Selective amnesia

The other thing I talked about in my therapy session yesterday was how closely I hold and how highly I value my friendships.  Namely that I miss every single person I’ve been close to who has exited my life in some fashion: people who have passed away, of course, but also, friends from whom I’ve grown apart because of time, distance, or differences, and most of my exes; even the one guy to whom I played mistress for two years – in spite of everything that was horrible and unhealthy about that relationship, and the fact that it ended really badly, I still occasionally think of him, and miss the good parts of the time that we spent, uh, “together,” and I genuinely hope he’s doing well.

There is one exception to this rule, and that is my ex-husband.  When I think about my ex, I feel nothing – or, at the very most, I feel shame or anger.  But there’s nothing nostalgic about it, nothing sentimental, nothing warm and fuzzy at all.  I look at pictures of myself and my ex-husband, and…

“I recognize that it’s me in the picture,” I explained to my therapist.  “And I recognize him as himself.  But it’s almost like a form of amnesia.  Like, I don’t remember being in a relationship with this person, don’t remember caring about this person, don’t remember ever being attracted to this person.  It’s not like I’ve blocked out the facts, just the emotions.  I do remember some details…”

“What kinds of details?”

“Well, like…  I remember his hands being really soft, and smooth, and usually cold.  They were like chick hands, only a little bigger.”

“And do you remember liking that, or disliking it?”

I had to think for a second.  “Neither, really.  I just remember noticing it.  And I remember really noticing the difference, the first time I held hands with Doug, or one time when I was hanging out with another guy friend and he took my hand to comfort me about something, and how both those guys – Doug and my friend – have warm, rough guy hands, and how much I liked that.”

We talked a little more about my lack of connection to my ex, and she asked why I think I’ve lost all emotional connection to my memories of him, because – and I feel like I should say this since I so rarely say anything remotely nice about him or the time I spent with him – it’s not like the relationship was violent or abusive, or even that we fought that much; actually, until the last month or two, we were really good friends.  Friends who just didn’t happen to be good together romantically or sexually.

“I think the last straw,” I told her, “was when he got engaged again and didn’t even bother to tell me.  How do you do that?  How do you plan to get married without even thinking to mention it to the person you were married to before?”

“How did you feel when that happened?”

“Um…  Pissed off.  Shocked.  A little hurt, maybe, but mostly…  It just seems so disrespectful.  Especially after he’d made such a big deal, when we broke up, out of me rushing into another relationship – he told my family and my friends and tried to get them all to take his side – and then I found out later that he’d done pretty much the same thing that he had given me such a hard time about.  And then, while I said I wouldn’t get married again for x-number of years, he went ahead and got engaged again already.”

“And by waiting, you feel like…?”

“I mean, it’s mostly that I want to make sure I learn from my mistake and don’t rush in to another marriage.  But part of it, too, is out of respect for him or the relationship I had with him.”

“Well, sure.  Taking some time is like saying you recognize the impact of the relationship that ended.”

“Right.  Giving importance to the relationship, and giving importance to its end.  Even though, realistically, I don’t care about either anymore, don’t miss him, don’t think about him fondly, have no emotional connection to him whatsoever.”

“I wonder what would happen,” my therapist mused, “and we don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, but…  It sounds like there’s a block there, and I wonder what would come up if we worked through the hurt and the anger.”

“I don’t get it,” I admitted.  “I’m fine being angry.  It’s better than what I was at first, which was ashamed and embarrassed and guilt-stricken.  In fact, it was kind of a relief when I first heard he’d immediately found a new girlfriend, too, because then at least I wasn’t the bad guy anymore.  But then I remembered that he had convinced everyone in my life that I was the bad guy, and that he was the victim, and then I just got pissed.”

“Well, emotions have layers.  The outer layer is the hurt and the anger, and if we work through those – which we could, if you want, with bioenergetics – we could find out what comes up from underneath.”

I know that every other week, she suggests doing something with bioenergetics, and then the following week I just come in and spend the hour talking again, because bioenergetics still doesn’t make any sense to me.  But suddenly, I really wanted to do this.

“So like…  With my whole aversion to weddings – that’s me having a wedding, not weddings in general – I’ve been charging through with this sort of “fuck you” attitude, trying to barrel past the guilt and shame of having done it once already and having had it go awry…  And I do feel like I’ve made some progress with that.  But maybe what you’re suggesting would be another way to get to a place where I could have a wedding again?”

“Maybe.  There’s no way to know what will come up.  But it would be worth a try.”

“Okay,” I said.  “Let’s try it.”

Because, as much as I can say that weddings aren’t worth the time or energy or money, because the meaning of what you’re actually doing just gets lost in the party planning, there is a part of me that wouldn’t feel right about going to the courthouse.  There is that part of me that wants to be able to have a wedding – smaller and simpler than the last one, definitely – but something nice, and pretty, and meaningful.  And I’d like to be able to get the rest of myself on board with that idea.

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6 Responses to Selective amnesia

  1. Arohanui says:

    Lady hands on a bloke are a deal breaker for me…I knew I wouldn’t like your ex.
    Sorry about the commenting debacle! I have returned to blogger’s commenting after a brief and unfulfilling affair with disqus.

    • Marie says:

      Yes, I think it was your tirade about lady hands that even made me bring that up. And definitely was what made me write about it.

      In other news, I’ve misplaced my stack of awesome greeting cards, and have to wait for a new shipment so I can buy them again and send you one. So sorry for the delay.

  2. Saundra says:

    A couple thoughts- first, grief. What strikes me about this post in particular, when you’re talking about your ex, is definitely a sense of loss…made fuzzy by the fact you don’t miss him romantically, or even (it seems) as a friend. But is it possible you might be mourning for a period of your life, and happiness/hope you felt? A dear friend of mine once said that when you’re living with someone, there are three people in the relationship, the third being your home together, and that that’s what she missed most with her ex, something she never got over.

    Of course, I may be projecting, too. I find myself grieving over a time when everything was less stressful/I was employed.

    You’ve made this connection a few times, I think? That the trauma of miscarriage may not just have been about the loss of a baby/a theoretical baby, but also, issues you were working with before (about your ex, about the fallout after that relationship) really came to a head. Every time you hint at that, I feel you’re making a huge stride forward.

    I like what your therapist said about acknowledging the old relationship, even though it doesn’t mean much to you now. It’s too easy to discount an entire period of our lives if we associate it with a relationship that has ended — it’s like we’re trying to forget the person, so we loose long periods of our life in the process. And it’s too easy not to give a dead relationship its due if we feel the relationship isn’t as valid now. But I think there is something in being able to go back, see what positives there were in you relationship — like, what did your ex teach you about the kind of partner you wanted? Are there any ways that he helped you progress in life, in spite of all the pain?

    And honestly, I see why your ex acted the way he did. I’m not saying it was right or fair, but right and fair get muddled when it comes to relationships with exes. I kind of see his need to close that last chapter, and perhaps you can (for your own sanity) give him the benefit of the doubt, that he might be trying to protect you? Of course that’s silly, since you have mutual friends. Just a theory.

    Or you can say “fuck the guy” and let the anger run its course.

    • Marie says:

      The thing she said about acknowledging the relationship was more in reference to HIM at the time – that his getting married again showed a sort of disrespect/dis-acknowledgment of what was. And I do agree with your friend. I miss places, and periods in life, as much as I miss people. When I think about that period of my life, I miss my restaurant job and my bosses there, I miss my gym and my Body Pump instructor, and I even miss some of my ex’s friends.

      I can’t see the positives in the relationship, though. Either there weren’t any, or I’ve lost them. And I think the m/c was the last straw in my already feeling like I was a failure at life: good degree, no career; failed marriage; then failed at baby-makin’. So yes, the connection is there. But um, I don’t really know where to take it from there, because I really, REALLY suck at forgiving myself.

  3. Saundra says:

    Yeah, about the forgiving yourself — I’m curious as to how you would regard someone else in your situation. Like think of a friend you really admire, and then project your circumstances onto them. Would you think they were a failure, or building a life/having experiences (as your therapist said)? For example, I had this gorgeous Brazilian friend who at 28 had been married twice, and I was just kind of in awe because she wore it well and just, damn! She had awesome stories. She was broke-ish and back in school, but I liked/admired her for her fascinated background, kickass taste in movies, and wicked sense of humor. And it felt like there were all these chapters in her past she was disconnected from but could talk openly about.

    It’s a way of distancing yourself, depersonalizing things you’re embarrassed about so you can stop feeling disappointed in yourself AND give yourself the same understanding you’d give someone else. Just a theory. It’s like peeing in the shower — I did it once, was kind of disgusted with myself, drunkenly brought it up to a friend, and she’s like “You were tired. I do that all the time, though!” and I was like, well, if SHE pees in the shower… So yeah. Hope that helps. 😉

    • Marie says:

      I actually met someone else in my situation once. Like, exactly my situation. She had met a guy in France (only, he was French) and had a big, fancy, French wedding. Then it all fell apart, and she was going to school/working at Starbucks. It was really nice to see that someone so beautiful and composed had been through the same shit I had been through. Then she started dating a pro soccer player, and just over a year later, got married again. So our similarities kinda ended.

      You are right about one thing, though. I’m not as hard on anyone else as I am on myself – even for the same exact things.

      And I was unaware there were people out there who HADN’T peed in the shower…

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