“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel, or not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at any moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to.” -Jim Morrison
It took my body over a week to heal from what was thought to be a bacterial infection from contaminated water on Vieques. Or maybe a parasite. Opinions varied. As far as I was concerned, the external cause was irrelevant.
Anytime my body is out of alignment, I try to tune in to the message it’s trying to communicate. This one didn’t take any great interpretation skills. I hadn’t even experienced so much as a common cold in years – my body was clearly pissed off at me. Traveling was downgraded from a poor choice to impossible. I was forced to stay put.
There’s nothing like being really sick to make you appreciate your health. And nothing like the thought of moving to remind you how much you love your home and community. When I finally felt well enough to take a walk on the beach, I was grateful for every step. It hit me I was not only going to be leaving my loved ones when I moved. I would also be leaving my actual life.
As if I’d pocket dialed my boyfriend and spoken my thoughts out loud, he texted to ask when I was planning to move there.
It wasn’t something I could do overnight, even if I’d felt entirely ready to. I had professional and personal commitments in New York. I also knew it was foolish to entertain moving at my favorite time of year, when I’d have the hardest time missing home and acclimating to Florida.
I called to say I’d visit often in the interim, but the earliest I could see myself moving permanently was autumn.
That did not go over very well. I detailed my commitments and explained why I needed to wait for the right time.
“The right time to act is when you make a decision to do something,” he preached. He classified my reasons as excuses, even my professional ones. He judged the feelings I needed to work through about leaving New York; somehow they made him seem like less of a priority.
My ego started to bench-press the weight of his pressure. Why was he giving me such a hard time? I was planning to uproot my entire life for him!
I understood that moving wasn’t an option on his end but if he couldn’t meet me halfway geographically, I at least needed him to do so emotionally. This was going to be a monumental change, one which needed to occur on my timetable or it was going to backfire.
He said he needed his family to be together. Being apart was too difficult. It was making him feel emotional instability and that wasn’t good for his son, who needed him to be consistent.
His reaction concerned me. If he was struggling this much after less than two weeks apart, what was our future going to be like? I don’t want someone depending on me for his happiness or sense of well being. That never works, and we’d discussed that going in.
My reaction to his reaction was even more unsettling. As if under a spell that makes people do the exact opposite of what would serve them, I catered to the guilt. I told him we didn’t have to wait until I moved there to get married – we could do that next time I visited. Even that didn’t quell his doubts.
“What kind of marriage is it going to be if we’re living in separate states?” he asked.
I was dumbfounded. The idea of giving up the life I’d built for four and a half decades for someone I’d known a couple of months took me so far out of my comfort zone I wasn’t sure I’d ever find it again.
I was willing to do it – at a pace that worked for me. Now that wasn’t enough? Because I wasn’t doing it quickly enough? I was starting to suspect that nothing I did would be enough for this man. Ever.
I reminded him that my professional life involved a decent amount of travel. And once I had a Floridian zip code, I was going to visit New York on a fairly regular basis. If he needed someone who would be omnipresent, he was planning his future with the wrong woman.
The thought of breaking up saddened me, but if our real lives weren’t going to gel, it was better to establish that now. I didn’t want him to compromise on something essential to him – if he needed someone who would always be there, I was prepared to set him free so he could find her.
Finally, he let his guard down. He didn’t want to end our relationship. He just needed me to understand that he didn’t feel as close to me when I wasn’t there. Being apart was harder for him. I had my family and friends in New York. Since I’d left, he felt lonely, especially on days when his son was staying with his ex.
I thought about that from his perspective which led me deeper into compassion. It was true – I’m someone who thrives with some time to myself, but I was incredibly blessed to have so many loved ones here. I did spend a lot of time with them. His family and many of his close friends live in another country. I couldn’t imagine how hard it must be for him not to be able to visit them!
I validated his feelings and expressed that being apart from him and his son wasn’t as easy for me as he seemed to think. But relationships aren’t designed to be easy. They’re meant to help us evolve and arrive at the next highest version of ourselves.
I don’t know if anything else I said that day registered, but that last line sure did. He made it his personal mission to help me get there, to that next phase of personal development. En route, we’d just have to take a detour through hell.
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