Tonight, I am struggling with fear and cowardice and the tangled complexity of wanting something other than the truth as it likely is. I am not feeling at peace or grounded or strong. I am vulnerable and frustrated and anxious.
Yesterday, a former lover of mine reappeared in my life quite suddenly. We went to drinks last night and spent 90 minutes catching up and joking and doing that guarded dance that former lovers who ended badly do with each other. I had a nice time, and it was good to see him.
Our relationship didn’t end well — on this we agree — although we relate different stories about why we ended. When it was over, I was somewhat surprised by how much the thought of him lingered and by how often it was tinged with the sharpness of missing him. But I never considered going back because I had ended it when I felt that he wasn’t being honest with me, or rather he wasn’t being completely honest with me.
Toward the end of our relationship, I strongly suspected that he was hiding something pretty awful from me. I tried to gently encourage him to come clean, but to no avail. When I raised the issue, I felt that he was carefully parsing his words so as not to lie, while at the same time not revealing his deception. (And yes, like most women, I still consider this a form of lying. And yes, I still believe this to be true even on the occasions when I have been guilty of it.) Finally, on the last evening of our relationship, I told him my suspicions, and he did not deny them. He simply talked around them. Feeling that I had my answer, I ended the relationship and didn’t look back.
In the time since we broke up, every person to whom I have related this story has inquired of me, “Well, did you ask him outright if it was true?” And every time I have had to say no. Because I didn’t. I never asked him outright if he was doing the things I suspected. Not once. Not even last night, when the pressure of a trying to save a relationship was gone and we were making our first tentative moves toward something else. Not even when he brought it up and said that I should have asked him outright instead of assuming things. Not even then. And I have spent the better part of today examining why that is. Why didn’t I just ask him outright? Why didn’t I take my golden opportunity to finally know for sure?
My conclusion? I am scared to death of his answer, and how that will make me feel. I have a firm and fast rule in my life that I don’t ask a question that I don’t want a completely honest answer to, and, strangely enough, I strongly suspect that he will tell me the truth if I ask him outright. Indeed, up until now he has gone to great lengths not to offer me false reassurances, rather they have all been qualified and equivocal, guarded and careful. And perhaps it is knowing that I will likely hear the truth that is most terrifying to me.
A dear friend pointed out today that I am actually pretty good at handling the truth and that I always say it’s what I want. Both of these things are true, except that I realized today that I have not actually wanted to hear the truth this time. Because the truth, or what I expect it will be, will permanently foreclose any possibility of us getting back together. And I am not sure that I am ready to relinquish that possibility just yet. As long as there’s the chance that my suspicions are unfounded, there remains a kernel of possibility that we could be together again. Once the truth is out there — in the open and acknowledged — there is simply no going back for me. The transgression, if it occurred, was that serious.
And so I have been doing one of the things I least respect in others — I have been ducking and dodging the truth. It’s pathetic and ridiculous and weak, but I have been doing it. I am ashamed of myself, despite my therapist’s reassurances that I am merely protecting myself and that is a good and healthy thing. It doesn’t feel good and healthy. It feels chickenshit.
So, I have decided that I have two options at this point, in order to reclaim my self-respect: I can either tell him not to contact me again (he spent the better part of today sending me texts) and walk away permanently, or I can tell him that we need to talk and finally ask him directly what I have been suspecting and asking indirectly for several months now.
Because I am, at heart, a pretty strong woman who ultimately faces things head-on and sincerely does believe that only the truth can set you free, I know that I will choose to have a conversation with him. And I will hear the truth from him. And it will change everything, one way, or another.