I asked for a sign. I’m spiritual, but not religious. I pray for help occasionally, but I don’t go to church. I was crying, desperate. I just didn’t know what else to do. I asked God, the angels, the universe—whoever or whatever was out there and could hear me—to please send me some kind of sign that would help me decide what to do.
Things were unbearable with Jeff. He was constantly depressed and mopey. He was still trying to make our relationship work, but his hold was slipping. He had absolutely ruined my birthday. He came home early from work that day, not so we could have sex, not so he could give me a massage or just spend some extra quality time with me. No, he came home early because he was depressed. Mind you, he had managed to have business meetings all morning and eat lunch with a client, but when he walked in the door on my birthday, all he could manage for me was a peck on the cheek and “I’m going to lie down.” He didn’t even ask me how my early morning volleyball games had been, or whom I’d heard from that day. When I brought it up to him later, he defended himself with, “I was depressed. There was nothing I could do about it.” Certainly reminded me of birthdays I’d had as a child—my mother was depressed and unable to pull it out for me either. Is that what I wanted for my future children—“Sorry; I know it’s your birthday, son, but Daddy’s depressed today”? Is that what I wanted for myself?
I cut him a little slack. I was extra sensitive since I wasn’t getting along with my family at that time. I was feeling particularly alone at the time of my birthday, and I probably would have been upset no matter what. We left a week later for a trip to San Francisco, a second chance at a celebration. He ruined that too. I shouldn’t say that really. I had a good time for much of it, and I was determined to enjoy the chance to travel. I relished seeing another part of the country, and we did have some pleasant moments. But overall, he could not bring himself to have fun. Even with so much natural beauty, he was numb. I realized that it wasn’t that he couldn’t have fun for me or plan fun things for us to do together—he couldn’t do it for himself.
The week before I asked for the sign, things were going great. We’d had a fight on the weekend, a big ugly one with me screaming and him calming me down—predicated again by his not being able to commit and my huge insecurity because of it.
I had felt unimportant my entire life, and here it was again: a man unable to appreciate me enough to be with me forever. It triggered me to madness. We made up, I apologized, we talked it all out, we had sex, and felt closer than ever. Yes, that was our pattern—but as long as I got to the point of feeling close again, I was okay with it. We had a few days of his being in a great mood, renewing his efforts toward our relationship, and us having fun. It was wonderful. Until his family called.
His all-perfect, all-wonderful family that he was not able to say no to was planning a family vacation in January, and Jeff wanted us to go. It was November, and we weren’t in a good place with our relationship. I didn’t imagine things would be much better in January. I asked him how I could go and spend a week with his family. Was I supposed to lie and pretend that things were fine? Was I going to discuss plans for the upcoming wedding that I wasn’t sure would even happen? He didn’t have many vacation days. Shouldn’t we be using the time he did have to go back East and check out places for the wedding reception? Or better yet, if he did have extra days, shouldn’t we be using them to take a trip ourselves, to reconnect?
Jeff agreed with me. Completely. He asserted that I was right and that of course there was no way we could go on the family trip. He was still getting settled in his new home and had a wedding to plan. He certainly had enough on his plate that should excuse him from a family vacation. He wasn’t upset or sad when we discussed it; he was still upbeat and enthusiastic about our relationship. He went off to work with a smile and big kiss for me.
Later that afternoon he called and left me a message. I could tell from his voice that he was depressed again. Shit! I careened back down into insecurity and doubt, all the rougher of a tumble for having been riding high on his recent good mood. I cried. I was so frustrated, so stuck, so unable to fix the situation. That’s when I asked for a sign.
I was lying on our bed when he got home. He burst into the room, agitated. “We need to separate!” Separate? We weren’t even married yet. I rolled my eyes at the ceiling in annoyance. It wasn’t exactly the sign I had been hoping for.
He hadn’t thought it through; he didn’t really want us to break up, and at the end of our two-hour conversation, he was taking it all back and apologizing. I was angry, rattled, and scared. How could I feel safe living in his condo? I had thought it was ours, had embraced it, and was making it a home—but was it? Was I always to feel like I could be kicked out on to the street at any moment? He hugged me and he soothed me. He told me he loved me and that everything would be all right.
I turned away from him and began to calm down. It was just another one of his freak-outs, and again I had overreacted. I was never able to identify them clearly when my own fear of abandonment entered. He crawled out of bed on to the floor. I looked over to see what he was doing.
“Who are you texting at one in the morning?!”
“My brother. I was just texting him that we were all right.”
His brother. I wasn’t even sure that we were all right, but it was crucially important that his brother know right away—four in the morning, East Coast time. And then I understood. That was the sign.
He had been in a good mood until he talked to his brother and told him that we wouldn’t be going on the family vacation. His brother gave him a hard time. To save himself, Jeff threw me under the bus. I didn’t want to go on the family vacation because we were having problems. To illustrate his point, Jeff went into excruciating detail about our most recent fight. Never mind that we’d talked it out and resolved it. Never mind that we’d had a conversation about his not discussing our conflicts with his family and he’d promised not to do it again. This was the third time he’d done it since he promised. Clearly, he was not going to change. I felt completely betrayed.
It was a few more weeks until I gave the ring back, but that was the definitive moment. I moved out right after the New Year. We spent the last month really trying to enjoy each other. It wasn’t easy, was often sad, but I felt myself expanding as I loved actively and appreciated what I did have, though it grew less each day. It was hard to let go of the little bit of comfort and support I was getting, even though it wasn’t enough. Forty percent seems so much better than 0 percent when faced with the choice, though I know it’s not. I know my lesson is to stop settling for less than I deserve. I will get there.
I’ve pretty much been unable to write until now. I guess that’s a sign too—that things are on the upswing.
Thank you to those who shared this journey with me.