My ex-partner and I reached a turning point last night in our counseling.
There had been too much ambiguity about the nature of our relationship, not in the least exacerbated by the gold wedding bands we wore. Well, that he wore. I had long since stopped wearing mine outside the house and only put it back on when I came home so as not to upset him. We had talked about them in previous sessions and he seemed unwilling to part with them: the prospect of not wearing them seemed to hurt his feelings.
However, I felt perpetually unconfortable with it because it was a lie. We are not and have not been a couple. He said he had a good time with me this weekend at a county fair and felt close to me, but even then he could not think of a single thing unique to me that he values. He likes being in a relationship, he likes being part of a couple, but he can't for the life of him give any reason why he would want to be part of a couple with me. Our homework assignment for the previous week was to try to get into the mental space of being separate, to not think of ourselves as a dependent or responsible to the other in any way other than our mutual obligations to the dogs and the household. He confessed that he had difficulty with it as long as there was this ring on his finger; I took mine off and gave it to him.
I feel like I made a horrible mistake. He said he wasn't expecting this. He seemed sad and hurt. I saw he was in pain and said "I'm sorry." He said, "No, you're not." I said, "I feel bad to see someone I care about in pain." He replied, "You shouldn't: you got everything you wanted. You should be pleased as punch."
He withdrew and isolated himself when we got home and decided to stay home from work this morning. When I asked him if he was going to get up, he said "You don't need to worry about me." When I asked him whether he was taking the day off, he said "You don't have to care about that." Maybe I should have waited? I just feel like crap.
I feel awful because my action has hurt his feelings. I have declared that I no longer view us as a couple and do not see myself as his partner any more -- this is not news and this is something he has declared many times in the past directed at me. But he is sad and it's my fault, and making someone sad makes me a Bad Person.
I just have to trust that this is an understandable extreme reaction to change and that he will pull out of it. I have to remember that I'm not a little kid in trouble. I have to remember that I am not responsible for his feelings. I have to remember that this is a major step toward honesty and that honesty, while it may be painful in the short term, is nonetheless the best policy in the long run. I have to trust our counselor and hope she knows what she's doing. I have to remember that no matter how bad he may feel, I am not under any obligation to feel bad, too.
But God it's hard!
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
~ Oscar Wilde