At the heart of sulk lies a confusing mixture of intense anger and an equally intense desire not to communicate what one is angry about. The sulker both desperately needs the other person to understand and yet remains utterly committed to doing nothing to help them do so. The very need to explain forms the kernel of the insult: if the partner requires an explanation, he or she is clearly not worthy of one.
Alain de Botton
A few weeks ago I made the statement that one of the skills I need to practice is how to end relationships in a healthy constructive way.
A few things.
Frankly, based on this chart, I’ve had one relationship in my life end in what appears to be a healthy power parting: a parting that leaves both partners empowered to move forward.
I can also tell you, the way my relationship with Painter and Beatrix ended was not healthy. There were plenty of healthy things in my relationships but this was definitely not one of them.
For example, Painter sulked away and ghosted. I was expected to know.
When I saw Esther Perel’s continuum summarizing a Relationship Accountability Spectrum, I was like, “Holy FUCK! Ghosting?! That is exactly what has happened over the last year! That is what she did! That is how I feel and behave! I’m not crazy or irrational!”
This is why both my doctors refer to the silence and ghosting as abusiveness. My xp’s ghosting has seriously damaged some of the best parts of me and delayed healing.
However, more importantly, I also see where I left Beatrix simmering.
I think that tends to be how I avoid ending relationships. I start something new and not address the old leaving open options. The way I treated Beatrix was horrific on so many levels.
I can see the confusion and pain I created from the simmering I put Beatrix – and those before her – through. Simmering has been my method for ending relationships.
Now that I see it, that shit is gonna stop.
Over the last year, I’ve come to recognize my relationship bandwidth is narrow. Therefore, I need to develop the skills to use the tools that will allow me to reclaim integrity and self-respect.
Learning these skills is one of the reasons I read and listen to Brene Brown, Tara Brach, Esther Perel, Alain de Botton, Deb Goldberg, Caroline Madden, and other compassionate, knowledgeable, and experienced professionals and people.
I’ve come to realize nearly everything that goes wrong in a relationship can be addressed simply with vulnerability and a change in the angle of approach. I firmly believe now, that if I had better skills when I was younger, I would still have a loving marriage with my Beatrix.
As such, in January I am going to Seattle to take the Seven Principles for Single People course at the Gottman Institute. I’m taking the class, and some other online classes, because I want to learn to be more whole and reset all unskillful survival tactics I’ve learned over five decades of bad relationship experiences.
Just because I know something is broken doesn’t mean I know how to fix it…but I can learn.
One of the many benefits of this experience is learning that not everything that goes wrong in a relationship is my fault or my responsibility.
The handful of emails Painter did send in February are just a list of seven years of unspoken resentments and accusations. As if Painter’s ghosting, gunnysacking, and stonewalling emotionally for seven years is my fault…but you know, the Hero is supposed to have all the silver bullets, right?
Painter is an adult and could have come to me anytime and talked about how she felt, and what she needed or wanted.
Instead, she kept secrets and when it was useful she dumped them on me. Now Painter’s resentments simply reek of revisionist history and bitterness.
They justify her own behaviors.
And here is why this matters now: if I had known those were her resentments or hurts we could have worked through them or seen earlier the relationship was unstable or non-sustainable. Maybe if the foundation of our relationship was built on vulnerability instead of simply safety we would have been over sooner or had a better foundation to weather the hurricanes.
That isn’t simply on Painter, that is on Us.
Don’t misunderstand, Painter is not responsible for my behaviors but our relationship was far more than my betrayal et al. I am saying, Painter has her part in the patterns undermining communication in our relationship.
I sincerely hope Painter gets help to see and break her patterns. It is obvious watching Painter over the last year, experiencing all the hero’ing from the Flying Monkeys, Patsy I and Patsy II, what I know of IndyBartender, and how she came out of her marriage she has shit too.
I don’t want that for Painter and D moving forward. I want Painter to be happy and free. However, one difficulty in being trapped by below the line patterns: you are never really free.
In reality I want to have a more useful set of skills moving forward. I genuinely want to learn how to live with my anxiety instead of in it, lean into conflict transformation as opposed to avoidance, and most importantly, recognize when my behavior is codependent instead of pro-dependent.
If Painter ever comes home I will be more skillful at loving her more truly.
More importantly, whichever woman comes into my life next, I need her to be aware of herself and her own patterns too. It is the only way we can both ensure a healthier relationship. I cannot be lashed to my horse and the role of Hero again. I need a Partner that sees me as a person first and not simply one more Hero saving her from feeling and vulnerability.
And in my case, that means being able to end relationships with my integrity intact and a power parting. Not only will I not betray my life again, but I will also learn to avoid behaviors of ghosting, icing, and simmering that devalue the power of good people.
3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Ghosting by Esther Perel”
I would say that most of us are guilty of repeat patterns in relationships. You don’t necessarily learn everything from the previous ones and very often we are too quick to blame the other partner for everything that went wrong. That’s just a way of making sure we don’t have to address our own problems. There’s a lot of that going in with your ex, but the fact remains that if she wants to resolve it she has to want to do it, and bitter angry people aren’t the best at judging themselves. I suspect it’s going to take her a long time to calm down, and that maybe she genuinely doesn’t see herself as having the problem. You are an easy scapegoat and there are plenty of people around her fanning that non-truth for their own ends.
My view of ghosting is that it’s a way for people to quickly end relationships when they don’t care how the other person feels and they don’t feel guilty for ending whatever the relationship was, either because they’ve just grown emotionally distant or they just don’t think the other person deserves that right of passage to a proper ending.
I’ve been on the receiving end of all this and I’ve also dished it out. Have I ever had a proper clean, explanatory ending to a relationship? Hell no. If I’m betrayed I turn off immediately, I don’t want to resolve it. My trust is thin on the ground. Once broken it’s gone. In other cases the relationships just weren’t worth working on to try to resolve. I don’t know I can explain that in a way that doesn’t make me sound like a complete dick. But I’m also fairly convinced that my screwed up attitude towards relationships, which is where I am now, goes back before I was even having relationships. I’m not interested in being regressed to piece that together. I can’t imagine a worse nightmare, but I have always had a very distant relationship to other people full stop and I think a lot of it is an uncurable personality trait rather than ‘issues’, despite what it then creates. I do realise I am an intolerant person though and the older I get, the worse (I think) it gets.
I’ll be interested to hear what you learn from the classes and courses you embark on in 2019. I hope it helps you and perhaps us too, as you talk us through how that goes for you.
Thanks Timber. I’ll probably learn a ton and apply only a little. Life long skills take time to consistent effort to recover…but I’ll definitely share. We’ve been good for each other in that respect I think.
As far as my xp, I agree she isn’t there and I have been made a scapegoat for her in many – but not all ways. I believe her hurt is genuine and her love was real.
Like her, I could have addressed some if the unskillful practices in our relationship too. It isn’t all on her.
When I think if what has happened over the last year I think of this insight from Alain de Botton, “Do you love me enough that I may be weak with you? Everyone loves strength, but do you love me for my weakness? That is the real test.”
Our partnership failed that test and simply because of my betrayal et al. I really like that he says “loves me *for* my weakness” not despite it. And this is the difference between her and I: I see her weakness and love her for it, she cannot love mine.
And that is the Alpha and Omega. As we know, if she wanted something different she would do something different..I want something different and I am acting accordingly even if I don’t know where it will lead.
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