My friends call it venom. It’s what makes the men I date come back to me after we’ve decided it wasn’t going to work. Sometimes the return is immediate, sometimes many years later. Even the men themselves claim that whatever it is about me is like a poison – they can’t stand to be around it but once away from it, or given the prospect of not having it anymore, they have to have it. “I’m addicted to you,” is a common phrase. I don’t believe it’s really a poison. I don’t even really think it’s me, necessarily, as much as it is insecurity about what lies ahead.
I’ve dated a lot. I’ve kissed a lot of people (I have not slept with nearly as many as I have kissed by comparison – and in fact, there are very few notches in my figurative bedpost). I’ve been in my fair share of relationships. As you’ve probably gathered if you’ve read any of the earlier posts, some of them worked better than others. The smorgasbord of men that have entered and left my life have had very little in common – all different ages, sizes, shapes, jobs, preferences, lifestyles, everything. Except for one thing: once it’s over, they come back. They always, always come back.
Once upon a time, in my younger days, I liked this. Watching them squirm, watching them beg, watching them ask to come back after they had so resolutely walked out the door was gratifying. But things are different now. It’s not that I’m not still a bitch. I certainly can be. But at thirty, my perspectives have changed a bit. I look back on things, I understand why they work and why they don’t, I know what I need out of another person, I understand that people fundamentally do not change (because how many times have people tried to change me only to fail?), and that this game of cutting me loose and then coming back at a later date is a waste of time. You don’t suddenly wake up one morning and find yourself compatible with someone you weren’t compatible with the day before.
However, I’ve also realized that, at least in my case, no matter how clean a breakup, there’s always some residual. They want to talk. They want to sleep with me. They want to be with me. They want to reminisce (and for what purpose I cannot even begin to imagine). This “residual” has become a way of life, and I’ve learned to accept it. I’ve learned to be cordial. I’ve learned to keep them at arm’s length. And when I’m single, it works out well. It doesn’t affect anyone but me, there is nothing really to contaminate by tolerating it. Sometimes there’s the occasional, “Huh” moment when I realize that I hadn’t thought of this person in years. But for the most part, it’s just entertainment. Amusement. A break from the norm.
Until I start seriously seeing someone. Then that same venom often instigates drama to the max. Past situations have played out like this: The new boyfriend gets jealous. The ex-boyfriend asks me to leave my current situation. I am caught in the middle of an impossible love triangle that I never wanted. No matter how much I assure the new boyfriend that I do not want to be with the ex-boyfriend, sparks fly, there is suspicion, it is not ideal. Some of the exes back off easily. They fade back into the shadows where they belong, and I get to move forward with whomever I am with. Others are more persistent. And again, to what purpose I cannot imagine – some of these men are even married now.
With the housecleaning last fall, I cleaned that slate. I blocked email addresses. I blocked chat partners. I removed people from Facebook pages. I deleted phone numbers. I was determined that, when I did find someone I wanted to date again, this was not going to be an issue anymore. I am tired of the surprises, I am tired of the drama, I am tired of the suspicion– because I have never cheated and will never cheat (but try convincing someone else of that when you’re still getting emails and calls from your exes). A year before, I’d given my ex husband the boot entirely, ignoring him until he stopped calling. I was no longer babysitting his house, we have no shared debt, there are no children – there was no reason to get in contact with me. I could have a clean slate.
I am seeing someone else now. I like this one a lot. The compatibility is, so far, there and I am happy. I do not want to fuck it up. And so I was very glad when this all began that I’d had the foresight over the housecleaning days to rid my current life of the past relics. There would be nothing, this time, to come back to haunt this relationship. Things have been going splendidly. Peacefully, even. There has been no interference, and we’ve been free to get to know each other, to talk. I’ve gotten to go to bed still smiling over some of the stuff we’d laughed about.
And then it came – the dreaded email. This time from the one email address I HADN’T blocked. Because I hadn’t thought it was prudent to do so. It was my ex-husband. The email had been friendly enough. I’d answered it in a sentence, sure to mention that I was, in fact, seeing someone else. Not to gloat. I wasn’t gloating. But as a precaution I wanted to take, especially in this situation. The emails continued – they were reminiscent of the past – the “good times”. The stuff we’d done together. The emails asked if I was happy. Did I think my current situation could go somewhere? Did I think it would work?
I gave him no details. I didn’t take the bait and I laughed at first. The things he reminisced over, these so called “good times” and the “feelings” I had about him… what I really wanted to tell him was that the “feelings” I had were just the echoes of an inexperienced nineteen year old looking for a way out of her current situation and in making the attempt to do that, unwittingly bit off more than she could chew. Had I known how bad it was going to be, I doubt seriously that I would have pursued it any further. And those good days? I wanted to laugh even harder – there were no good days. Not full ones. There were good minutes, afternoons, evenings. But almost always those ended in an argument, more dodging of flying objects, furniture being broken… yes, of course, absolutely I want to remember the “good times”… when I am delusional!
Furthermore, to use those things to compare that relationship to the one I have now? Because essentially that was what he was trying to do – in a pathetic, one-sided way. There is no comparison. Not in the slightest. Besides the fact that I am older, besides the fact that I am more experienced, and besides the fact that I do, in fact, know what I want, not once has my current boyfriend verbally or emotionally abused me the way that I was abused in that marriage. I shouldn’t have tolerated it then. I certainly wouldn’t tolerate it now. And to try to place a comparison of where I am now to where I was then… it’s insulting. It’s insulting to me, to my progress, and to my relationship. My friends say my ex is doing this to manipulate me into coming back. He may well be, I am not sold on that theory, but I don’t have any that are better or more valid.
Whatever the motive, needless to say, I was livid. I AM livid. I’m livid because my housecleaning process wasn’t as complete as I thought it was. There are still skeletons in the closet that rear their ugly heads. Bringing up the past brought up the bad memories, the bad feelings, the insecurities, the ghost of the person I was then even though there is but a shadow of her left now. But it also made it evident that there are still exorcisms I have to do, and they must be done, or else they will continue to haunt me. I do not, in this case, feel that it’s going to threaten anything. Not for the time being, leastways, and I am not letting it get any further than where it went. That email address has been blocked as well.
Now my job is to walk on. Walking on is the easy part. I have two feet. They work. And they are very good at moving forward when they need to be. But the other part of that job is to let go of that anger – it’s counterproductive. What’s done is done – I did the best that I could with what I had. I lived in darkness for such a long time that now, when the darkness comes for me, it is easy for me to get caught up in it again. I don’t want to live in the darkness right now. I am happy. There are challenges here, sure, but as I’ve said before, I believe that the overall end will justify the means. And let me restate it – I am happy. I am not being asked to change. I am not doubting my self-worth. I laugh, I REALLY laugh with and at this person in ways I’d forgotten were possible.
And so, at thirty, I closed the door on my past. I cut all of the unconstructive, damaging ties that kept me there. I am still bandaging the wounds that broke open, but they will heal. If any of the so-called venom I poisoned people with in the past is still having an effect, it’s no longer my problem. It is inconsequential. Those people are where they now belong. I am busy, I’m preoccupied. I am moving ever forward. What will come, will come, but at least this time I’m not waiting for it in the darkness. There is laughter coming out of my apartment these days. My neighbors likely think I’ve gone mad. And I’m surprised that the world hasn’t ended yet.