Wednesday, November 11, 2015

11-11-2015 Entry: Coming Out the Other Side Through Compassion and Empathy


Hello my darlings! I hope you are well. I am pleased to report that, at least for the time being, the sun seems to be shining through the clouds of my life. The warmth of its rays cascade down across the landscape around me as the black vapor that’s been clouding my vision begins to dissipate.

I think I’m finally ready to move forward. I think I am finally in a place of such understanding that the past no longer feels like a chaotic mess of unforeseen betrayal and deception. Don’t get me wrong, the pain is still there and the memories of this time will likely never vanish from my mind (nor will they stop affecting my future path for quite some time). I am still heartbroken that my marriage has failed, that the woman I vowed to love until my death no longer wishes to share her life with me, and that despite all of my efforts and love towards her, it wasn’t enough to save us.

Yes, that pain is still there and likely will be for some time, but last night marked a turning point in this divorce. Not only was it the most angry I’d ever felt towards my soon to be ex-wife (MSBEW) but it was also the most communicative we’ve been since this all happened. Before last night, the vast majority of our conversations with one another were about the divorce; about the logistics of splitting our life and assets up; about the plans for the future, both immediate and distant. We did not speak, almost at all, about the reasoning behind her decision to leave.

Sure, there were vague conversations about her not being happy or not fully regretting her decision to have an affair, but we never really got down to the core of the situation. In my mind, it was all so sudden and unexpected. I was blindsided by this. I knew there were problems but I was unaware that they had eroded the foundation of our marriage as much as they had. I went from thinking that we were past the hard part and would progress into the future as a stronger, closer couple to suddenly having my entire world thrown into a chaotic whirlwind of emotions ranging from hopelessness and betrayal to eagerness and resolution.

There was no warming up period to this divorce in my mind. There was no escalation that led to the split. It went from being loving and happy to ruined and broken (literally) overnight. I was left reeling, desperately clinging to anything I could grab onto to stop the spinning, hoping to find solid ground. I became someone I didn’t know or even want to be, and my heart grew colder and colder towards this woman I’d always loved so deeply.

So, last night when I went home to discuss the divorce papers with my wife, I was furious at her. It all felt too fast. It felt like she was throwing our life away on a whim, one that had not been thought out or planned for. It felt like she was ripping the ground out from under my feet without a single care in the world that it was leaving me devastated and heartbroken.

We talked for a bit and as the conversation progressed I became increasingly angry as she kept insisting that the divorce paperwork be filed ASAP instead of waiting to make sure we wanted to truly make this irreversible decision. I felt so hurt, so offended, so unwanted. How could someone go from loving me 2 weeks ago to wanting to be out of my life as soon as humanly possible when I hadn’t done anything wrong? If I’d been the cheater, I could have understood it. I could have recognized that she would want out quickly, but I was the wounded party. I was the victim of her infidelity and yet I was also the one being abandoned out in the cold with no sense of direction or hope for the future?

I angrily told her that she was making this decision too quickly and that she was going to regret it. I told her that she had better never come crawling back saying she missed me after we were divorced because I wouldn’t take her back. She got a smug look on her face and said that she wouldn’t. I hated her more then than I ever had before and said, “Yes you will! You’re going to miss me and want to come back, but I won’t let you.”

Again she asserted that she wouldn’t come back and I said good. I was so furious. The night before she was lamenting the fact that she would miss me because she was comfortable in our life together and here she was 24 hours later, smugly telling me that she would never want me back, that she would never miss the life we had.

I stood up from my seat and shook my head. I looked her in the eye and told her that she was so stupid to be throwing all of this away without a thought. I think I told her she was unbelievable and I left the room to get ready for bed. As I showered I was filled with so much animosity towards her. How dare she smugly tell me she wouldn’t miss me when it was obvious that she still loved me and that I was her best friend!

I got out of the shower, dried my hair, and headed for bed. I had told her earlier that she could come sleep in the bedroom if she wanted but as I sat there in bed I wasn’t sure I was okay with that anymore. As I sat on the bed, getting ready to lay down to sleep I noticed that my precious friend (the very first person I came out to last year) had texted me. She too was dealing with a tragic loss on her birthday, although of a different kind.

For the first time, I didn’t feel so alone. Someone else out there was having an awful time when they ought have been having a great time. Someone else out there felt the pain and loss that I felt, even if it was for different things. I tried to console her as best as I could.

A moment later MSBEW came into the room and stood next to my side of the bed with her arms crossed, giving me the “are we going to talk about this?” look.

I told her that I just didn’t get it. She said that that was obvious. I related all of my feelings and perceptions of the events of the last two weeks, so she could understand where I was coming from. I asked her to explain herself. I wanted to understand why she was so eager to get out when she had seemed so happy in recent months, and for the first time, she really did.

We had a relatively long conversation about the reasons behind her actions. She confessed that she had been thinking about leaving for many weeks prior to the affair, but that she hadn’t been able to say anything. She said that the last few times we’d gone to marriage counseling she felt like she had something to hide (that she wanted out of the relationship) and didn’t know how to bring it up. She admitted that she was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to afford to live on her own, so felt compelled to stay out of necessity.

She explained that while she did still love me and while we were best friends that our marriage wasn’t fulfilling for her. She wanted to end the marriage while our lives were in a place that we could both easily move into living alone. We didn’t have kids, we both made enough money to support ourselves, she finally made enough money to not starve on her own (I would have been fine even before the transition), and we were young enough that we could very well find love again. She admitted that there were a lot of great things about our marriage and our life together that she was happy with, but it wasn’t enough.

When I asked her what was missing, her answer was direct and made total sense to me. It was sex, and I knew she was right. Our sex life had long since fallen into disrepair when I was Robert and the transition to Emma had only made it worse. While I regained many of the components of attractiveness that I had lost in her eyes as Robert by becoming Emma (confidence, happiness, better hygiene/presentation, thinner physique) I also became more feminine and softer, which isn’t what a heterosexual woman usually wants in a lover.

I was able to accept this and understood the gravity of it, because it was also the thing that I had found lacking too. It was the one thing that constantly brought me to the idea of us parting ways. I wanted a lesbian lover, and I was heartbroken that she would never be that for me. I had considered ending our marriage many times (even before the transition) for that very reason, but like her, I feared the financial consequences for her. I didn’t want to leave her out in the cold when I knew she needed me to help her live financially. Plus, I loved her, more than anyone in the whole world, so wasn't it worth sticking around even without the sex?

 Every other aspect of our life together was really great, honestly, but the sex wasn’t present, and when it was, it wasn’t all that spectacular. If I’m honest, it never really was (she agreed). The first few times were great and amazing (likely because of the anticipation from months of being apart during our long distance beginning), but after I moved in with her, it never really got better or even compared to those first few times.

Somehow, we made it work. We tried different things, but in the end, she wanted a man, and I wasn’t a man. I remember reading articles on how to be manly so that I could try to be more sexually attractive for her, but all the acting in the world could not make up for who I was on the inside. I always reverted back to being feminine, and as a result our sexual attraction nosedived.

I can see now why our counseling session two weeks ago set all of these events into motion. We agreed to take sex out of the equation for 6 months when she was already 6 to 8 weeks into thinking about wanting to leave because of sex’s absence. The thought of abstinence after so much already was likely too much for her handle, so when she found herself able to get sex from someone she found attractive, she jumped at the opportunity. She shouldn’t have done it. I am definitely not excusing her behavior, not when she could have just admitted it two months earlier and saved us a lot of fighting and me a lot of heartbreak and broken trust, but I can finally empathize with her.

That is what I needed in all of this, the ability to empathize with her. Compassion is impossible without empathy and her actions in the last two weeks just seemed like coldhearted attacks without cause or reason. She did not reveal her suffering to me, so I only saw the lashing out, the cheating, the desire to leave ASAP, and the indifference to my pain as a reflection on her character. I could not understand why she was doing any of it, and so I could not help but see her as a villainous, uncaring, cold-hearted person instead of someone in pain/disappointment too.

I also needed to know that she wasn’t leaving because I was inadequate for her as a partner or that she just didn’t love me anymore. I needed to know that all my effort and love over the years were recognized and not taken for granted by easily being cast aside. I needed to know that I wasn’t simply being erased out of some sudden onset of cruelty, but that she was leaving after really, truly thinking about her options and deciding this was the best one.

When it seemed like she’d made this decision in two weeks, it felt cruel, rushed, and unfeeling. Knowing that this had been brewing beneath the surface for a few months, gives it more meaning, and gives her decision more credibility. She isn’t just panicking from a mistake (the affair) by making another, even bigger one (the divorce). She made a big one by not telling me two months ago that she wanted out, and then made another, more painful one by cheating, and is now trying desperately to do the right thing that she should have done from the start by ending the relationship.

I suppose I am content with her explanation and feel better about the future and our divorce because I can understand it, I can empathize with it, and I can recognize how important sex is to a love relationship.

Sex truly is the glue that keeps it all together. Without the sex, you are bound to drift apart. Sure, love is great and intimacy (emotional closeness) is very important, but without passion there really isn’t a consummate relationship. Many friendships can include love and intimacy, and that’s really what we had become, friends.

If sex is the glue that keeps you together, then love is like duct tape, and intimacy is like rubber bands. Both of those can do the job for a while, and can even do a really good job for a long time in the place of that glue, but eventually the duct tape begins to stretch and lose its adhesion. The rubber bands lose their elasticity and eventually snap, and the relationship falls apart.

That’s what happened to us. We duct taped and rubber banded the hell out of our relationship with a wonderful friendship and an emotional closeness that carried us through some really hard stuff for many years, but there was no glue to finish the job. Without that glue, without the fulfilling sex component, the rest wasn’t enough for her, and I get it, because it was only barely enough for me (and might have eventually become not enough further down the road as I had a lot of fears about our sex life potentials).

The thought of her with this man she had an affair with still sickens me, and I will never forget what she did or forgive this person who helped her do it, but I can understand now why she has done what she did. She is not a monster, she just wasn’t ever shown how to adequately expression and process her emotions in constructive (instead of destructive) ways. I can empathize with that, as I was like that for a very long time too. She didn’t know how to tell me she wanted out and so she did the only thing she knew would make me understand she wanted out, and which I have done countless times myself: self-destruct.

So, with three days left of our cohabitation, I am going into this divorce with peace in my heart for the first time. My hatred for her is gone. My indifference towards her is transformed into empathy and compassion. My pain, while still present, is subsiding. I am ready to move on with my life. I am ready to stand on my own and find out who Emma really is. I am ready to accept that I will find love again, and that there will be that sexual fulfilment glue to keep it together. I have learned so much from this marriage and I will utilize that experience to make the next relationship I’m in so much better.

She was my best friend and will likely still be one of my best friends after we have some time apart. My hope is that she learns from her mistakes, that she realizes that you have to be open and honest, both with those you love and with yourself. There are better, less painful ways of letting someone know you want out or that you aren’t happy than self-destructing yours and their life. I hope she can see that now and will never do that to someone again.

I also hope she finds that she deserves more than some guy who would knowingly interfere with a marriage/is okay with cheating (questionable morals/ethics), who has no car (questionable stability/maturity), who is a coworker (office romance is a mine field that’s best avoided) and is honestly kind of tragic looking (seriously, you can do better… like WAY better; you are gorgeous, baby, don’t sell yourself short on some scrub when just about any guy would be lucky to date you; you better believe I will not settle for anyone less attractive that you are, so why should you?).

Regardless, our time together is swiftly coming to an end, and rather than hating her and feeling aguish and loss, I vow to cherish what we have left. It won’t be what it was, it never can be, but it can still be good, and can become a new foundation upon which we build a non-marital friendship that does last for life. I vowed to always stand by your side, and I meant that. Maybe I can’t do that as your husband/wife, but I will do that as your friend, if you will let me. I don’t want you out of my life permanently, I’d miss you too damn much and you’d miss me too. Let’s take a few weeks to get some space, to heal, to remember that the world is not over, and the let’s begin again.

-Emma

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