I spent a huge chunk of my growing up feeling flawed and damaged. I felt very much an outsider, and sold myself out in my longing to belong and be accepted. The older I got, the more ways I found to hide from those feelings of deficiency.
In adolescence, I had escaped into my imagination, including into the world of novels and movies. In adulthood, I escaped into friendship, studying, career, travel and collecting ‘stuff’. During this time of seeking refuge, I always had at the back of my mind that I would truly find myself and be healed once I was in the arms of another – aka in a relationship.
I look back now and smile, for during that stage of my life, I made no distinction between – a hook-up, fling, dating or relationship; as far as I was concerned then, they were all relationships! (I actually only recently discovered that there was a difference between these categories – who knew!). As I moved from encounter to encounter, yearning and longing to feel whole again, I often felt like I was walking from door-to-door, with a ‘love for sale’ sign on my back.
In the quest to find myself in the arms of another, I entered a relationship 10 years ago that was to become such a defining moment in my life journey. This relationship came to mind this past weekend as I was co-facilitating a weekend workshop based on ‘The Velvet Rage’, by Alan Downs. In one of the sessions we looked at healing the relationship trauma that a number of gay men go through. In his book, Alan identifies four types of relationship trauma experienced by gay men –Betrayal, Abuse, Abandonment & Relationship Ambivalence.
I facilitated the group looking at relationship ambivalence – ‘being in a relationship with a man who at times is warm and caring, but once he senses that his partner is drawing closer to him emotionally, he backs off and becomes distant………. The traumatic wounding that is created in the ambivalent relationship is a slow but steady process that causes the recipient to question his ability to function in the relationship’. As the group stood round the table capturing on flipchart what this form of trauma meant to them, I found myself transported back to November 2001, when I myself what in the throws of such a relationship.
On getting home from the workshop, I dug through my ‘stuff’ and found an email that I had sent to my then boyfriend. I remember printing off the email shortly after sending it to him and reading it over and over for many months. As I read the email this past day, I was reminded that it was during this relationship that I came to learn that looking for myself in a relationship was futile and that deep down, I knew this all along. I share that email with you here,
I slept badly again last night. Kept tossing and turning, wondering how the relationship between us ended up here. Through the night I remembered those precious moments when I’d be curled up in your arms – the sweetest, compassionate and nicest man I’d met. I look back at the troubled moments we had and remember thinking ‘this is just a phase, it’ll go away’ – but on the contrary, the phases kept getting worse. I am now at a stage where I am having trouble remembering that sweet, compassionate, nice man I fell in love with, who use to hold me close and tell me how wonderful I was, that man who hoped we’d be together for a very long time.
Walking out of my relationship with you is probably one of the hardest things I have done to-date, but I am turning into someone I never thought I could be. I am at a stage where I am reacting to your every action (and you reacting to mine). Yes, I’ve been willing for us to stay together and help you through ‘whatever’, but it appears you’re not willing to go through the pain – with each of my gestures given in love, you lash out making me look and feel like the wicked, unloving boyfriend. All I was doing was simply loving you.
I fell in love with a bright, sexy, sensitive and sometimes loving person and I did feel that I could stay with you no matter what – it now looks like in staying, I am in danger of losing my sense of being.
You have been a gift to me. You have helped me look at myself. I see a lot of you in me and as we all that scaring me, it has made me think about my own life experiences. I am lucky to have met you and will treasure our quality times (and hope that you are able to do the same). Your passion and sensitivity is something I admire; whether it was done to manipulate or it was sincere I’ll never know; but to me it was always sincere. You will always occupy as [a] special place in my heart. Our time together has been precious – the good and the bad days, but I guess in the name of self-preservation and self-love it’s time to call it a day.
We got back together, two months after the email was sent – ‘letting go’, is another lesson I was learning; our OutTales theme for November – and finally ended about 4 months later. In walking away, I came to understand for the first time in my life that in order to find myself, I had needed to lose myself first.
Copyright © 2011 OutTales.