31: Swimming Beyond the Breakers

There are moments I wonder if I choose to make things more complex than they need to be, either to run people off or to figure out who will stay.

I always enter relationships with hope.  

Hope is exciting and fun. Hope is like bursting from a darkened basement to be ambushed by a brilliantly lit summer day. The warmth feels good; a shot of adrenaline awakens us. The light burns and blurs our vision. 

At that moment, millions of years of neurological evolution automatically defends our eyes from the trauma of sudden brightness. Our eyelids snap shut. Our hand reflectively shades our eyes. In that long blink, we are momentarily blind to obstacles in the world as our nervous system protects us from wounding our way of seeing. 

This is hope: a feel-good yet blinding approach to living.

I had hoped things would be different in my second marriage. I had hoped things would be different with my ex.

I had hoped someone would love me enough to see me while knowing my struggles were never about them. My hope contained both a selfish expectation and deep longing. Hope blinded me from the trauma – mine and theirs.

Frankly,  I’m terrified of letting someone love me.


…but I was emotionally stunted and confused an excellent lay with hope.

After I abandoned my marriage, my ex-wife said she was willing to do the hard things. Unfortunately, by then, I wasn’t. 

I tried to do the hard things she needed while we were together: talk to her, go to therapy, change jobs, end friendships, and abandon careers. 

Her pursuit of security and safety blinded her. She couldn’t see me. What she did see made her uncomfortable.

In the end, one of several unskillful actions I took to cope with my discomfort included infidelity. I also kept secrets and told an escalating series of lies. Almost all of the stories were about avoiding being vulnerable. 

All of this was to cover my inability to sit in my discomfort and express myself beyond feeling fine, lonely, or resentful. As Pascal wrote, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” I never learned that feelings are not directives.

That was never her fault. She isn’t responsible for being my entertainment committee.

By the end, I had no more energy, just and a wounded ego that refused to invest anything more. A resentful pride will level more than cities.

I always loved my ex-wife, she loved me, but as Dr. Stan Tatkin writes, “Love isn’t enough.” Neither is hope. I just didn’t have the skills to swim beyond the breakers. 

Now that I do, she doesn’t.