I am 36, with one son, and I had been dating a wonderful man for a year. We were planning on moving in together and discussing marriage… until one day I said to him, out of anger, “No wonder your wife divorced you and your daughter doesn’t speak to you!” That was two months ago. I have sent a steady stream of cards and flowers expressing how sorry I am for what I said, but he says we’re done. I started counseling because he told me I have an anger management problem and he can’t live with someone like me. I just can’t live with myself knowing I lost the man of my dreams. I’m queasy, and I’ve dropped 17 pounds in two months. Is a man really worth this?
— Heat Of The Moment
There are times in a man’s life when he comes to understand what “I love you” really means; in this case, “I’d like to tear out your liver with my bare hands, cut it up into hors d’oeuvre-sized pieces, and feed it back to you on Ritz crackers.”
OK, sure, you apologized — which is the equivalent of saying, “I mean, ‘I’d like to tear out your liver, etcetera, etcetera… Snookums.’” The guy trusted you enough to show you all the little broken pieces in him, and you rewarded him by gathering them up, wrapping them around a bat, and playing piñata with his ego. Surprise, surprise, that didn’t go over too well. And it seems the cards and flowers aren’t doing the job to clear up how you really feel. Or … maybe they actually are: “So sorry I showed you my true self. Won’t happen again!”
People who care about each other do have disagreements — just not to the point where somebody has to come by and clean up what’s left of one or both of them with a dustpan, a damp rag, and a squeegee. When you love somebody, you don’t forget it. Even in the heat of the moment. Even when you know, down to your DNA, that you’re right and they’re wrong. That’s because love, in the words of sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein, is “the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” And no, the epilogue to that isn’t “except when I’m not getting my way, in which case I can revert to all the handy lessons I learned at the Joseph Stalin school of seduction.”
“Is a man really worth this?” you ask — suddenly mindful of how inconvenient it can be when your party manners plummet like the shoulder strap of Tara Reid’s dress, and your boyfriend decides eliminating toxic anger from his life is more prudent than trying to manage it. Let’s just say your ability for self-nonexamination is profound. This isn’t about him or getting him back — although that might be a fringe benefit of exploring how feeling powerless leads to power plays, and how being too insecure to calmly assert yourself can turn you into the kind of person who eventually goes after a mosquito with a shoulder-fired missile. Try to see this as an opportunity. Cut the card and flower shower, forget trying to maintain the appearance of love, and focus on getting yourself to the place where you consistently show the real deal. At that point, getting caught up in the “heat of the moment” should have you ransacking the nightstand for a tube of Astroglide instead of running out to the garage for a 55-gallon drum of napalm.
I feel like I’m waiting around too much for my boyfriend, and he’s not as thoughtful as he once was. I mean just calling me if he decides to work late and discussing what we’re doing for dinner. Even my birthday was an afterthought, and we were stuck baby-sitting his kids. (His ex-wife would’ve been happy to take them if he’d asked.) He says he doesn’t get how I don’t feel like a priority because he feels committed to me.
Oh, does your boyfriend feeeel committed to you? He reminds me of a guy I blogged about, who apparently feeeels bad about our energy dependence on the Middle East, and shows it with the bumper sticker “No War For Oil!” — on his rolling living room, dining room and media center otherwise known as the Ford Expedition. Love isn’t just a feeling, it’s an action word. Men have crawled across The Great Plains in the name of it, yet this man has a hard time just lifting his dialing finger. Since talking isn’t working, maybe walking will get a rise out of him. Or maybe give rise to his replacement — a guy who’s so grateful you aren’t demanding diamonds and major appliances that he manages to answer “What time’s dinner?” with more than a silent “Guess!”