I didn’t leave town because I wanted to leave. I left because C asked me to leave. What she wants and needs matters to me, contrary to my deceptions.
I left because she told me she needed space, was too “broken” and “codependent” to see me. I was told by others she was being treated for PTSD and might need to be hospitalized. I tried to take responsibility and give her space.
I stayed away because she was working on herself and I was struggling with my own anxieties, fears, and shame. My requests to meet were rebuffed with a simple line: “I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
I’ve come to realize while she was telling me one thing, she was doing something else entirely.
I’m not saying my betrayal, secret-keeping, and escalating series of lies didn’t harm her. I’m not saying what I did doesn’t matter. I’m not saying there should be no consequences.
Her first words to K was “Good! I’ve been looking for a reason to kick him out!” When I tried to get to the truth of her feelings, she responds with the silent treatment.
I had no idea that was how she felt. Of course, like so many other times in our relationship, I am left to guess and fill in the vacuum. Is everything about my betrayal? Is it really what she wanted anyway? Is the truth somewhere in-between? Her statement and several others she apparently made to K in the immediate aftermath of discovery may or may not be true.
If it is how she felt she lied for a long time about what she needed and wanted. Were there other things she never had the willingness to confront or talk to me about? As I’ve learned, infidelity and the subsequent behaviors are only one form of betrayal. None better or worse than another except what we make of them.
Leaving created a vacuum. A vacuum others filled with an angry storm of revenging, rumormongering, a toxic mix of truth and half-truths, and the self-serving ghost stories of would be Heros, armchair psychologist, and suitors. All happy to fill in the vacuum left by my departure. All looking to be the next Hero in our Drama Triangle. Sharks feasting on the chum of our demise.
I never planned on being gone for four and a half months. I never planned on abandoning my home, C, or my life.
But here I am in Pittsburgh 130 days later listening to the wind howl outside my sixth-floor hotel window at four in the morning. The wind gusting into the vacuum created in the aftermath of a spring storm.
When I look at C’s behaviors I realize she is simply doing what she knows how to do. She has been abandoned over and over in her life too by people she loves when she needed them most. Her high school boyfriend when it got complicated, her father after the divorce, and even at times rejected and judged by her own sisters, friends, and family.
Ending the relationship is about loving herself. I know that. Perhaps my betrayal – and the details of my betrayal – were about cutting off what she figures I would have done eventually.
The other things? I don’t really know.
I would never have left her but now, given the opportunity, I’m not sure I could go back but I’m leaving my heart open to the possibilities. Four months later she is still finding small passive aggressive ways to lash out at me. She hangs onto her anger but never confronts me with it.
I always saw her as a self-sufficient and powerful woman when in reality she is often a scared girl hiding behind an easel and canvas. It is why she relies on men to keep her safe and protect her instead of leaning into the pain herself.
I get that.
I hide like a little boy too in my own ways. Maybe that is why she always described our sex and love in terms of teenagers.
She is doing the best she can based on what she knows how to do. If she had experienced different things she would have done different things. If I had experienced different things I would have done different things too.
We have that in common too.
Her behavior isn’t personal. For a long time, I took it that way.
Her silent treatment and team building, her Lancelot, trolls, and fish tales were never about me. They were simply howling in the vacuum left in her heart by my betrayal.