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The Birthday Dance - Friday, Dec. 20, 2019
Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 @ 11:56 am
"You are the most selfish person that I've ever met," he says. He gets out of the car, slams the door, and goes into the house. I sit in the passenger seat and watch my breath fog up the windows.
I go into my office in the morning, my face blotchy from crying. My office mate, Josh, is there before me because he works on Eastern time.
"How are you?" he asks.
I pause. And then something in me unclenches.
"To be honest, I'm not great. My partner and I are going through a rough time in our relationship, and I think this might be the end. I apologize if I've seemed off for the past while, but it's been hard and I'm scared of what's happening."
He takes off his headset and asks me for more details. He shares some of his major relationship decision points. I'm not sure why I chose him to open up to. I've only known him for a few months. I felt badly for my recent quietness and reticence, and I'm a terrible liar. It felt like my "I'm good, how are you?" responses were starting to seem unfriendly.
A few days later, we have our workspace Christmas party. I drink some wine and catch up with some of the people that I know. I imagine being single. I look around the room and realize how many interesting guys are here that are not wearing wedding rings. A man is right behind me, and I can smell him and feel the heat from his body along my back. I feel as though I've woken up from a long nap.
Josh comes over and refills my wine. We talk for a long time. He's leaning towards me to be heard over the loud music. I ask him about dating apps, which did not exist the last time that I was single. He shares a fairly embarassing dating story, which makes me laugh. I like how my vulnerability has in turn encouraged his vulnerability. Somoene asks me how Daniel is doing, and Josh is standing there beside me. I can see him watching my response, which is vague but honest. We have this connection now, an undercurrent of information that shapes our experience at the party.
In the morning, while Daniel lies in bed, I go out into the back to chop wood. I swing the axe over my head and watch it slice cleanly through each piece of cured wood. I chop piece after piece, then moving onto make kindling with the hatchet. A pile of bark and wood shreds builds around my feet. My breath making puffs in the cold mountain air.
"Would you go to counselling with me next week?" I ask.
He agrees. I ask him what he hopes to gain from the session.
"I am going to tell her all of the things that you do so that she can see how crazy you are. I am going to seek justification and be told that you need to do a lot of work to improve how you are in our relationship."
And then I am immensely happy. If he actually does this, then I can find out for sure whether his treatment of me is what I suspect: emotional abuse. I'm reading articles about relationship dynamics (smart, right?) and one of the main symptoms of emotional abuse is questioning your own sanity.
You know what's actually happening right now? This is what I think. The confidence that I've gained from other aspects of my life is entering my relationship. I now stand detached from the sad lonely little girl who desperately wanted to be wanted by someone. I now see how he treats me, and I refuse to stand for it. And now that I'm standing up for myself, he feels uncomfortable in losing power over me and decides that I'm now selfish. By calling me selfish, he is trying to make me smaller. He is trying to push me back down into that sad child that he met that night on the beach, the one that looked at him with pleading grey eyes and made him feel like a protector. He can't see it clearly, all he knows is that I am changing and he doesn't like it.
We talked about what to do over the Christmas break, and he said that we should spend it with his family. We've spent the major holidays with his family for many years because according to him 'it makes sense'. I decided this year that this has not been fair to me and my family, so I said that since we spent the last few years with his family that I'd like to spend this year with mine. Selfish? I call that a compromise. Alternate years like everyone else. He starts telling me how we can do dinner with my family any night and that his side has nephews, etc. I stand my ground.
Why have I not left? Because I can use this to learn how to assert myself in the most challenging of relationships, one that is emotionally charged and sets off all of my triggers. I am learning to set my boundaries and to stand up for myself.
I guess, in retrospect, that is selfish.