For Better or Worse?—by Jamie Levine
A rather lovely friend of mine has chosen to remain in an unhappy marriage for a number of years, and many of our mutual friends can’t understand why. When they question her insistence on sticking it out despite her apparent misery, she always refers to her past happiness with her husband—the way he used to shower her with affection and attention, and share his innermost feelings with her. She’s holding on to the past. And as sad as that seems, I think it’s something that many of us do. We won’t stay in a bad relationship that has always been bad, but when a good one goes sour, sometimes it’s difficult to let go.
Recently, after experiencing months of bliss with Library Guy, he and I went through a very rough patch. Though I’d like to blame him for all of our difficulties, it’s true that I’m not 100% blameless. I admittedly contributed to multiple episodes of miscommunication, and made my share of insecurity-fueled mistakes. But mostly, Library Guy got scared. Though he’d been swept up in our new romance, deep down, he was still reeling from his recent divorce and suddenly felt pressure to give his all to a new relationship before trying to figure out “who he is” on his own. Consequently, he emotionally disconnected from me, and acted unacceptably for a week. So, I broke up with him. But less than 36 hours later we got together to talk, and came to the conclusion that there was too much passion and way too many strong feelings between us to give up completely, and we decided to stay together (for now) and just see how things evolve.
As a result, we went from super-intense to super-detached to the place where we are now…which is still a bit ambiguous. We’ve been seeing each other a couple of times a week—and we always have a really good time together. We’re in a monogamous relationship, communicate via texts and phone calls every day, and, for the most part, are still very committed to each other. But things have changed.
For one, while I do truly look forward to seeing Library Guy, I don’t always get giddy like I used to before all our dates. And when we can’t get together for a few days, I miss him, but I’m ok with it. This is a switch since I never used to be able to get enough of him. I’m content with Library Guy. Quite content. But not necessarily head-over-heels. I’ve promised myself—as well as my supportive friends—that I’ll never cry hysterically over Library Guy again, as I did before I broke up with him, and I’ll never stay with him if he doesn’t make me happy. And being with him does still make me feel happy…just not as secure as I used to feel. Library Guy “disappeared” once and now I can’t help but wonder if he’ll do so again, and as a result, I’m not as generous with my loving words and gestures as I used to be. I’m holding back—and maybe not being 100% myself all the time. On the flip side, my life is now full with social activities that don’t involve Library Guy, and it’s not like I “need” to hear from him or be with him 24/7, like I wanted to in the past. But I still think it’s sort of sad that I feel the need to protect myself so much by repressing my feelings.
Similarly, Library Guy is holding back now, too. I can feel it. Maybe his feelings have changed, or, more likely, he just doesn’t want to send me mixed messages by being as intense as he used to be, without being sure of how serious he is about our future together. He’s still interested, respectful, and attentive—but not completely focused on me like he used to be. And when you go from having something solid and strong to something that’s just pretty good, you feel it. And you can’t help but think back to the way things used to be—just like my unhappily-married friend likely does. True, I’m not in a bad relationship like she is, but it’s possible that I can do better. In fact this relationship used to be better. Maybe we both just need a little time and things will improve once again. Or maybe they won’t. So for now, I’m holding on to what I have because I’m not ready to give up yet—and I’m guessing a lot of women out there can relate.