In recent weeks, A and I have had a recurring conversation. I’m not sure exactly what he’s trying to get out of saying so, but essentially what he says is: “My relationship with you is different than my relationship with my wife. If my relationship with her ended, I would be devastated, but if you and I broke up, life would go on without much trouble. I would be sad, and think it was too bad, but it wouldn’t be the same kind of pain as the ending of my relationship with my wife.”
Every time we’ve had this conversation, I have two responses: 1. “Well, yeah!” and 2. “Ouch!”
It hurts to hear someone tell you that you are not as important as other people, no matter how obvious it is that it should be that way. It’s like my brain and my heart are arguing about the way I should think and feel, respectively. They are at odds with each other for the appropriate reaction, so I have both.
Beyond that, the fact that he’s said a version of this a few times in the last few weeks suggests to me that there is something more behind his words. Part of me thinks it’s a justification that he doesn’t love me. Or possibly him trying to compartmentalize the love he does have for me and the love he has for his wife and justifying the hierarchy in his brain. Or maybe it’s him trying to subtly make the point that he doesn’t love me and that he won’t ever actually love me. And part of me wonders why the fuck he doesn’t love me, but when I get into that line of thinking, it takes me to this place where I think about things and decisions I’m not ready to face, so let’s not go there.
Maybe I’m off base. He may not actually be trying to say something deliberately. He may actually be obtuse enough to think that that is just conversation. I think there is a message I’m not getting. The man is careful with words.
Among the other things he said was something about the duration of our relationship. Something along the lines of “My relationship with my wife will go on forever, years and years, but my relationship with you won’t. It’ll end, maybe a year from now, it’s not meant to last as long.” When I replied, I said I “didn’t think of it that way, my commitment isn’t any different because we can’t escalate’. He backtracked a bit and said “Or it could be 20 years, who knows, but it’ll never be the same as my marriage.”
There are so many things that go through my mind when I think about these conversations. It alternates between feeling unimportant and hurt by this to attempting to understand why he thinks the way he does about me and recognizing that it’s just part of his process in dealing with his feelings within our relationship and understanding where I fit in the context of the rest of his life. It’s not this horrible hurt or offense or anything, it’s mostly just trying to understand him, and as much as he likes to pretend he’s easy to understand, he’s not.
I recognize that splitting up a marriage, with years of history, children, grandchildren, a mortgage, debt and the rest of a shared history is harder than breaking up with a girlfriend who you share a hot sex life and a couple selfies with. I recognize the permanence and meaning of a 20+ year relationship and how that is so substantial. How sharing a life and a bed and sadness and happiness and being bored together and conquering adversity together is always going to be more substantial than the relationship with the girl you visit most Fridays to exchange great pillow talk and fuck. I get that there is a tolerance of problems in a committed marriage that there isn’t going to be in a relationship with a girlfriend.
What I also get is that I’m fun. I’m the escape from reality. I’m the safe place, the place of calm, the person who offers catharsis and support. I’m unfailingly supportive, because my only concern in any of his stresses is him – I have only met a handful of his friends and none of his family and because of that, my priority, when we are together and when we interact, is supporting him and meeting the needs he wants filled by me. There is no compromise in this. Within our relationship, there is just us. There are no children, responsibilities, debts, assets, or stresses. There is only us and what we choose to make of it. I also know that I’m the partner who is always willing to have sex as opposed to the one who makes excuses and takes it for granted. I am a girlfriend, not a wife.
I don’t pretend to understand how he thinks about all this. I know that he’s committed to our relationship, he makes a priority of me, and we have a fabulous time together. I’m not in a place where I need to change anything. I’m happy with where we are. But my brain doesn’t let me stop thinking about things that bother me emotionally even when I know intellectually that I don’t need to be concerned about them. When I write a post like this, I worry about what his reaction will be at my bluntness, but in the interest of being authentic, and true to myself, I write as if he isn’t a member of my “audience”.
I had never considered my commitments to my partners different than my commitment in my marriage. Not that I thought from the beginning that they were equivalent to F, because that was never the case, because we had kids, 14 years together, and were completely committed to each other. I never thought of dating someone for anything other than a committed relationship. I have always acknowledged that each relationship has its own intrinsic limits and insisted that each relationship evolve in a way free from expectations. I never considered that there was a guaranteed end to a relationship. I see zero reason why I can’t be a girlfriend who is not a nesting partner but who is a girlfriend for the rest of my partner’s life. I don’t enter my relationships thinking that they are temporary. Maybe I’m naive? Maybe I’m too committed? I just don’t think of my partners as disposable or unimportant and I don’t want to be thought of as disposable or unimportant. Is it not possible to have a long-term or even lifetime committed relationship as the girlfriend of a married man? And why doesn’t that married man love me yet?
***Sorry A, I got raw and honest and decided to put it out there tonight. You don’t have to respond. It’s me processing. I love you. ***