Friday, June 28, 2019

Irreconcilable Differences

Writing - writing anything – is hard, sometimes. Sometimes it just flows like a river, but right now the river is blocked. I am tempted to say that I’m not sure why, but I have an idea. It’s stress and the source of that stress is also known. Different people will phrase it in different ways, but there are some unpleasant things in life we all must navigate from time to time. Some of those things are universal, others are not, but the disruption and stress that comes from them is unavoidable. We all have to face it. Right now, I am in that mix, a “life on life’s terms” moment. This time it is the end of an almost three-year relationship that included a little more than a year of cohabitation. The specifics of what happened are not anything I need to, have to nor am I willing to talk about. It’s not important. Navigating it is.

Since we combined two households into one, the logistical issues of untangling a year-plus of entanglements is only part of the induced stress. This is not the first time this has happened. My ill-advised and ill-fated marriage ended in the dissolution of our cohabitation in this same house. That situation was significantly different than this one – that relationship ended due largely to many manifestations of dishonesty. It was also different because I moved out (and half-way across the country), too. This house was vacated and rented out for two years. Moving back to this house or back to the Sacramento area was never a sure thing – indeed, at that time it was a pretty sure non-thing. The passage of time softened my perception of what “home” is.

While there is no shortage of pain and hurt this time, there are also no “bad guys,” at least not from my perspective, I cannot and would not speak for her. And what others think or believe is not only none of my business – it’s none of theirs. Regardless, suffice it to say that I did not enter this relationship (or any relationship) with the intention of it ending it at some later date. I did not go through the considerable time, work, expense and compromise of making my home our home simply to go through more considerable time, work and expense to undo it. It begs some obvious questions: Was cohabitating a good idea? Was getting into the relationship at all a good idea? Further, if I was happy alone, or single, or unattached, or however one wishes to categorize anyone who is not in a romantic relationship, why take a risk with establishing one?

The answer to the first two questions is the same. Yes. It was a good idea to both get into that relationship and cohabitate. When applying the same two questions to that train-wreck marriage some years ago, the answer to both is not no, but hell no! Those were decidedly not good ideas and the signs were there. This time that is not the case. It was a good relationship, but there were issues that became intolerable. What those issues are, specifically, is not important. What could have been done to ameliorate them before it became too late is only important inasmuch as how it affects future actions and decisions. But that last question is a good one. Why would I get into a relationship if life was so good? If I was indeed “happy,” why take that risk (because entering any relationship always has risk)?

First, there are numerous kinds of happiness, contentedness, fullness and all sorts of other “nesses” that make up the substance of life. While I was indeed very happy with my life prior to this relationship, and especially in contrast to the storm I emerged from not too long before, I felt that happiness could be enhanced, or take on a new dimension, with a partner. It was a known risk. I thought long about whether I really wanted to make that commitment again. I dragged my feet, I stalled, I had some serious reservations about exposing myself to that kind of pain again. Perhaps due to the caution and slow progression, I had time to notice that we always had a good time when we were together. Ultimately, being together was good and made my otherwise good life better. It extended the level of whateverness and created a newness. Almost two years later, when the idea of living together was approached, I didn’t even think twice about it. It seemed obvious.

I should have thought twice, at least, about it. That doesn’t mean it was a bad idea, it doesn’t mean I regret the decision and it doesn’t mean I would have come to a different conclusion. It only means that I let emotion and the false narrative of “love is all you need” take an unwarranted precedence over the decision. In fact, if I had entertained the thought process of what could go wrong, it is possible that what went wrong might have been avoided or, perhaps, effectively mitigated. There are new and unknown factors that will necessarily materialize when such foundational elements of a relationship change. But that still doesn’t entirely address the last question.

There are two different ways of looking at what arrives at the same paradigm of the “family unit.” We are “supposed” to be connected in a romantic way to someone else. Where that comes from is likely part human biology – an evolutionary response that secures the proliferation of our species – as well as a social construct that drives us towards some connection. Indeed, isn’t that where so much homophobia comes from? This idea that men and women are “designed” to be together, to procreate, and anything that subverts that social tradition represents some kind of threat. Of course, there are numerous traditional relationship examples that contradict that “standard,” but the tradition persists.

Maybe I was looking for my own place myself in that tradition, too. I can’t count how many times, when I was unattached, someone would say, “you’ll find someone,” as though it is some kind of ultimate goal. As much as I think to think myself independent, a “loner,” and as much as I genuinely enjoy my solitude, having that one special person to share life with, combined with that social expectation, had an allure that was impossible to resist. Yet, to make any union successful, certain sacrifices, compromises, concessions and adaptations must be made. Unfortunately, even with a lot of foresight, planning and thought, unknown and, ultimately unacceptable situations can arise. That happened and although the positives were, in fact, positive, the negative could not be brushed aside any longer. I thought I considered all the potential “deal-breakers,” but this one I did not see coming until it was too late.

Unlike my short-lived marriage in 2012, I do not regret this relationship at all. It added richness to my life. We had a lot of fun, too many good times to list. It is sad that this fissure proved to wide to cross. It seems the official cause of so many divorces bares the label, “irreconcilable differences.” Usually that is code for something much more nefarious. Not this time. Our differences are not evil, they are not deceitful, they are not malicious and they are not adversarial. They are just incompatible. I wish they were not.

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