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Hope is the only universal liar who never loses his reputation for veracity. ~ Robert G. Ingersoll

livingontheedgeI am not a control freak. I easily delegate, happily let others get on with whatever their thang happens to be, accept the changing tides and times. Heck, I’m even happy enough grasping the idea that comfort zones need a slap upside the head from time-to-time and change can be a good thing.

I’ve lived long enough to get that bumps in the road make sense when looking back on the journey, that time heals wounds (or vice versa), that good things come to those who wait, and all those other aphorisms routinely trotted out when life is crappy.

 

But …

When the list of things I have absolutely zero control, influence, even minor sway over is thirty times more impressive than the couple of bulls whose horns I can manage to take … well …

I try to grow hope.

Hope: aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal, plan, design; optimism, expectation, expectancy; confidence, conviction, assurance; promise, possibility. Yeah, there more versions of hope than there are shards of broken glass on a beach, and although forming an aspiration or two is easy enough, expectations that plans or designs will provide assurance, or even possibility, rather lack conviction. As Robert Burns so well put it, albeit most likely with a touch of whiskey and haggis on his breath … which may account for all Scots talking funny …

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Having found my bootstraps on many occasions and tugging fiercely, often for years, I am well practiced. My kids’ lives are sorted safely, securely and happily, so I can put down the lead umbrella I’ve been holding since the age of seventeen. I can take care of myself. I don’t need saving or completing and I’m okay with seeing to my own daily needs.

Ain’t life grand?

Compared to some, mine is pretty great — roof overhead, wine in the fridge — and I’m not knocking what I have, what I have worked for, or the plans I’ve made that actually almost worked out. Neither am I regretting … anything.

I am, however, doubting an adage I once trusted; that things happen for reasons and in their own time.

Another relationship ending disappointingly, thousands of miles between me and my kids, a tenacious tether to property, advancing age that has done jack shit to lower my desires or expectations … all beyond any jurisdiction I find in my realm.

Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have is not permanent.                              ~ Mignon McLaughlin

I know I don’t have many years left, more behind me than ahead, and very much want to live fully, but am feeling restraints it seems I have no power to loosen. Doing what I can … involving myself in endeavors I find worthy, learning stuff I’ve not paused to cozy up to in the past, conversing with those I like, admire or disagree with … fills time and brings some relief, but I’m frustrated as I feel days and weeks and months and years flash past … and don’t mind.

Some would call it ‘being at loose ends’, but it feels more like the tank is running low, and although I’d like a refill there doesn’t seem to be fuel around and I don’t know where to even look anymore.

The free-floating anxiety I’ve experienced in the past is returning and I find myself again constantly checking the sky for shit asteroids, even though I know damned well you never see them coming.

I have been, however, gently nurturing a few seeds of hope. I’ll see my small kids in a couple of months — always a bright light that warms. I’ll continue to try to sell my place to free myself up for more travel, more adventures. I’ll finish that fuckin’ book I’ve been working on. I’ll continue to lend my voice to those who think it will help.

I’m not 80 … part of the hill is still before me … and a quarter tank just might get me further than I think.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. ~ Anne Lamott

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Seems a good time to take a bit of a breather from the woes of the world and rein my focus for the day in to the realm of the woes of the woman. Don’t get me wrong, as I’m certainly not saying that many of those woes don’t have the same testosterone-driven cause, but not even I would go as far as to blame earthquakes and tsunamis on the penis-laden.

It’s this article that prompts today’s post, titled, “Why Remarry?”, a look at the idea of doing it again from one not chuffed about the idea.

The other day a younger friend, a woman in her twenties, called to share news of her engagement. She’s been dating a great-seeming guy for about a year, and she sounded exuberant, glowing, over the moon. “Congratulations, Eleanor! I’m so happy for you.” Yadda, yadda, yadda, and we wrapped up the call.

The truth is, as a divorced woman in her forties, it’s hard for me to get excited about anyone’s impending nuptials. Very hard to pretend the divorce and adultery statistics don’t exist, to push into the background my own painful memories of marital discord, the tedium and pain of having the same fights over and over again, the feeling of being unloved and trapped. What I mostly feel for Eleanor and others like her is a jaded sense of “Good luck dear. I’ve been there. Enjoy the good parts and take care of yourself when it’s bad. And try to have some sort of long-term back-up plan.”

No kidding.

Cynical? Sure. And why not? It’s been no bed of roses for so many of us, and the prospects aren’t looking so good through the filter we now attach to those tinted glasses.

Most men require a lot of care. They want to be fed; they require copious dry cleaning; they’re physically large and take up space; they demand attention in ways large and small. All these things are well and good, and I’m often happy to do my part. But why would I sign myself up to have to do it, 24/7? Sex on demand is a beautiful thing, but having the bed to oneself sometimes is equally a treat. Once the kids are old enough to go out and get around on their own, the feeling of liberation is pure bliss. Being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want, in your own home! People have fought wars for less. Do you really want to give that up?

Good question! And giving it up in exchange for a lying, cheating bastard who’ll run you ragged, support only what builds him up and may very likely end up leaving you in the lurch? Hm.

Given that the rate of divorce in first marriages in the US is 45% to 50%, and for second marriages that jumps to 60% to 67%, finding bliss seems an illusion, at best.

The not-doing-it-again thing is going around in the world of Western woman, and the idea of opting for single has caught on big time:

According to the 2007 US Census, for those 25 and older, 52 percent of men and only 44 percent of women are likely to remarry after death or divorce. The New York Times analyzed the data and reported that for the first time in recorded history, more women are living without a husband than with one.

… I’ve been surveying girlfriends on this subject, and 14 out of 15 of my married friends, all women over 40, look mortified when I tell them that the subject of marriage has been raised in my current relationship. “No! Don’t do it!” is the swift cry. After that they all say “Why? What for? Isn’t it perfect as is? Living apart, seeing him when you want to? What could be better?” One women at a recent dinner party, married for sixteen years, told me that if she were to find herself single again, not only would she not remarry, she wouldn’t ever have another relationship again!

Okay, that may be a bit harsh, and there are those in the 50% to 55% of marriages who are actually pleased with their situations, content, happy even. Off hand, out of all my friends all over the world I can think of about five women who would change neither their man, nor their circumstance, for anything.

Sure, we tend to hope that we could be one of those women … those living-happily-ever-after-til-death-us-do-part girls … which is my lame excuse for having been down the aisle THREE BLOODY TIMES. And, of course, I’m far from alone in that dream …

I’ve concluded that for me, the biggest draw lies in the smidgen of chance that I could experience something I’ve never had before, the old fairy tale that makes youngsters like Eleanor want to get married. Maybe it would be fantastic. Maybe we’d continue to hold each other in the night in this perfect way, resolve our differences with relative ease. Maybe the emotional rewards would trump most discomfort? That he’d be my partner and best friend always? Hmmm.

Yeah … that.

And what is it with that?

Thankfully, it’s Lent, so my mind isn’t going anywhere near those sorts of thoughts until at least after Easter, and given the level of shit I’ve been wading through lately avoidance is likely to last a hell of a lot longer than forty days.

Should I someday find myself again thinking in terms of sharing not only my life, but my space and legal status with a man, having somehow manage to rid my mouth of that nasty, ashy taste that lingers … well … you may find me writing:

Remind me again what the appeal might be …

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Anse Soleil rainbow

The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.
~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I woke this morning to an odd dream, not unpleasant, set in Victoria Lodge, a fab Five Star B&B in North Devon that belongs to my friend, Jacqueline. It’s a beautiful place in a lovely English village on the Bristol Channel where I passed my days walking Jac’s sweetie of a greyhound through the Valley of the Rocks as I pondered my future.

Jac’s friendship and hospitality were huge gifts, and her house was my bolt-hole, a life-saving haven, a calm harbor in a storm-tossed sea.

I awoke with a smile, although wondering why such strong images of that time and place presented today …

until …

I drifted into full consciousness and realized today’s date: 2 March.

It was on this day in 2008 my husband of 15 years informed me of his betrayal and plans to hit the ejector seat button on our life together. Nope, didn’t see that coming, and the sideswipe almost send me careening off a cliff.

Mark was the man I’d left my life behind for, my trusted partner in building a future from scratch, in parenting two children, the only person I’d ever felt completely safe with.

Shit happens.

Three years have come and gone, and although I can too vividly recall the moment life’s path forked drastically I’m still following my feet. The road’s been rocky and strewn with potholes and no few twists have needed navigating, but it is what it is.

I’m surprised to find this date so deeply burned into my psyche that a dream as profound as this morning’s presents even with no conscious connection, but it’s often my inner awareness that keeps better track than my waking mind. I’m too busy to dwell upon losses and it’s the future I must look to, not the shadows of what might have been.

I’ve taken my lumps and my lessons … and the gifts that came with. I’ve had some amazing moments that could not have happened if the path had not diverted and managed to love and be loved again. There’s been music created and named for me, some magical experiences, joy-filled pauses that required a change in circumstance to occur.

Three years ago, I could no more have predicted a moonlit proposal or a romantic wander through ancient pyramids than a visit to Mars, but those happened and wouldn’t have had the shit not happened, too.

Of course, Sam and Cj are blessings, and they alone provide all the “reason” there would ever need to be for the path to have wandered where it did.

So, there are no regrets … simply memories and the knowledge that what happens, happens, and will keep on happening. There is more life behind me than ahead, but that’s no reason to live in the past. The future won’t play out as long, but I’m still in the game, and although I have no expectation that the rest of my road will be smooth there will be reasons to smile.

Today, as I remember my losses, I look forward to gains with gratitude for the fact that it’s rarely been dull.

The last year alone provided enough not-dull to spawn a raft of words (Check out “It Gets Verse”, a book of poems that spilled out in 2010.), and continues to inspire.

So, on that note, I’ll close with a bit more wisdom gathered, more experience collected, more words strung together as life goes on …

Scoundrel

What is it with a man
who has it in his head
that no matter the hour
and the fact that I’m in bed
can’t stop his hands from dialing
my number every night
with a need to tell me often
how his life is now a fright?

I don’t want to hear his needing
or his fucking endless pleading
for the chance to maybe seeding
a new bed

He has sown those seeds to women
who have no idea he’s givin’
it about around the world from here to there
(And I wish so he’d get out my damned hair)
But me, I learned my lesson
and no longer spend time guessin’
if he’s lying or he’s truthful
cuz there’s no doubt that what’s useful
it’s the only motivation
he can bear

He’s as shallow as a puddle
and although he seems a muddle
he has all his ducks so lined up in a row
that he’s aimed upon his targets
and the women he has marks up
are too clueless in their thoughts
that he’s their beau.

He is yours if you deliver
and he’ll have you all a quiver
just as long as there’s a payoff in the end
For he goes nowhere ‘les it’s paid for
but you’re guaranteed a lay, for
he’s a horny little bugger,
(Ask his “friends”!)

So, Yo! New girls …

Never say I didn’t warn you
Give your heart and see it torn, you
should really pay attention when I say
he’s a lyin’, cheatin’ scoundrel
fewer morals than a hound, you’ll
be knowing this already in a way
But you’re probably ignoring
all the signs that you’re deploring
and pretending that I have gone away

And I have, at least I try to
but he’ll never let it lie, too
much ego in the man to let me be
Plus he loves the life that I live
and he’s hoping I might still give
him what I have, or half,
and all for free
with not even any word of
honesty, that’s just unheard of
in that world of his that’s all about “ME, ME!”

Yes … I live and learn and live some more, catch whatever stardust floats by, grasp at rainbows and ride out … and write out … the rough bits.

It is what it is, intangible and indescribable as a tint of morning.

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Marriage masks?There a whole lotta blah, blah going on about marriage, its “holy bonds”, traditional roles, legal entanglements, etc., and I’ve done my share of blathering.

Yesterday’s post on infidelity, for example, was at least partially about pondering on the whole monogamy issue, the skirting around that happens to the tune of millions of bucks for modern-day cyber pimps and some offered thoughts that adultery dulls divorce tendencies.

Yes, marriage and partnerships of all sorts are a hot-button topic these days as many struggle to rearrange everything from expectations to laws. Although there is a strong tendency to hold to tradition, it’s harder to do that every year as society shifts radically.

Historically, it wasn’t all that long ago that ending a marriage by any method but death was almost unheard of. No matter the circumstances, marriage was a life sentence, and although that conveyed some stability the price was often higher than many wished they’d signed on for.

It wasn’t until 1979 that the USA shit-canned the last of the Head and Master laws, an appalling mandate based upon the “legal definition of marriage” that, “delegated the husband’s role as supporting the family and the wife’s as housekeeping, childrearing, and providing sex.”

“Head and Master” laws were a set of American property laws that permitted a husband to have final say regarding all household decisions and jointly owned property without his wife’s knowledge or consent, until 1979 when Louisiana became the final state to repeal them. Until then, the matter of who paid for property or whose name was on the deed had been irrelevant.

They meant the wife had no say over where or how a family lived, and a woman who refused to move at her husband’s demand could be sued for abandonment.

Some are still pissed off about the movement Betty Friedan started back in the ’60s with an article in “Good Housekeeping” shockingly titled Women are People, Too, blaming the women’s movement for the disintegration of the American family, but anyone with a firm grasp of the history … not just “Leave it to Beaver” episodes … in their head understands the costs at which families were held together before there were options.

The voices of tradition and the voices of Freudian sophistication tell us that we can desire no greater destiny than to glory in our role as women, in our own femininity. They tell us how to catch a man and keep him; how to breast-feed children and handle toilet training, sibling rivalry, adolescent rebellion; how to buy a dishwasher, cook Grandmother’s bread and gourmet snails, build a swimming pool with our own hands; how to dress, look, and act more feminine, and make marriage more exciting; how to keep our husbands from dying young and our sons from growing into delinquents.

They tell us — the psychologists and psychoanalysts and sociologists who keep tracing the neuroses of child and man back to mother — that all our frustrations were caused by education and emancipation, the striving for independence and equality with men, which made American women unfeminine. They tell us that the truly feminine woman turns her back on the careers, the higher education, the political rights, the opportunity to shape the major decisions of society for which the old-fashioned feminists fought.

Now a thousand expert voices pay tribute to our devotion from earliest girlhood to finding the husband and bearing the children who will give us happiness. They tell us to pity the “neurotic,” “unfeminine,” “unhappy” women who once wanted to be poets or physicists or Presidents, or whatever they had it in them to be. For a woman to have such aspirations, interests, goals of her own, the experts keep telling us, impairs not only her ability to love her husband and children but her ability to achieve her own sexual fulfillment.

That was written in 1963.

Of course, we still have many issues to deal with … domestic abuse, infidelity, unequal divisions of power and money, to name just a few … but the stranglehold of traditional values has loosed its grasp.

We don’t have to marry at all if we’d rather not, and not marrying no longer means a life of chaste spinsterhood. If we do marry, and marry badly, divorce is a viable option, much to the chagrin of those who see the option as the cause. (Often the same people who see sex education as the motivating factor in making teens horny … yeah … right … )

When we commit to a relationship we now have bargaining power, the result of which can be healthier, more productive partnerships.

Some will argue that children suffer under an opt-out system, but those who grew up in abusive and/or dysfunctional family units glued together by dictates outside the front door could present their suffering and scars for examination. Sure, a two-parent cohesive family is cool, but how many of those are there?

Laws have changed. Women have changed. Families have changed. Traditional roles have changed.

Good.

And while we’re on the topic of marriage, tradition, laws and change, same-sex marriage gets a mention, as well.

One argument against same-sex marriage arises from a rejection of the use of the word “marriage” as applied to same-sex couples, as well as objections about the legal and social status of marriage itself being applied to same-sex partners under any terminology. Other stated arguments include direct and indirect social consequences of same-sex marriages, parenting concerns, religious grounds, and tradition.

Sounds like the same load of shit that kept those “Head and Master Laws” in place for a ridiculously long time.

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Castro on cheating

Infidelity Castrate ... or something like that

Not that I’m proud of it … or pleased …but I’ve seen infidelity from just about every angle there is.

Cheating has been part of the family tradition for a couple of generations, so my exposure started early, and when I saw this story titled, “AshleyMadison’s CEO Thinks Affairs Help Keep Marriages Together–Do You?”, I simply had to click on the link, even though I’d never heard of Ashley Madison.

Do affairs lead to divorce? Noel Biderman, the CEO of AshleyMadison.com, the web’s premier site for wannabe adulterers, doesn’t think so. With 8.5 million users and paying customers in over 10 countries including the U.S., Canada, Australia, England, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden, Biderman (a former sports agent turned Internet mogul), believes that if people were more flexible in allowing sexual encounters outside of marriage, there would be fewer divorces.

It took only a fraction of a second to get over being surprised that such a site would exist, and so profitably, which was even less time than required to formulate my answer to the “Do they … ?” thing.

Yes. They do, and my own track record is proof: my first husband left me for someone else; my second husband left someone else for me; I left my second husband for my third who eventually left me for his bit on the side.

Sure, we could say that all these matches were doomed, but that would be missing a chance to deal with the cheating issue, and cheating most certainly was somewhere near the top on the “What’s wrong with this picture” list.

The fact that “wannabe adulterers” have gone online is handy for this Biderman dude, and I’m only slightly annoyed I didn’t think of this …

What he did invent–after learning that between 10 to 30 percent of people on traditional dating sites were married–is a company that is creating both controversy and cash, with $60 million in profits expected this year.

The article has references to movies I’ve not seen, people I’ve not heard of and such, but attempts at points for calling a spade a spade aren’t flying.

There’s a reason movies like Hall Pass or the marketing campaign of Las Vegas where “What Happens In Las Vegas Stays in Las Vegas” with bachelor parties and weekends away are popular. It’s out there in the culture that people want this and I would argue it’s been good for Las Vegas. Prohibition never works.

Good for Las Vegas? Okay … but that doesn’t equate to affairs saving marriages, which is the message Biderman is apparently handing out.

People have needs. Sex is only a part of marriage. You have children to raise and mortgages to pay and if you look at the data, children in dual parent households do better in school and have less problems with drugs and alcohol. Divorce affects your friends and extended family. So clearly walking out the door because of a severely bruised ego can also be looked at as a selfish act. It’s the easy way out. I think the harder choice is to have honest discussions about needs and ways to move forward in a relationship and reach compromises.

And there, for me, is the key … honest discussions … and I seriously doubt that’s a prerequisite for subscribing to the site.

It’s not the extracurricular sex that destroys relationships, it’s the lies that happen on the way to consummation that poison the consommé. Sex can be just sex, a biological release, a bit of slap and tickle, but when the road leading to it is paved in deception it morphs into something more potentially damaging.

The difference between a quick fuck and drawn out wooing online, by phone or in person is as wide a divide as from a burp to betrayal — one just happens, while the other builds into … well, a relationship. Even when built on nothing more substantial than lies and ego-feeding, a bond is created, and for one who is already bonded attaching lines to another is a duplicitous double-cross.

It takes balls to step up and accept responsibility for wants and negotiate honestly when unquenchable desires must be addressed, but if there’s respect, that can happen.

I was a sports agent and saw how the wives of athletes had this 50 mile rule. As long as it’s not at home, they didn’t ask questions. When the guys came home off-season they were with their wives and families and no questions asked.

Fine, as long as that ‘no question’ thing goes both ways. That’s not often the case, however, and too many are so crap at judging distance that the corner bar … or the next room … can be misjudged as 50 miles, but some have no more control than a dog … which is why neutering is a good idea … for dogs …

Whatevahhh …

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Falling in love is so hard on the knees.
~Aerosmith

Given the rocky road all my romantic relationship paths have morphed into, often ending up in a screaming careening off a cliff into the abyss and crashing upon crags of whatthefuckhappenedthistime, this article titled, “Relationship Advice: Want a Sustainable Romance? Here’s the First Step”, got a read out of me this morning and assigns a bit of homework.

This post is about a frequently overlooked first step towards a sustainable relationship with your current or future partner. Couples I’ve worked with find it helpful because it builds the self-reflection and self-awareness you need for growing and evolving yourself in your relationship capacities. I call this first step doing a “Relationship Inventory.” With it, you can review, understand and learn from your past relationships. Then you can face forward with greater clarity and capacity for creating and sustaining emotional and sexual intimacy in the present and future.

Begin by making a list of all your significant romantic relationships. For each, reflect on and write down what attracted you to that person and why, at that particular time of your life.

Ack! This might take a while, but since I do still hold out hope for a “sustainable relationship” somewhere in my future it seems worth the time and effort, but I’ll keep my list of “significant romantic relationships” to myself, thankyouverymuch.

First things first, and that will be defining “significant”. I suppose I could set a minimum time commitment, but that would include some whose impact was negligible even with a bit of longevity and ignore a few who made a huge difference in a short time. Most miserable subsequent heartache could be a qualifier, as well as most joyful moments, although those could go hand-in-hand. Prompters of life changes make the list, of course, as well as those who set me off to thinking in different directions, and men who pop into mind a lot go higher than those whose names I struggle to recall.

Okay …

First for pondering is: What was the pull?

What qualities of that person attracted you to him or her? Why did those qualities attract you in the first place? Be honest, regardless of how you might feel about those traits today. Consider what role your life circumstances played in the attraction were at the time, including your emotional state and needs. Describe your level of emotional development and awareness at the time of each of those relationships.

Hm.

Considering the fact that the first romantic relationship I had involved being handed a ring at the age of seven, there’s bound to be some differences in my level of emotional development and awareness.

Since I still have the ring and remember the boy’s name, he has to head the list, and the pull is still obvious to me: he was cute, thought I was wonderful, and he owned a horse.

Over the years my parameters have shifted, and I’ll have to give a lot of thought to why I invested myself in men who weren’t so cute, were not so convinced of my wonderfulness and didn’t even own a bloody car.

Also, reflect on how your parents’ relationship impacted you, in terms of the model they exposed you to of how couples relate.

The model my parents exposed? OMG! No wonder I’ve been doomed to infidelities, narcissists and multiple divorces. I don’t think I even want to go there, actually, but I suppose I must if I’m to learn about myself through this pop quiz. Fine.

Next step: Then what happened?

Write a paragraph or two describing what you think happened during the course of the relationship that led to its ending. Of course, you’re looking back from today’s vantage point, but try to portray an unvarnished story of what happened, and why. Describe, without assigning blame.

Easy enough in some cases; not so in others. And I’m not just talking the not assigning blame thing. I’m more than willing to shoulder my part of any breakup and admit where I’ve fallen from the path.

Some relationships exploded, some imploded, some simply fizzled out. Some I outgrew, some were jettisoned for damned good reasons, some I hung on to by my bloody fingernails until there was nothing left to grasp. Some ended suddenly and completely, some lingered for years; some resulted in deep friendship, a very few in a lasting rage. Some I was happy to see the back of, some I miss to this day.

There were relationships begun with the writing large on the wall spelling out clearly: This won’t last! Others started in a climate of hopeful anticipation of happy-ever-after. Some could have been perfect … if only one or two things had been just a bit different.

I am not an easy woman in the get-along-with-for-a-long-time sense of the word. I can be demanding, expecting the best of those in my life and pushing for excellence. I know this can be wearying. I am also moody, stubborn, opinionated, insecure, needy and I don’t cook, so no picnic for anyone on a long-term basis. I have very little tolerance for soothing male egos out of some traditional mandate to do so and figure a guy should be able to take a bit of constructive criticism without feeling the need to run out and find some bolstering from peripheral women to make up for it. I take commitment seriously and brook no betrayal and am far too honest to take kindly to lies.

All this, I know, does not add up to a pleasant package for some, and the fact that I’ll walk away rather than stick with something that feels slimy has put the kibosh on more than one partnership.

So, moving right along to: What did you learn?

Next, write down what you think you learned about yourself from each of those relationships that ended. Include what you think you recognized at the time as your blind spots, your own behavior or unexpressed feelings that might have contributed to the failure or to prolonging the relationship when it would have been healthier to end it sooner. Did you apply what you learned in your next relationship, or did you repeat the same things, despite what you thought you learned?

See above … but it’s double-barreled when it comes to that failure vs/ prolonging thing. The difference between dragging a dead relationship and working through issues is not always clear, a distinction made more difficult when the horse continues to be flogged on a regular basis. As I’ve written before, hope flings infernos, and sometimes I apparently like the heat.

As for blind spots … well, I really like men and that seems to fuck with impartiality in a big way. My taste also tends toward confident men, and it’s often not until some time has passed that the confidence proves itself to be a mask for insecurity and a compensatory illusion, more flash than substance and a defense that can eventually prove offensive.

Next: What didn’t you learn?

Reflect on what you now realize you didn’t learn about yourself in each relationship that would have been helpful to your growth and to your next relationship. Or, what you could have learned from the relationship that ended that would have helped you grow your relationship capacity if you had been more self-aware at the time?

Much omphaloskepsis happens with this step, an ongoing process throughout life. Since even the stuff I have learned has yet to be completely integrated … things like dealing with the fact that I don’t like being alone, my needs for touch and comfort and sex and someone to care for … self-awareness doesn’t always seem the issue.

My “next relationships” have been sometimes based on finding someone who is sans the specific issues of the last relationships, so while my list of what I don’t want gets longer, I may not be paying enough attention to what I DO want.

I also suspect I’ll again give my heart too freely, and I really should have learned that lesson by now.

And finally: What happens now?

How can you use what you’ve discovered from the Relationship Inventory in your present life, as you go forward in your current — or next — relationship? For example, can you describe the kind of personality, emotional qualities, life vision, values or “vibes” that mesh well with your own; that promote connection and positive energy between the two of you?

I can, yes. What I can’t yet do … and perhaps I’ll spend more time with this inventory … is alter the idea that it will still come down to passion, chemistry, connection, fire, and that may mean I’m doomed.

There’s a lesson in that, though, and one I may have to accept. Since I have so few regrets when it comes to past relationships … they were what there were, for better and for worse … it’s hard for me to imagine turning down many had I been armed with this inventory.

I’m thinking back to my first husband, a man I married when I was 17 … he was 19 … and wonder what my life would have been like if we’d managed to stick that one out. We would have celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary a few weeks back and there would be years of history shared, kids, life intertwined. We’d be growing old together, companions, and he is still very cute.

That, however, was not a path I was given to walk, and although I’m rather tired of ending up at Lover’s Leap and DO hope to get it right one of these days, I’m not convinced I’ve learned enough yet on love and life and men and myself to pull that off yet.

Is it unreasonable at my age to still find myself wanting a knight in shining armor I can baby?

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I heard a story the other day about a woman who recently found herself standing in a pair of my three-year-old shoes … shoes that were feeling very comfortable until the day they sliced my feet off and left me to hobble on bloody stumps.

Members of the confab gathering around … apparently a lot of us wear the same sized slippers … have asked for my thoughts. They tell me she’s around my age and had been thinking herself well-married, happy, safe only to learn that her devoted husband had shifted his devotion from her to someone else.

She was blindsided … a very nasty way to take a blow … completely unprepared for the drastic change to life, and in the man she’d considered for many years a life partner.

“Who is this guy, and what did he do with my husband?” is the question she’s asking now, and with good reason since “this guy” is nothing like that guy. Or is he? Can you really miss that much in someone you’ve been sleeping beside night after night for decades? Apparently, yes.

With interesting timing, this article came across my radar this morning. Titled “He’s the One Who Cheated and Left; So Why is He So Angry At You?”, if nothing else, it proves that those old shoes sure get around.

I couldn’t understand why my ex never expressed remorse for what he’d done to me, just regret at what our daughter suffered. He’d always been extremely concerned about me while we were married, worried about my health, mental and physical. He’d always apologized every time he blew up at me. I was stunned at his coldness. He did say to me on various occasions that he felt “guilty” but he never apologized or showed any empathy for my suffering.

Sound familiar?

I don’t know the newly-dumped woman, so am in no position to give a hug and add to the chorus now teaching her the words to “I Will Survive” and encouraging her to sing at the top of her voice.

Not that she’s there yet. It takes time to move from “alone and petrified” to “savin’ all my lovin’ for someone who’s lovin’ me” … a LOT of time.

Unfaithful husbands–even husbands who have always been loving– can be inexplicably brutal. The incongruence between you makes it all worse. He’s already found a new partner, and doesn’t feel the loss of the marriage. You, on the other hand, are shattered, terrified of the future and collapsing on friends and relatives. His happiness is the unkindest cut of all. He’s already detached from you, or is in the process of detaching, which makes him excruciatingly insensitive.

Apparently, there are reasons for the excruciating insensitivity … not that it’s any excuse for it:

“Infidelity is harder on women, who are more vulnerable to feelings while men are a law unto themselves,” explains psychoanalyst Simone Sternberg. “Men don’t allow themselves to empathize with women’s suffering. It’s too threatening. Also underneath male supposed indifference or even hostility is self-hate which they project onto the wife. They can’t afford to empathize or they’ll have to experience the full force of that emotion.”

Well, whoopiefuckingdoo …

Oops. Sorry. Okay. Not sorry … and still pissed off when I allow myself to dwell, but, hey, I’m entitled to my feelings, too. There is, after all, such a thing as consequences, as William Congreve noted way back in the 1600s:

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned,
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

Being burned leaves scars that can itch and tug and it’s not in any furious, scorned woman’s mandate to forgive or forget, only to get on with it.

That’s about my only advice to anyone finding their feet now bound in those old shoes … get on with it. There’s nothing else you can do. Suck on the bitter pill … it won’t choke you … remember the flavor, and try to avoid the queue that forms in front of those dispensing another dose.

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