January 8, 2010
Issue: 11.01
What Goes Around, Comes Around

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I was in a yearlong relationship in which I often felt like my boyfriend tried to spend as little time with me as he thought he could get away with, without my getting angry. Still, he did make me angry—most of the time (which I finally admitted to myself, after reading a year’s worth of journal entries). Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have stayed in the relationship, but I had the usual “reasons.” You know them as well as I do: “when it was good, it was great,” “things will get better,” and the one that we women like the best, “he really does love me, but it scares him” (this turned out to be true!).

The defining moment came when he expressed his desire to shop for paper plates—alone—rather than spend a few hours (or, G-d forbid, a day) with me. Why I couldn’t help him pick out his paper plates, I’ll never know. But I suspect that, for an “unemotionally unavailable, commitment-phobic” man, choosing paper plates together smacks of choosing a china pattern.

I was so angry at him (and at myself for putting up with how he treated me) that I no longer wanted to speak to him, and I broke up with him by letter. I figured that the effort to write it, print it out, address an envelope, stick a “Forever” (how ironic!) stamp on it, and put it in the mail would help offset my guilt over not breaking up in person or at least by phone. Besides, I knew that his printer was out of ink, and I wanted him to have something that he could hold in his hand and perhaps reflect upon.

In my letter, I made it clear that, unless he becomes emotionally available and capable of a truly loving relationship, in which he treasures his time with me, we had nothing more to talk about. I figured that this would never happen, at least in my lifetime, so I didn’t expect to hear from him again.

I was wrong. He called a week later to “talk.” I told him that the only way I would talk to him would be for him to listen to me tell him how he had repeatedly hurt and angered me. And none of this was news to him; he’d heard it all before. Well, he must have been eager to have contact with me because he did listen . . . and listen . . . and listen. Either because I had so much to say or because he would call at a time when our conversation had to end at a set time due to his schedule, it took four phone calls, all of which he initiated, for me to “let it all out.” (As an aside, I’m thinking of pitching a new reality series called “Extreme Feedback.”) At the end of the fourth conversation, I told him that I had said everything that I needed to say.

A week later, he called again! I asked why he was calling, and he said that he wanted to let me finish my “list.” I reminded him that, in our last conversation, I had told him that I had finished, and I repeated the question. He then said that he had just called to talk and added that he missed me. Oh, really? I figured that he must have purchased enough paper plates to last him for a while and had some time to think . . . perchance, to feel.

So, out of curiosity (and, I must admit, still having feelings for him), I agreed to talk to him. During the course of our conversation, in his hyper-intellectual way, he explained his struggles over being in a relationship. I understood and even empathized. But the fact remained that, no matter how much he still cared about me, and I about him, he’s not someone with whom I should have a relationship.

Near the end of the conversation, he said that he’d like to at least get together with me for coffee. As tempting as that is, I don’t have time. I need to buy some paper towels.

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