human, being


Bad Boyfriends: Joe part 3
April 24, 2009, 1:00 pm
Filed under: bad boyfriends | Tags: , , , , ,

The second in a series of stories about the many bad boyfriends I’ve chosen throughout my life. The story of Joe is a long post, but then it’s a long story. So, I’ve broken it up into three parts. Here’s part 3. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

By month 7 of my relationship with Joe, he had proven to be a master of the disappearing act. He’d usually turn up after a few hours or, at most, the next day. But in mid-June 2005, he disappeared for five days. I was panicked because I couldn’t find him anywhere and he wasn’t returning my calls.

It turned out that the basement apartment he had rented was infested with spiders, and he had been bitten by a black widow. He got very sick and had been in the hospital for three days. Looking at him and at his finger, I believed him. I was relieved, but I was also pissed.

Here I was, the woman he said he loved (over and over he told me, in love letters, in phone calls, during sex, before he fell asleep), and he didn’t bother to call me when he was in the hospital. He didn’t think about the fact that his disappearing would worry me sick. He showed his true colors as a selfish, crazy bastard.

Sitting on a bench in the bus station where I finally found him, I told him I’d decided I was going to take three months away from him, and from men in general. I needed some time to focus on me and my daughter. He tried to convince me that it would be OK to see him, to talk to him, to email him. I knew I had to quit him cold turkey. I needed a break from the rollercoaster. I was exhausted. I had nothing left and I didn’t know how I would get through the day.

I thought having him gone would be enough to hold me together. It wasn’t.

A few days later, everything I’d gone through in the previous 15 months came crashing down on me. I remember sitting in my office, preparing for a team meeting, and starting to shake. I went into our assistant’s office–a woman who had become my confidant and spiritual advisor–and told her I couldn’t, COULDN’T go into that office for the meeting. I started crying hysterically. I had spent a few days after my ex left me in a state of sobbing shock, but I got over it quickly. Or more accurately, I buried the feelings quickly. Now, they were exploding inside me like a geyser.

I took a leave of absence from work.I let myself absolutely fall apart. I thought I’d never stop crying. I thought I’d never feel anything but heartache and sorrow and fury and despair. With lots of support, introspection and courage, I made it through to the other side, and I am so much better for it. I can’t imagine spending my entire life with all of that crap living inside of me. The majority of it got purged in my 8 weeks of leave, but the remainder, the deep-seated, sticky stuff, still runs me to this day.

I surrounded myself with support: a therapist, my church, a lay minister, my friends. On the minister’s recommendation, I attended some Codependents Anonymous meetings, but it made no sense to me to have a bunch of people who were addicted to fixing other people’s problems meet in a 12-step program, and I quickly quit. I spent hours each day walking, meditating, writing, reading. I started going salsa dancing again. I talked to my friends and family, played with Lauren. I started being me again.

Laurel, my best friend, had been my rock since the day I met her in February 2004, and she proved her friendship again and again as I called her instead of calling Joe. My withdrawals from him were painful, visceral. The process of pulling away from him caused me to begin to examine everything that had gone wrong in my marriage–what was my fault, my doing, and what was my ex’s. He had left me in January 2004 after nearly 11 years together and 9 years of marriage. But I wasn’t innocent in the demise of the relationship, and I was ready to think about taking some responsibility.

The summer my divorce was final, 2004, I took a class at my church called “Breakthroughs.” The main point: Sometimes you have to have a breakdown to have a breakthrough. At that time, I thought I’d had my breakdown. But that summer was just dipping my toe into the water. Summer number two-the Summer After Joe–was the real deal.

In September 2005, almost three months after I last talked to him, Joe left me a voicemail. His birthday was coming up. He said he missed me terribly, that he had stopped drinking and was looking for a new job. He said all he wanted for his birthday was to hear my voice. It was so incredibly difficult for me not to call him. It took all of my willpower. I didn’t call. I haven’t called. I won’t call.

I’d like to say I should have kicked Joe out after that first drunk night, but I didn’t, and being in a relationship with him served a great purpose. It furthered me along to the nervous breakdown I needed to have–but wouldn’t allow myself to have–post-divorce.

Being with Joe allowed me to further explore my sexuality, which I felt incredibly ashamed about because I still believed that if I liked sex, I was a slut. While I was with him, I began to loosen up, to accept my thoughts and feelings and desires as normal. I thought the sex with Joe was great, so much so that I lamented to my friend Jennifer that maybe I should keep him around for the sex. She told me good sex was a dime a dozen, and not to worry.

Being with him taught me that being a “fixer”–trying to coach and coax men into being the person I see inside of them instead of letting them be who they are–may help them, but it hurts me.

My biggest lesson with Joe was the understanding that I confuse pity and love. I thought I was in love with him, but really I felt horrible about the life he had lived and wanted to make it better for him. My compassion, coupled with my codependency, felt like love. I thought, as I spiraled down into crazy girlfriend mode, that we might actually stick together for a very long time. But I was projecting all over him, seeing what I wanted to see rather than what was really there. To this day I don’t know who he really was.

Every once in a while, I get a random email from Joe. A few months ago, he wanted to friend me on Facebook, and I blocked him. Yesterday, he started following me on Twitter. I blocked him there.

Someone once told me, “When you’re done, you’re done, but you’re not done until you’re done.” By the end of September 2005, I had spent almost three months alone, without a single date. I felt purged, free, healthy. I was done with Joe for good. I still am.

Next: Robby

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