Two Hearts Need Not Beat as One

“We must learn how to be alone…but not expectant, not needing the other in order to feel fully alive, and unafraid, and ready for the road.” ~DHG

I’ve never been the marrying type even though I tied that knot at the age of 29. While I enjoy, and can’t resist, a good, dysfunctional relationship, I’m at my best when I am alone. The spiral of relationship dependence easily sucks me in, and I sink, deep and deeper into the identity of the Other until he becomes sick of my whining and clinging and casts me back to the sea. That’s when the spell is broken, and I’m brought back into my own where I stumble and stutter for a while until I find my feet again. Then the next dysfunctional relationship presents itself. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The awareness of my become-dependent-get-dumped pattern hit me in the mouth months before I said, “I do” to the sweet, simple country boy, Lance*.  I was less concerned, this time, about the dumping part and more concerned about losing my identity. I felt like I was giving up ‘everything’ even though I couldn’t list anything that comprised the everything I bemoaned. But I did the “I do” anyway, hoping for a different outcome. Lance was passive and genteel. Quiet and laid-back. He was everything I deplore in a man – all smiles and empty eyes, no strength and fire. Still, I married him. He showed well in public. As long as he didn’t talk, which he didn’t do much, thankfully. He could tell a joke, though. Typically at my expense. But oh, how they laughed and declared, “what a great guy!” and then looked at me with eyes that said, “Finally! Annmarie did something right.” I sank deep into my new role, and adopted a new identity. However, since Lance was so passive, I pretty much got my way. All the time. I didn’t have to yell or cry or threaten to leave. I would declare, “this is how it is and shall be.” and he replied, “ok” every time. I could have easily taken advantage of his passive nature further than I did.  I could have been a real shrew. Luckily, momma taught me better than that. As the marriage wore on and the responsibilities of home and hearth fell mostly on me, I  told Lance I needed him to be an equal partner in our life. He glanced up from his cycling magazine and said, “ok.” Then he sat there, shut off to the emotional needs of his wife and children.

To be fair, Lance wasn’t a bad guy. He had moments of genuine tenderness. And when his jokes weren’t on me, they were funny.  For a couple of years, he did well to make me laugh. But the occasional laugh didn’t support my growth and forward momentum. It moved me to work harder to bridge the chasms between us, which prevented any hope of developing an identity separate from my marriage. I didn’t know what a wife should do, so I suffocated myself to breathe his air. This was my choice, based on my distorted needs and familial beliefs. In order to paint the portrait of a ‘good marriage’, I never complained; in fact, I talked about how good things were to anyone who would listen, and I supported him endlessly. Two adoptions and a major surgery later, I courted a deep, frightening depression. In therapy, I examined every corner of my life. Except my marriage. And when I finally did, I was at my breaking point. The rage and resentment was deafening. I went home and made my last declaration; it’s time to divorce.

Since giving Lance his pink slip and sending him on his way, I have had to work tirelessly to develop a sense of self.  I too-quickly bounced into a frighteningly abusive relationship. It almost made me appreciate Lance. Then, battered and fragile, I began Internet dating. Granted, my emotional state was not the ideal condition under which to search for my soulmate, the love of my life, but dating provided a distraction and allowed me time and experiences during which I could examine my relationship patterns and see precisely where I was going south. I confronted my need for approval and  practiced saying no; I voiced my feelings, asked to have my needs met, using delicate words, and weathered rejection after rejection after rejection. Eventually I started to see that; in fact, I wasn’t being rejected. It simply was not a good match. I was fortunate to have met some wonderful men who have become lifelong friends. They have helped me see my worth and won’t let me settle. No matter how tempting the dysfunction is, they keep me in check.

I believe in the long haul. I believe in having a monogamous relationship. I believe in the sanctity of marriage, but I don’t feel a need to rush back into one. I’d rather focus on the immediate ground under my feet than on the road ahead. I can’t say with an ounce of certainty that I’ll retain my independence if I find a relationship partner. But, maybe I will if the relationship becomes, through mutual, shared effort, a loving partnership. Meanwhile, I am going to relish being “fully alive, and unafraid and ready for the road” so much so that it becomes a deeply ingrained part of me – a part I’ll not be willing to surrender; then I’ll be able to consider the road ahead.


*Not his real name

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  1. …wow, oh how I can relate.


  2. Lauretta Chiarini

     /  August 17, 2011

    LOVE YOU!!!!!!


  3. I love you, I love your blog, and I’m never getting married.



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