I asked a newish friend how many significant ex-es he had and the main reason he usually broke up with people. I found my own questions kinda rude.
Most everyone has ex-es–how do you choose what’s significant? It seemed unkind to classify any ex as insignificant. But I have so many. Do they all matter?
If I was together with someone very briefly, maybe they don’t matter. Or if they didn’t have much of a lasting result on me.
The bigger challenge for me is defining ex. Do we have to have had sex? I have one definite ex who I never had sex with. She was a huge part of my life for years, central, and being in love was a huge part of how we interacted. But we never figured out to how navigate the distance. She needed her support network in New York, and I needed mine in California. Things fell apart.
So she’s one. What about my most recent ex, the porn addict who I also never had sex with. He had his erection throbbing on my back, but it wasn’t an intentional, mutual, consensual exchange of erotic energy. I don’t think of him as someone I had sex with. But the friendship was very motivated by my desire. He used and played me based on that, for sure.
My first husband, yep–unfortunately significant. Second husband I was with for more than 12 years, and we shared everything–it doesn’t get much more significant than that.
My first girlfriend–yep, so significant. Last I heard, she’s a clown and lives in Germany.
My second girlfriend is my best friend now. She’s a brilliant light, shining in my life, a lighthouse? a foghorn? A rock of solid safety and reliability, a liquid of changeable goodness. A gas of kindness and elusive, free invisibility. A noble gas! A plasma of confusing brilliance, defying explanation. I spend my life loving her, committed and grateful, but the sexy romance part is long over.
My first real boyfriend did a number on me. No, not 69, though maybe that too. I mean the struggles we had, weird stuff that happened, my particular teenaged magic I shared with him. The vibrant kid I was. I’m still hurting from ancient bullshit and playing it out.
He checked in once, years later, on myspace–yep. To see if I was single, looking for love.
I’m never single. I haven’t been single in 30 years. I tend to have a lot going on.
My rapist–I guess he’s a significant ex. I don’t want to call him that, but we did have a relationship, besides the violation. That’s how he got to a place where he could enact and repeat the violation.
How many is that? First boyfriend, first girlfriend, second girlfriend, first husband, second husband, most recent ex, the brilliant one in New York. The rapist. Hmm, that’s eight. I could dig deeper, but maybe that’s enough.
Oh, my second real boyfriend–he changed me a lot. I still dream of him occasionally, those time traveling dreams, that he comes to save me from dramatic peril, helping me leave the auditorium as the shooter is shooting, helping me exit the planet where the nuclear bomb just exploded.
Probably looking back, with the insight I have now, I think he was an asshole. But at the time, I was charmed, confused, breathless with lust and anger. So inexperienced that I didn’t understand what people were doing to me, let alone why.
As for a main reason for breaking up, the insignificant ones all dumped me unceremoniously. I was more trouble than I was worth? They never understood me to begin with.
I wasn’t what they thought they were getting. Cheerful plump generous kindness is real, with a nice smile. I’m a good cook, responsible, have pretty hair, can write a poem or two.
But needs, strong feelings, keen-eyed intelligence, too much memory I can’t turn off, lots I want to do, strange values, intense friendships, and big moods are real also. I can only push all challenge down so much.
The significant ones, I guess all different reasons. We stopped bringing out the best in each other, it wasn’t fun anymore, they were terribly selfish and I couldn’t sacrifice myself anymore, we never had certain parts of the relationship right–I couldn’t suffer the same bs for the rest of my life. I changed–I couldn’t put up with whatever, anymore.
I didn’t want to make porn with him, he couldn’t handle how much he was hurting me, she found me too demanding and dramatic, she fell in love with her best friend’s brother and decided she never loved me. Yeah, stuff like that. Maybe it’s too specific to generalize.
My newish friend said 13, and I felt amazed. The number seemed very high. I’d like to be significant but feel I have no chance. Now I realize I’m claiming 10 significant ex-es, not much lower. And I might be forgetting somebody.
Of course sex isn’t required–some people have no sex ever, romance without sex. Sorry to be so limited. I forgot.
The best therapist I ever had told me that resentment is what kills love. Too many hurts and compromises, a feeling that things are unfair, and resentment is a poison that builds up until it feels so wrong, it hurts too much, and it’s not worth it anymore–love dies.
She told me that in reference to my darling of the present, who I was compromising a lot for, our first two years. She told me not to give up too much ground, to stand up to him when I need something, that it’s easier to keep what I have, than to give it up, then try to get it back.
I didn’t know that and still think about that a lot. I’ve been a doormat at times, mostly when I was younger, and sacrificed so much, thinking I have no worth, and the only way someone could like me was if I threw all my needs out the window.
But that’s hard to maintain. I thought people would like me if I was easy. I stopped being so easy, and people are knocking on the door a lot more. It makes no sense to me, but that’s cool.