Our war was about secrets, not lies. Secrets that we couldn’t share. We set to battling over territory neither of us wanted.
For my part the secret that I didn’t understand started to erode in 2006. I asked her how her counseling session went. She had anxiety from her last semester in college.
“The counselor says we are in an abusive relationship,” we both stared, and she continued,”she says it sounds like a drug addiction.”
It was like I was looking at a proportional map of the world for the first time. The pieces were recognizable, but I wasn’t sure how to how to deal with the whole. I understood how to think about our behaviors, but I couldn’t see any consistency (consistency is what makes the difference between mean and abusive). Who was the abuser?
We had been together for a long time, when we ticked off our history we both seemed mean, at times. I just hadn’t ever dealt with the concept we were bad together, not individually.
With most of a decade behind me I realize that we were abusing ourselves. I was punishing myself because I didn’t understand what I was fighting against. She fit so perfectly into a place in my life that was broken that her most damaging moments weren’t intentional. And, my natural response fit perfectly into her greatest fears. We just did what came naturally. Our instincts were killing each other, and our fears brought us back together.
We learned to pay enough attention to balance speed and comfort, but we were headed somewhere neither of us would have been happy.
My problem was that I was in a silent war with my mother, but my battlefield never put me closer to winning my war.
In time the steady march to places I wasn’t suited to be tore me down, and my girlfriend down and we started a Cold War (seeing who could be the least attached), neither of us wanted to end what was clearly hurting us both.
Shortly after the girlfriend moved away I was talking to my mother. The last nail fell into place and I saw what my war was about. I heard this dismissive tone and language that put me right back into my last fight with the girlfriend. It was too late, but I finally had something that felt like truth. My love for that, now ex, girlfriend came clean. Most of my anger with that ex went away, but I still was the wrong person, on all fronts.
I was being honest, to my ability, and accepted two slow deaths. Always hoping that the girlfriend would one day believe that I was sorry for my part in our bad times. Inclusive of my failure to understand and let go.
My wars have become more obvious and I atone much more quickly for the Devils that rise from the graves of my past. I still fight my silent wars, and now I don’t see secrets as strength. Maybe the hardest lessons learned from that difficult relationship was to be honest about my failings, accept that there are things that I can’t fix myself, and that silence can’t fix anything.