Saturday, December 06, 2008

Good Advice: Easy to Give, Hard to Follow

"It's not easy to understand other people's problems, but it's very easy to think you do." - Mokey Fraggle, Fraggle Rock, "The Preachification of Convincing John"

Lisa and I have decided to make our breakup official, though we're having trouble agreeing exactly when. I want it to be January 24; that way, we won't have to deal with packing stuff up until after Christmas. Lisa wants to leave January 10; I'm trying to talk her out of that because, if she leaves that early, that means we have to deal with the logistics of it over Christmas. However, at least we have agreed that the final breakup will be in January.

It's not that I don't understand why she wants to leave as soon as she can; I do. Besides the pain we're causing each other, her mother is quite ill right now; she wants to go home and help. Normally, I would consider the time, more than a month from now, adequate; it's simply the timing of it, right through the Christmas season, that's troubling me. I'm only asking for 14 more days so we can have a peaceful Christmas unfettered by sorting and packing.

Unfortunately, the contention over this initiated a rather fierce exchange of fire last night; shields took a beating on both sides. The thing is now, while she's away at her parents', I'm surprised to discover that I'm actually missing her badly for the first time since this snafu began a year ago. I don't know why; I just do. I've even been posting how much I miss her to my Facebook profile and changed my relationship status from "Single" to "It's Complicated."

Like most people, I've known my fair share of people with relationship problems. Also like most people, I have had my fair share of relationship problems; first my breakup with Riin, now my breakup with Lisa. In the first case, Riin initiated the breakup; in the latter, I initiated it. In both cases, the person who initiated the breakup was hoping for a smooth separation; in both cases, it didn't turn out that way.

I've seen elements in my current situation with Lisa and in my past situation with Riin in a lot of the relationship problems other people in my life have had. Now, when I'm advising a friend on what to do about their relationship problems, I'm almost always able to give sound advice. Following that advice myself, however, would seem to be much harder.

For example, last night during our argument over the date of our breakup, Lisa hit me over the head with a broomstick. Now, if a friend were to come to me and say that their partner had done that to them, my first advice would be to charge them with assault. Further, if their relationship had a repeated pattern of physical abuse in it, as mine with Lisa does, my next advice would be to get out immediately.

Objectively, I know that's good advice. However, being in the situation makes it much harder to look at it objectively. Yes I know it's probably for the best that Lisa and I are separating. However, while she's away visiting her parents this weekend, I can't help but miss her terribly and I wonder, "If I'm missing her this much now when she's only away for a few days, how the hell am I going to get through her leaving for good? I don't want her to leave."

This makes it easier to understand why women whose partners do horrific things to them, even extremes like beatings and sexual assaults, sometimes still want to go back. No, wait; that's not quite right. I do not understand why; even being in it myself right now I don't understand why I feel this way. I have no more understanding of why women sometimes stay in bad situations, either. It's more accurate to say that I understand how they feel.

I've heard women even in the most reprehensible situations say, "I can make this work. He can be a better person. I just have to try harder." The thing that scares me is that right now, in this moment, I'm having the exact same thoughts about Lisa: "I can make this work. She can be a better person. I just have to try harder."

There are probably some cases where that's true. However, I've been with Lisa for 12 years; in all that time, it has not gotten better no matter how hard I've tried. Lisa drags behavior out of me that I simply do not exhibit with anyone else because, with Lisa, I often find myself desperate trying to communicate with her, and desperation sometimes makes people do things out of character (like how hard I pushed Riin; I don't usually act like that but I was desperate).

If I had a friend who'd been in a relationship for more than a single year, never mind 12, whose relationship showed such repeated patterns of abuse as my relationship with Lisa has, I would be begging them to get out. I can sit here and know full well that's good advice; I know it's advice I should follow. Yet I still miss her. I still don't want her to leave. I still spent all night tonight wanting to call her (miracle of miracles, I managed not to do that at least).

Why is it so easy to know the right thing to do and yet so hard to do it?

I'm sitting here thinking how sad our next anniversary will be; August 17, 2009 will be a very sad day. I'm thinking about all the years I've put into this relationship and I can't help but think I should still be trying to hold it together. I do still love Lisa but, like Riin, she no longer trusts me and simply won't listen. Of course, this time, that feeling is mutual; I don't trust her right now, either.

This would be easier if I could just have this one last peaceful Christmas but, if Lisa insists on leaving January 10, that'll cast a pall over my Christmas spirit no matter where I spend it. Her family has offered to let me spend it with them, as has become tradition (and, although I've given thought to traveling this Christmas, more and more I'm thinking I'd rather spend one more with them) but that'd be really awkward under the circumstances.

I don't know what to do. Should I try again? Probably not.

But I can't help but want to.

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