Talking to a new friend over the holidays. During the conversation where I explained how I was alienated. Over a period of years, I was excised from relationships with my parents and my brothers and their kids and my friends and quite literally found myself virtually alone upon the eventual separation. She leaned in and asked, “Why didn’t you just grow a pair and tell her that you were going to see your niece and nephew, your family, your friends and that she should learn to deal with it.”
I think my response was typical of a lot of us confronted with this type of alienation from our families — which is a very common foreshadowing of the type of alienation we would get from our kids during and after the divorce.
“It was so subtle and gradual, you don’t see it coming and wake up one day and realize how far removed from your family/friends you really are. You then realize that ‘growing a pair’ means war with your spouse, weeks and months of shunning and contempt, and probably the end of your marriage.” I then said I learned a very very difficult lesson and would never put up with that in a future spouse.
“I think you would be surprised how quickly you could fall into that again,” she replied.
Surprisingly accurate. I actually did indeed fall into a similar situation with a woman I dated for 2 years after the divorce. It didn’t involve alienation or separation from my family or friends — those relationships were encouraged and it was very good from that perspective. But I did indeed fall into a relationship where I hung on too long, I ignored really, really negative signs and I clung to a hopeless situation — I think mostly because I so desperately wanted to be loved, cared for, valued, etc.
It seems I still have a proclivity toward suspending my brain and going with my feelings or my needs and heart-desires. No matter how stupid it looks or how much I’m warned.
This is not good. 2016 for me will be about thinking through future relationships. Not in the way of over-analyzing everything (which probably not ironically, I find myself doing now…) but in being honest about where I am at relationally. My goal is to go into the next long-term relationship with eyes wide-open. Head and heart both engaged. Guarding my heart is a head exercise. I don’t think there is anything wrong with taking my time in a new relationship. My experience with falling head over heels in love quickly is not positive. The ends completely do not justify the means. The outcome is predicted by the initial fall.
So, in 2016, I’m taking a step toward thoughtful relationship building. And growing a pair.