when things come to an end

I’ve never really had a relationship end in a relatively positive way.  The very fact of “an end” obviously precludes rainbows and ponies but my relationships are more inclined to implode than deflate.  They end abruptly; awful things are said; and the person is deleted from my life.  Sam might be the exception there; our implosion was a gradual action but, in the end, it ended in a rush and it left me bereft – for years, apparently, because why not extend the misery.

So, the conclusion of my relationship with Rockford is slightly bewildering.  We don’t hate each other; we aren’t throwing recriminations at each other; we haven’t cut all ties with one another.  We’re simply coming to an end because my time here is coming to an end.  The feelings aren’t quite that simple, of course.

We finally addressed the elephant in the room Sunday – with me pushing it forward. Things have been strained for some time now; even with the great date night last week, the more I thought about Saturday night, the more I realized I simply can’t keep punishing myself.  I can look for all sorts of signs and attempt all sorts of interpretations but, in the end, I’m simply refusing to see what is clearly in front of me: Rockford doesn’t feel about me the same way I feel about him.  He hasn’t led me on; he hasn’t lied to me; he hasn’t tried to distract me.  He’s a pretty simple guy in the end, although one who struggles with the whole feelings side of things.

So, we spoke on the phone Sunday evening and I laid out what I saw and what I felt and what I believed to be true.  And, to his credit, he didn’t try to deflect me.  He agreed: he’s a self-sufficient kind of guy who doesn’t truly need anyone in his life right now.  He has enjoyed our time together but he has increasingly felt like there’s a piece of the puzzle missing between us; he doesn’t know quite what it is but the absence has encouraged him to step back.

It’s never that simple, though, is it.   He also said he loves me, even as he admitted that he isn’t sure what love is supposed to feel like at this point in our lives.  That wasn’t as crushing as you’d think, actually; I think I’m in the same position.  I have no idea what love is, anymore, and I don’t trust myself to recognize it even if I’m standing in it.  I’ve been hurt too many times to believe my feelings and I’m scared to death of making the mistake of trusting something that will crumble under pressure.  I also know you can care deeply about someone and not love them, which may be where we find ourselves, in the end.

Regardless, I told him that night that I didn’t know how to say goodbye.  This wasn’t the way relationships usually ended for me and I was really at a loss.  My one request, if he agreed, was that I wouldn’t simply disappear: I want to say goodbye to his kids before I leave.  He allowed me into their lives, and I am cognizant of the importance of such trust, on his part and theirs.  Plus, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them and it wouldn’t be right to not have a farewell before I go overseas.  He said, of course, that was fine; the kids liked me, especially his youngest son, and his daughter, too, but she’s kind of quiet so you might not know…and then I realized he was as choked up as I was.  And he said, let’s not talk anymore tonight; let’s talk tomorrow after we’ve had some sleep.

Of course, I was sad after we hung up the phone.  I had a good cry and I crawled into bed in a pretty dark space.  At the same time, though, I was relieved.  However much it might hurt in the moment, finishing “us” up as I get ready to leave feels like the right thing to do, for both our sakes.  Rockford asked me, at one point, what I thought would happen with us if I wasn’t leaving.  I can’t answer that; I simply don’t know.  Perhaps things would be clearer without the pressure of my imminent departure; perhaps we would have moved more slowly during our time together; perhaps we would have seen months ago that we weren’t suited for the long run.  Any one of those seems like a perfectly acceptable outcome, because the one thing we’ve never been is simple.

He asked if he could come over yesterday and I said that would be fine.  So he came straight from work – in uniform and in car – which is rare; he gave me a kiss when he walked in and asked if he could get out of uniform and take a quick shower. Then he said he’d found a movie we’ve been dying to see: did I want to watch it?  So, we ended up on the sofa, watching our movie, sipping a splash of the whisky I brought back from Scotland. Then the movie ended; he asked me to stretch out beside him on the sofa and we snuggled into each other as always.  Eventually I told him I really wasn’t good with goodbyes.  He put his arm around me: “I didn’t come over to talk tonight…I just wanted to come here and be with you….I feel for you more than you think I do…and I’m going to miss you.”

I know how much those words cost him.  This isn’t a man who talks about feelings easily but he managed to get the words out and they were what I needed to hear.  Because, as of yesterday, we’ve been dating 11 months.  And I wanted him to confirm that that meant something to him.  Which he did last night, without any questions or requests or tears. Actions are very important, and his actions have meant a lot to me, but I still need to hear words.

So, when we went to bed last night, it was calm and quiet.  His arm around me wasn’t perfunctory; it was confirmation that he cares about me. Pulling me into his shoulder this morning while he was half asleep wasn’t suggestive; it was assurance that I mean something to him.  Simple things, really, but that fits: we’ve simply come to an end and that’s simply okay.

In these last weeks, I’ll likely spend some time with him; I’ll certainly see the kids next week at some point.  And we’ll have one last hug and kiss before I’m off.  And I’ll be able to say that I had such a good time with this guy who was absolutely nothing I’d ever expected to like. That doesn’t mean the feelings disappear immediately; that doesn’t mean we’ll disappear from each others lives immediately.  But it means I’ll smile when I think of him and hope he does the same.

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8 thoughts on “when things come to an end

  1. oldschoolprof says:

    Sounds like a good break, as good as they can be. You were strong. You will feel good about this when you are overseas. Clean break.

  2. Servetus says:

    I think it’s often not fully clear what things mean / have meant until you have a different perspective on them (cf. your time in Australia). In any case, in the fullness of time this last year will make more sense but I think you have done a really effective job of taking what you can from the situation as it is and letting things be what they are — IMO this is the best way of not closing off any of the possible futures that happen next.

    I’m so with you on the vagueness of answers to questions of what love is in middle age, when we have already become so many things. To me this issue fits a little bit with the question you raised a while back about what it’s like to live life without externally imposed goals and how to know exactly what it is one wants to pursue. Personally, many of the things that were important to me one or two decades ago are not that important now. Aimlessness would actually be okay on some level (if you weren’t changing location) and it might be again. I don’t need other people’s categories about love, really, but I don’t always know what mine are.

    • phd me says:

      I do agree about the change of perspective. When you’re swimming upstream, it’s hard to see all the currents working for and against you; getting out of the water is tough but necessary (…it’s not a perfect metaphor…).

      And the love thing. I think it’s always been vague to me and it only gets fuzzier as I get older. Maybe I need some aimlessness in my life.

      • Servetus says:

        I honestly don’t know. I think I have a little too much right now. And observing my father, whose plans all changed drastically when my mother died, has been really instructive in that regard. He doesn’t really have goals anymore. And he doesn’t know how to deal with it.

      • phd me says:

        Perhaps proof that we’re never prepared for the life that we have because it’s never the life we expect?

      • Servetus says:

        yes, and I think being bourgeois (which was my parents’ aspiration; they grew up poor, rural) contributes to it. In the middle class you plan for all these things (and guard against others), and I think that makes you think that planning actually matters or can changing things. It does, but it still can’t protect you from life on the level of the second half of “man proposes, G-d disposes.”

      • phd me says:

        And there’s the catch-22 of life.

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