Stories are not facts or fiction. They are all valid, but none are fully truth or lies.
I start with this because I fully recognize that my stories about my ex husband, my current partner, myself, my friends and family, and everything and everyone in my life is a *story.* I am a skeptic about everyone’s stories, *especially* my own. Why? Because I see the world from my lens and my lens is a little skewed – like everyone else’s. My lens is my brain – which is distorted by the past and my perception of the future, the present of my emotions and my environment. I am an incomplete and imperfect human, just like you.
I had a story in my head that I was not a musician, but I have been learning the guitar slowly but surely and can play and sing more than a few songs now! Another story was that I would not and could not be paid for my passions – and yet I am every day (now). Yet another was that I am not good at public speaking, but I got up in front of a number of people on multiple occasions recently to teach or to read my own writing. I am proving my stories wrong every day.
But It’s why reading through my partner’s ex-wife’s blog is hard for me. Because I see her stories – the ones that align and don’t align with mine – and I see her feelings – the ones that align and don’t align with mine – and I see her heart – the one I was very fond of at one point and still feel very connected to somehow (despite the fact that she has refused to talk to or be in my presence for over a year). Though her story no longer seems to be entirely focused on how *I* ruined her life, sometimes *I* feel like I ruined her life and the feelings that come up are my own projections of both her and my stories that center around guilt and shame and pain (on both sides).
Let me take a step back. I haven’t shared this story here before because sometimes I believe she is right and all the guilt and shame and pain re-surface. Her story is (or was) that she and her husband/my partner were polyamorous. She “allowed” me to start dating her husband…and then we fell in love (her husband and I). They (she and my partner) got divorced after a number of months of turmoil (turmoil that was happening before I came into the picture, mind you). She believes at this point, he (my partner) left her for me, the “younger” and more “adventurous” girl living out of a “fucking van.” Her story is replacement. It’s likely more complicated than that for her, but she has said multiple times to me and to him that I “should have left when I saw their marriage falling apart.” Her story is that I should have essentially prioritized their marriage over my relationship and my feelings and my love of her husband. Don’t think I didn’t feel that at some points. They have kids. I love their kids. I loved their marriage. And I did tell him (my partner) that maybe I should go. He said I could, but that he would be devastated and that this really had nothing to do with me. It was their marriage – *their* marriage – and that is what was failing and it was failing before I got there. Nevertheless, her words still ring in my head occasionally, especially as I sit there living the life I feel that she used to or maybe even is entitled to with him.
I’ve been reading her blog that she created when they separated. It’s her story of heart-rending feelings she has about their divorce and mostly about losing him (to me). In the beginning it was at least. More lately, it’s been about just the grief of losing. And today, I read her post and it mirrored my feelings, but from the other side. She went on a camping trip with just the kids and was grieving losing her family of four, stating that now she is a “family of three.” Moreover, she stated her grief prevented her from being in the moment with her kids. Meanwhile, I’m reading this while feeling utterly disconnected from the “family” I’ve “acquired” – the “family” that very clearly does not really include me even when I’m sitting right there in front of them. I am an outsider. I am a family of one.
Sometimes, I would like to give her this back because it seems she fits there better, but I know this isn’t what he wants and it isn’t what I want either. Even if I left, he wouldn’t go back to her. Even if he did, it wouldn’t be the same as it was before, of course. What it was before can’t become again. Other times, I’d like to show her that instead of a family of three, if she were open to it, we could be a “family” of five. A weird family, not the nuclear family for sure. But people who value time together over dividing the time in half apart. People who value supportive-ness over anger and hate. People who see that change needs to happen, but change is better than a “family of three”…or one. I know I’m being overly idealistic. I know that her attachment to her story will likely never be torn to be open to something different and new. Her attachment to me being the home-wrecker is an easier one than admitting her part in the failing of something she prized so highly or her love losing his love for her. It was a story I also attached to when D cheated on me – until I realized that cheating was the symptom and not the underlying issue of our dysfunction. It took me a year to get there. And today, I really wish that I could talk to the person he cheated on me with – not angrily, not threateningly, but to thank her for showing me in the way I could best understand then that I needed to go and for giving him the support he needed at the time when I was least available to him. I also assume his dysfunction with me carried over to her and I wish she hadn’t had to bear that burden and be burned by him so quickly thereafter. I’m not sugarcoating or lying through my teeth when I say this.
My story about my partner and about his ex is that I *chose* him…and she hadn’t for many years. That doesn’t mean she didn’t love him, that she didn’t try to show it in the ways she knew how. But she had, over the years, forgotten how to show her love to him in a way that was engaging with him and in the ways he could best hear. And vice versa. And that does damage to a relationship. Irreparable damage. And when you see someone really choose you – actively, unconditionally, and would love you whether or not you were together – it’s a very stark contrast to the relationship that feels dead or dying, that feels unintentional or maybe even abusive. It wasn’t a choice of leaving her for me – in his head, not directly. It was specifically *not* choosing a person who didn’t choose him every day anymore (among other factors). It was too hard. It was dimming his own spirit. It wasn’t about me. And yet…if someone comes into your life that provides that comparison…is that choice *about* them?* He says no, I say…”Maybe…kinda.” I’ve always said that polyamory doesn’t ruin relationships; it just exposes the problems already there. Were there problems there? Yeah. But in the midst of such a stark comparison, it’s hard to keep choosing (or choose for the first time) a relationship that is *currently* making you unhappy, while spending time with someone who makes you feel on top of the world. It might not really be about the latter person…but…well, it doesn’t help. That’s where I struggle.
It’s where I struggle with polyamory. It’s where I struggle with my own fears of replacement. It’s where I struggle with being that person who many would see as the “home wrecker” even though ethically speaking, his wife was all on board and also fucking many other people. It’s where I wonder when the next shoe will drop – when he will find someone shinier than me who he will choose to spend more time with and begin doing all the things I dream of doing with him without me. That isn’t the idea at all of polyamory – and yet, this was my story with D (who dated the person he cheated on me with immediately after I left) and my partner’s ex-wife’s story too. The similarities amplify my fears that “it” (the story) will happen again.
But remember – these are stories. Not truth, not lies, not fact or fiction.
The only facts are that currently, I’m living with my partner and his kids half the time. I have my own bedroom and space to myself. I have friends I see regularly alone. I have hobbies he is a part of and not. We have adventures together on a regular basis. We laugh together a lot, we cry together occasionally, we spend a lot of time together. When we struggle, most of the time, we can converse about it and seem to feel much better after. We both claim we feel “happy” when we look at our life in the big picture of things. Moreover, we both claim to feel much “happier” than we used to in our “old lives,” of course acknowledging recall bias (as the scientists we are).
And maybe this is all that matters, really. The stories attach us to an outcome that is almost always negative and almost all projections of our fears and insecurities. But the facts center us in what is – positive and negative removed- and allow us to be *here* *now* in what we have right in front of us.
Prove your stories wrong. For you.