We were still warm and loving, but something was just…off.
It was frustrating that I couldn’t name what. Something that brought up a well of sensitivity, and primed me to feel rejected and wounded at the tiniest provocation. I felt rejected whenever he looked at his phone as if I was competing with his phone for his attention. I felt wounded when he wanted to nap instead of having sex like it was a reflection of how much he wanted me. Once I got my feelings hurt because he left…. after I told him repeatedly that he should leave.
I used to call this “crazy girl behavior,” a yucky phrase to me now because it misunderstands (and shames) both mental illness and gender, but which I took for granted as a teenager to mean that my hormonal brain made me illogical, unstable, and “too sensitive and emotional.”
Thankfully I know better now, and I trust that there is always validity and truth to what I feel, even if I can’t see it yet. Sometimes this kind of trust requires holding uncomfortable conflict, such as knowing both that my boyfriend wasn’t doing anything wrong or hurtful, and that it was valid for me to feel hurt anyway.
It’s worth noting that I have often felt constantly needy in my past relationships, but I’d never felt it with my current partner. He is just too damn good at cultivating intimacy and making me feel seen, cared for, appreciated, and loved. So while the feeling was an old familiar one for me, it was new to be processing it with this person.
At one point while we were brainstorming about it, I asked for reassurance that he loves me, thinking that might help. He gave me a long, nuanced, and moving speech about the way he feels about me. (This is where he shines.) It felt good, and I liked hearing it, but I noticed it didn’t penetrate to the wounded part of me the way his beautiful speeches normally do.
Apparently it wasn’t reassurance I needed.
Frustrated with the lack of narrative ability to properly file my feelings, at a certain point I just decided to cash in some of the trust we’ve built up, let it go, and focus on the move. After all, bandwidth was already low for both of us between the horrific state of the world, the stress of the move, and the emotional baggage coming up around it.
So that’s exactly what we did. We moved all my shit into storage, ran errands, ordered Insomnia cookies for dinner, and got through. Then on the way to the airport, he started talking, and the narrative clicked.
This wasn’t just “him talking,” though. He talks all the time, and he hadn’t been quiet or anything. But this was like an eruptive force, his words bursting through a deep dam, about all the stuff he’d been thinking about lately. He told me about his cats, and how it felt to leave them at the airport; how they didn’t understand what was happening and were so scared. He described how they had been his family in Los Angeles, how they had saved his life, and how his heart broke knowing they must have felt like he just… didn’t want them anymore.
He also told me about some sexual assault allegations rocking a music scene he was deeply invested in, and how he’s been wondering what his responsibilities are as a fan and consumer when the stories coming out are complex and unclear, and how he’d been wrestling with the boundaries of cancel culture and what it means to both believe women, and believe in people’s ability to grow and change.