The Great Divide: When Relationships Falter

I read one of my reader’s blogs this weekend and found myself thinking about it afterwards. Now, there’s two takes on this posting of his, and this is the first of them. The other I need to write, and it’ll probably be shorter. Since this posting, he’s had awesome sex with the wife and things are looking more promising. (Again, two words: Cock ring.)
He said the following:

Lately my wife has a new habit of staying up as late as I do. She falls asleep early often, but it is on the couch, refusing to go to bed until I do, which is funny since we all know nothing is going happen there. If she goes to bed, she wants me to use the computer from the bedroom. It’s like she’s making sure I have no life to myself, that everything about me must belong to her.
I am married, not owned.

The last line really hit me. No, he’s not the first to say it, but it’s a powerful statement any time it’s spoken. We are not possessions. We are not commodities. We need air, space, trust, and faith. We cannot consciously be shown on a constant basis that we are not trusted, or not only will the fabric of the relationship shred, but so will our self-esteem.
When self-esteem goes, so does any hope of a genuine relationship. It’s a vicious fucking cycle, and one that’s often created out of the insecurities of one lover not trusting the other. Often, it’s simply communication issues, which I’ll talk about next time.
That previously mentioned distrust can be valid. Very. Infidelity isn’t some urban legend that wives whisper about around the water cooler, in daunted tones like they’re talking about the relationship equivalent of Boo Radley; it’s a pressing concern for many relationships, and something both parties need to work very, very hard to avoid.
Creating an atmosphere of distrust when you have no proof, when it’s just you being insecure or having a bad time of it, is dangerous. You’re creating a bell-jar effect for your relationship. Meaning, you’re conjuring a sense of psychic disconnection from your lover by forcing them to be guarded, defensive, or even secretive.
In talking about the article in question, my loverman and I were discussing how, technically, Haaaaa’s blogging manner is an act of defiance and untrustworthiness simply because he’s airing the dirty laundry without seeming to be working on it with his wife, but that’s arguable, considering that she doesn’t seem to be talking, and just pointing fingers. I commented that I felt he was doing the lesser of all evils; he either blogged about his anger and disconnection in a way to get to the bottom of it or would find some commonality with others out in the world, or would instead find himself an outlet or Band-aid out in the world, via an inappropriate relationship with a woman, or some other negative stopgap.
Let’s say this loud and clear: You do not own title on your lover. You simply have lease on a part of their lives, whether you’re married or not. It is always, always, always in your best interest that your lover maintain some of their privacy and “me” time.
Clichés are true for a reason; the law of averages states that, more often than not, that is the truth in that given situation. Such as, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” The more you see a lover, the more chance you’re running out of time for yourself. The less time you have for yourself, the more the likelihood that your thoughts are getting drowned out in your mind.
You may want to be with your lover every day, but it’s just not entirely healthy. Time alone needs to be had, not just by you, but by them. Men, in particular, need that time alone. Manhood is a fragile thing, and when men get too embroiled in their women, they can lose touch with part of themselves. It may not be an immediately pressing issue, but it will eventually become a problem for both people in the relationship. Women need to be more possessive about their alone time, too, because it’s far too easy to find “self”-worth through a relationship – also a very detrimental thing, and something all too common with chicks.
Personally, alone time is absolutely essential to who I am. I can do without a social life, but I cannot, WILL not, do without time alone. To do so would be to destroy who and what I am. To do so would mean you’d get no fodder to read.
Marriages, I presume, eventually have phases where things get a little crowded. We’re told that, because it’s a marriage, it’s a “partnership” and everything is co-owned and shared, etc. In the end, though, it can’t be. I’ve quoted Grandma Death from Donnie Darko before, and I’ll do it again now: “In the end, every living creature dies alone.”
Between now and your death, make certain that the person who finds their way into that pine box is a reflection of the person you’ve always been. Keep your passions, keep your loves, and allow your lover the time to maintain their own. Healthy people make for healthy relationships.
Each partner must be able to indulge in passions and enjoyments on their own, or soon, they will lose some of their sense of selves, and while the relationship may continue to seem decent in an average kind of way, it’s not going to be same as it once was. Ever. Instead, the relationship becomes a tug-of-war, or worse, routine. Never, ever settle for the routine, and tug-of-wars aren’t worth the energy expended on them.
We can easily forget about the things that make us tick. Face it, life is designed to distract us from unhappiness. Not thrilled with life? The new Audi will solve that problem. Things getting too difficult? The airline has a 2-for-1 deal on flights. Insecurities getting you down? Bedhead’s got great hold in their hair products, and they smell nice, too!
When we’re unhappy in relationships, in life, we fill the gaps with things, with television, with sleep, with food. We do everything we can but face the problem itself, fearing that the cure is worse than the illness – which is often anything but true. Talk to your lover. Trust them. Give them space. Go listen to Sting’s “If You Love Somebody (Set Them Free)” and remind yourself that the song’s just echoing an eternal truth. Love comes back to you. And if it doesn’t, it was never yours to begin with. Again, clichés are true for a reason.
Why it takes so long to leave an unfulfilling relationship is that we can sometimes forget what it was like to be single, and we forget the sense of fulfillment we can take from ourselves. It’s scary, the notion of being alone versus being unhappy and together. The devil you know, etc. Relationships have a way of falsely making us feel whole – until the relationship’s flaws begin to become evident and we remember that, once upon a world, we were a different person with different needs and somewhere, somehow, who we were began to murkily assimilate with who our lovers were, with the lines dissipating in the dark of it all.
We are not possessions. We are flawed, imperfect beings who sometimes need the space to remember ourselves, for our lovers’ sakes. But, mostly, for our own.

10 thoughts on “The Great Divide: When Relationships Falter

  1. Todd

    Amen Steff! I just broke off an 11 year “routine”. Yes it was tough to do, but it was time, and we both knew it. She got to take the “high road” as I am the one that called it quits, and that is fine with me. Yes, being 44 and single again after all this time, is a scary proposition. But it is now time to get on with my life.

    I think you did real well with this piece…kudos!

  2. Haaaaaaa


    This is a very powerful post. It will take me a few hours to let it all soak in.

    My initial comment is that I know that the blog is, in many ways, a substitute for a life outside the marriage, for friends that I don’t keep up with anymore. When you put all your eggs in one basket, concentrating only on your lover, you take the risk that your life will become a rollercoaster that rises and falls according to how things are going with ONE other person.

    For me, the blog is both a creative outlet and a search for friendship.

  3. Tashe

    How do you know so much about so much? Is it life’s experiences translated into just about anything or is it learning from others? Doesn’t matter, you hit the nail so on the head with this post.

    Until recently, I realized that I wasn’t taking care of myself the way I used to; the way I should, since I got married. I’d like to say that I lost some of myself becasue of love, and making my husband happy became more important than celebrating myself…

    I’m a very independant individual with a lot of experiences and “life” behind me. I always lived out loud, enjoying the experience in and of itself…Participating actively in my life, making things happen, taking risks…
    I think.
    I listen to others and I’m what I’ve often referred to myself as an emotional parasite, thus, even the time I spent alone was alive with activity and productive thought.

    I had fun alone, single, I really did.

    Part of me worried that I wouldn’t properly be able to “flex” once I allowed a man into my life full time so that part of me “assimilated” right away. (Not to mention that we were gifted with a child soon after our marriage.) I “lost” myself quickly…and things started falling apart. I let go of things; activities, outings, memories, things that brought me JOY because there wasn’t often room for them. Mostly because I didn’t make the room. I started being the martyr and while encouraging his “rise” to himself, I halted my own and then went and complained about it. (Awful bad manners, I know!)

    Things got really bad before I understood that I had to go back to who I WAS, WHO I AM, and celebrate it. I had to be by myself, I HAD to write, I had to explore my authentic self – the me that exists apart from my hubby and my children. When I started doing that again, taking my time for me, when I really needed it, EVERY DAY, things got so much better.

    Lack of communication and assumptions and familiar scripts and self imposed sacrifices made me miserable and in turn, I made him miserable. Even if he had almost ALL the power in our relationship.

    I had to change that shit STAT!

    Now things are great and I no longer feel guilty when I look at my family and smile because I’m going away for some ME time…even if it’s an escape to my sister’s place…(Upstairs 3 flights)for a couple of hours.

    We (women) sometimes give up ourselves, thus, becoming a possession that our Men can be proud of, thus, they stick around, thus, we are not lonely and get regular sex…

    Not good enough, not nearly good enough.

    I learned my lesson so I KNOW YOU’RE RIGHT!

    Kickin’ ass, Hon. Really kicking ass. Fantastic post.

  4. Roscoe

    Some of your best work in a while…

    What’s the saying “been there done that bought the t-shirt, sold the t-shirt now I am the t-shirt”…

    Good to read a little reminder again about mistakes I think everyone has made 🙂

  5. me

    Just flyin’ by today, but I wanted to say – awesome piece. We get tired of clichés only because we forget their truth.

    All my best wishes for that doctor’s visit tomorrow!

    – me.

  6. myself

    Fantastic post Steff.

    The need for time alone, as you mentioned, is something that I find women in particular tend to forget. Upon the dissolution of my marriage I was terrified and excited to be alone, but now it is something I enjoy tremendously.

    I enjoy it so much that I’m afraid I push men away, at the sight of clinginess, I run the opposite direction.

    Fine line. Quite the balancing act. While I was married I had almost no friends, now I know better than to do that again, almost to a detriment…

    You made me think, that’s for sure….

  7. Solymar

    Steff, reading this post is like reading what a transcript of my one of my conversations with my therapist was like. Only much more eloquent, of course.
    I fell in love with an amazing man about a year and a half ago, and gladly gave up “me” time. I made no time for friends or hobbies, and became depressed and unhappy in the relationship. Ultimately, we both fell out of love, and our brilliant relationship soured and died. Like Haaaaa’s wife, I always asked that he went to sleep at the same time I did (we moved in together after a few months), and as I got more and more unsatisfied with my life, the more real that need became. From my perspective, it’s not that she distrusts him (though that my very well be the case) but that she’s craving something more from him than he can give her and that craving becomes manifested in things like asking him to sleep with her at the same time. It’s hard, but perhaps both people should seek a therapist or another third party out as individuals and figure out what they can do separately to make their own lives happier, and in turn, their relationship less of a routine.
    Even though my ex ended up being a dishonorable cad, I can’t help but wonder how long we would have stayed together happily had it not been for my issues and dissatisfaction.
    PS – my old blog is a memorial to how I love I was, and when I stopped writing, I knew I was no longer in love.

  8. Romantic Perv

    My wife and I had settled into that “comfortable routine” of just living day to day with very little “me” time. Thankfully we reached a point that we finally started opening up after being together a couple of decades and really disussing our individual needs. Once those lines of communication opened up, we found what brought us together in the first place and seem to be better for it in the long run. I know that every couples issues arent the same, but I am willing to bet that the majority of them stem from a lack of good communication and understanding on both parties.

  9. scribe called steff

    Awww, shit, I haven’t responded to ANY of these comments? gah! Okay, here goes.

    TODD: Routines… I got into a seven-year one. Not a good thing. Blah. Enjoy what you got, man. It’s a good thing, singleness. Not that I’m complaining about my relationship. Happy with what I have, and I was happy with what I had. It’s the “happy” I’m concerned with, not my dating status. When happiness recedes, the situation has to change. Action, reaction.

    HAAAAAA — Glad you had something to think about. I hate writing about other people’s real dilemmas — it’s a fine line, commentary.

    I question it when people have to keep their blogs secret. I don’t get the “you can’t see it!’ mentality… everyone I know sees my blogs. What can I tell ya? Clearly my lover’s clued in, and I think our relationship’s better for it.

    TASHE — Well, I took a trip to Nepal and hiked up a real big mountain and chatted with a guru.

    Uh, no. Seriously? Um, I live life and when shit happens to me, I give it thought and try to reason it out. I mention tonight here for the first time that I wear hearing aids. I sometimes wonder if I’ve become more observant and analytical to compensate for the hearing loss. Who knows. I like reflecting on my life, and I get enough time alone that I can do so, with great introspection.

    ROSCOE — Thanks. I go through dryspells like anyone else. 🙂

    ME — Thanks for the good wishes. As you’ve probably read, it all panned out. Thanks for the kudos, too. 🙂

    MYSELF — It’s really a shame how many women devalue and forget themselves. We absolutely must take back time and celebrate who we are. To not do so is to ruin the relationships we have, and to lose who we are. We’ve all seen it happen to our mothers, and their mothers before them. It’s a legacy that’s hard to shake. It takes a lot of time and work to kick it.

    TULI — Thanks for the really deep comment there. I’ve been that self-less person in a relationship. I know firsthand whereof I speak, and though I may want to spend every waking moment with my guy (rhetorically — I still enjoy the space when I have it, but really enjoy the moments I share with him, too), I know that to do so would be a death knell for the relationship. It can’t work that way. We stupidly forget that relationships are for complementing a lover, not co-opting them.

    As for your ex? Well, that’s yesterday’s news and wondering how it would’ve worked will do nothing for you. It failed, and you’re a better woman now for it, whether you wanted to pay the price you’ve paid or not. It’s how things go. I’ve never been a big relationship person, I’ve had few, really, but I’ve learned from each and I carry my lessons with me, and I’m a better woman and a better lover as a result. That’s how growth works, through example and experience.

    PERVY — COMMUNICATION FUCKING ROCKS. It’s what it’s all about. If you have that, EVERYTHING ELSE FOLLOWS. If you don’t? Everything falls. It’s that simple. People wonder what the key to relation ships is? Communication! Listening, first, and speaking, second. Good for you. 🙂 Congrats.

  10. A Scribe Called Steff

    Posted September 23, 2007 at 12:49 am | Permalink | Edit
    This is a comment that is a year and a half too late:
    Thank you.
    After a very long and painful fight with my boyfriend full of accusations, tears, reassurances, and anger, this is just what I needed to read because it touched on every one of the issues we were/are arguing about.
    Thank you thank you thank you.
    Now, I just need to remember how fully I believe in everything you just wrote here so beautifully when we argue. That may be harder to do.
    Lots of love,
    PS – I’m the same girl who is still dating that same Jewish boy that you advised me on well over a year ago again. Perhaps I owe you a follow up to your advice.

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