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She put the house up
For sale

I saw my past life
Flashing before my eyes

The kitchen
Where I made dinner
And that day I made more naan
Than we could eat, but I did it
Without my shirt on

The kitchen
Where she left me notes by the coffee pot
The coffee pot that kept me going on the hardest days

The kitchen
Where I hung that ee cummings poem somewhere I have never travelled gladly beyond

But she replaced it

Twice

The kitchen
Where she screamed at me
That time I had an accident
And melted

The kitchen
where I finally yelled
“I deserve to be with someone who wants to support me emotionally”

The living room
Where she threw that candle at me
And broke my foot

The living room
Where the television
Still holds my face print from when we hung it, and I almost dropped it

The living room
Where I spent days painting
But on the last day made her help
And I didn’t wear any pants

The living room
Where the couch we bought is 
falling apart from the time she fucked that other girl there and the lotion
The lotion ate away the faux leather

The dining room
With the chairs I hand sanded and painted
It took me a week
And cost me a pair of shoes

The dining room
Where I painted the built in cabinets with the wrong color because she didn’t help me that time

The dining room
Where we hardly ever ate

The spare bedroom
She told her parents was my room

And when I made it my office
She complained at the mess I work through

The spare bedroom
Where I painted alone
Again because she refused to help

The spare bedroom

The spare bedroom

And her bedroom
She painted again
The second time I left

She painted again on the day she demanded I come get my stuff

And her bedroom
Where she called the other side of the bed the pssenger side

And her bedroom
That she shared with me
And her and her and her and her

And her bedroom
Where she choked me in the closet

And her bedroom

And the front porch
Where I watched the rain
And read my books

The front porch
Smoking cigarettes

The back yard
Where I read books to her

The back yard
That she refused to fence in

The back yard

That caved in

The back yard
And the driveway
We resealed together
Pulling weeds and filling cracks

She put the house up
For sale
I walked through it one more time

And cried

And closed the door

Without slamming it

Without leaving a key
this time

I guess it’s haunted

I guess it’s time

The Reasons I Will Never Be Over My Ex

How long does it take to get over a long term relationship? You mean, that 8 years? You mean, like, my whole twenties? 

How long is it going to take you to get over your twenties? Do you even really want to? Probably not. So, I’m not going to “get over” my ex. 

Getting over her would be the equivalent of stripping me of half my identity. Taking away all the lessons. No, I don’t want to get over her. I want to integrate all that into a new way of being. 
If you didn’t get spend your twenties in a relationship, or in my case, a slightly different version of the same relationship over and over and over and over again…then maybe you won’t understand this answer. But it’s the only one I’ve got. 

I will never be “over” my ex. I don’t even really know what that is supposed to mean. I know that “we didn’t work out” and I know why. I know that we didn’t really have “relationship problems” we had unresolved childhood wounds that drove a necessary wedge between us so that I could finally heal. So that, hopefully, she could, too. I love her more for this than any of the memories that we created in our eight years of on again off again passionately toxic relationship. 
I won’t put a time stamp on my grief process. I’ve had months of anger, broken up by weeks of bargaining, I’ve hit the wall of acceptance just to swing back into denial. 
I’ve believed that she is my twin flame, a karmic soul mate, a false twin flame, a demon, a dark spirit, the only one who really knows how to love me, and that she never really loved me at all. 
I’ve believed that I wasn’t good enough, that I was too good, that I couldn’t make it work, that she wasn’t willing to make it work, that fear got in the way, that she resented my progress, that she would never face her shadow self or her true self, and that I actually had. 
So, no I won’t ever get over her. She wasn’t a goddamn speed bump, she wasn’t a hill or a mountain to climb. She was and always will be-the one who cracked me open, but couldn’t look inside. She couldn’t stay, so she asked me to go. I don’t blame her. I begged her to let me go or meet me where I was. I want to say she chose the easy way out, but nothing about this has been easy. 
I love her. Today, differently than I ever have before. Today, I love her the same way I am finally able to love me-for all the cracks and deficits, and for all the laughter and smiles. I love her for everything that she has been through, and everything we have been through together. I love her for everything that she brought to me. 

I love her because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t really be ME. 

So, I won’t be getting over her. I have placed her gently outside my pain. I have put her in a pocket of my heart where I will carry her with me always. Sometimes, you might see me drifting. It is her voice I am hearing-sometimes as my inner critic and I will still tell her to shut it, and sometimes as my cheerleader and I will thank her for finally understanding what we couldn’t seem to grasp back then. 

I don’t plan on getting over her, because I will not commit myself to an impossible task. I let her go. Cut myself free of the bondage that the toxicity of our relationship bred. But get over her? That just wouldn’t be fair to me. 

A Letter to My Future Partner:

Lover-

I can’t predict the future, but I know you’ll be fit just right. We will stand toe to toe, listen ear to ear and heart to heart. We will grow spirit to spirit and mind to mind.  

I’ve been preparing myself to be the woman that someone like you wants to love. Don’t be confused, this is not about you. I don’t even know exactly who you are; so, I’m pretty damn excited that I’m not trying to shove myself into a box that doesn’t fit my spirit in order to keep you around. No, I am expanding into myself; seeking only the infinite love that someone like you has for someone like me. 

When you grab me gently around my waist and turn me toward you, know that I have been practicing how to face things instead of keeping my back turned and that this action will require very little effort on your part, but effort nonetheless. And that effort will be matched with the glittering gratitude in my eyes to have finally found someone who understands the power of touch. In these moments, I will surrender myself to you. 

We will hold hands in private and in public. It just has to be, because when the lines on your palm and my palm come together we have destiny, love, life, and heart unified. We will kiss whenever we feel like it-in the rain, the snow, the sunshine, behind trees, under the stars, hello and goodbye, foreheads and eyelids-our lips will be our tour guides. 

There will be days I am dark and stormy. You’ll know, but you won’t be afraid of my storm. You’ll make me tea, or pour me a good beer, and sometimes we will have to pour one out to get the one I really wanted. But you won’t be upset that your guess was wrong. You’ll hold my hand and wait to see if it will bring a smile or an onslaught of tears. You will never know for sure. You’ll do it anyway, knowing that either option is just another flowing expression of my love. And your love will keep me safe in place. 

We will challenge each other. We will push each other through the fear, because we know that in the other side of that is something we really, truly want. We will celebrate every tiny victory, and every failure. Let there always be ice cream for this. 

You will have bad days, and good days. I will ask you questions on all of them. Sometimes you’ll be annoyed, but you’ll never ever tell me I talk too much. You already know that the best way to shut me up is to kiss my lips and give them something else to explicate. Even a shhhh can be a movement toward love. I promise to always meet you there. 

We will say “I love you,” in so many ways. The words themselves will build their strength through holding space and gratitude. We will use its silent power to always bridge the gaps that inevitably form between two people just trying to make it through this thing we call life. 

You will drift away from yourself. I will drift away from myself. We will put each other back on track. We will know when we need space it does not mean moving away from each other, but a deeper need to connect to our Self so that we can connect more deeply with each other. We will know when it is time to find an adventure together. We will be all in, even if that means stepping aside for just a little bit. 

You will know my history, and I will know yours. We will use all the heartache to open to each other as we learn the true power of vulnerability, and that when we are with the right person there is no more need to build walls. Emotions will run hot and cold, but we will always push toward that perfect balance of warmth between us. It may not happen quickly. There may be days or weeks that we just cannot seem to get the temperature right. Adjustments we will make.  

We will make it a point to hug each other every day. Even if our schedules get so hectic we don’t see each other during the waking hours. Because you and I have both learned that distance can only be bridged when we take the action to make contact. NOBODY cares if I’m sleeping-hug me so that you never forget how much you like to. And even if I’m afraid to hug you after a long stressful day, I will because I came to this life to give and receive love and hugs are the simplest expression. 

We will make love. Often. And sometimes not often enough, but we will never allow that to disrupt our passion for each other. We know that life gets in the way sometimes, but we will talk about the sex we aren’t having until we can bring it back in. You won’t be afraid to wake up a little extra early or go to sleep a little later. There is no right or wrong time to have sex, there is only creating the space for it to exist. You will know this, and we will always create space for loving each other wholly. 

We will cook together or not cook together. Sometimes we will eat together and other times there will be a prepared plate waiting for our later than usual arrival. Meals will be important and will not be consumed in front of the television. If the only time we get to spend together is for dinner-we will make sure that it counts as contact. This is a relationship built on quality. 

We will have a garden. One for flowers and one for fruits and vegetables. We will struggle with this, but we will be determined to help it grow. We will pour our overflowing love into it. We will not be afraid to get our hands dirty. 

We will always make an excuse to get outside. We will sleep in tents until our bodies can’t handle it anymore. Then we will buy a camper.  We will look at the stars and not need to talk about them. Maybe we will talk about them. It doesn’t matter. We will gaze up taking in the natural phenomena, and you won’t bring up the word “phenomena” because you’re tired of hearing about phenomenology. Instead-you’ll shift your wonder into sounds of “ooohh” and “ahhhh,” and I’ll give you a phenomenological lecture anyway. 

When you take my picture to post or not to post, but to put me into a framing mechanism so that you can go back and access that moment whenever you would like; I will thank you. I might even laugh at your attempt to contain me, but you’ll already understand the value of a moment, and the relationship between space and time. I will meet you with the words that shape my world and my soul to show you that we are all art, we are all expressivists, and we all deserve to create and keep precious memories. 

Our home will be filled with books, plants,  and photographs. We will know the value of adventures: intellectual, physical, and spiritual. Some we will share, others we will have on our own. Some over the course of weeks and others in the course of an hour. We will never settle our growth, but we will create a place of peace and serenity to always return to. This is what we will call our home. 

There will be one, maybe two children. We will laugh and cry together as we realize that parenting is like super fucking hard. But we will look back on all the stuff we have been through, and know that this is just another challenge worth taking on. Because we know now that the most important lesson this life has given us is to know and believe in the power of creativity. 

We will be madness and we will be chaos. All of this will be apparent by the smiles we wear plastered on our faces almost all the time. We will be fueled by laughter and we will honor our fear. I will meet you, and you will meet me. Together we will grow, always. Together, we will build an adventure and call it our life. 

Until we return to the stars. 

Whoever you are, I hope you come in soon. I’m waiting for someone like you. 

-Love

Excuse Me, There’s A Reason For This Madness

She was right in thinking that turning our past wounds into excuses isn’t healthy or good. I actually made a lot of excuses for her because I knew her history. I wanted her to feel safe. Ultimately, it wasn’t as productive as what I can now understand to be the truly loving work that happens between two people. 

The primary difference between a reason and an excuse is accountability. 

A reason is a logical and objective explanation of cause and effect. An excuse places blame on something external. 

To break it down simply: 

reason=responsibility 

Excuse=escape

Excuses add bricks to the walls we build. Reasons carve out doorways. 

To relate that to some of the situations that WE have encountered I would argue it as a temporal thing. Of course we are shaped by our past. But if we bring up the past as a justification as to why we are behaving a certain way in the present-that is an excuse. If we are able to identify the current problem objectively and take accountability for our contribution to the current shitty circumstance then we have found a reason things have taken the turn they’ve taken. With this, reasons help find solutions for better actions in the future. Excuses keep us tethered to old patterns of behavior by handing our power back to the painful circumstance that shaped our world view. World views are allowed to change, and I think they should often. This is an indication of growth. To be clear, there are many indicators of growth in life, but I am speaking specifically of emotional growth. 

I have been doing a lot of work to understand my old childhood wounds, and working to heal them. In other words, I have been thinking about this a lot. 

They say that nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to learn. I guess I knew there was more learning to be had with her. So, I’m grateful to re-open the door, and the pain. 

I’m not going to say that I have never made excuses, or that I won’t do it in the future. However, I do find a certain sort of liberation in understanding the critical difference between these two modes of thought. 

I’m trying to decipher which of those were reasons or excuses. It still ends up being a temporal thing to me. As children we are easily impressionable, and it takes a lifetime to come back into our true selves. My goal in this life is to unlearn all the negative bullshit that has been projected on me from external sources, and people who can’t or won’t be honest about their pain. 

She said that she doesn’t understand how it [love/relationship] could work with someone else if it didn’t work with me after being together for as long as we were. Time invested doesn’t mean shit if the walls are still there. 

We can’t change our pasts, but we can change our reaction to it. Listening to her last night showed me that she is still in the victim role. We are often victimized as children. But we don’t have to stay there as adults. She said that she doesn’t mind being the hardass at work because as long as she can justify the value for the greater good, then she’ll do the thing that other people don’t necessarily want to do. I think that is totally fine, admirable even. Yet, it ultimately comes down to motivation. 

The work persona and the personal life persona are slightly different. When the “love of your life” tries to explain that they are not happy in the relationship it is not an attack on you, but a demonstration of love; a person who really cares about wanting to make things better. I know I put a lot of things on her-thinking if she could do something different then we would be better, and this often kept me from taking responsibility for my own shitty (codependent) habits. 

I don’t want to be codependent anymore. It is self destructive, and it keeps me in a constant position of powerlessness. I am not powerless. 

Those walls we build to keep us protected from the threats of the external world are not safe heavens. They are prisons that deny us the true freedom that comes with real love built from vulnerability. Each brick in that wall is an excuse. Reasons are what will pull them down. We can hide and run for as long as we would like. I know that I am finally ready for something different. 

I wish her the best in all that she does. No matter how much I still want it to be her that I share my life with, I’m FINALLY beginning to understand that no matter how much she has to offer someone, she does not have what I need. 

I came to this life to face and conquer fears. This is not easy, and it often leaves me in a state of anxiety and frustration. I’m learning that this energy can be used to propel me forward. I don’t always know what steps to take, and she’s right, sometimes I just need someone to tell me where to go, or what step to take. I’m looking for the person who always wants that first step to be toward them, and if they can see that I’m too scared to take it, then they step in closer toward me. I’m looking for the people who want to stand next to me when those arresting moments happen. The people who want to encourage me to take a step and do so by stepping toward me and not away. I want a person who isn’t going to look at my discontent as a fault, but for what it really is-a yearning for something more. Because this is the kind of person I want to be for myself, and for my partner. 

Comfort zones are great, but nothing ever grows there. I don’t want my comfort confined to a zone. I want safety. I want to be uncomfortable so I know I’m moving forward. I want risks and failures and movement. I want more and always more. 

I have been stuck for the past year. Sure, I moved to another state. Sure, I got into a phd program. Sure, I’ve done a lot of growth internally. I’ve retreated into my quiet space. I’ve wrapped myself in a cocoon. I’m ready to emerge from it, and I have no idea what the next step is supposed to be. What I do know is that I can’t be with someone who sees those cocooning periods as withdrawal. In my mind, they are not that. It’s about growth and understanding. I suppose I can admit that it would be helpful if I could articulate this process a little more clearly. Self-awareness usually comes from mistakes. 

Part of this creatively analytical mind I have brings forth a whole lot of daydreaming. As I work through the possibilities of where I want to go and what I want to do, I take my time. When I decide what I want, then I will take the action steps to get there. I’ve spent the larger part of the last year hung up on her. No matter how many people told me not to be. I asked her about these things, and she made excuses as to why we could not have those things that I thought would bring growth and togetherness. “I just can’t see it happening.” And “When do you think you’ll actually have time for a kid?” Were the excuses she offered. And even, “You talk about these things like they’re something you want in your own life, but you’ve never said you wanted them with me,” like, who else would I be talking about? See, external circumstances blamed for her own inability to create something new. The reason was fear. To be fair, she’s admitted that, but it didn’t change her perspective. 

The facts are there, and pretty clearly laid out. We aren’t compatible people. My primary hang up was that I had decided the direction I wanted our life to go, and she all but denied that possibility with no wiggle room. This threw me into a tailspin of uncertainty and disorientation. Although I wrapped my mind around it BEFORE I left-the mind is a tricky place to be. There are things I left behind that I associate with security and safety. Our home. Our home life. Dual income. Comforts. And of course, my dream of having a family. Ultimately, she WAS right; I don’t need her, specifically, to achieve those things. I just need someone who is ready and willing to take that risk with me. 

She told me that she felt like the only reason I wanted her to move with me was for financial assistance. But we never even merged our finances. Her money was hers, and my money was ours. She is the one who told me to just take out the loan, and be a normal student. She never, ever indicated that this would be something WE could figure out together. Then, more recently, she said that after she got the first paycheck from her promotion, she wished she had her “spouse” there to share it with. I got hung up on the shift from accusation to celebration, but that’s a moot point. This is just more of the same. Her narrative shifts, and makes no sense in relation to the previous plot points. 

Ultimately, none of this about money for me. It’s safety and security. Emotional support. Comfort. I realized that I have those things on my own. In fact, I have those things built with a much more solid foundation here than I ever did there. This is the reason I left, and took responsibility for my own life. I needed something different. Something that did not exist in that space. I don’t need to beat the dead horse. We both know I’m not going back. 

I’m finally finished with the push and pull. I can see how that whole game was fueled by excuses. I pushed when I was triggered. I pulled when she didn’t react the way I needed her to. The reason I left is because she does not have what I need-openness, vulnerability, strength, and emotional security. Just excuses piling up bricks in a wall that I will never be able to break down. 

New Freedom to Choose

“For once, I just want you to choose me!”

“I choose you every day,” I fired back, eyes full of tears and hands full of tremble. 

Projection is tricky. Sure, this was coming out of a fight. One where I was admitting to doing something shady and secretive. Where I had made a friend, a particular friend of which she did not approve. Let’s just be honest, she didn’t approve of any of my friends. 

Sure, we had “her friends.” The friends who, after our splitting in 2012 she made it explicitly clear which ones I was and was not allowed to have contact. 

But this friend-she said- “You’re inviting the devil in.” But I needed clarity for my own conscience. Sure, this was the woman she dated while we were separated. But it was more than that. I needed to have contact with this woman to allow my own soul to rest. It took a few rounds before I was finally truly able to put it all to rest. 

She said, “You’re searching for something. I think you need a little introspection here.” She wasn’t wrong. But neither was I. The more she resisted, the more I thought there was a truth that might be uncovered that might reveal her as the fraud she really was. That’s not exactly how it went down. Not at first, anyway. 

I know there was a piece of her that understood. Because months later she acknowledged that it had nothing to do with her. And I had tried to tell her that from the start. Sure, it was exasperated by her actions. Most of this came from my own issues with self-worth, self-judgment, and self-criticism. I felt less than against this woman. I needed to know that she was not the monster I made her out to be. And I needed to let her know that she was not the monster I made her out to be. And I needed to show that I was not as horrible as the part I had been playing. It still took some time. 

Secrets and lies breed secrets and lies. 

I told her about my intentions. I told her I wanted to be this woman’s friend. She didn’t approve. She said she didn’t want to hear anything else about it. So, I didn’t talk about it anymore. She was angry because she said I asked for things, but it didn’t matter what her response was; ultimately, I was going to do whatever I wanted. 

Even my mother told me to find a different friend. I didn’t understand. I longed to be around people with common interests. Poets and weirdos. Artists with a hunger that only artists know. I wanted to build respect out of a space I had destroyed. I wanted a fucking friend. I couldn’t understand why that had to be so closely mediated by anyone other than myself. I felt completely powerless. So, I pursued the friendship in secret. 

When it took an unexpected turn, I cut off contact. I remember saying, “You’re not wrong, but this isn’t right.” 

I wrote my lover a note. I had to wrap my own mind around the betrayal that I had created, and come to terms with it on my own. I shoved the note in my desk drawer-waiting for a better opportunity. Sometimes, people just want to be caught so they don’t have to face their misdeeds directly. Maybe that’s what I was doing. 

I put this note in my desk-and right into the only drawer that she ever accessed. I really didn’t even think about it. I woke up the next morning with my drafted letter along with a note from her reading: “Great. Just another lie that I need to be okay with.”

Let’s be honest, here. I have lied. That, to my recollection was lie number two. The first one I apologized for profusely. I took the easy way out of a complicated situation. I had learned a little something along the way. This was not like that. First, I was told to remain silent. Which I tried to oblige. Second, I was left feeling as though I had zero control over my choices, and like any angry teen-I rebelled and reacted against the forces that be. 

I had every intention of telling her. In the meantime-I deleted all traces of contact between myself and this person. Guilty conscience, I suppose. 

I told her that I fucked up. I faced that guilt with a rapid heart beat and trembling hands. I admitted I made a mistake. I apologized. I faced my human parts. And I meant it. It was a learning opportunity. I knew that. And I meant it. 

She was right, though. I was searching for something. And I did find it. I needed somewhere to go to be heard. I needed someone that understood me. I needed to be around a person who could hold space for my confusion. I wish that could have been my partner, but it wasn’t. And that wasn’t enough to make me leave. 

I struggled with this. One of my dearest friends told me-“Don’t leave the 80 for the 20.” My faith in my relationship was suddenly restored. I knew that I could rework my vulnerability into my relationship. I knew I chose her. 

So, when she said, “For once, I just want you to choose me!” I heard, “You only think of yourself.” Which was completely untrue. In fact, it was so far from the truth it was the polar opposite of the truth. More often than not, when I made a choice that sought to contribute solely to my personal growth-I was met with this fierce opposition from her. Although she could, would, and did do whatever the hell she wanted. Befriended whoever she wanted. Kept secrets whenever she wanted. Forged relationships in secret whenever she wanted. Made plans that she didn’t tell me anything about with people she would later fuck when our SHIT would hit the fan. Or, when she would throw it in the fan just to have an escape route whenever she was feeling a little too tied down by my need to advance the relationship from one space to another. 

I did choose her every day. I don’t know why she couldn’t see that. Our relationship began when I chose her over another woman who I was completely and totally infatuated with. I chose her because I thought we could build the kind of life I wanted. I looked at her and saw the potential for a family, and a quiet life. 

I chose her for a potential I’m now not certain she actually possessed. I kept choosing her. If I didn’t then what is the logic of being out of the relationship in 2011, 2012, and 2013- just to ALWAYS end up back in it? 

I didn’t choose this other woman over her. No, I chose to explore something I needed to explore and she hated the idea. And everyone around me exercised their perceived right to tell me I was playing with fire. Despite the fact that all of these people had been closely linked to this person at some point in their recent history. I wasn’t buying the projection. I wanted my own freedom to choose who and what and why I had different relationships in my life. 

Maybe I’m really bad at making choices. Maybe I’m really bad at reading people. Maybe I didn’t know what I needed. I can admit, still, that I fucked up. I needed to. Without it-I wouldn’t have been able to see how clearly my autonomy was being stifled. Or how clearly my former partner did not want to face her own shit. None of it had anything to do with her until it did. 

A year and a half later-she, too contacted this woman. According to her, she wanted to tell her that she was sorry because she “had no business pursuing anything with her.” Who knows what she actually said to her. I sure don’t believe anything that comes out of her mouth anymore. 

That need for me to choose her was a projection. One I couldn’t quite see beyond my guilt and knowing that I had let her down, and hurt her. My remorse overpowered my ability to see clearly that what she was asking for was the one thing she wasn’t able to give me. Sure, she chose me. Out of loneliness, fear and comfort. And I chose her for many of the same reasons. I chose her because I loved her, or I thought I did. As time went on I started to notice that many times when I was saying “yes” to her I was clearly saying “no” to me. 

And now, with her out of the picture and my final understanding that if I were to reconcile all the weight that I carry in my heart it was her who had to go-I am finally able to choose someone other than her. I can finally choose me. And that is beautiful. 

The Beginning of the Final Ending: Oct 30, 2015

“I would be willing to marry you, if that was something you needed for this relationship to work.”

“Excuse me? WHAT?”

We were on a date. The first one we had been on in quite some time. I had taken the night off work at my restaurant job because I had a conference presentation scheduled for the next morning. I was nervous. Standing in front of a room of scholars to present one’s own ideas is intimidating to say the least. 

We had gone to one of our favorite spots. I didn’t make a reservation because I didn’t think it would be that difficult to get searing for a party of two. 

We waited for nearly two hours. The duration of the wait was extended by the weight of the silence that had been building between us. I was nervous for the presentation, but I was also scared of the direction our relationship was heading. I guess, I didn’t know what I wanted or what she wanted or where we even were. I had been trying to bring up the discomfort that had become our existence with each other. She didn’t seem to feel the same kind of discomfort. I felt our connection waning, and I didn’t know how to get it back. I needed something, but I wasn’t sure if she had it to give. I wasn’t sure how to ask for it. I wasn’t sure how to put it into words. I just knew something wasn’t quite right. 

After our really long wait, and the tossing around of ideas of where else we might go to satisfy our need for food-“No, I do not want to eat from a hot dog food truck. That does not appeal to me in any kind of way,” I said. 

The host took us to our table. I looked at the art hanging on the wall. It was a lonely picture. Blues and yellows. A woman sitting in a chair. It was titled: “These Two Needed to Have a Serious Talk.” 

The universe is so fucking cute. 

I felt so heavy. So helpless. So empty of any ability to express or make sense of anything I was feeling. I dropped my stuff and went to the bathroom. When I returned, that’s when she said it. 

“I would be willing to marry you if that is something you need for this relationship to work.”

I’ll never forget it. The way she presented this marriage proposal as a solution to the weight of our co-existence. This is not the kind of shock I was expecting to come from a marriage proposal. 

Her and I held strongly opposed views of marriage. When we first got together at 21 and 22 years old we agreed-marriage was a feeble institution and the consistent political fighting about whether or not gays should have the right to marry turned us both off from the idea that it was something we would ever need in order to feel complete in our relationship. I remember that conversation. We were driving to my parents house. 

Deep in the rebellion that defined my late teens and early twenties-i didn’t want labels or constriction. I didn’t want anniversaries or celebrations. I thought gifts were a cop-out. (I actually do still believe gifts are a sort of cop-out) I thought this made me freer. I was wrong. This was fear. 

Both of our histories had determined that marriage was a kind of trap, and often not healthy. My parents divorced right around my first birthday. I didn’t want to be like them. My mom and her current husband were both in their third marriage. I didn’t want to be like them. Her parents had been married her whole life. Despite the toxicity of their relationship-they found a way to make it work. Her father stayed in the basement while her mother ruled the upper level. There’s was more of a business partnership than one ruled by loving affection. She didn’t want to be like them. In that moment-we agreed, at least, about who and what we did not want this relationship to become.  

As time went on, my views about marriage changed. We argued about it a lot. She would say, “I’m committed to you.” I guess I was supposed to believe that. But I wanted an anniversary. I wanted a day that belonged to the celebration of our love and commitment. I wanted a pretty dress, and to write marriage vows, and to have my picture taken with the love of my life under a willow tree. I wanted to stand in front of a group of the people I care about with the person I care about the most and say-“This is my love. This is my life. This is my promise to always be here with you. No matter what. I choose you.” 

We fought about it a lot. And after our separation in 2013-I asked, first, if she would want to get married. More importantly, “What are you going to do about your father when we get married?” 

“He can choose to come, or not come. That’s on him.”

I felt a sense of relief, and a measured sense of growth. I felt like we were on the same page again. I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. 

It was almost two years later, and after a whole lot of moving around the topic without settling on a determined structure or arrangement to be made. We piled up excuses about why this isn’t the right time, or when would be the right time, or how we would afford it. 

“I would be willing to marry you if that was something you needed for this relationship to work.”

It still stings every time I think about it. 

Had she not heard me, ever? Had she not listened to the ways my world view had shifted? Had she not listened to herself when she said that she didn’t want a business-like marriage? Was she just trying to appease me? Did she even WANT this, or to be with me? 

“Excuse me? WHAT? This is not how I expected this to go down. I don’t get it. You always said you didn’t want a relationship like your parents. Something that is reduced to an arrangement made out of necessity. That is exactly what you’re asking me here. If that is how you see this, then I don’t want anything to do with it.”

I could see it in her face that she knew she screwed up the words. That I was disappointed. And that she was internalizing this. I don’t know how long she had prepared this offer in her mind or how much she might have thought she just totally blew it. She did totally blow it. And I totally blew up. 

I had grown tired of making excuses for her. We still needed to make it through this dinner. We still had a second date night destination to get to. And I still had the looming anxiety of my 8 a.m. scholarly presentation ahead of me. 

I was hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. I reacted to her offer in the only way I knew how. 

We had been discussing marriage about a year before that. We looked at rings. We talked about the ones I liked and why I liked them. We had it narrowed down to a couple of perfect prospects. I was never going to be the one that proposed marriage to her because I knew it was my view that had changed. I was waiting for her to be ready. I understood that her fear of commitment was real. We even talked about her brother, and how he and his wife were together for 11 years before they got married. We joked that it was part of their make-up. I needed her to come to me. I needed her to make that choice for herself. I thought we were on our way to uncovering that space in her. The place where she could finally feel safe to be gay and to be loved. 

Then she got sick. When the steroid that she was put on cost nearly $3000 after her insurance’s contribution- I shelved the whole idea. Sometimes life happens, and we have to adjust. I was totally okay with it. I was okay with all of it. I was not okay with this proposal. It felt like a simultaneous dismissal and invitation. I just couldn’t make sense of it. 

We made it through the rest of our date. It was awkward, and the tensions were high. I think she knew that she had hurt me, and I don’t think she had intended that to be the case. I couldn’t find the words to express all of my mounting frustrations. 

We went home and went to bed. The next morning she went to work. I went to present my paper. I never heard anything from her. No good luck. Nothing. No support whatsoever. Perhaps my searching for that was selfish. Perhaps not everyone understands the true value of a kind word in challenging times. Perhaps she was too distraught and preoccupied with the weight of the night before. The date that took place, in my mind, specifically because I took the night off work so that I could present this work at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning.  

After I finished-I called her. 

“Hey, what’s up?” She said. 

“Oh. Nothing. I just finished presenting my paper.”

I was met with silence. I fought back my tears of disappointment, and mounting feelings of shame that she didn’t remember. 

I was tired of making excuses for her. I still couldn’t understand that my needs were not being met in the way I needed them to be. I just kept accepting these crumbs. Even if I were able to articulate the way these transactions were hurting me-it didn’t matter. I couldn’t wrap my mind around why I gave so much and received so little in return. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t seem to be important to her. It seemed like I wasn’t on her mind at all. Maybe I was wrong. I just felt so lonely and so invisible. I cried, alone in the bathroom on campus. I just wanted someone to be proud of me. But not just anyone. I needed it to be her. 

Friends and family members alike helped me rationalize this intense two days. 

“You can’t expect her to be interested in the all the things you’re interested in. Not everything that is important to you will be important to her.”

I thought I understood. She never apologized for forgetting about me. I just kept moving. Trying to forget how much it hurt me. 

Eventually I realized that I didn’t need her to be interested in the same things I was interested in. I needed her to be interested in ME. 

Moving On

I’m not in love with her anymore. 

I write it
to make it more real. 
To come to terms with
its resonances and reverberations. 

I’m not in love with her anymore

And sometimes I don’t know
where that actually leaves me. 

Standing still at the top of the mountain ready to finally walk down the other side. 

Paralyzed by the not knowing
what lies beyond this
beautiful sunset. 

I’m not in love with her anymore. 

All the space she still takes in my heart are just cracks marking the places where I once held her, but couldn’t keep her. 

I’m not in love with her anymore. 

That same phrase over and over again. I say it so I can believe it. 

I’m not in love with her anymore.