(Here’s part 2 of this letter that I didn’t know was going to have a second part. I wrote this before last night when I told this guy I couldn’t hang out with him anymore.)
A question I’ve asked myself a few times is this: how can I be so emotionally invested in someone I don’t know all that well?
It’s true, right? I don’t know you very well. I don’t know exactly why your last relationship ended or what she was like. I don’t know anything about your friends. I don’t know what kind of childhood you had. I don’t know what happened when your mom died.
There are more things I want to know about you, things I guess I’ll never learn. Do you take your lunch to work or do you go out to eat? What’s your cat like? What’s your favorite movie? What do you think about when you go running? What makes you happy?
I wonder all these things, and have allowed myself to become so emotionally invested in you, because I don’t want to think about myself, about my own problems. If I spend my mental time on you I can avoid thinking about my father’s illness, my parents’ living situation, the career I don’t really want anymore, my struggle to make friends in a new town.
It’s simpler this way. I can mope and pine and pretend that it all has everything to do with you and nothing to do with an immense dam of feelings having broken somewhere inside me in the past year.
I said I cry every time we hang out, and I do, but it’s not all you. Some of it is depression, loneliness, the not knowing what I want to do with the rest of my life. It’s having lost the father I knew and seeing him replaced with someone else who looks exactly like him. It’s going to my parents’ house and finding that their kitchen looks like a Superfund site. It’s cleaning it all up and taking out the trash and shooing away the fruit flies while I cry. It’s having nobody to talk to about it, nobody to lean on.
I tell myself it’d all be easier if you wanted to be with me.
And maybe it would, but I doubt it.
I said that I was a deeply flawed person, and I am, but you’ve got your flaws too. You told me your sister said of you, “You’re not a monster. You’re cold, but you’re not a monster.” You don’t seem overly cold to me, but do you remember that quote I told you I like?
“People tell us who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.”
You telling me what your sister said is you telling me who you are. I don’t think you’re cold now, but that’s because I want to decipher you, solve you like some kind of human puzzle. But would I ever be able to do that? And if I did, would I like the solution?
My last boyfriend talked to me a lot in the beginning. He told me about things that happened to him, how he felt about those things, what he liked about something he’d read, how he felt about political issues, how he felt about the things I said and did.
But eventually he stopped doing that. Eventually our conversations deteriorated into the how-was-your-day-fine-how-was-yours variety, or he’d tell me a joke he heard on a podcast or a fact he’d learned about sharks on Wikipedia. I felt like he was pulling away from me, and after trying to talk to him about the issue a few times with no results, I pulled away too. It was one of the loneliest times I’ve ever spent in my life.
The way people are at the beginning of any kind of relationship isn’t the same way they are in the middle or at the end. They do a lot of emotional work when they’re getting to know someone. But eventually they think, “well, we’re all settled into this relationship!” and they stop doing that work. But that work isn’t the lead-in to a relationship, it is the relationship. When you asked me why my last relationship ended, I gave you this whole spiel and then I hit you with another quote: emotional work is “the backbone of relationships, not the entry fee.”
I’ve told you this before. A person I end up with for the long haul has to talk to me. They have to FUCKING TALK TO ME. Talking is the primary way I feel close to people. It isn’t shared activities or spending lots of time together or even sex. Those things are great but the main thing is the TALKING.
You talk to me now. But you are in some ways a quiet, reserved person. If we were together for awhile, when would you eventually stop talking to me? When would you quit doing the work? When would you go cold?