Passive aggression

Passive aggression is when your husband blames all financial issues on you because he hasn’t participated in any bill payments, household shopping, or budgeting in the 14 years you’ve been together.

Passive aggression is when you get in an accident with your boyfriend and you husband tells you to do whatever you need to recover and then when you go out that evening with your other boyfriend, he feels disregarded because you didn’t choose him.  Even though he didn’t once say that he wanted or needed you home with him.

Passive aggression is him saying he’ll get back to me when I ask about a parenting switch or scheduling detail to do with the children, and he just never responds.  When I remind him, if it’s too soon, he says “Sorry, I don’t know the plans yet”, or “Sorry, it’s too late, I have plans now.”

Passive aggression is him complaining in advance that I won’t want to give him “anything from our shared possessions”, and then complaining when I drop them off at his house. To the point where he said that me returning his possessions was harrassment and that he would call the police.  Then he told me I was a terrible person.

Passive aggression is using guilt and shame to pressure me for sex.  Expecting sexual favours but only reciprocating based on satisfaction.  Linking his expression of love to how often he came due to my actions. Then guilting me when I wasn’t attracted to him anymore because our sex life was a very unsexy power struggle that involved manipulation and degradation.

Passive aggression is refusing to direct message the nanny I employ for childcare during my parenting time, despite the fact that she is there for 90% of the transitions.

Passive aggression is never once seeing the work that needs to be done around the house, and then calling me controlling when I ask him to do things like mow the lawn.

Passive aggression is complaining to the kids about the fact that they are with a nanny during my parenting time, not acknowledging that our parenting arrangement is set up the way it is to accommodate his work schedule, so he wasn’t responsible for astronomical childcare costs himself, and that the kids would have much more one-on-one time with me if we had an alternate schedule that accommodated my Monday to Friday job.

Passive aggression is complaining to the kids that they are too much work or he doesn’t get enough down time because he only has them on his days off.  Ignoring the fact that everyone else has to parent on their days off too.

Passive aggression is kids being kids and him telling them that they are responsible for him yelling or being angry, “because they shouldn’t be behaving this way when he just got off a night shift/hasn’t had a day to himself/just had a bad day at work/has to deal with so many kids all the time/wants to spend time with other adults.”

Passive aggression is refusing to pay the child support he owes me on the first of the month, despite the fact that he signed a document stating he would do so, simply because I originally provided him a verbal agreement that allowed him to pay on the 15th, even though I provided him written notice of revoking that agreement three months ago.

Passive aggression is him spending our entire relationship criticizing me for having feelings.  For attacking me when something upset me. For minimizing my hurt, joy, or otherwise. For making my life changes about him.  Like when I went on antidepressants for postpartum depression and the whole three weeks of adjusting were a constant barrage of complaints about how hard it was on him.  Or how me taking my dream job made it harder for him because he had to solo parent on his days off. Or how getting the nanny was a bad idea because the benefit was mine.  Or how I was a bad mom because I chose my career instead of being a stay at home mom (something that made me miserable).

Passive aggression is never respecting a boundary.  Be it me asking for time alone and him breaking down a door to the bathroom to make me listen or turning on the light minutes after I went to sleep to force me to listen to him because he’d “been home with kids all day and I owed it to him to listen to him” and then him being upset when I responded strongly and negatively to those behaviours and making himself out to be the victim; or when he repeatedly and often insulted me, destroyed my things, or tried to destroy me verbally and excused his behaviour because he didn’t feel like he was getting what he needed from our relationship.  

Passive aggression is strategically undermining my reputation and instilling hate in the poly population in our community because he can’t have a conversation with me where he admits that both he and his girlfriend are at fault for some things and that their cooperation and compromise are required to move forward.  In his mind, it is all my fault.

Passive aggression is abuse.

I was a victim of passive aggression for the first 40 years of my life.  My dad is a perfect model of the passive aggressive manipulator who is always the victim.  He’s never taken responsibility for anything in his life. I married a smarter version of my dad, thinking that he wasn’t like him, but later realizing that he was exactly like him, just smarter and more manipulative.  I spent years thinking I was a bad person, because I asked my husband to contribute to household responsibilities. Scheduling wasn’t a thing we could do, because it was me “taking away his freedom”. Splitting responsibilities wasn’t something we could do, because I “would hold it over his head if he didn’t get something done”.  Trying to schedule a talk to tackle some of the challenges in our relationship wasn’t possible because he felt attacked when I asked him to look at his behaviour. Convincing him to see a marriage counsellor was so hard and he spent weeks complaining and picking fights trying to get out of it, because he felt he would be unfairly portrayed.  Just getting him out to social engagements was an exercise in futility, because he often made it so miserable to go out together, just leading up to the engagement, that I felt it wasn’t worth taking him with me.

I’ve spent the last year unpacking these things.  Realizing that I am not, in fact, a bad mother because I have a career and have hired a nanny who lovingly takes care of my children when I can’t.  Realizing that I am not a bad person or a control freak because I expected my husband to participate in our life and the household we built. Realizing that I was not the root of all financial issues just because I was the only one responsible for organizing child care, shopping for the household, and managing all the children’s activities, education, and needs.  Realizing that it’s OK to ask for help and expect it to be given because my partners actually want to support me and that I don’t have to be a solitary island of strength, but someone who can show weaknesses and accept support without being an inconvenience or them making me feel like I’m inconveniencing them. Realizing that sex is not a weapon or an expectation but something that you give freely and readily, and is mind-blowingly amazing to the point that you would rather do nothing else when you have a partner that returns all the communication, advances, love, and touch with enthusiasm and acceptance.  

More than that, realizing what I did that was wrong.  I enabled his behaviour and rose to the occasion. Every. Single. Time.  When it became harder for him to push my boundaries, he pushed harder, and every time I responded.  I responded and escalated and when I did, even when justified, he had a reason to play the victim. I reacted inappropriately and in ways I am not proud of.  I have very specifically and thoroughly apologized for these things, although an apology doesn’t ever undo an action. I chose to step off the emotional roller coaster that was the breakdown of our marriage about 8 months too late.   I should have left when he told me I was less useful that an HIV infected sharps container.

I did, and often still do, communicate like I would with someone who can be direct and honest and work with others, and I find myself surprised, every time, that he is incapable of communicating without trying to control the situation, me, or add conflict that doesn’t need to be there.  I’m working on trying to figure out how to communicate minimally and effectively so that I can accomplish what I need to for my children’s happiness and still maintain my own. This goal is very challenging, because every hill is the one to die on in his world and I have to walk a line between being a doormat and demanding my boundaries be respected when they should be.  

Right now, my eldest daughter is heartbroken as she tries to navigate dealing with her dad’s less than stellar communication style.  She is a child who needs calm time and reflection to come around to a place where she can discuss her behaviour. He is a man who needs to demand and power struggle everyone into submission.  They are butting heads, he is blaming her for his reactions, and she just wants to avoid him all together. This isn’t an option. My heart breaks for her. I feel guilty as hell because I was the one who chose him to procreate with.  I am free of him, as much as I can be, but she never will be. I am powerless to help her deal with this at present, other than to hold her, tell her it’s not her fault, and remind her that I am proud of her and she is not the person that he makes her feel like she is.  

Every time polyamory comes up, communication is at the forefront of the conversation.  This is as it should be. Communication is everything in polyamory. I’ve become a much better communicator because of polyamory.  I am direct, strong, unapologetic, and very loving and accepting. I have become a complete and total stickler for my boundaries, to the point where some people feel I’m a bitch because I don’t let them push me.  I have no regrets for this. No one should ever violate a well-expressed boundary. When they do, there needs to be consequences. Those consequences usually, in my experience, involve a whole lot of self respect, self-reflection, and accountability.  It’s not easy to stand up for yourself and demand to be treated appropriately, and, in my experience, you lose friends when you do. It’s worth it. Completely and totally worth it.

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Significant

How about I start this like I seem to start every blog post?  The last few weeks have been insanely busy. So busy, that I found myself near tears the other day because a coworker kindly did something small to lighten my load.  This single event was the key to me recognizing I needed to take some time for myself, and the other day, I did just that. A pedicure and eyelash extensions later, I felt slightly more girly and slightly more relaxed.  Add in a date night with A that involved a lot of chatting, some hot, if tame, sex, and a night full of cuddles and love, and I felt like my tank was fuller than it has been in ages.

I really don’t know where to start.  I’m happily in love with S. So much so that we are a bunch of barfy girls in love who are so sappy and hilarious and loving.  Add to that her amazing hubby who makes me laugh and is a beautiful arm candy wingman when I need one because F and W show up at a local poly pub night and I have everything I ever dreamed of in a woman.  Add to that her Daddy who texts with me and will do sexy favours like giving her an extra orgasm and saying it’s from me, and it’s perfect.

A and I are…just us.  It’s fun and full of connection and sexy and never enough.  I love that man deeply and completely and I am so super happy with where we are.  I will always want more time (read: sex) with him, but I am also content with the way he communicates, his boundaries, and the fact that he generally makes a priority out of me. I am loving that his wife and I are becoming friends and seem to really understand each other well.  I love that we are planning winter vacations together and more. It’s all so….exactly what I wanted when I first heard of poly, but I appreciate it even more now that I know it’s not as easy to attain as I once hoped.

I’ve been overwhelmed at work. To the point where the job I love has been stressing me out.  Last week, I was lamenting my current stress and realized something rather significant: Last year, I didn’t notice my work stress.  I was so stressed at home that work was a break, despite the fact that I had so much more to do last year. That’s when I realized how incredibly normal my life is right now.  Settled. I’m content. Sure, I have stress, but it’s not even a small fraction of what I had last year. Last year, at this time, I was fighting with F daily. I was feeling unloved, unwanted, like a single random event could knock the fascade of my functioning life of its rails (See when D broke up with me), and I really didn’t know what way was up.  My kids were emotionally struggling with the horrible home we had provided them. I was coping with W and her lies and the fact that F believed her and deserted me. This year, I’m stressed because I have a lot of work. How awesome is that?

I have so many reasons I am content.  The date night with S when we shared some hot photos with her hubby and he responded with the funniest mocking pictures back and made him my favourite metamour instantly.  Texting with her Daddy and sharing our feelings on how amazing she is. Sex with S, sensual, full of connection, and loving. The amazing orgasms. How hot she is when she cums.  The fact that we managed to fit all of our boobs in one picture! Two amazing visits with A’s wife where we bonded over how much we love him. The date night where A got drunk and his sadist came out and I hit a subspace that left me without anything left but totally satisfied.  The subspace that left me in tears but the kind that had to come out because I had nothing left. The type of dominance that led to me being unable to roll over onto my boobs or sit on my ass comfortably for a couple days. The next morning, the pain left me wanting more, so he took me there.  The pain was intense, the edging was torture, and the orgasms were forced until I had trouble breathing. And in true A form, he rolled on his back and had me finish him off – the ultimate control. Days later, talking with A, I realized that he was so drunk he didn’t remember all that he did to me.  This could be upsetting, but to me it’s just amazing that he can do all that while intoxicated. Why? Simply put, it’s because I said one thing that night. It wasn’t a colour or a scream. It was a simply stated: “I need to stop, it’s too much” and he untied me, cuddled me, and rubbed the rope marks on my body until I collapsed in his arms.  That, right there, is why I know I have my perfection. The man who pushes the boundaries I want pushed. The man who listens to my desires and levels them up. The man who gives me what I need even when it’s not what I want. The man who listens, really listens, to me. You know what else I have? The perfection of a girlfriend who is almost as excited as I am about my date nights.  The girlfriend who wants to know the details of my nights and celebrates every orgasm and every orgasm that was denied. The girlfriend who is as turned on by the anticipation of date nights as I am. The girlfriend who gets me, like no one ever has. The girlfriend who makes me want her like no woman ever has.

My life is going to have stress forever.  I’m stuck with F for the rest of my life, thanks to parenting the coolest four kids on the planet.  I’m stuck with W as long as she is in his life, which will hopefully not be too long, but that man clearly doesn’t have the ability to think logically, so I hold little hope.  There’s also my sister who is still causing issues because F doesn’t respect me enough to also cut her out. These things, while upsetting, are not defining. They are just an inconvenience.  Those three, they are temporary and insignificant, like dog shit on my shoe as I stroll through a park.

What I have with A and S?  Significant. And the science nerd in me loves that and them.  

Obvious

A couple weeks ago, F and I finally signed our separation papers  It seems that this fact isn’t going to speed things up for us as now I’m getting excuses as to why he can’t find time to sign the land transfer forms from the real estate lawyer.  This is pretty standard fare for him and while he’s away with W on a mini-vacation, I’m working at my second job instead of being home with my kids in the middle of this 13 day stretch. The fact that I picked up my kids early the other day so that he could go away with her notwithstanding, I have been thinking a lot about them and the breakdown of my marriage.  This was all triggered by the fact that my kids let it slip that F and W are looking at buying a house together and a rather annoying thread about hierarchy on a local poly group where W was her awful self. This and a couple other things had me thinking about the dysfunction in the way she interacted with F during our marriage and the way things appear to be going now.

I realized long ago that her insane need for privacy drove a wedge between F and I. I’m not talking personal privacy, things that are understandably none of my business, I wasn’t even allowed to know what they did on their dates, where they went, or who they were with.  I never had a chance at compersion, because I didn’t know what was going on, ever. I remember F talking about her insecurity and how she is such a private person. How it was exhausting to him to have to reassure her and take steps to prevent her upset. I remember him questioning me and my motivations because he had heard something from her.  He talked a lot about how she was so ethical and forceful in making sure people understood her perspective. I realized the other day, that what W did in those early months is classic abuser behaviour. She isolated F from his support system, she ensured the only messages he heard were hers, and insisted that none of what she communicated was shared with others.  She manipulated him almost expertly and he fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.

I’m not saying that F was innocent, because he certainly wasn’t.  We were headed to divorce either way, and his choice to believe her so blindly helped accelerate that.  His passive aggressive manipulation as a way of communication was ever present in our marriage and truthfully, we had each stopped being present in our relationship years before.  By “we”, I mean me too. I know that I wasn’t that great of a wife and that my apathy and sometimes outright contempt for him was years in the making. I realize now how much I want to do things for and work with my partners now, just because I love them, and that isn’t something I’ve felt since before F and I were married.  You see, years of dysfunctional communication happens from both sides, and I certainly am to blame as well.

However, dysfunction aside, looking back on it, it feels so strange that F was so obviously manipulated. I suspect he was in love with the attention he was getting and the support she gave him.  I suspect her demand for privacy and secrecy made him feel loved and desired, like it was a bit of a gift she was giving him, trusting him, so that he willingly cut me out more and more. It was strange to me that when I protested that secrecy to that level was unhealthy, he defended her, but I look back now and I see it is part of the abusive partner’s handbook, and she played that well.  

The other day, she was making a point about how hierarchy exists as a function of couple’s privilege.  I don’t disagree with this, but the idea that established relationships should be respected before expectations and demands are made by the newest partner seems like a given to me.  Within a couple weeks of F meeting W, I was receiving complaints that W thought F having to parent our kids while I was on a night shift was hierarchy. As I read her thoughts on the hierarchy thread and as she argued that couple privilege is the basis of hierarchy, all I saw was the whining, insecurity, and need for control that was so pervasive when she was my metamour.  Someone in the thread asked her to give an example of how privilege is hierarchy and she basically refused, at one point, she said that they fact that the person asking about examples of hierarchy was displaying hierarchy and privilege because she didn’t understand what W meant. This circular argument is all about semantics. On top of that, it strongly resembles gaslighting: she was basically saying that the person asking for clarification was wrong to want to have examples and understand, implying that she was stupid for not automatically accepting W’s point, even though W hadn’t actually made it, other than stating her opinion as fact.

Less than a week after we signed our separation papers, I found out that F is looking at houses to buy with W.  The idea of being financially intertwined with anyone in the future makes me throw up a little in my mouth, while the idea of buying a property with someone when the ink isn’t dry on our separation papers is completely unfathomable.  I think this is just another sign of how incredibly far he’s fallen into her clutches. She has three kids, he has four. She’s been a single mom for a long time, with apparently “good” relationships with the fathers of her children. She’s been renting for years.  She has a job that doesn’t require anything more than high school education, so I’m guessing she doesn’t make more than just above the poverty line, plus her child support. Yet, just after F’s separation papers are signed, where he fought for every single penny and played victim through the whole negotiation, where it was obvious her words were coming out of his mouth, they are looking for a house.  He is buying a house with his girlfriend, when he makes at least three times as much as she does a year. Under no circumstance, even without my jade(d)-colour glasses, does this seem like a good idea.

I am sad that F has been manipulated into this situation, but there is little I can or, truthfully, want to do, about it.  He is an adult who gets to make his own decisions, no matter how stupid they are. My life is much better without him in it, despite the ongoing stress that I will have for the next 15 years as we parent these lovely beings that we created into adulthood.  What bothers me is that my children will have this woman as their step-mother. Her kids as their step-siblings. That means that this horrible, manipulative, abusive, and all around nasty person will be a more permanent part of my children’s lives. It’s going to be hard enough helping my kids through dealing with the passive aggressive manipulation that F deals out, but having to do with W’s version too, and the effect it has on F is going to add to that stress.  My heart breaks for my monkeys at the very thought of it.

Livid

If the title doesn’t give it away, this entire blog post is written from a place of intense and deep anger and hurt.  It is not my usual level-headed self-reflective post.  Sometimes, writing out the anger gets it out of my heart. This is one such time.

The last few days were a plethora of awfulness.  Between the heartbreak hitting this weekend and not being able to get some connection I craved to calm my poor soul, the nasty cold virus that exerted its dominance over my body, F not responding to a crucial deadline in our separation proceedings, and all the O stupidness yesterday, I’m a little overwhelmed, to the point of being kind of numb.  Well, there was one highlight in the last days – drinks with A yesterday, just laughing and joking and catching up and being us.  That and the amazing hug that ended the date.  That man can hug like no other.

Last night I spent in a full out rage. I was livid.  I’m not sure livid is even strong enough to describe how I felt – I totally used an online thesaurus for this:  I was enraged!  I was furious!  I was corybantic with rage!  I was so annoyed with the excuses and the stupidity that came through in O’s last messages to me. For an educated, intelligent guy, he was a seriously stupid individual yesterday.  I got ridiculously angry, really fast. I was hitting hard and fast, and he was grabbing on to every excuse he could just so he could look himself in the mirror.  Among the stupider things he sent:

“…if you are happier now that we are apart, we shouldn’t be together. If you are happier when we are together, then we should be together.

The choice is yours.

Both ex and other partner have given me some important perspective this weekend. I love you. I am here for you if you choose to be with me but I will not beg.”

Excellent. I love a thinly veiled ultimatum.  I’m sorry, but last time I checked, he violated a very clearly established boundary (see below) and my right to consent.  A threat in the form of “I’m not going to beg” aka “I’m not going to wait around forever” isn’t going to fucking cut it less than two weeks after you fucked up our entire god damned relationship.  It certainly isn’t appropriate.  It’s smacks of my 4-year-old saying “I’m not going to be your friend anymore!”  Although she may have a better grasp of cause and effect.  

“Please don’t post our private FB conversations on your blog without my permission. Other partner is pissed at you on my behalf for doing that.”

I have to say that I responded to this very badly.  Why the FUCK should I care what another partner, someone whose opinions are filtered through O’s perceptions, thinks?  Why would I not post a conversation with me on my blog?  I do. It gives clarity. It eliminates my interpretation.  Sure, I asked before when they were his self-reflections.  When I actually cared about hurting his feelings. But when you crush me completely by breaking my trust and destroying the entire foundation of our relationship with one decision, I don’t care so much.  And his communications serve to demonstrate what a clueless fuck he was immediately following fucking another girl in the same bed as me WITHOUT MY CONSENT, just hours after I clearly said I WASN’T READY TO SHARE HIM IN THE SAME ROOM AS ANOTHER WOMAN.

So, I asked him why he cared so much about what I posted on the blog all of a sudden.

“I could care less (sic) about the blog, to be honest. Other partner just pointed out a bit of a double-standard. …ex asked me what I was getting from our relationship and I honestly couldn’t give her an answer. I realized it was all on what I could do for you. Other partner pointed out that you are so clear on your boundaries but didn’t communicate them well to me. Repeatedly saying they were clear does not make them clear. She also wonders if you are working out some very deep hurt from the past on me now…..Ex thinks I need a break from you for my own good.”

Let’s dissect this one, shall we?

A double standard?  Ha. The irony of asking me to respect an arbitrary boundary, when you say you don’t actually care about what is written, when you completely violated a very clearly established and very well communicated boundary.  Bitter humour to swallow there.

Let’s jump to the part about how well I communicated a boundary: I didn’t just say it as clear.  They were all clear.  My exact words were: “I am getting closer to the point where I could share you in the same room with another person, but I’m not there yet.  My body still does this ***mine!!!!*** thing when we are together, and I’m not yet able to handle seeing you with another person.”  I really don’t know how that can get any fucking clearer.  I said this just before we went to the pub night.  Within five hours, he was fucking someone in bed next to me (just in case you forgot, without my consent).  Not to mention the fact that someone who has never met me is telling someone who didn’t listen to my clearly communicated boundary that I didn’t communicate well. Huh.  It’s like she wasn’t even fucking there and doesn’t know what went on.

Couldn’t give an answer about what you got out of the relationship?  It was based on what he could do for me.  Really?  Really?  Fucking really?  Anything he did for me was voluntary.  We talked about how bad I was at asking for what I needed. At being vulnerable.  I hardly asked anything. Ever. The reason? Because of shit like this.  There’s just so much martyrdom in this statement that I can’t.  It’s so fucking stupid.  Fuck.  Good thing he wasn’t getting anything out of it, because there won’t be getting anything back, that’s for fucking sure.

But the cherry on top of the icing that’s on top of the cake: “processing a deep hurt from the past on me now…”  Yes, absolutely.  That deep hurt from my past goes way back to 11 days ago.  WHEN HE VIOLATED A CLEARLY COMMUNICATED BOUNDARY AND DISREGARDED MY RIGHT TO CONSENT.  He fucked a girl in the same bed as I was naked in.  Then he continued when I was obviously upset by it.  Then he justified it by saying I wasn’t into joining.  And he finally owned it, after I broke up with him, and now he is looking for any and every excuse to blame me to help him feel better about how badly he fucked up.  

The whole thread yesterday was best summarized by L and his girlfriend: “this is some pretty base ‘cheerleader syndrome’. They’re helping him through the breakup, which is good. But they’re doing it by putting him on a pedestal and giving him the idea that he should probably be forgiven for one error since he’s otherwise a great guy. They’re also managing to somewhat make you the villain and him the victim here.  By attacking your blog and ‘being pissed at you on his behalf’, they’re telling him he’s the good guy. By getting O to see a relationship where he was just helping you all the time and getting nothing back, you’re the bad guy.
When he comes back and says you should be together if you were happy.  And that he thought you were long term and the one and all that. No. Not ok.”

Yeah. All that.  No passive aggressive guilt trips for this girl, thank you.

Then I got an email from his ex-wife, asking for me to remove things he and I had written about her and her actions in their marriage breakdown. It was cloaked in passive aggressive manipulative bullshit and it was a huge invasion of my personal privacy as it came to my personal email, not my blog contact email.  This means he gave it to her.  With that last violation of my trust and personal space, I had to block him completely from my life.  Up until yesterday morning, I thought that maybe one day we could try again….but he and his cheerleaders have shown me that is a mountain I’m not interested in climbing, not the least because they are also on it.   I’m glad he has support. It’s too bad those people have to attack the victim to give it.

The sister strikes again

My sister and her asshattery reared their ugly heads a couple weeks ago.  It hurt my heart and broke my spirit a little to read the things she said about me.  But some good came from it.  I had been undecided about what I was going to do about the giant rift that has been floating around on the periphery of my consciousness for the last year and half. I didn’t know if reconciliation was something I wanted or if I would have to cut her out of my life.  Her tirade helped me make that decision.  Here’s what happened in all its ugliness:

 

Her: “Can you put my mail on a shelf in the garage please? Thank you.”

 

Me: “I think I threw it in a box to go to F’s since you spend so much time with him.  Perhaps you could change your address and forward your mail so I don’t have to be responsible for it anymore?”

 

Her: “I spend so much time with him so I can see the children, he doesn’t spend his time hurling unnecessary insults at me and trying to degrade me every chance he gets and I appreciate that about him.  Can’t say the same about your behaviour. Plus, in the event I have a problem with something he does he doesn’t verbally assault me over how I feel, it’s nice.  If you could apologize for all the insults you’ve thrown in my direction, I’m sure I would be willing to see you too. But alas you will not and that’s your choice.  

I have been meaning to change my address I just haven’t got around to it yet.”

 

Me:  “OK.  I’m sorry you feel that way, but the way I see it, you and I participated in an argument where we both said some hurtful things.  If you want to use your big girl words and talk like a reasonable person, I will happily listen to your perspective and apologize for those things I said or did as appropriate.  I expect the same from you.  Believe me, you owe me many an apology too.  

By choosing my abusive ex-husband and his manipulative girlfriend over working to heal your relationship with your sister, you have repeated history a la Auntie C.  

You chose them. I’m not chasing you.  You want to mend fences, it’s up to you to make the move.”

 

Her: “All you’re doing is projecting your qualities and attributes onto 3 other people and playing the victim.  Take responsibility for your actions and stop blaming everyone else.

What I said was that you were making a mistake and I was right.  I think that an ill conceived plan of adding extra people to  your marriage was a poor idea, and I was right.  I honestly think the only thing that hurts you is that you were wrong.  I didn’t do anything except for voice, my correct, spot on, opinion.

I ask you to not post a picture of me and you do anyways.  I ask no video and you do it anyways.  I’ve had an entire lifetime of being bullied by you and kept down any chance you get.  I’ve been in an abusive relationship and so I have first hand experience in being able to spot red flags, not that you would ever give me credit for any of my education or life experience because that would mean I may know something you don’t and then you would have to admit you’re wrong about something, which experience with you suggests you’re incapable of.

You have gone out of your way to call me racist (unsubstantiated), doesn’t do self-work (unsubstantiated), systematically oppressive (unsubstantiated and your babysitter never said that) and now you’ve compared me to Auntie C whom Auntie E trained you to hate from the time you were born.

You chased me away by disrespecting me, insulting me, being rude to me, doing things I specifically asked you not to and then when I told you how I felt you attacked me for how I felt.  

I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, however, to date you still can’t tell me what I did. So please, by all means tell me what I did to deserve being treated like garbage by you for over a year.  So then I know what I’m apologizing for.”

 

At this point, I showed O the message she sent.  He said: “Don’t respond. Nothing good can come from you responding.  Just let her dig her hole, you don’t need to participate.”  So I didn’t respond.  This is what happened, over the next 10 hours:

 

“Still not going to tell me what I did wrong huh?”

 

“Here is the definition of projection.  Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.”

 

“Whenever you’re ready to tell me why you’re mad I’m waiting. What did I do?”

 

“Not gonna take your own advice and use your “big girl words” and explain to me what I did that made you so mad?”

 

“Please, by all means, tell me what I need to apologize for.”

 

Then, I guess she must have slept, because when I woke the next morning, this was on my phone.

 

“Why do I owe you an apology or “many an apology” or still no answer?  I’ve been asking for over a year now and you still can’t provide me with a reason why you’re mad.  Cause if you provide a reason then I have something to work with.

Secondly if you were sending my mail to F, you could have sent me a message stating as such.  You didn’t need to handle it how you did.  Change locks. Wait for me to ask for my mail since I’m not allowed in the house (reason 2 for not visiting You). Then when I ask for mail tell me you gave it to a third party.  

Projection and Deflection are in Elementary Psychology books it’s pretty basic stuff. Basic. Look it up and expand your mind stop blaming everyone around you and look at yourself.  No matter how much booze you drink, food you eat and guys you fuck you’re not going to escape from the pain that’s inside you.

If me losing all respect for you destroying your own marriage by your own choices by letting other women fuck your husband warrants an apology from me then I’m sorry I don’t respect you.

If standing up to you because I feel I am being treated fairly because you tend to name call, insult me, and purposefully make me look bad, or purposefully uninclude me.  I’m sorry I don’t like to be called names or insulted and I am strong enough not to be bullied or pushed around.  

If it’s because you use internet buzz words and whatever is “trending” in political smear campaigns against the party you don’t support to describe me and it’s blatantly false and not based in reality as i don’t have those attributes.  I’m sorry you can’t see me for who I really am and you let the internet control your assumptions about those who surround you.  I’m sorry when you’re losing a debate you take the snide lazy road by insulting those you are talking to.  I’m sorry you think that’s appropriate behaviour.”

“If it’s because I refuse to hate myself for the colour of my skin. I’m not sorry. I’m not spending a life feeling guilty for something I had zero control over.

Just fucking tell me what I did that made you so mad.

We did have an argument.  One where I said being a whore was a terrible idea.  I told you to rip off the bandaid now cause you’re getting divorced.  You broke my fucking heart because i knew you were just slow rolling getting out of your marriage. You name called me for hours upon hours upon hours .  For what? I was asking questions about why you woulc consciously decide letting other women fuck your husband was a good idea.  Which even then you couldn’t answer.  But you could insult me over and over and over.  You decided to move forward in opening the marriage that was what you were gonna do, you did it, you fucked up HUGE. You let your man realise that he didn’t have to continue being treated like garbage by you, a reality I’ve gone through my whole life, except those amazing 5 years you were in Sweden.  Miss those days.

Your marriage ending is not my fault.  I warned you against your actions.  I have no respect for you whatsoever now. If you’re going to make a life altering decision that will change the life of children and you can’t justify it beyond your sexdrive….it’s a mistake.  It was a mistake and you can’t turn a fantasy into a reality.  

But then again, had YOU not decided to open up the marriage and invite W and her children into your home then you would have no scapegoats to blame for everything. At least with W in the picture you invited her in to then you can call her names and blame her for “stealing” your husband and manipulating him to leave you when we both know that’s not true. He stopped choosing you. He chose someone else. That’s what hurts. He stopped choosing you and then he chose someone else.  That’s not abuse.

He stopped choosing you. He chose someone else.  That’s what hurts. He stopped choosing you and then he chose someone else. That’s not abuse. Abuse is being picked up by the throat and thrown through a door and then choked and punched until you pass out.  A husband who comes off a night shift and after a 12 hour shift you greet him at the door with garbage and ask him what he’s making for supper and reacts grumpy to that, that isn’t abuse. That grumpy is justified.”

“And one more thing calling F abusive and W manipulative is textbook projection. Additionally it’s just name calling and defamation of character.  It’s completely unnecessary. I was in an abusive relationship and it’s insulting and demeaning to women who’ve actually gone through abuse for you to compare that to F.”

 

And that’s where it ended, because I didn’t respond. O was a huge support and talked me off the ledge of responding. I shared the conversation with A and with G too, and both of them gave me some great words of support.  A told me it was laughable that anyone would say those things about me.  G just reminded me how much she loves me, made fun of my sister and her stupidity a bit, and threatened to take my phone away if I responded to her.  The truth is, I was really hurt by it.  This is my sister, someone who is supposed to love me. Someone who thinks I’m a bully. That I’ve been intentionally mean to her. That I’ve degraded her and hurt her her whole life. She thinks that I’m abusive and manipulative.  She thinks I’m a whore. She doesn’t understand the fact that I’m polyamorous and thinks that is why my marriage ended.  She thinks I’m mad at her, W, and F because F chose W.  So many of these things aren’t true.  It fucking hurts that my own sister would think so badly of me.  I work so hard to be kind, supportive, and accepting of the people around me.  I work to be generous and loving. When my sister says things like this about me, to me, it breaks my heart and makes me doubt myself.

This hurt was the solidification on my decision to cut my sister out from my life.  I just don’t think there is any coming back from this.  I could totally forgive her, but she absolutely doesn’t understand or acknowledge what she’s done.  How she’s hurt me. How inappropriate she is. How hurtful it is to choose my abusive ex-husband and his awful manipulative girlfriend over me and to use my children as the excuse.  So, I decided that it was time to cut her out, for my protection.  The reality is, my life has been a lot easier since she’s been nearly absent from it.

Originally, I had decided to cut her completely out of my life, but then I saw her with my kids on a trip to Mexico with my family, and I knew that I couldn’t cut her out of their lives.  I also can’t open myself up to her toxicity, so I had to reach a compromise: I will set some very strict boundaries that she will follow and I will continue to invite her to family events like the children’s birthdays and major holidays, like Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving.  I won’t be reading any abusive text messages or be engaging in any discussion with her about the ones that have already arrived.  Messages will be limited to logistics only.  I will require her to forward her mail and to remove all her possessions from my property.  I have enlisted the help of my parents if she starts to lose her shit on me to get my kids out of the room to prevent them from seeing her treat me badly.  Otherwise, I will keep my parents out of things, because I would never expect them to get involved or pick sides.

The other day, after our trip to Mexico, I messaged her and said “As per our conversation in Mexico, I am hosting Christmas dinner on Saturday, the kids would love it if you’d come.”  Her response was: “As per previous messages, tell me why you are mad at me.”  I just said “Our parents are coming at 3, you are welcome any time after that, please let me know if you will be coming.”  Her response?  “Lol”.

She didn’t come.  I was relieved. Another affirmation that cutting her out as much as possible is what’s best for me.

This got me to thinking of what I *would* write if I actually thought she would listen to me. How I would like to respond if I could just smack it to her. It would go something like this:

 

Dear sister,

Know this first.  I love you.  I am sorry for every time I hurt you, both the things I really did and the things that you blame me for that are just part of your perception with no base in reality.  While I know I’ve done things to hurt you, it was never my intention to cause you pain.  I have said things in anger and for that, I am sorry.  I have also been accused of doing things that I haven’t done. I’m not sure why you think I would do those things, but I don’t pretend to understand where you are in life.

There are many things that I wish to say to you.  The first is that I am not a whore.  I am polyamorous. This means that I believe very strongly in the fact that no one person can fulfill all my needs.  I believe that the ability to love is infinite.  I don’t sleep around and I don’t have casual sex. I didn’t “invite” women into F’s bed, he dated them willingly and embraced polyamory with me.  No one forced him and he was happy to start dating other women and to have me date other men.  I was there the night he met W.  I was unaware that she was such a horrible person, but I know now. If he had been able to keep any of the other women he dated, there’s a possibility it would have taken a much longer time to separate, but I have no doubt that we would have ended up separated anyway.

The thing is, when I started dating, I suddenly had men who treated me well. They treated me with respect, love, and compassion.  The showed me what it was like to be desired and valued. At the same time, F was intentionally pushing all my boundaries, sometimes physically, he was ragefully jealous, and incredibly angry with me for things that couldn’t be my fault.  Not only that, but W intentionally destabilized our relationship, by spreading rumours about me, and lying to F about what she had “read” on her other partner’s phone and then telling F that I didn’t love him.  You are right about one thing, he did stop choosing me. He chose her and that was what put the final nail in the coffin of our marriage. But I’m not angry about it. I’m not hurt by it. I’m happy to be done with F.  I don’t blame W or scapegoat her, I blame him and I.  We ended our relationship through our actions and I’m glad we did. In the end, I realized that F didn’t want me to be happy.  He didn’t respect me.  He didn’t value me.  In the end, I realized that even if we could get past all the other things, I could no longer be married to someone who didn’t want me to be happy.  Now, I’m dating two men who value my happiness very highly, and because of that, I’m exceedingly happy in my relationships and my overall life.

You have said I’m projecting and implied that I’m manipulative and abusive. That I think that F being grumpy with me because I asked him to help after a hard day with four young kids at home constitutes abuse.  I don’t.  That’s just him being a grumpy ass who didn’t contribute to our family unless asked. Ever.  Being a “single” parent is easier than being married to him ever was, because now he has to parent the kids when he has them.  The things he said, the way he manipulated me, the passive aggressive and outright aggressive comments, the selfishness, the disrespect, all of those things were abusive.  He didn’t respect my boundaries. He told me he didn’t care about my feelings.  He destroyed my property.  He mocked me when I cried.  He broke my spirit and he broke my heart. He didn’t care, because to him, it was all about him.  This isn’t physical abuse. This isn’t the type of abuse you sustained.  It is still abuse.  I’m busy unpacking the many layers of abuse that I suffered at the hands of F and I suspect this will go on for years, in a similar way that our mom is still unpacking some of the stuff our father did to her.  The father that you communicate so similarly to. I am sorry you don’t see the impact of the abuse I sustained as significant as that you did.  I’m sorry you think that my suffering minimizes yours. It doesn’t.

You tell me I said all of these things about you. I did.  You undermined my babysitter multiple times. A babysitter whom I was paying to watch my children while you slept off your party in my basement while living with me for free.  You didn’t contribute to our household and you couldn’t be bothered to respect the person who we entrusted with the care of our kids.  You would say horrible things about our aboriginal population, justify slavery, and no end of comments that show that you don’t appreciate how the colour of your skin and the location of your birth have afforded you no end of privilege. I didn’t insult you for this, I asked you not to say some of the horrible things you said in front of my children.  You support Donald Trump. You argued for his racist policies. I never called you a racist, I argued why his policies were bad.  That they don’t agree with my political views is true, but I make my own opinions, I don’t just follow the platform of my favourite party. In fact, I don’t have a favourite party, I have opinions about many policies and I support the party that represents my interests and values best.  The fact is that me disagreeing with you doesn’t make me mean or insulting. It means my opinion is different than yours. You are entitled to your opinion. I am entitled to mine. It’s OK to not agree.  It’s just important that if I ask you not to say something in front of my children, you don’t.  

You implied that by embracing polyamory, I destroyed my children’s lives.  My children have a much better life now than they did then.  There is no longer conflict in my home. They are happy, thriving, intelligent, loving children. They have two parents who love them, and I can’t speak for F, but they have an extremely happy mom.  I am modelling for them a strong, independent woman who is living life to its fullest. Who is unapologetic about living life under her own terms.  I am a loving mother. I am a strong woman with a career.  I am a loving and caring partner to two wonderful men who love me.  I am valued by incredible friends who love me and would do anything for me as I would do for them.  I have friends who have become family.  Like a sister should be.  Contrast that with you and the things you will say to me, let alone the things you say to others.

You have accused me of doing or saying things I didn’t.  You never asked me not to post that photo, you accused me of posting a photo you disliked intentionally to hurt you. You accused me of intentionally cutting you out of family photos.  But you never asked me not to post it. After you treated me like crap and posted a bunch of hurtful things on Instagram, I deleted the picture and your comments and you from my Instagram and Facebook.  My pages, my choice.  I already apologized for posting a very loving and fun video of you being an amazing aunt. I didn’t realize you were serious when you told me not to post it.  Had you communicated effectively, it wouldn’t be an issue. You passive aggressively attacked me about it, when you could have just asked me to delete it.  

I don’t believe in naturopathy or acupuncture because I’ve read the studies that show they are placebo and in some cases, outright dangerous. That’s not an insult to you or your education, that’s a credit to mine.  It’s not personal.  Just because I don’t instantly believe your “500 things that are good about coconut oil” doesn’t mean I don’t respect your education, it means I have a healthy dose of scientific scepticism and the ability to form my own opinions and make my own decisions. As for me being wrong, I’m great at admitting when I am wrong, I just haven’t been wrong with you.

I’ve never let “the internet control my opinions” or one aunt brainwash me over the other.   I let peer-reviewed scientific literature, my life experience, and my morals and ethics control my opinions. My opinions are fluid and I’m very good at assimilating new information.  The fact that you don’t agree with my opinions doesn’t mean I didn’t come by them through critical thinking and personal judgement.  It means you have a different opinion. It’s not an insult to you or your opinions, no matter how ill-informed they are.  

I haven’t treated you like garbage for over a year, I just haven’t talked to you.  I haven’t engaged you. I changed the locks on my house so you couldn’t come and go as you please because the only time you spent at my house was when I wasn’t there.  I ensured you have access to your possessions, but not to mine.  It’s safety.  You’ve chosen my ex-husband over me, I need to make sure you don’t cause damage to my life in support of him.

The thing is, you consider your opinions to be fact. You have a lot of opinions about how I live my life.  You think it’s acceptable to judge me and condemn me for decisions I’ve made, but you’ve never talked to me about why I did.  I’m not sure why my marriage ending would break your heart, it didn’t break mine.  It was the right thing to do, for me, for F and for our children.  You have no right to tell me that embracing polyamory was wrong. You have no right to call me a whore.  You have no right to call me a bully or imply that I don’t think for myself, that I don’t take responsibility for my actions, or that I make decisions without regard for my children’s welfare.  

What you do have a right to do is to say specifically how something I did hurt you. You have a right to tell me how you feel when something happens. You have the right to an apology if something I did or said hurt you, intentionally or not.  You have a responsibility to act respectfully and with compassion.  You are required to respect my boundaries and take responsibility for your actions.  

 

And that’s it.

 

Those last two paragraphs are exactly why I’m not responding.  She’s treated me horribly and is unlikely to acknowledge it.  So I wrote it out here so it’s out of my head. Moving forward, she is but a challenging family member that I have to deal with at family events. Now, moving on.

 

Inadequately explaining my hurts

My heart is breaking and repairing and breaking and repairing again.   This seemingly never ending cycle hurts.  It’s left me feeling raw and vulnerable and weak.  This is not something I’m used to, and it’s rather hard to cope with, truthfully.  I think that now, over six months after I asked F for a separation, I’m starting to tease out some of the baggage I have that he saddled me with that I’ve been carrying, starting fourteen years ago and adding to the load frequently for years.  I’m realizing that behaviours I thought were normal, or minor, when looked at in isolation, were just that, but that as I look back at the cumulative history of those interactions, what I went through was a thorough and devastating form of emotional abuse.

Why is this coming out now?  Because of O.

I’m going to start at the small things that amount to abuse on a larger, rather systematic scale and then add to how I started to determine this was actually abuse and how it’s all O’s fault.  I say that tongue in cheek, I realize how amazing it is that he’s helped me peel off so many layers of bandaids in such a short time.

 I remember before we were married, F getting so angry with me that he kicked a 4L milk jug in our front hallway and it exploded against the wall.  I remember him refusing to clean it up, leaving it for me as he stormed out of the house, I remember seeing the drips of the hasty job I did for weeks.  I remember another fight around that time where I locked myself in our bathroom, and he punch a hole in the door trying to break it down.  He was yelling at me to open the door and I refused, and he asked me why and I said “Because I’m scared of you right now.” and he laughed and said it was silly that I was scared, asking why I would be.  I responded with “What response did you think you would get when you started banging on the door?”  In his defense, he calmed down in that moment and said “You’re right, I’m sorry.” There was the ongoing issues with sex. Where if I said “no”, it became a fight.  If I wanted sex, it became a game.  It became about him and his needs and all about him cumming.  I like hard sex, and whenever I asked for it harder, he would complain that I “just wanted it over”, when the reality was it was the only time I really enjoyed sex with him.  If I made a mistake in front of our friends, he would make a joke about it and intentionally embarrass me.  He would throw me under the bus in excuses all the time to his parents, my parents, everyone.  Whenever I came to him and said that something he did or said hurt my feelings, he would make it like it was my fault, or that I was being too sensitive.  He would frequently say I was being controlling, too strong, too opinionated, unreasonable, and stubborn.  I suspect I sometimes was.  Other times though, I most certainly was not, and it was his way of getting my back up so that I would get upset and he would “win”.  It was his method of taking control of the situation.  Often times, these discussions would end in me crying, my feelings hurt, confused that I came to him with what I thought was a valid concern and wondering if I was, in fact, too sensitive/demanding/controlling/etc.  When this happened, he would say things like: “Oh god, you’re not crying again are you?”  or “Right, cry, because you can’t get what you want.” or if I was crying in bed and he heard me when he was sleeping or trying to sleep, “If  you’re going to cry like that, can you go somewhere else and do it so I can sleep?” For our entire marriage, I did all the household shopping.  There were constant complaints about the food I prepared.  The “junk” I bought.  The cost of everything.  When I made family meals, which was all the time, I would announce that supper was ready, the kids would come running, and F would head to the bathroom.  The five of us were often finished dinner when he finally arrived, and I had just taken care of all the kids alone.  Often I would start cleaning up while he was eating and playing on his phone or reading a book and yelling at the kids for being kids.  When he was done, he rarely did dishes.  He rarely did laundry.  He rarely helped around the house.  In fact, until just before I asked him for a divorce, he never really independently decided to do anything that needed to be done around the house, from grocery shopping, to housework, to mowing the lawn, to laundry, to preparing something for the children’s week, to registering kids for programs, to preparing school lunches, to giving kids baths, to everything, really. I read a post recently about this emotional labour that we do as women, and I acknowledge that much of this was of my causing – I just did these things, the organizing, emotional labour, family management, and household management automatically – he never HAD to help.  When I asked for help, he attacked – I was being demanding, controlling, wanted to dictate what he did with his time, and naggy.  Throughout our marriage, I would establish boundaries, and F was always pushing them.  He was constantly breaking through those boundaries and I was constantly bending them for his benefit.  So much so, that at the end, when he started pushing my boundaries so blatantly that it was impossible to miss, and some of my things were getting destroyed as a result, I continued to excuse his behaviour as abnormal or uncharacteristic, but when I truthfully looked back, I realized that his behaviour hadn’t changed, but the frequency of it had.

In all of this, I was convinced I was the one with the problem. I was too controlling. My expectations were too high.  I wasn’t communicating my feelings well.  I was broken by my childhood, so I wasn’t able to be the wife I should be.  It never occurred to me that maybe the problem wasn’t entirely me.  I’m realizing more and more that much of the problem was him.  I’m being very careful to not blame things on him that aren’t his fault, but restrict it to those things that are, while acknowledging and accepting blame for my part in things.  I’m not saying I’m blameless, I’m saying that I recognize that many things I thought were normal were actually abusive, and O has helped me realize a lot of these.

How?  Well, by simply being him.  When we had our first major discussion, when he expressed concern about my relationship with A and I got upset with him, instead of blaming me, or even arguing with me, he met me with a list of coherent thoughts he wanted to work through together.  The first part was just some basic understandings that we had based on our relationship structure. The second was clarification questions. The third was a talk about how we responded to our text dialogue and what it meant.  In all of it, we held hands, had our legs wrapped around each others’, and not an angry or accusatory word was spoken.  It wasn’t heated, it was loving, and there was no blame.  Trigger the first time I realized I was responding to O as if F was on the other side of the conversation, and I expected hidden meaning where there was none.  I expected a motive where there was only desire for understanding.  I was too hard on him because of the hurt someone else caused me.

Then, one night I was at his house.  I’ve had a lot of work stress in recent weeks, and I haven’t been at my best.  We played for a while, and I had a very fulfilling time, but he didn’t “finish”.  He asked me what I wanted.  What I truly wanted.  He presented it as: 1) keep playing and have a super hot, fun time; or 2) cuddle in and fall asleep holding each other.  I knew I wanted option two.  I was exhausted. I was emotionally done for a variety of reasons.  I needed to sleep and be held and feel safe and loved.  He had to drag that answer out of me.  I was ready to give up what I truly wanted to satisfy him, because I was so used to the guilt and manipulation that I received with F.  I wasn’t giving him a straight answer and he asked me why.  So I told him the truth.  This resulted in a short chat about how he was perfectly happy holding me while we slept and that there was no place he’d rather be and sex had nothing to do with it.  I cried a little that night, even though he didn’t know it, because I didn’t know that doing what I needed for myself could come without guilt.

A couple weeks ago, F was at his worst.  He was arguing with me about preschool Christmas concert tickets, and treated #3 horribly, manipulatively, abusively, and I lost it.  It brought up so much hurt. So much history.  So much of so much.  O came over that night. We sat on the couch, drank wine, and I talked about my life. About how I felt like layers and layers of bandaids were getting ripped off and my heart was hurting and all the reasons why. O listened. He held me.  I cried and he told me he appreciated my vulnerability.  I told him about my relationship with F and it took most of the night.  I was so raw and hurting and incapable of anything more emotionally so we crawled into bed and he held me.  He helped me heal by just being what I needed.  Something no one has ever done for me before.  I didn’t have to ask.  

That’s it:  I didn’t have to ask.  It wasn’t a compromise on his part. He just did.

I’ve written so many versions of this post.  Everything I write has meaning for me, but if I read it from the perspective of an outside observer, I think it sounds trite and petty and full of blame.  Yesterday, I went to my counsellor and I talked about this.  About how bad I am at being vulnerable, how I need to be asking for help when I need it, and  how I need to be dealing with the realizations of F’s manipulations and abuse one at a time.   

I’m not sure I can write the words that would make others understand what I’m going through in my brain and in my heart.  But the important thing is that I am going through it.  I’m growing, I’m healing, and I’m on my way to being complete.  And I’m happy.

 

Vulnerable about vulnerability

This last week was a bit crazy.  So much of A’s stress has resolved, he’s back to the basal level of stress he has as his “normal”, which is still a lot for most, but he’s an expert in dealing with things in the most amazing way. O and I had a rather challenging discussion last week after he reacted strongly to a spontaneous night A and I had and some of the dom/sub dynamics we enjoy and I then was way too hard on him.  What came from it was the most functional, understanding, and loving conflict resolution-type conversation I have ever had with a partner.  He was so….perfect.  About everything.  I was really hard on him.  I over-reacted.  I took our conversation of the previous day, where he warned me to be careful with A, and turned my feelings about that into an excuse to react badly about his feelings about A coming over spontaneously the previous night.  I was blunt and direct and not at all empathetic.  I wasn’t recognizing my triggers and I wasn’t recognizing his. I was not a good girlfriend.  He continued loving me anyway and we had a great talk about the whole thing that evening.  The conflict part of the conversation happened during the day, via text.  Text is, of course, the best way to fuck up your meaning, and this was truly the case. I felt he had questioned my judgement, he felt I had lied to him.  It was a storm of miscommunication and was completely avoidable.  When I sat on his couch with a glass of wine to talk it out, I knew, immediately, that it was going to be fine.  When we are together, we have a very hard time not touching each other.  So, legs wrapped together, holding hands, we broke down and broke through every detail that needed to be discussed.  It ended in us giving each other context, clarifying a few “guidelines” (I can’t think of a better term, but it’s just overarching themes of our relationship that we agree on), and most importantly, opening up the understanding of how our own personal baggage has influenced how we respond to each other, and how we recognize that what we have in each other is as amazing and as statistically improbably as winning the lottery, and how we both want to work to maintain what we have.  I left that conversation, completely emotionally exhausted, but completely reassured that I love him, he is as perfect for me as I thought, and that we are so incredibly good together, it’s amazing.

Part of what I told him was the full story of F and I and our journey in polyamory.  As I was explaining the critical occurrences, the things I did wrong, the things F did wrong, and everything in between, I had this crazy epiphany that I tied into my realization that I’m absolutely shit at asking for what I need. I’m really bad at being vulnerable.  Absolutely horrible, in fact.  Several of my partners have commented on how they don’t know I’m processing something I’m emotional working through until I all of a sudden come to them with a conclusion.  Then they have to catch up with the fact that I have been struggling with something and they had no idea.  I then have to describe the process I went through, the feelings I had, the hurt I experienced.  More than once I’ve heard: “But why didn’t you tell me you were having a hard time?”  Truthfully, I thought it was just how I am.  That I’m an internal processor and that I wasn’t hurting anyone.   I was proud of the exclamations from partners about how strong I am.  Truthfully, I was hurting myself first, and partners and those who love me second.  I was taking on loads that should be shared by the people who love me.  This is the case with O the other day, when I was upset with him about warning me about A, but didn’t communicate it with him.  This is the “event” that made me realize that I have some broken parts that need repairs.  

A few weeks ago, I asked A for some cuddles when I was going through a particularly difficult time. It was slightly easier for me to ask then, because I didn’t know what was wrong.  I just needed closeness and cuddles and to be held, and he obliged. He’s actually really good at just being what I need in the moment without making me explain.  I think he knows that I’ll eventually get to the explanation without being pushed.  I also think it’s just his way and the dynamic we set up this last year as I asked for diversions and distractions from him physically as I went through the emotional pain I wasn’t communicating.  The fact is, asking for cuddles was the first time in several years that I’ve asked someone to do something emotionally supportive for me, because I need it.  When I was talking to O about my story last week, I realized that there was a time when I was better at asking for what I need.  When I was OK with being vulnerable and didn’t feel like I needed to be strong and hide my pain from others.  I realized that that time was long in the past, before F and I were married and our dynamic changed from one of some sort of mutual support (I’m not sure it was ever completely healthy, but certainly healthier than where it ended up), to one where I supported him, and if I needed support, he had free license to turn it into something he needed support for.

Before I go on, I need to also address the fact that I remembered last weekend that F has PTSD.  He is in emergency services and has been for nearly 20 years.  I was talking with a friend and coworker at my second job who has been a huge mental health advocate for emergency services personnel in the last years.  As I chatted with her about her journey, my experiences being married to F came out.  I remembered the hurtful awful things he did.  The pain he felt. The fact that he was able to pretend he wasn’t chronically affected by his career choice when we went to Sweden and the stressors were removed, but that when we returned to Canada, the stressors reappeared and he spiralled into the oblivion that is PTSD.  She understood the trend for long-term emergency services workers to take their worst experiences out on their spouses. It reminded me that early in our relationship, and even as it progressed for the next 14 years, F frequently talked of divorce, alcoholism, or suicide as a given.  He seemed to think that losing his mental health was a predetermined certainty and that it would cost him everything that meant something to him.  As I told my story, she sympathized with me AND with F, and just shook her head and even cried at the fact that our story isn’t unusual.  This whole conversation reminded me that while the way that F treated me was unacceptable, it isn’t entirely him, so much as his mental illness, that is driving his behaviour.  That I, too, am a victim of the stress that is the career he chose.  It also made me ridiculously angry at the fact that he didn’t move into positions that would offer less stress (and more money) or access the amazing supports available to him when he had opportunities for the protection of our marriage and, even more, our children and families.  There were many of these opportunities, yet he focused on blame and the fact that I chose to work in a job I love in my chosen career rather than stay home with my children.  So, take any story of his inability to be a decent husband, and sometimes, a decent person, with a grain of salt. The man clearly has mental illness, and I don’t want to diminish from the fact that he actually has redeemable qualities that made him, at one point, long ago, an acceptable choice as a partner.

As I told O my story, I realized the gravity of the things I went through in the last year.  How any support from F came with a price.  How I needed, badly, someone who had my back in all of the horrible situations I found myself in.  I thought about how I asked F for support as I was encountering feelings with his relationship with W.  How I asked for time, connection, love, touch, and even a smile.  How I frequently asked for simple touches, like a hug or a kiss, and was denied.  How he frequently refused to sleep with me because I snore, wouldn’t touch me when I was struggling emotionally, demeaned me as useless when I wasn’t supporting him exactly how he wanted, though he didn’t communicate his needs, and how even when he was intimate with me, the whole episode was about his pleasure, his climax, and had so little to do with mine.  As I thought it through, as I recognized the damaged goods that I am, I could see how somewhere in the years that we had been together, F had become the person who I supported.  I became his strength and his support, but he wasn’t that for me.  (There’s a lot of irony here, because he had a hard time with the fact that I “didn’t need him anymore”, when we embraced polyamory.)  

Nothing is a more clear an example of his manipulation as when I was diagnosed with post-partum depression in 2015.  At that time, #4 was 3 months old. He had a few health scares early on.  When they were resolved, and I didn’t get better, I realized that I needed help that wasn’t going to come in the form of “giving it time” or “accepting my situation”.  So I made an appointment with my family physician and got a prescription for antidepressants.  Thirteen days later, I woke up, myself, for the first time in six years, realizing that this acute depression had been preceded by six years of a low level chronic depression.  The intervening thirteen days where I adjusted to my meds were some of the most difficult of my life. I was unable to get out of bed in the morning.  The antidepressant I’m on is a sedative and it takes some time to adjust.  I had a three month old baby, who, thankfully, was the best sleeper, and would wake a 8:30 a.m.  I would nurse him and hand him off to F.  F would get up with the children, feed and care for them, and put #4 down for a nap, who would wake up at around noon.  I would get up, feed him, and we would get going and spend the afternoon together. I was groggy and stressed and still very much depressed.  Just going through the motions of daily life was an enormous challenge.  During this whole time, I heard no end of complaints about how hard it was on F.  How he wasn’t getting a vacation, how I was “lazing” away the days while he worked so hard.  How he was suffering, and I wasn’t helping.  It went on and on. It was one long complaint.  After two weeks, I came out of my depression with a new lease on life. I realized how difficult our relationship had been for years and started tackling some of the issues that needed to be fixed.  I took control again.  

The reality of this is that every time I had an issue, every time I was vulnerable, my needs became a problem for F.  He turned my suffering into his.  I ended up supporting him through my stresses.  It was the very definition of unhealthy, having a partner who couldn’t actually see past the end of his nose to support me.  When I was talking to A about F, he said “I don’t understand him.  He’s clearly very selfish”, and I can’t help but agree with him.  Anything anyone in his life was going through became about him.  The kids being kids and being loud or demanding became them misbehaving and being hard on him after a night shift.  Me needing a break and time off for myself when I was home with kids alone for days at a time on his days off was me making things too hard for him, denying him a break.  Me needing him for anything was about him.  

What does this mean?  It means that every time, for 14 years, that I was at all vulnerable, I had a partner who not only didn’t support me, but required me to support him.  I did so, to the best of my ability, and he criticized me for it.  So somewhere along the journey, I stopped asking for support.  I stopped being vulnerable.  I stopped needing anyone but myself.  I turned completely inwards.  This is where A and O, the loves in my life, find me.  This is where my strong friends, like G, find me. Strong and independent to a fault.  Reluctant to share my truths with many.  Not asking for help, but wanting the support (and perhaps needing it) more than anyone can guess.  

Now, I have two men in my life who ACTUALLY want to help me work through my weaknesses.  I have friends who are unfailingly supportive.  But I don’t know how to ask for the help I need. No, that’s not true. I know HOW to ask, I don’t know how to feel safe asking for what I need.  I’m bad at vulnerability.  The fact that I’ve felt raw and vulnerable this week, while I process this truth of my inability to be good at vulnerability is the wildest irony in this situation.  The fact is, I have to unpack this fact, dissect it.  Understand the healthy parts, discard the unhealthy ones, and figure out how to function better for my own good.  For myself, but also for the people who I love and who love me.  I need to model good communication and self-care for my children and that comes with not always being the strong person and being vulnerable sometimes.  I need to be better.  I’m still being strong and fun and unapologetic, which is good.  Going forward, I need to be someone who is strong and fun and unapologetic who is really, truly all of those things because I have the support of those I love and the strength to show them the vulnerable, feeling, hurting, emotional side of me too.  Understanding what led me here is a huge revelation.  Unpacking it will take time.  Thankfully, I have people who will encourage me to do the things I need for myself, including being there when I am vulnerable and ask for the support I need.

One of the many things I love about O is that he asks me what I need.  What I want from our date or what I want him to communicate or if I need anything specific in any situation.  Just by being himself, he is pulling my needs from me and making it normal for me to ask for what I need.  This game changer seems to be just naturally changing my game.