Category Archives: Ex-factor
I’ve really spent 2012 so self-absorbed, haven’t I? In my defense, I got into the utlra hot-and-heavy of commitment, did the deep soul-searching that everyone does after getting engaged (don’t they?), hit rock bottom with a break-up, wrote plenty of mournful stuff, bored myself and got back with the ‘Really now, are you over *all* the drama finally?’ and here I am. So yes, I haven’t really spent much of the year looking at other people and their relationships and what they think of them. But a new year is here with new people, new problems and adventures of the heart. And I’m promising to bring back the social butterfly that I and this blog have always been. Let’s start with a round-up of interesting reads:
- “When a woman is the sum total of her headscarf and hymen – that is, what’s on her head and what is between her legs – then nakedness and sex become weapons of political resistance.” A thought-provoking article on the objectification of women’s bodies. ‘Nudity, Niqab and the Illusion of Free Choice‘ (via The Express Tribune Blogs)
- I’m most intrigued by no.4. We never seem to think of condescension & sarcasm as would-be abuser traits. These seem to be cool & attractive behaviour, drawing us in like flies to honey. ‘Are You Dating An Abuser?‘ (via Psychology Today)
- ‘The Subtext Of An Entire Relationship In 4 Minutes‘ (via TheFrisky)
- Some surprises here on what guys do on Facebook before dating the girl: ‘10 Ways Guys Use Facebook For Their Dating Lifes‘. (via HowAboutWe)
- A great answer to ‘What Do Guys Wish Girls Knew?’ (via Quora)
- When do you google your date? The obvious answer was ‘before the first date’. But I’ve been meeting so many familiar strangers on account of social media that I find I only google after a couple of dates now. ‘Poll: When Do You Google A Date?‘ (via HowAboutWe)
- Ever notice how Satan’s head bears an uncanny resemblance to the female reproductive system? (via 10 Daily Things)
- Cosmopolitan’s hilarious and terribly wrong sex advice (via Uptown Magazine)
- What the dating guide has to say about Facebook: ‘When Is It Okay To Friend Someone You’re Casually Dating?‘ (via HowAboutWe)
- A study says bisexual women are likelier to be abused/raped. This article points out a few holes in that theory. (via Thought Catalog)
- 25 Things You Wish You Could Ask Someone On A First Date (via Thought Catalog)
You take a look around and mentally divide everything you see in half. You color code, (all in your head of course) what’s indisputably yours and what’s their’s. And finally, you get to what’s yours collectively and groan mentally at the difficult conversation you’re going to endure. They’re very likely doing the same thing too. Or one of you may just throw up your hands in despair and say,
“Whatever, you take it all.”
…which makes the other one seethe at how indifferent that is so they throw out something equally noble sounding like,
“No, I don’t really care about it.”
…leaving the ‘either’ unsaid.
More deadends. It does all get divided up somehow, even if it’s just a matter of who manages to pack what and to hell with the packers who found a few bonus gifts with what neither side had the nerve to discuss.
Yes, I went through that. I sucked in my breath, pulled back my tears and dove in in the manner of pulling off a band-aid. And when it was done, I told myself, I’d let myself feel the pain of it all. I completely forgot (again) how life resists systematic inventorying.
Do you know what’s the most difficult thing to divide? It’s also the most precious thing and subsequently the cause for the most unresolved ugliness. The worst thing to have to fight over after a relationship breaks, is other people’s affections. Divorce gets all its scare-power from the ugliness of child custody battles. But what about other relationships and well, everyone else? Our relationships exist within a larger network of friendships, other couples and social circles. The disintegration of a single relationship tears the larger social fabric. It’s painful on everyone concerned and there’s no easy, clean way around it.
There’s enough of pop wisdom floating around, that’s liberally mouthed by every person caught in this situation, the warring exes, their families, friends, colleagues. But the truth of the matter is, they’re inadequate, which is why the problems happen in the first place. I think it’s completely impractical to try and stay friends with two people who’ve parted ways. One or both of them is going to feel slighted. You will become just one more thing they fight over. If you really care about each of them, pick a side and stick to it.
I know this will seem unfair, but consider this, it’s not. Human relationships are not factory-produced goods. Each one is unique and relevant to you in a different way. This is a situation where two such relationships (friendship with each estranged partner) cannot co-exist. Forcing them to do so will bring poison into both relationships. So figure out which one is more important or relevant or easier for you and go with it.
I’ve been on both sides of this obviously, the estranged partner as well as the friend. As a friend, I admit it’s been a difficult experience. I once set up two people together – one was a close friend, the other as good as a brother to me. When they broke up, I could see both of them were in pain and I knew if I tried to juggle both friendships, I’d only be causing both of them even more pain. So I picked one, the girl, on the premise that she and I had known each other longer. I don’t know whether the guy saw that as betrayal on my part or not but at least I took a stand. I spared him the agony of wondering, of questioning whether what he shared in confidence might not be betrayed to someone who was now a bitter foe, of thinking I might not always firmly be on his side because my loyalty was divided between him and someone who was on the opposite side now. That is the poison I’m talking about. I believe that whatever friendship we had was pure as long as we were friends and ended before suspicion, accusation and bitterness could seep in. I believe that was being a good friend.
The past three months have been rife with such situations for me, post-breakup. The saving grace is that most people were easily sorted into ‘his friends’ and ‘my friends’. As a conscious act, I put a barrier between his friends and me. I deleted them from my social networks. One of them called me to tell me how sorry she was to hear about the break-up and that she’d be willing to provide a listening ear if I needed it. I (very) regretfully declined and told her that would make it just too messy. That was hard, it really was because I liked her so much. It was hard for me letting go of his best friend too; we got along so well. But fair is fair and a best friend is a best friend – a relationship not to be touched.
I wish things could be done as cleanly by everyone else but I’m not the only one in this whole situation. Xion and I didn’t speak for weeks because of this. We’ve sorted out our differences now. But still, I spent the first, most painful and vulnerable times post-breakup without my closest friend during the relationship.
I had a painful conversation with another friend last week. My conversations with her in the last few months have been about her telling me not to be so bitter, not to say such things and how it made me appear to other people. She said,
“It makes me wonder whether, if tomorrow you and I have a fight, you’re going to go out and say bad things about me.”
That hurts, it really does. I’m fond of her. My solution is this – I’ve promised her that I will never talk to her about my relationship again. I will say what I want about whoever I want to, when I like but to her, it will never broach the subject of my lost relationship. She sounded offended when I told her this but what she thinks offends me. Perhaps I’m being irrational, maybe I’m adding too much drama. But I’d expect a friend to accept all that as what makes me, me. I’d do that for her. But she is a different person from me and if the way she is a friend is not the same, then I will have to revise how I am a friend to her as well. Which means, no sharing what’s upsetting me the most at the moment because she doesn’t want to see that side of me. Tough but true.
A break-up does change the social fabric of your life. No one said love would be easy and that includes everyone else you’ve loved beyond your lover too.
It seemed like the world was coming to an end and in a way, it was. Life as I knew it, was over, whether I liked it or not. I spent the next few days in utter despondency with a literal dark cloud over my head (monsoon had just begun). It looks like we’ve seen the last of the rains for this year. Well, there might be a shower this weekend (mum says it always rains on the final visarjan day) but mostly I think we’ve ridden out the heaviest of the monsoon. Going back to the metaphor, I think I’m in that place too.
I haven’t forgiven or for that matter, forgotten. But it’s not the number one thing in my head, the one idea I wake up with or fall asleep to. I’m okay that it happened, in fact getting to be happy even, that it happened. But I’m not yet okay with how. And I think, that’s okay. I heal on my own time. I let go in my own time too.
Mostly, I decided I had just been down this road way too many times. I decided to pick happiness over drama this time and funnily enough, it actually was enough. New things are always exciting since they force you to look at the world through a fresh pair of eyes. I have a new job, a new routine, a new circle of people and thus, a new identity. It’s all good. I’ve even crushed a few times and enjoyed them without making too much of them (inside my own head, most importantly). I’ve been healing. I’ve been known to laugh in that crazy, undignified way I used to, before it all went south. And if I’ve found my laughter again, happiness and everything good that life has to offer, can’t be far away, can it?
I think the best thing that has come out of this very bad, very painful, very humiliating, very hurtful experience has been my questioning whether it’s really what I want. The whole husband-soulmate-happily-married thing, I wonder if that’s really what I wanted or whether I was just being blindsided by the world telling me that it’s what I should want. Yes, really, after all this while I still wonder whether that’s been my driving force all my adult life – a misguided notion that wasn’t even mine in the first place.
I know I enjoy excitement, vibrancy, an abundance of experiences and conversations. I love attention and I love people. I enjoy the challenge of doing something different, something offbeat and I also enjoy the newness of it rather than be daunted by it. I’m doing all of these right now and it feels like my life is a lot closer to complete than it ever was when I was in that relationship. I’m constantly entertained, challenged and thus, happy. When I was a girlfriend/fiance, I think I was terribly bored for most part. Boredom is my kryptonite, it is.
I’m not saying I’m swearing off men and relationships forever. But they’re just not so important to me any more. It sounds cliched to say I really want to focus on my career and that’s not quite it. I think I’m just going to focus on what makes me happy. A man may or may not be part of that. And I’m really okay with that.
It struck me last night, when I was sitting on the floor of a slight friend’s house, talking to another friend when she asked me,
“So how are you doing?“
Then she looked at me straight in the eye and pointed to her own heart. I stared back, a fraction longer than my pat-reply habit usually lets me and I knew it was true as soon as I said it.
“I’m okay that it happened. I’m not yet okay with how but I’m actually glad it happened. I haven’t forgiven him but I’ve moved on.”
She nodded, understanding. And we both looked out of the window and began talking to other people, and of other things. But she stayed seated next to me till I was ready to go.
Healing happens when you’re not trying horribly hard, eyes scrunched up and begging it to stop hurting. It starts at that moment when you give up. When you realize you no longer have it in you to pretend that you’re not a mess inside and you don’t care who knows it. That’s when it starts – in that moment that looks like defeat until you’re right at it and then it feels like something quite else. Healing.
I’ve read the phrase ‘Honour your pain’ many times and never understood it. How do you honour something you don’t like, something you fear, something that you do your best to avoid? It hit me with that earlier realization. Just letting yourself think about it, not running away, not covering it up with pretense but allowing it to collapse messily all around you and rain holy hellfire on your world…that’s honouring your pain.
I whined like crazy – to almost-friends and casual acquaintances, some of whom were mercifully unkind enough to tell me to get over it. I fumed and took it out on closer people whose kindness annoyed me with its overt sense of ‘I’m doing you a favour’. And finally I just got bored and decided to look for something else-a new life.
This week has been a telling one. A complete stranger asked me
“Are you single?“
I hadn’t yet figured out how I wanted to answer that one so I just told him I’d ended a relationship awhile ago, an engagement that broke. Pat came his response,
“That’s okay. Be happy it happened now and not later, after marriage.”
And then we moved on to speaking about other more comfortable things.
A couple of days later, I met an old acquaintance I hadn’t seen since I began the relationship. He asked me,
“What’s been happening with you?“
I told him about four years in a single line.
“Moved out. Wrote a book. Got engaged. Broke up. Started a new job.”
Bewildered, he followed me asking for detail, wanting to know how, why, when it happened. But mostly, I guessed he was just befuddled and mildly concerned at how okay I seemed with all of it.
I realized then, what the Landmark Forum calls a story. It’s not about stopping the creation of them. We all do it. There’s that which happens; it just does. And there’s all the meanings, all the interpretations and mind-routes we assign to it. We build stories around it and we tell it to each other and to ourselves.
I am a storyteller, a good one. Just as with the other stories I tell, I just need to start spinning my tale, watch carefully for how my audience receives it and either tie it off or weave a saga of it. It’s who I am. It heals me; it nourishes me; it makes me and curiously, it is what brings me my dignity. Not the stories but the telling of them. I get to pick which stories I tell and usually I do a good job. Where I don’t, there’s always room for rewrites.
Does that make any sense? Tell me, I’m dying to tell you more stories.
What are you supposed to think when you come across pictures of a former crush and discover that he married a girl who looks just like you?
Will you be the Leonard to my Penny?
I’ll keep you well up on such important things like how grown-up people behave. I’ll remind you of what manners are and why they’re important. I’ll laugh at your jokes but never at your strong beliefs (in XBox, Batman and Star Wars). Of course it goes without saying, I’ll enhance your appearance (as an advisor and an accessory). I’ll bear with your ego and your need to believe that you’re smarter.
I’ll even put up with your (not so) cute little friends.
You gotta admit, Cooper’s got a point (even if it is for the wrong reasons). Well, he’s a man after all.
You ever have those days when your email inbox and even your Facebook feed is a predictable jumble of pseudo-advertisements, pre-scheduled alerts, subscriptions and what not? I have that often and a lot. Then out of the blue, something lands up in there that you’re not sure makes you happy or unhappy. But it’s still very welcome because it’s a change and it reminds you of feelings you thought you’d forgotten and of corners that you didn’t manage to clear. This one came with an opportunity to clean up too.
An email from a painfully familiar name titled,
“:) so you’re the ideasmithy”
Actually this one happened over a year ago but I’ve only just began making sense of what happened. Emotions can’t be compartmentalized and when you’re having to think about love and anger and betrayal and trust and friendship, a whole lot of everything comes tumbling out from where you stuffed them, in that cupboard marked ‘Loose Ends’ in your mind.
It was a friendly enough mail, complimenting me on going a long way with words and inquiring about my family. After much deliberation and a few shots of Indian courage (that’s my equivalent of Dutch courage – a good hard dose of well-intended commonsense from a close friend), I wrote back. My reply ended with,
You have a good life and so do I. We don’t need to be a part of each other’s worlds. Our relationship ended a long time ago and with this, I think so does our conversation. I wish you well.
I’m not going to parade how hard it was to write that because it actually wasn’t. I did that a long time ago. But that finality that comes from telling someone who hurt you that they did and that they were wrong was missing. With this email I got to say something I never had a chance to – I had given up on him. It was vindication and it was sweet.
I think it only made sense to me last week, when I was talking to a friend about love, why I walked away when I did. We’d broken up years ago. We’d met after that, talked at length. We’d spoken about relationships, each of us having moved to other people. We had, yes we had, began rekindling that friendship we had before it became something else – a poisonous something else. What then turned it sour for me?
He got engaged and while that gave me a stabbing pang in the heart, I was okay with it. Honest. I met her and she was nice. She even liked books and how can I ever completely dislike a person who does? That was painful but I got past it. I attended their engagement party and endured watching the sweet intimacies that much-in-love couples share. I also keep my mouth shut when I saw the gaps that I knew I’d always been able to fill – gaps in knowing him. All of those times took me on the painful path of growing up but never away from him.
And then we had a conversation, a 2-hour long phone call, one of those soul-searching types that we must all have but only a couple of times in our lives and only with someone so close, they’re a part of us. I asked him how long they’d been together. He said, over a year and half. And then he said,
“You’re my best friend. You’ve got to tell me what you think here.”
I think that may have been the moment when I paused and stopped to think if I really wanted to be on that path anymore. Because just five months earlier, he had taken me out on a bonafide, make-no-mistakes-what-it-was date and asked me if I’d reconsider us. I don’t think he noticed it then and perhaps he still hasn’t.
For 6 years I’ve been telling myself that I was disgusted by what he did. I deplore cheating. But then, I’ve had people in my life do much worse and they’re still with me. I didn’t identify the true source of my anger till last week.
When I was with him and before and long after, I loved him with a completeness that I could never achieve in any other relationship afterwards. It was a divine emotion that shaped me at the core, even after we parted ways. When I was making my peace with his being with someone else, somewhere deep down I was handing over my heart into someone else’s hands. That’s why I was so relieved that she was someone I could like – someone like me who’d understand and treasure this most precious of things.
By bringing such a stupid thing like cheating, even if it was a case of pre-proposal jitters, he had cheapened it, made it so ordinary. I don’t like having to believe that someone who inspired such an other-worldy emotion in me is so flawed, so mundane, so much less than me. All those years back, when he dumped me, he’d broken my heart but he couldn’t make what I felt ordinary. With this action, he just did. And I’ve never been able to forgive him for it.
I can’t bear to look at him or speak to him so it’s fortunate that he’s in another country, in another life. I do know that he has a daughter, a delight of a thing. And I know he’ll make a wonderful father. I know that she is and probably will always be the most important person in his life. I always knew all of this about him.
It’s some small consolation that he doesn’t have this understanding, this knowledge of him in his life. But most of all, I’m glad he’s father to a girl. Because daughters can twist their daddies’ hearts in a way that no other woman ever can. It think, for a lot of men, only a human being they’ve created can teach them the helpless agony of loving too much.
As for me, I don’t love him anymore. I wanted him to get that and I saw that happen. And I needed to understand a lot about my own feelings – how I love, what my anger looks like and where I post ‘The End’ sign. I’m finally able to snip off that sad, niggling loose end that characterized most of my adult life.
I believe I’ve spent as much of my life on this as is humanly possible and fair. I want to get on with the business of the rest of my life. So don’t hold me back with conversations about my past, please.
If you want to be polite, don’t contact me. If you want to be sensitive, contact me if you like but don’t talk about this. I’m witholding comments on this post because I don’t want to hear any condolences, pep talks or ex-bashing. XX Factor will resume its usual democratic policy with the next post.
It’s been a gritty month here at XXFactor. I didn’t get as much writing done as I’d have liked to (even though my Drafts folder is overflowing). My reading has been more sombre than usual too. Here’s starting the Valentine’s month with some link-love:
- ‘My strength is not for hurting‘: An anti-rape campaign targetted at men. (via Facebook, link courtesy Kiran Manral)
- ‘First Date Questionnaire: 30 Something Edition‘: A crazy-ass questionnaire from that old favorite Thought Catalog.
- ‘Why Men Need Marriage‘: Very, very preachy & judgmental (though not as much considering the writer is a pastor). (via Washington Post)
- ‘Can You Tell The Difference Between A Men’s Magazine And A Rapist?‘: I’ve never quite been able to reconcile pop culture’s permissiveness of porn with my fear of being labelled a prude. And now this article just makes me sad that I may have been right. (via Jezebel)
- ‘A Rant About Women‘: Women may get judged harsher than men. They’re also less inclined to take risks (of being wrong, of being caught, of looking foolish). This difference may be costing us more than we realize. (via Shirky, link courtesy Rehab Chougle & Phyrodite)
- ‘Why College isn’t really necessary for girls’ or ‘How to prove you’re an idiot’. (On Facebook, link courtesy Johann Matthai)
- You know how they say you should make a bonfire of the paraphernalia of a bad relationship? Instead, make some money off it by selling it off on Never Liked It Anyway.
You can catch the links as they come in and even post your own to the XX Factor Facebook Page.