@THECLEANSER What is "normal"? What is "average"? Everyone has some degree of pain and trauma, some more than others. And every person has days where it's a struggle to accept the darker, more flawed aspects of who she is. Some people have very specific problems and Polly has addressed a lot of those -- the man who didn't want to visit Mom for Christmas, the woman struggling with her boyfriend's relationship with his ex -- but this has always been billed as an "existential advice column." People who are depressed aren't just depressed. They're sometimes filled with joy and hope and optimism and sometimes they are "confused, upset, or angry and need advice."
If this column has done anything, it's highlighted just how many people in the world feel broken and offers some thoughts about coping with brokenness. If that doesn't hit you on a gut level as a valuable underlying theme, then idk, maybe try a different advice column.
I would like to point out to the LW that her horrible, garbage person of an ex moved on with a woman a decade younger in his own field most likely because he needed to feel SUPERIOR. You want to know what the LW's role in this story is? She made him feel inferior. Not really, obviously, because this dickhead is probably dying inside every single day because of his persistent feelings of being a worthless piece of shit. (He's right, obviously, but not for the reasons he thinks.) He couldn't stomach attending her art shows because HER light couldn't shine without HIS being dimmed. He couldn't talk to her artist/photographer pals because while she loves him for all of the mysterious reasons he's supposedly special and wonderful, he'd have to prove himself to her friends by being an interesting, supportive and worthy human. But he isn't, and he knows he isn't.
She paid for his schooling, too, which is incredibly generous and he probably thought it was generous, too, on the surface. But I'm guessing that he also resented it and got caught up in a toxic cycle of needing her, hating himself for needing her and, unable to live sustainably with that kind of self-hatred, hating her for the VERY GENEROUS thing she was doing. Whether he's ever been able to articulate it honestly to himself or not, he hated her for being capable. Because it highlighted for him just how incapable he was. It also explains why he consistently put her on this fucking roller coaster. Destabilizing a stable person made HIM feel SECURE and POWERFUL. He could've just walked away after the first break-up. But going back? Upending her life over and over? He may never admit it, LW, but it gave him a fucking rush. Guaranteed. And the insistence that you not act "childish" after the last break-up? Projection. Wishful thinking that for once YOU'D be the child and HE'D be the adult.
And now he's with someone much younger in a field where HE has more experience. Dude is fucking transparent. The moment this lady shows that she might have something more going on? Something that poses a threat to his ego? He'll pull this disappearing act on her, too.
I agree with Polly that you need to confront the feeling that somehow YOU caused him to act like an irredeemable shithead, but do so while reminding yourself that it was your strength and capability that drove him away. You'll need more time with this. Two years is a long time, but 11 years is much longer. The only thing I can promise you for certain is this: someday your life with him will feel like someone else's life or like a movie you walked out on. This story - this particular story - is not THE story, it's just a story. Just one story of a shitty person turning your world upside down. But you have your work and your friends and people who love you, and that's not nothing.
If you think you'd want him back, imagine what you'd have to give up to have him. Imagine being a person who isn't strong or capable or creative or resilient, because that's what would keep him. That's what he needs. He needs you to lack. Fuck that. You can do better, and you will do better. And someday, when you hear or read his name, you will roll your eyes and think "yeah, that turd" instead of crying. It doesn't have to be today.
Sending you good thoughts until you get there.
This is probably the best thing I have ever read about self-image. I love this column so much. Never stop advising, Polly.
On Meet The Awl
But where do I send my list of cheap happy hour deals in DoBro? To Choire? To STRANGERS?
@brianvan Oh my god, I had this thought, too. "Wrong byline."
I obviously co-sign Polly completely, but also, as the adult child of a person who led a double life for decades, let me advise you to really think about the effect his behavior might have on your children. If you marry him and have kids with him, it's not just your life you're bonding to his. If for some reason you believe you're not worthy of happiness (though you are), then imagine them finding messages like the ones he's been exchanging -- imagine their shock and grief and their total helplessness. You can choose a new romantic partner, but you can't choose a new dad.
@Liz81 My sense of it was more "well, you could never reasonably insist on NOT having joint custody of a child so suck it up but dogs AREN'T kids, so if it's one more thing tying you to a toxic ex, sever the joint custody." Which sounds reasonable to me.
"The physical part of a relationship is very important to me, I don't want to have to compromise on that just to be with someone who's emotionally stable!" <-- this is what is wrong. "Just to be." So the answer is to compromise your emotional and mental health? Just to have some great sex?
It may be not the easiest thing in the world but I'm pretty sure you can find great sex that doesn't require you to put up with meltdowns and abuse. Even at 26 (!!).
BRB, killing myself.
"If there's one thing I wish I'd learned at 18, it's that it's okay if a crazy person hates you." Still trying to get this one through my thick skull.