Monday, August 11, 2008

The intoxication of routines

A side effect of having spent way too long in an unhappy relationship seems to a specialized form of ESP.


No, I can't help you with your lottery numbers... but I seem to have gotten very good at recognizing when others are in similar situations.

Sure, there are couples everyone knows need to break up. I've never seen my neighbours together, but anyone who has spent any substantial time in our apartment knows they need to break up. The fact that I don't even blink anymore when "I hate you! You always make me cry!" penetrates through the walls like a bullet speaks to that fact.

But there are those other couples. Those who don't fight in public, who seem to be taking all the steps in the right direction. People regularly make bets about their wedding date, and ask them about children. But there is something dull beneath the surface. They don't speak about one another much, and when they do, their eyes don't sparkle like they used to. Things slip out occasionally when loosened by alcohol. Routine seems to be their crutch more than anything.

People look at me, perplexed, when I ask if the two of them are doing okay.

But then I remember that I took even my closest confidants by surprise when I left, despite the fact that I'd spent the past year working up the courage to leave, and had remained in oblivious neutrality the year prior to that.

I know we've all stayed in a relationship too long, have hesitated when we should have gone with our gut. But there seems to be this fear that strikes at some point in adulthood, when people start feeling the pressure and begin wondering if years with the same person should mean forever. 

Sometimes, I want to pull these people aside, and tell them that alone isn't so scary. That ambivalence isn't a good way to live. That when you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, for a reason to stay or leave, that your mind has already been made up, even if you haven't acknowledged it yet. That the absence of bad isn't the same as good. That routine can't ever take the place of passion.

But these are not my words to say. These are the epiphanies they need to reach on their own, even if it feels like they are barely drifting in that direction. All I can do is be there when that light bulb flickers on.

33 comments:

Airam said...

You're a good friend.

Sometimes even when the realization is made, the routine can be hard to let go of.

ToughGirl101 said...

oh, the people that fought in private? that was me and my X husband. Sucks no? I'm one of those people you should have pulled aside aw hile back.

distractedspunk said...

That's a tricky place to be. More so, when you know that someone's unhappy, but they're so unwilling to see it, they'll try anything to make it work.

I understand watching this well. Hopefully, I have more sense than to become one of those couples.

Nilsa S. said...

Oh my. Yeah, I might also keep a domestic violence pamphlet handy. And even if you're not ready to face the people who need to split, you can at least empower one of them to do the right thing by leaving the pamphlet on their doorstep or passing it to them like strangers in the night.

Jack said...

I'm in a relationship now but I constantly remind myself that I was happy being single and it wasn't a scary place to be. I want to make sure I don't stay in this relationship for the wrong reasons.

longredcape said...

That is EXACTLY how my last relationship was.

And I am SO GLAD I ended it.

Matt said...

Truth is, they probably wouldnt listen even if you did speak up.

notthelifeiordered said...

Remember how we used to think we were twins? I still think this because I suffer from this same ESP now that I'm out of my crappy longterm relationhip. I sometimes want to shake people and be like why are you doing this to yourself?! Why don't you want to be happy?!

but i refrain.

I agree with Airam, its so hard to let go of the routine sometimes. Thats why it took me so long to leave, i had to exit my comfort zone.

Ana said...

it is sad and hard to be a good friend to people in that situation sometimes... how many times can you listen to the same questions/rants/complaints?

at the same time, i've been there, and stayed too long. neither is a good place to be.

Jess said...

I think we all get that ESP about private situations that we've gone through. Certain things we do that other people don't know about... we learn to recognize those things in other people. It's like a conspiracy not to give them away.

Deutlich said...

that's the worst, isn't it? when you can see it but can't really do much about it?

meh.

nrichie2345 said...

You're right so so many relationships work like this. People are soo scared to be alone, so they end up staying in dysfunctional relationships.

the almost right word said...

I think it's important for nearly everyone to have an experience like this -- to have to learn and realize what we deserve in a relationship and what we do not.

It's hard to hear it when someone is trying to tell you that you don't deserve something. I believe it's a matter of figuring it out on your own. But friends, and their advice, is always important.

~Jennifer Ann~ said...

this was a great post, i like this blog alot.

Therapeutic Ramblings said...

Sometimes the person needs a nudge....not to leave, but to know that it happens and they aren't uniquely screwed in their situation.

Joanna said...

People are scared to be alone and are scared of change. I think we all have this sort of relationship 6th sense, after we've been there, done that. In hindsight, everyone knows it's ok to be single but it's taking that leap to get out that's the issue...

benjibopper said...

hey Princess, sorry I been away s'long. Travels n fam, summer, blah blah. But it's good to read your latest. I think I may share just a touch of your ESP on this stuff. My wife is always shocked when couples break up. I tend to see it coming. Though they may not fight in public, certain couples just don't seem to click quite right.

Kyla Bea said...

And what a specialized for of ESP that is - I know exactly what you mean.

It's the unhappiness that isn't broadcasting its self on all frequencies that's hard to zero in on unless you've been there yourself. And unless you've gone through that and survived to find out that alone can be a friendly & quiet place, not a horrible gaping hole, it's difficult to be reassured by people who let you know you'll be alright.

All Mod Cons said...

Shit, wish I'd been able to use some of these words in the past. Found myself in that sort of situation a couple of times and it takes ages to think of the right thing to say at the end without sounding like a complete bastard.

Think I'm going to have to bookmark this post, just in case I need to regurgitate it!

Psychgrad said...

Some very wise thoughts in there...

"...if years with the same person should mean forever".

"...when you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, for a reason to stay or leave, that your mind has already been made up, even if you haven't acknowledged it yet".

"That the absence of bad isn't the same as good..."

Anyway - I don't want to quote your entire post.

Sometimes I'm glad to see a bad movie or shitty theatre...At least that way I can appreciate good art when I see it. That's kind of how I feel about relationships. I think a lot of people just don't realize that their relationship isn't as healthy/good/satisfying/etc. as another relationship (or single life) could be.

Sheila said...

I know what you mean. I know couples that are so miserable together I can't help but wonder why they are still together. Then I have friends who break-up, seemingly out-of-the-blue and I am at a loss.

Then there are the times that I wonder what others think of the relationship that my husband and I have. Even I can't explain it!

Maxie said...

I never know when to say goodbye. I always have to push it until the very end so I'm sure if you had ever been around me and one of my ex's you'd get that vibe.

chasinglibby said...

you have psychology is your blood. it takes a special person to have that kind of silent insight. but i know what you mean, from how you describe it.

i saw a couple together for four years fall apart when everyone and their mother thought that he'd propose on a trip to paris.

Mrs4444 said...

Yup; you can't force awareness when it comes to relationships. I had one like that from age 15-21. Thank God for me he joined the military; I finally got the space to see what everyone else had seen for years.

SMARTBuddy said...

ONe of my friends is in this category - but now shes getting married. I cannot seem to speak up about it - maybe it isnt my place, but its so obvious it will all end in tears...

Beth said...

You are wise beyond your years.

Yoda said...

Great post, O pointful one!

Life is too short to be living it running around scared about "what ifs".

I'm guilty as charged of staying in a relationship far too long, when it should have been clear to me LONG ago that it was just gonna end up a disaster.

Jenn said...

I think this is one of my favorite posts written by you.

"That when you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, for a reason to stay or leave, that your mind has already been made up, even if you haven't acknowledged it yet. That the absence of bad isn't the same as good."

I wish someone told me that a couple years ago. Hell! I wish someone told me that a few months ago!

brookem said...

yeah- ive been in both a relationship like this before, and then, on the other side, watching a close friend in a similar situation. the frustrating part is that it's something you need to really experience, to go through to get. someone telling you to break it off because of what "they" see is wrong, doesn't make the lightbulb in your own head go on. though, i think there's nothing wrong with giving someone a little nudge (like another commenter mentioned), to show that person that the situation isn't right.

lissa said...

great piece. i love how you write about things that a lot of people never bring up. i def think it's best to let them know you'll be there for them but to wait for them to come to the conclusion on their own. sadly, some people are never able to let go of "comfortable."

magda said...

This isn't the first time I've read your blog, but I haven't been around in awhile, and I don't think I've ever commented.

This post really, really spoke to me today. You've said exactly what I need to hear. I'm just leaving a facially fine, but unhappy-at-its-core relationship now. It's hard and it's messy and it's not fun. But reading this makes me feel a little bit better. Thank you.

nicoleantoinette said...

I was in my last relationship for too long. Not that I was ridiculously unhappy or that he was awful (because neither of those are true), it was just... I don't know, too long.

Jocelyn said...

What is impressive is the ability to articulate this state. When I was in it--and until recently (a decade later)--I only thought, "This doesn't feel good."

Full stop.