It’s been nine and a half weeks since I broke up with Mack. I keep wondering whether I made a mistake. When Mack asked if it was time we lived together, instead of having a conversation with him about my concerns, I decided unilaterally we couldn’t work through our issues. I decided he would never carry his weight in the relationship; he would never be the partner I need.
Now that some time has passed, I’m beginning to see the problems in our relationship weren’t all Mack. As I type this, it sounds silly that I ever thought it was all Mack. The thing is, I’m no good at this relationship thing. Whenever I get in one, someone’s always bailing. I can’t remember the last time I was in a relationship where the two of us worked through issues, instead of simply deciding things were over.
Mack and I did this early on. He moved in two months to the day after we met. Granted, we’d spent months before we actually met communicating on-line. But still, moving in two months after the first physical meeting is quick. It seemed right, though. We were in the stage of the relationship when everything seemed possible. I had finally found someone who made me feel like I’d come home, every time I was in his arms. So what if he didn’t have a job? So what if he lived with another woman? It felt so right to be with him. I had to be with him all the time. Every damn day.
So Mack moved in. It was hard. I had never lived with a man. Okay, once, briefly, when I was in my twenties. That was twenty years ago. And that cohabitation was intended to be temporary. Because it was intended to be (and was) temporary, I don’t think it really counts. So Mack is the first man I have ever lived with. It was a bit of an adjustment. Every day when I went to work, he was here. Every night when I came home, he was here. Mostly, I loved that. But a part of me felt very anxious.
The things I liked about living with Mack: waking up in the morning with him next to me; leaving in the mornings with him typing away on his laptop at the dining room table; coming home to see his truck parked out front (I hated his raggedy old truck, but I liked that sign he was here); going out for a run in the dark knowing that he’d worry if I didn’t make it home; eating dinner together every night, talking, with at least one cat on the table; lying on the sofa, cuddling and watching tv; going to sleep at night with him next to me.
The things I didn’t like about living with Mack: the mornings he didn’t get up when I got up for work; feeling his anxiety that he might do something I didn’t like, knowing he wasn’t entirely comfortable and was walking on eggshells around me; his going back home to Corinne’s every day; Corinne’s calling him when he was here with me, even though he’d been there working all day. I needed that relationship to be over. It never was.
After Mack had been living with me for six weeks, I came home from the grocery store at the end of a holiday weekend, MLK Day, and he was watching sports on tv. I had gone to the store by myself so I could think about the things that were bugging me, and I had worked up a head of steam while I was shopping. In hindsight, I suppose this was the point in the cohabitation when we should have had a discussion about how things were working out, and what we both needed. Instead I came at him with guns drawn:
“This is not working. We need to talk.” I said it angrily. Hardly the way to begin a discussion if you’re trying to bridge gaps.
Mack responded in kind by packing up and leaving, and going back to Corinne. There was no discussion. And I didn’t try to stop him. His going back to Corinne hurt me deeply. I don’t know that I ever got past that.
So Mack and I failed at our first opportunity to work through conflict. Instead of talking, we ended it. It became a pattern of sorts. And this last breakup was my version of packing my stuff up and leaving without a discussion.
I still don’t know if my real issue with Mack is money. I think it’s something deeper. I think it has a lot to do with fear. In the beginning, he made the fear go away. Mack and I came together, two broken people, and we fit. We were like two pieces of the same fucked up puzzle. And we fit. People outside the relationship, people who insisted on giving me advice (namely of the he’s-not-good-enough-for-you, he’s-using-you ilk), could not see how he made me feel less broken. They couldn’t see that I felt like I’d come home when I was with him.
But feeling understood and safe wasn’t always enough. I wanted Mack to appear to the outside world to be worthy of me. I wanted everyone to see how talented he is. I wanted them to know that he is good enough for me, dammit. What I really wanted was for Mack to write. Whether it was music or prose, and even if he never made a dime doing it, I wanted him to write. I fell in love with him through his writing, and saw parts of him through his writing that he never showed me any other way. I felt he had a gift, and I didn’t want him to squander it. And I wanted to continue to connect with him through his writing.
And here I am, nine and a half weeks post break-up, and I’m still wanting to connect with Mack through writing. Only this time, I’m too late. The time for talking, the time for discussing, was nine and a half weeks ago.