When choices feel like disasters

He has been in the process of applying for a new job for months. Not putting a heap of applications in and not getting results – applying for one single job. As is apparently typical for his industry, and particularly for international appointments, this has already dragged on for more than six months.

In that time, I have applied for and gotten a new job. I’m performing a new role on top of the role I was originally offered. I’ve been with the new company for a little over four months.

Again, as is typical for his industry, he is the only applicant for the job. By all accounts, his experience and particular skill set are desperately needed there. Still, we wait.

I’m calling bullshit. I can decide to leave my job and have a new role lined up in a really short period of time (a couple of weeks is usual, but circumstances in the past have made that as short as a few days) – and yes, I work in a highly skilled industry.

Once quite excited about potentially moving to a country that neither of us have visited (neither of us was born in the country we now live in, having each made the decision to move here on our own and somehow having made that decision work), I’m starting to talk myself out of it. Primary issue: my professional opportunities. Basically, they’re extremely limited to the point of being non-existent in the country we’re considering moving to.

He needs a new job. The longer this process takes, the more I’m talking myself out of it. Can’t he find a new job somewhere here? There’s a particular organisation he could work for that would make his working in my home country a possibility, and a return home would increase my abilities to live and work in other places around the world. Sounds good to me, except that the reality is that his very specific skill set is not required anywhere else in this country and nowhere at all in my home country.

Either way, one of us needs to take a step back professionally.

Is this why people choose to stay where they’re unhappy? – because at least then you’re not making a choice that will result in increased unhappiness?

Again I’m calling bullshit. There’s got to be a plan C that we’re just not seeing yet. I’m hoping plan A (following his work around the world) falls through so that we’re better positioned to discover what it could be.

A new day

After writing last week’s post, I initiated a conversation. Basically, let’s talk about the children thing. If you don’t want children (soon), be honest. His response? I’m scared.

We spoke. There’s no way either one of our perspectives was able to be changed (“I want children” – me / “I’m scared I’ll suck as a parent” – him) so the conversation was about sharing our own perspectives, listening to each other, and making sense of what the other person was saying.

A week goes by. The conversation had been a decent one but something was still amiss.

He took yesterday morning off going to the gym and called in sick to a work event. We’re in bed, cuddling, and honestly I’m getting annoyed. Cuddles? Please. I want action! I miss action! Cuddles used to lead to fucking and now, well, they’re just cuddles. Like, get off me dude and leave me to masturbate.

…which is kind of where the problem became recognisable. All talk and no action is not a solution. We’re both saying we want action, it’s just not happening.

Another conversation. This time, potentially a solution.

A few months ago I had all long-term contraceptives removed. At around the same time, he was hit with a bout of depression and said he didn’t think it was the right time to try to get pregnant.

Fast forward a few months and the depression is being better managed. He says that he thinks the lack of action is directly related to his depression (diminished libido is a symptom of the illness) but that doesn’t make sense to me. If the depression is managed, why the continued hold on action? Our current once-a-month routine does not reflect our shared understanding of the importance of sex for each of us in a relationship. This does not indicate that the cause of our sex reduction is the (now better-managed) depression.

So what then? Sex became an issue at around the same time as the depression became an issue. They’ve got to be linked. At least, that’s the logical conclusion to come to.

That doesn’t mean it’s right.

I stopped initiating sex because I didn’t want to push him into anything he didn’t want. Part of that was depression related, but part of it was pregnancy related.

He moved from being onboard with the idea of getting pregnant to being against it. It was a timing thing, I get it – it doesn’t make sense to put something else on top of everything we were already managing (namely: depression).

Sex pretty much stopped. Well, you know, that whole once-a-month-and-only-when-it-wasn’t-going-to-end-in-pregnancy thing kind of came up. My attraction to him started waning. Sex was integral to our relationship and it was becoming less likely. I became very aware of the time restrictions I was facing in relation to pregnancy and I started to doubt that he was going to be ready for that when I needed him to be.

I needed him to be enthusiastic about getting pregnant, not just accepting that I wanted it and going along with it. Last week’s conversation felt like it ended like that.

That’s the realisation I needed.

He reiterated that he is scared. I pointed out that scared and enthusiastic are not mutually exclusive.

I’ve been withdrawing sexually (and also emotionally) due to not wanting to pressure him in any way. Going along with things is absolutely not what I need from him. I’m in a relationship – I need equal partnership. If pregnancy is going to happen, I need him to be excited about it.

The conversation was a big one. It wasn’t easy. It was necessary to be incredibly honest. And –

Sexual block resolved!

Well, okay, it’s only been one day since we talked but… it’s been a good day. 😉

The countdown is on

When I first met him I was 35. I was at the the tail end of a four and a half year long relationship. My partner was female. The majority of my previous partners were female. My partner and I were in the beginning stages of starting a family.

I was open from the start: I want children. At least one. My ex had assumed custody of our dogs. I wanted dogs. At least one, but preferably two. Rescue dogs, because that was important to me. And marriage had never really been an option to me. That’s changed now, with the introduction of marriage equality into law, but I’d wanted either a protest marriage (marrying a female because I finally could) or a storybook marriage based on love (with a person of either gender).

He wasn’t sure about children because of his own concerns about his ability to be a decent parent. Dogs were a challenge because he’d lost his beloved dogs in the breakdown of his previous relationship and he didn’t want to lose his connection to his dogs again (whether through relationship break-up or pet death). And marriage – that was a strong no for him. He was separated when I met him. He’s still not divorced now. His preference, clearly articulated, is that he never marry again.

So there are some issues. I thought I could cope with having children and maybe a dog without doing the marriage thing. This relationship thing is all about compromise, right? But I’m 38 now. The likelihood of children is reduced everyday and he’s gone from not sure to saying he’s ready to saying he’s not ready back to not being sure.

I will actually hate him if menopause starts before I try for children of my own, and that will be irreparable. I can forgive not having a dog and not being married, but I will never forgive not having children.

There is an end date on this relationship now. I’ve told him that. I mentioned children and dogs, and he responded by reiterating all of the practical reasons why dogs are not appropriate now. Fuck that, if I want a dog now I will find a way to get a dog now. Children is a different story, I can’t do that on my own, but sure, let’s focus on the dog part of what I’m saying.

I can feel myself starting to shut down. It doesn’t feel like I can get what I need from this relationship. I love him, but I am not prepared to live my life with regret because of him.

Back flipping for change

“I think we’re doing better than we were,” he said.

Hold up, what?! “I think we’re doing worse.”

That kind of said it all, really. Two people, two different experiences of the same relationship. This was the first time we really hadn’t been on the same page. Hell, we weren’t even in the same library.

I felt overwhelmed. It felt worse to me that we had no idea what the other person was experiencing. There can’t be any coming back from this – that’s what I started telling myself.

So imagine my surprise to have experienced a total back flip in less than two weeks. How did this happen??

Enforced communication. Seriously. Nothing says happily ever after like being obliged to talk to each other.

The plan: five minutes each at the end of the day to talk about whatever we wanted to talk about. No questions. No interruptions. Just talking, and listening in response.

And it wasn’t all easy. Day one and I was asleep before he got home. When I suggested we make it up in the morning, he suggested that we just leave it until that night. Kind of seemed like this plan we had wasn’t going to make much of a difference at all, but we pushed through. Slowly these conversations became something that we looked forward to. He doesn’t typically tell me much about his day out of concern that it’ll be boring for me, and I enjoyed hearing more about his experiences.

I think there’s still room for improvement. I’m looking forward to hearing more about his thoughts rather than just receiving a rundown of his day, but we have at least started talking to each other again. We’ve also restarted expressing affection for and joking around with each other, both of which we’ve been forgetting to do.

Still not quite back to our form of normal, but starting to head in the right direction. Fucking finally.

We’re in trouble

Last week I told him I was going to start looking for somewhere else to live.

It was Sunday. We’d started arguing on Saturday night. He decided to sleep on the couch. He got shitty at me for not going in to check on him or invite him back to bed. It is not my job to predict and then cater to your needs.

It had been one week since our last argument, and two weeks since the one before that. We get one day a week to spend together – Saturday – and our Saturdays were becoming punctuated with spite.

I’d had enough. Enough of being taken for granted, of being accused of doing things to hurt him or harm the relationship, of being blamed for things going wrong. Yes, you’re depressed. No, that doesn’t make it okay for you to be an arsehole or to gaslight. And no, I’m not willing to partake in a predictable – to the day – cycle of fighting, making up, agreeing to try better, feeling better for a few days, and then hitting the start of the cycle again.

We spoke, as is typical (see above, re: cycle). We planned to do things differently. Again. Things felt better. Again. And then, Saturday.

“It’s Saturday,” I said to him, after he’d told me that I hadn’t been very talkative and that I had spent a lot of my day in the bedroom (in spite of having gone to a movie and then on a quest for ice cream together, before eating dinner together and then sitting beside him on the couch for an hour while he watched some of a game). He looked at me like, Uhm, what the fuck? “I said last week that I’m not into this rapid cycling that inevitably ends in an argument. On Saturdays.”

I’m done trying to placate the man. It’s not working. Over-It me started challenging him.

“What have you done to resolve the talking issue?” To myself: You bastard, we were sat in a fucking cinema for several hours of the day. You’ve been sat in front of the tv for hours. How is it appropriate to accuse me of being quiet when quiet has been an expectation for most of the fucking day?

“I came in here and lay down beside you.”

He didn’t see it, so I made the connection clear for him a few sentences later. “You tried to encourage talking by staring at me? What do you expect me to say as a result of being stared at?” And later: “It seems like you’re expecting more of me than you’re expecting of yourself. You want me to talk so you stare at me. Start a conversation, that would work better.”

I no longer refer to him as my lover. Now he’s just a man who I happen to share a bed with. I’m hopeful this is a shitty moment that will pass, but it’s starting to feel permanent.

He’s going to France in August and to New Zealand in October – technically both work-related, but definitely not a requirement of his job. We went away for a week for his birthday. I organised everything. Outside of that, we have no trips away together planned, compared to the many day and weekend trips that we organised last year. He’s taking on additional work on his days off. My birthday is in a couple of weeks. We have nothing planned. If I’m lucky, we’ll get the parts of Saturday that he hasn’t committed to other things together so that we can fight.

I’m trying to be optimistic, but I’m grasping for the final threads of everything somehow coming right.

He’s depressed. That feels less like a reason and more like an excuse now.

I don’t believe it’s possible to love someone who you have an overwhelming dislike for. The good parts have to outweigh the bad for love to be an option.

On balance, we’re in trouble.

Once [a month] is never enough

If I were to write a dating profile tomorrow, it’d be fairly one dimensional. None of that favourite books / movies / musicians crap. Not even a list of attributes I think I possess or that I’d like my next partner to embody. Nope. It’d be all about sex. This is what I like / need sexually – I don’t need you to have heard of my favourite band or even to appreciate their particular style of music, but you’d damn well better be able to satisfy (or even impress) me when we’re getting it on.

I’m thinking about this a fair bit at the moment, probably due to the sudden decline in action that I’m getting. At least once every few days (but ideally more) is my preference. Once a month, and strategically just after my period, is what’s happening. Yes, world, I’d like more sex – and I’d like it if pregnancy was a possibility too.

(Oh yes, I get it: his libido has diminished with the onset of depression. He has also voiced concerns about getting pregnant right now with everything else going on in his world. All understandable. Give a brother the chance to vent without bringing it all back to someone else, yeah? I want action. This is about me now.)

Owner of a lonely heart

I haven’t written for a while because, well, I’ve felt the need to edit my thoughts and writing. The lover is experiencing depression with symptoms being noticeable for a little over two months now, though he also experienced some major life events in that time and those helped to confuse the severity of what is going on for him.

The depression has resulted in a lack of interest in sex, in doing things that he once enjoyed, in almost anything. That’s been a challenge for me, but the toughest thing for me to have to deal with has been his increased expectations of me and his lowered expectations of himself. In the past week he has communicated that he would like me to hold his hand when I am feeling upset so that he knows everything is okay (it’s not, though: I’m fucking upset) and he has said that “everytime I go out, we end up in a fight” (alluding to the fact that he thinks I am starting fights – or letting him know I am upset at being ignored – in order to stop him from going out).

It has been two months of steadily decreased contact. Hand holding? Cuddling on the couch? Things of the past. I recognised that he stopped doing them, and then I noticed that he wasn’t responding when I did them, and now I’ve stopped doing them too. Three times in the past week we have gone to bed at different times. They’re all tiny things on their own, but they’re huge in combination.

The hardest thing is how little time he has for me. He has a meeting tonight, dinner with a friend tomorrow, drinks with friends on Friday, and I’m sure there will be things on Saturday and Sunday that will need his time and attention too. This is after having no time together last weekend because of his work and social commitments. I feel like I am not priority for him. I AM FUCKING TIRED OF HAVING CONVERSATIONS INTERRUPTED BY TEXT MESSAGES / EMAILS / PHONE CALLS THAT TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER ME. Once every so often makes sense. Every fucking conversation is not okay. We are two people existing in the same small space at the moment, not lovers, not even friends.

And my self-worth is plummeting.

I feel lonelier with him than I do on my own, and I am starting to resent the relationship because of it.

Life after birth control

For the first time in almost two years, I got my period yesterday. Oh yeah, that’s right, weird abdominal pain and full-on exhaustion has been reintroduced to my monthly experiences… I remember now why the IUD seemed like such an appealing prospect.

On the upside, my desire for sex has been steadily increasing since having the long-term contraceptives removed. (An aside: it’s a bit shitty to make women less likely to get pregnant whilst also destroying their libido. Medical science has got to be capable of better than that.) On the downside, my lover’s libido is waning.

So, yeah, I’m bleeding and feeling extraordinarily blergh whilst also wanting all of the action and having to rely on masturbation to feel mostly human. Life.

Know better, do better

I lost custody of my dogs in my last breakup. Two years since the split and I still catch myself thinking about the dogs, sometimes missing them incredibly and other times just hoping life is being good to them.

It was a dog-thought moment earlier this week that inspired a moment of revelation. I was an arsehole during the breakup. Not in terms of saying hurtful things or blurring boundaries or any of those typically arsehole things that breakups can provoke. I stopped trying. I thought that because things weren’t right that they must be wrong. I blocked the possibility of a future by believing that a future with my ex would only ever be the present moment rehashed until one of us died.

The arsehole part was not giving her any right of reply. I ended it, she attempted to bargain, I shut it all down. My mind was made up. Looking back, I am only just now able to see how disrespectful that was. Four and a half years of partnership ended with a monologue, not mutual agreement. Arsehole.

This revelation has only become possible because of the ebbs and flows of partnership with my lover. We talk when we’re angry, sad, confused – those times when I prefer to curl up in a ball on my own. There have been times when I have questioned a future with him, when the inability to feel understood has threatened our relationship, but we have managed to overcome each of those moments through discussion, empathy and compassion.

I didn’t know how to do that in my previous relationship. Hell, I’m still learning how to do it now.

I miss my dogs terribly, even know. I don’t miss my ex, but I am starting to realise where that relationship started to buckle and how much of its failure could have been prevented, or at least better enacted.

I am sorry for being an arsehole. I’m sorry, too, that it took me this long to see it.

Only women bleed (unless hormones)

After a few months of stress and anxiety relating to the IUD situation, the bastard thing was finally removed today. The doctor waved it around in victory with an excited gleam in her eye: she expressed far better than I could what a relief it was to have gotten it out.

I had the Implanon removed a couple of weeks ago as well. It was far less dramatic an extraction, but it has resulted in an additional two scars on the underside of my arm. I’ve noticed a couple of side effects of the sudden decrease in hormones coursing through my system, and suspect I might experience a few more in the coming weeks. Boo.

What does this all mean? Well, apparently my fertility should return to whatever is normal for me sometime quite soon. That certainly makes the whole pregnancy thing a little more possible. I’m in my late 30’s so it’s kind of a now or never deal, though I’ve never been pregnant so there’s also a chance that now could also be the time that I find out that never is the reality.

Outside of that, I am looking forward (uh…) to getting my period again, and to bleeding on and off for a while as my body adjusts to being able to bleed again. Should be fun.

In related news: if I could do the life thing all over again, I think I’d want to be a dude.