By Tania Rochelle
This morning, when I went to make toast, I found the bread bag open and the twist-tie missing. To make matters worse, when I pulled the cheese out of the fridge, the zip-lock bag had not been zipped. The gouda, which I had planned to put on a thick slab of fresh (alas, no longer) multigrain bread, was crusty around the edges and smelled like onions. I hate onions.
The man I live with does other annoying things too. Lots of them. He folds the laundry while it’s still damp. He leaves small piles of paper—receipts, stick-it notes, gum wrappers—on every surface he passes. He spills his coffee in the bed at least once a week. He tosses used Q-Tips and floss in the bathroom trash but misses and leaves them on the floor.
This man converted our garage into a recording studio. He parks his truck right in front of its door. When he unloads his equipment from his truck, he brings that equipment into the house and piles it up in the kitchen. Later, once I’ve stubbed every toe on it, he’ll take it out and put it in the studio. The one that’s right in front of his truck.
He eats all the cashews out of the raisin-nut mix. He pours half-and-half on his cereal—the cereal in the box he never closes.
But you know what he doesn’t do? He doesn’t rendezvous with men at Home Depot. And he’s never booked a $400 “prostate massage” with a “therapist” named Summer. He’s never joined a Yahoo strap-on group, and he doesn’t have a profile on Bi-Cupid. He doesn’t hire hookers on business trips, and he doesn’t disappear on family vacations.
He doesn’t accuse me of shaming him or pain shopping. He doesn’t have a therapist who talks down to me and teaches him a new language to use against me. He doesn’t have to sit with a crayon and color circles of behavior, doesn’t have to be told what good boundaries are. He has never had to prepare a disclosure or attend an intensive. He has never taken a polygraph.
He is not an abuser. He’s just a decent human being with pretty solid core values. He doesn’t have mantrums. He doesn’t lie or gaslight or blameshift. He’s a legit grown-up, with compassion and empathy. He admits when he’s wrong and apologizes. He knows the rules of engagement. I don’t have to list them for him. He’s not moody and distant or resentful.
He and I have the positive mutuality Diane Strickland describes:
“…based on the fair exchange of positive value for positive value. That means two people can choose what “fair” means. It’s not going to be the same for everyone. But importantly, the term positive mutuality also means the exchange is about positive value.”
It also means I’m not expected to be the only adult in the relationship. It means trust, honesty, and authenticity are values that we share. It means I’m not always waiting for a shoe to drop. It means he has my back.
I think of all the years I wasted with my ex: policing him; expecting less and less, being told to “stay in my lane” when we should have been traveling the same lane. I remember how I became a shell of myself and how that affected the relationships with my children and my friends.
I recall all the false hope I was served up by the therapists, who were themselves recovering “sex addicts” and experts at being false. Check after check, year after year, until I reached the point that I said out loud, “I’d rather live in a box than live like this.”
Then I was alone. Which was far better than being with him. I could breathe. I felt peace. I healed and became open to possibilities. Now I’m happily annoyed instead of gravely unhappy.
You can be happy again too. Whether you’ve decided to stay in the relationship or not, let us show you how to focus on yourself and the value of your own life. You do not have to be the sacrificial lamb to his recovery. There’s a better way. We can show you.