Daniel Barrett’s partner wanted to solve their problems by running away, but he was the one who really needed to leave.
The following is the second excerpt from One? (Read the first here.) In this section, Dan recounts several moments from a relationship that, with the help of a therapist, he finally recognized was abusive. Dan reflects on what may have led him to stay in the relationship despite its effect on his emotional well-being.
“Call the landlord, I am moving out!” she yelled as she traipsed across the room. “I am tired of all of your bullshit. Tired of you, your divorce, and your daughter. How much notice do we have to give? Call the landlord, I am moving out.”
“I told you I hate Connecticut. It is a horrible place to live. I hate the train ride, I hate being in New York. I am leaving. I am getting out of here.” Running up the stairs and around the corner, she slammed the door and locked it.
“You are an asshole.”
I wanted to play “Connecticut is the place for me” but was unable at this opportune time. I haven’t yet composed it.
[I try not to write about her, but I lack the willpower.]
Another blow-up with Suzy yesterday and last night. She fails to give me any indication that she is human. She expresses anger, but never sorrow, never remorse, not even tenderness. I tried (once again) to get her to realize that being sorry is not a sign of weakness, not a character flaw. The opposite. And I tried so much more. She wouldn’t give an inch. Wouldn’t admit that anything she has done merits an apology. How can this be true? Why can’t she see past her own anger, her own incredibly biased thought processes?
She asked me what I want….among the things I said were for her to stop lying, manipulating, and deceiving me. Did she agree to that? No. I learned that I am a jerk.
And I asked her to be warm, loving, and supportive. Was that a rhetorical question? She just doesn’t get it. I try to show her that her friends aren’t like her…but that doesn’t get through either. I try to show her how she exhibits some of the very qualities that she hates in her father. But she ignores it. I try to show her that if I did to her what she does to me, she would leave me. But she ignores it. I tried to show how she can be kind, warm, and loving when she wants to be. No comment again. Oh, and I am an asshole.
Gödel’s theorem applied to Suzycue? Is stating “the only mistake that I have made was to move to CT with you” a mistake?
Irritation with Suzryonce again headlines my (journal) entry. It is not even worth writing about, yet I do it anyway. Can’t stop. I extended by two hours an out-of-town-trip. Suzyannie was pissed. She says she wanted me to come home to work on our relationship, but all she would have done is abuse me some more. Work on the relationship? What relationship? You tell me this now, when I am one hundred miles away, when the evening is past? Now you state this? Why this moment? (Don’t answer, I know why.) You only want this when it is impossible to follow through. You are sending mixed messages. Last night (Friday) you chose to go upstairs and mindlessly view a stupid movie that you knew I wouldn’t watch. Is that how you show that you want to spend time with me and work things out? Then she says she’d do the same (Saturday night), and will be gone all day working at the office on Sunday. So I point out the inconsistency, and she of course ignores this and makes an excuse for getting off the phone. Trivial hypocrisy. Self-justification gone nowhere.
Daily threats continue. I am going to walk out on you. I don’t need you. Her solution to every little frustration is to run away. Then she sends me real estate ads, and discusses all these plans she has for us. Still hopes to buy a house together. Huh?
You are an asshole and I want you to buy me a house.
Something telling occurred. I have seen a therapist 3 times now (Amy). That Friday Amy suggested that I am in a verbally abusive relationship. I of course recognized my mistreatment, but had really never conceptualized the relationship as an abusive one. I am not sure that Amy is totally correct here, but that she would even say this is telling. I think this surprisingly insightful comment was based mostly on my emotional state rather than on my description of Shuzy’s behavior (which I hadn’t talked much about).
The notion that I have entered into and remained in an abusive relationship (if true, and Amy is gradually convincing me of this) is shocking. Prior to this experience, I would never have believed that this were possible. Me? Why would I put up with that? [Normal reaction—everyone thinks this. But I am different.]
Answer is complex. Her appealing characteristics (physical attractiveness, lifestyle (traveling, eating out), southern California background, fact that she has a Ph.D. (and esp. one in psychology (of course now I see that it is essentially fake)), claimed to be physically active (a promise left unfulfilled—almost never did anything physical, and in fact would complain if I treated a hike like exercise (and actually increased my pulse above normal) as she wanted a very slow, plodding walk) led me to overlook the repulsive ones. Her abusive behavior is quite a contrast to most previous women in my life. [At least I think so. Dearly hope. What do I remember? What have I suppressed?] My own emotional state: uncertain, hurting, depressed, needing affirmation that a person of beauty (got the beauty part right) and intelligence (but not that one!) found me attractive. And perhaps need to relive or recreate the experience of my father vis-à-vis my stepmother. Psychoanalytic fairy tales. Return of the same.
Throughout my adult life I have latched onto various women after but a few “dates,” often just a couple of months before semi-permanence. I committed to them not because I loved them or expected to love them; rather, I needed it—whatever relationship I had entered—to work out. A compulsion? Sense of duty? Afraid of failure (If I am a good person, then I can make this one work)? Fear of another loss, even if trivial? Weakened self, lack of self-confidence, need for affirmation, masochism, this-is-the-best-I-can-get syndrome. Yes, an ass. Clearly these are the relationships that I deserve. I earned them. I didn’t love these women. I pretended. Hard to paper over a crack in the foundation. (I longed for Wonder Woman but always settled for Therese.) We have, that exists despite all of the negative events.
Will I miss her emotional terrorism? That is a hard question to answer. My knee jerk response is of course not. I hated it, as it made (and still makes) me feel shitty, worthless, etc. But is there a masochistic element in me that derives something, perversely, affirmative? She confirms for me (confirm is too strong here…perhaps affirms or reinforces—or, instead, too weak—does she create them?) some undesirable aspects of my self. That is, she reinforces my negative self-image, or those portions of my self-image that are negative (the vast majority). Why do I persist?
Am I addicted to this part of her? Of me? (Self-addiction. Another paradox to be untangled. How can self-addiction exist? Talking to oneself (myself). Does this presuppose an internality repositioned and redirected? A voice projected outward, reflected back masking as an address to the self from another. In contrast with the less pathological self-love, self-addiction, were it real, is of dubious evolutionary value, and potentially dangerous.)
I guess another reason that I was formerly reluctant to give up on her was that she has been my primary source of socialization. I don’t talk on the phone much, don’t visit with people much, and so pretty much she is my socialization, my passkey for dinners out, trips to the city, etc. More than that, she is the one that has instigated most of my travel over the past 2 years. Enjoyed visiting Vancouver, LA, etc., but not necessarily the visits. Mostly she picked. The price I pay.
Shuz and I are not talking (were we ever?). Well, I have been trying to talk with her, but she either gives one-word answers or launches an attack on me, and I am tired of that. Last night she was a total bitch, but, oddly, this morning actually spoke in a kind voice to me, albeit with regard to the pregnant stray cat we are helping to feed. War is not negotiation. War may be peace in Orwelliland, but you are not from there.
In thinking about my relationships, and why they (I) keep failing, one common theme that strikes me (and, indeed, I have considered before), is how I just seem to settle for whomever comes along. That was true for Erin, Ellen, and Laurie in particular. And then I stay with them. Even after recognizing the uncomfortable fit and the low probability of creating a satisfying relationship (usually very quickly, but I ignore it), I persist, pretend this one is different, and strive to accommodate. Why? Because I have such trouble saying no to people, especially women with whom I am romantically involved? It is not adaptive, certainly. To some extent it was true for Suzquanne. At first she seemed to have it all, and I didn’t feel like I was settling. She is attractive, (appeared to be) relatively fit (although I eventually found that she never exercises, but pretends she does, routinely and vigorously), had a Ph.D., was motivated, seemed financially secure and in control of her finances (which I later realized was not at all true), appeared emotionally stable (at first, but I also overlooked the early danger signs that I should have taken much more seriously—could I have been more mistaken, short of her turning out to be an axe-murderer?). And so I pretty much moved right in with her and agreed to allow her to move with me to CT (she insisted on this). I got that, and hoped it would stabilize the relationship (more space, less uncertainty, her getting away from a job she hated, etc.), but it definitely did not. I should have left her in PA and moved alone. But I was scared in a way, afraid perhaps of being alone after all those years with Laurie and Meredithe, and with Ellen and Erin before that.
Did I ever fuck up. I really am an asshole.
Despite all of the stinky shit, I stayed with Suzypoop. Far longer than I should have.