacy should be on a deeper level. It use to be on a deeper level! What happened?!”

There were things I wanted to express and questions I wanted to ask but I felt as though there were no words. There were no verbal containers to hold the frustration and love and fear that emanated from my core. I had put a lot of thought into what I wanted to say. I was hoping for responses that could help me make sense of what was happening between us. I needed reassurance.

He leaned in and touched his knees to mine, “I don’t know…I really don’t know, O.” Tears were welling up in his eyes. They glistened. they were beautiful. “I don’t know what’s going on with me but I don’t want there to be distance between us.”

My heart softened and broke a little. I could see he was in pain. A tear broke on the bottom edge of my left eye and raced toward the crease of my nose. I sniffled and grabbed his right hand with my left. I put down my wine to cradle his hand between both of mine. “It’s so nice to hear you say that you don’t want there to be distance. I want to know what you’re thinking, babe, even if it’s that you don’t know. I want to be here for you but I don’t know how to be if you don’t give me anything. It scares me.”

He put his head down and let out a long hard sigh. I moved closer. wiggled my way onto his lap and stretched my arms around him. “I’m sorry I kinda stink. I didn’t take a shower after yoga.” He held me tighter. We both sighed. and cried. our heads cradled in each other’s necks. For a split second I had an image of two swans with their necks intertwined but the smell of him brought me back to us. I took in a deep breathe to smell his skin, his hair, his shirt, the wine on his breath. Him. I could feel my muscles ease into our embrace.

It was like nothing more needed to be said. at least not in that moment. I felt so close to him. We sat there. holding each other. the record stopped and we both popped up our heads and looked at the record player, then looked at each other, and laughed. 

“What do you wanna listen to?” he asked. 

“Umm, Cocteau Twins, of course!” He tried to get up from the chair but I held him back with the weight of my body and gave him a kiss on his nose. “OK, you can change it now,” I said with a grin.

He smiled.

Break-up, make-up; repeat.

Naturally, since Mr. G and I have a steady history of break-up/make-up, I wonder how things with us will roll out. Is there another make-up talk in the future? Or at least a kinder conversation for closure so that, as my wise therapist (lovingly nicknamed, ‘The Wizard’) says, “We leave each other better off than when you found each other.” I love that sentiment. Regardless of the turmoil, discomfort, or pain. we gave something to each other. At times, we showed each other a tenderness and curiosity that softened our hearts and made us feel special, because we were. We are.

I have no expectation of the future but I do carry a hope that we can find a way to sort it out. It would take a lot, and perhaps more opening up than Mr. G is ready for, but I believe people can change and are capable of so much more than they sometimes think they are.

Giving in to the humanity of oneself changes the world around you. Every day is more alive and interesting. excessive complaining feels like a waste of time. moments are gobbled up by appreciation and gratitude. Don’t get me wrong. The lows still come around and there are days when you feel like gnawing your fingers off cause you’re so pissed/annoyed/frustrated/[enter any painful, uncomfortable emotion here]. Ultimately, it feels amazing to open yourself up to someone. To let another person see you in your rawest moments. Those are the most beautiful, I think.

I digress.

As the days pass since our break-up, I wonder. What will happen with Mr. G? I’ve been doing some reading on the cyclical make-up/break-up relationships and the chances that they can end in success. There are mixed reviews. Of course, the circumstances and people in every break-up are different. But there is some valuable information to consider here. I’m a silver-lining finder so I appreciate some of what I’ve read. Break-ups aren’t always horrible. As with anything, there are opportunities to be had.

I’m not feeling especially creative this evening so I am going to info dump some snippets from articles I found useful. See what you think:

Get Back With Your Ex Permanently After Multiple Break-Ups

  • The only way too truly breakaway from the vicious cycle that has plagued your relationship and build something stable is to start by identifying the real wants, needs and aspirations of both individuals.
  • The tension, frustration and built up resentment from being misunderstood always leads to a breakdown in communication. In order to make the relationship permanent and to avoid yet another breakup you will need to fundamentally change the way you communicate and interact with your ex on a multitude of levels. In fact, your main goal moving forward should be to completely shift the way that you approach talking and relating to each other. Look to always avoid arguments and instead think of potential solutions that can bridge your differences before talking back to your significant other.

How Healthy Are On-Again/Off-Again Relationships?

  • If we’re trying to understand whether on-again/off-again relationship are healthy, we should acknowledge that they’re not all the same. Some evidence suggests that on-again/off-again relationships sort themselves into two primary types (Dailey, Jin, Brody, & McCracken, 2013). The first, called the capitalized-on-transitions type, describes a couple that makes the most of changing circumstances, letting transitions serve as tests or opportunities for relationship improvement. For example, a break-up might allow for the growth that enables a healthy relationship after reunion. The gradual separation type engages in the on-again/off-again pattern with hopes and expectations, but ultimately this pattern gives way to a final break-up.
  • The on-off partners who do report more satisfaction say that the on-off nature of the relationship helped improve the relationship; the breakups and renewals gave them a chance to work on themselves or the relationship.
  • Even if your relationship has gone through several renewals, the lessons from those who have stopped the cycle of breaking up and renewing may still apply. Change something about the relationship. Discuss new rules and norms. Talk about how to resolve issues that led to the breakups or how to improve the relationship. Don’t just hope that the relationship will be better the next time around.

Could Breaking Up Help Your Relationship?

  • Although ending a relationship can be painful, a separation can give a couple space to work on personal issues that have been harming the relationship. ‘It can help individuals reassess their priorities, helping them to know more about what they would like to get out of a relationship,’

Imago relationship therapist, Dr. Sophie Slade, suggests five ways to get your relationship back on track:

  • Get curious – curious about yourself, curious about your partner and curious about what led to your break-up. Try to replace all the criticism in your relationship with curiosity.
  • Take a long, hard look at your own contribution to the break-up– what were you doing that contributed to the pain in the relationship? Blaming your partner won’t get you anywhere. You can only change yourself.
  • See your relationship as an opportunity for your growth. What part of you do you need to grow to create the relationship differently and meet your partner’s needs? And how can you ask your partner to grow to meet your needs in ways he or she can hear and doesn’t have to defend against?
  • Create a vision of the relationship that you both want to haveand then work out what you each need to contribute to create that kind of relationship.
  • Create some rituals of loving behavior and expressions of appreciation for each other regularly: for example, expressing at least one thing you appreciate them doing for you each day at a specific time.