While I would love to be telling you a sordid sex story where someone’s pants may or may not have been the focus, that’s not what this is. It’s nothing of the sort.
This is actually the conclusion, the breakup, the finality, the end to my longest lasting relationship to date.
The short version is that it took five and a half years for us to grow in different directions, we were probably raised differently, and ultimately we wanted different things out of life. It was a shame we didn’t see all of that early enough or we could have prevented each other a lot of pain. But that is life I suppose. At least I have learned from this
If you’re like me and the stories are the interesting part, here’s the long version.
Perhaps the whole thing was doomed from the beginning.
Peter often said that he didn’t feel good enough for me, and would point out where my words or actions, however subconsciously, indicated that there were things about him that weren’t right and that I was trying to fix him.
I tried reassuring him; I tried focussing on all of the rest of him that was right for me; I even tried addressing the issues head on and said that while I didn’t care, if it was a big enough deal for him to be worried about it, we could fix things easily.
To generalise things, men like to, and sometimes need to, be in charge. Or, at least, they need to be superior to their counterpart women in enough categories that they come out on top. This makes for a happier, more stable relationship, even if it is true that
“The man is the head of the house, but the woman is the neck – she can turn the man any way she wants” – the mum in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
So while I was still at university, Peter and I had a fine relationship – his much-less-than-medicore-job (that was perfectly fine for a someone in their late teens) was naturally superior to my waitressing-two-nights-a-week-to-put-myself-through-med-school, and things were simple.
I noticed things starting to go downhill when work started and I was in my internship. Ignoring the fact that I was now in the superior position in both career and money, I kept telling myself that the downturn in events was more about the stress of my work, and all of the complaining I was doing – something I know he hated. There was also a lot of strain financially. I was quite happy to contribute evenly for bills and rent, even though I wasn’t actually living there (mum was still needing me at home, so I tried to balance my time 50/50 between the two houses, with perhaps the larger half of my time spent at Peter’s), but it got to a point where I was paying Peter’s share too because he was having issues with one of the jobs not paying him properly.
(It’s now just hit me that it’s entirely possible that the job was paying him appropriately but that he was lying to me – though at the time I could see no reason for him to be dishonest, so I trusted him. It would explain why he was so mad when I eventually contacted his boss and asked him to call Peter because I had bills to pay.)
With all the extra time I was caught up at work, Peter was getting to spend more time with his friends. Dodgy friends. Friends who dealt with smoking certainly substances that helped to take you away from reality if that’s what you want. Friends who also introduced Peter to the synthetic version.
Looking back now, the spiral into depression and substance abuse probably began earlier in the year, but I had always thought the start of Peter’s slippery slope was towards the end of the year, where the strain of finances and time was much more evident on our relationship. I was also increasingly frustrated by having to do all of the shopping, cleaning, and cooking when my job was much more demanding. He cooked dinner for me twice that year, and one of those was on my birthday.
I had encouraged Peter to go back to university, and though he didn’t want to finish the final semester of the first degree he had abandoned a few years before, he had thought Business was an interesting and safe option and finally seemed to have more ambition – maybe even subconsciously to aim for superiority over my situation.
I offered help whenever I thought I could give it and where I thought I might be useful, but he declined (again, I think wanting to do it all on his own), so I stopped asking about his uni work, and stopped offering help and advice. His grades were quite good, and so I didn’t know that he was failing a subject or two going in to the final exams for the semester. Which meant that when I picked a fight (unintentionally – there’s something about a two thousand dollar electricity bill on your credit card that can make you see red without any rhyme or reason for the timing of other life events) on the morning in his exam week, I was blamed for his failing that subject.
And understandably blamed too. I still feel awful that he went into an exam after I’d started a fight that very morning. But I reserve some of the guilt aside since he was failing the subject to begin with and that I think it was more to do with early depression and substance abuse (things that weren’t really clear at the time).
From then I tried my best to make things as easy as possible for him – we went on a holiday and I tried to not stress about money.
I bought a house, and at the time he told me to make sure I was buying it for me because he wasn’t going to be able to pay for any of the bills and couldn’t expect that of me. I thought that was all he meant by it, but really there was the added layer that he didn’t want to be with me anymore and that I was probably going to end up in a big family house all on my own. He complained often that it didn’t feel like his house and so that he was never going to be comfortable. I probably shouldn’t have reminded him that he didn’t have much of a say in the matter anyway since he wasn’t paying me the minuscule rent that he was supposed to.
So we enter my second year of work (residency), and Peter decides to “take six months off uni” – without discussing things with me I might add, since I would have suggested that instead of focussing on short-term money solutions, that I support him while he finishes uni (and since I’d been supporting him for most of the previous year, this wasn’t going to be a big deal) so that he can have a real job and actually be able to contribute as an equal where the finances were concerned. But no, he’d thought that at least six months of purely working would mean he could earn enough to contribute and get his head back into gear where uni was concerned.
Neither of those things happened.
He said he wasn’t being paid. He also didn’t want me to interfere with trying to fix things with his work. He seemed to get paid every now and then, but that made it difficult to contribute to rent or bills.
The money he did have, he spent on himself. I never came home to the house having been cleaned, nor the dogs walked, nor the lawn mown, never was dinner ready, and only very rarely were any of the small things that I’d asked for actually done.
It became clear early in the year that he was suffering from depression, and I took him to the doctor’s to get help, and helped nurse him through the awful start to the medication. Things seemed to have reached a plateau – they weren’t great, but I was hoping that with treatment for the depression I might be lucky enough to get back the wonderful guy I’d fallen in love with. In any case, it certainly wasn’t the time to be breaking up – he was so fragile and I did my best to help him.
The day before a relatively important job interview, I asked my mum to come and stay so she could drive me to and from the interview (so I didn’t have to put any pressure on Peter in any way). He didn’t want to stick around when she was due to arrive, so even though he was sleep-deprived at that point, he went to visit his dad who lives maybe half hour away. Mum and I were happily catching up with cups of tea in front of us, and I find it’s odd that Peter hasn’t returned home as early as I was expecting. I check my phone, nothing there. As I’m putting it down, an unknown number rings. The voice on the other end of the line tells me that my partner, Peter, has been in a car accident and that I’m not to worry – he’s conscious. (Not the best word to use to a medical person no matter how true that is, because it doesn’t tell me anything in the way of injuries or whether his limbs are attached or not, or even whether they’d be working if they are still attached; nor the severity of the accident and whether I should be panicking more or less right about then. I would recommend “fine” or “okay” for general times, for future reference).
He was fine in the end. Four hours at the hospital with me telling him off when he moved his neck in the collar while we waited for the CT results to clear his head and neck since he’d lost consciousness during the accident. Oh and the severity of the accident? It seemed that Peter must have fallen asleep at the wheel, lost control of the car and it had rolled onto it’s passenger side door and been totalled.
Later we learned that the car had rolled/slid into three stationary cars (occupants all fine), but that two of the cars had been fairly expensive/new, and two (though we didn’t know which) were completely written off. Likely this meant a massive bill. Especially when Peter didn’t have insurance as it was his mum’s car – and she was only covering for CTP. Ouch. We estimated maybe $100-150k worth of damage.
We were then burdened with the task of trying to work out the best way of approaching this problem – my initial thoughts were that he could get a loan, maybe his dad and I could be guarantors on the loan, but everyone else was thinking he could negotiate with the insurance companies to be only paying a pittance back at a time because that’s all he’d be able to afford, or perhaps he would just declare bankruptcy.
This was when I raised my concerns with my mum – but I don’t want to be with someone who’s bankrupt for the next five or seven years; I want to be getting married and having kids in that time; I would like to have my partner share the responsibility of my current mortgage with me; I would like to be able to go together for a loan for the next place we’d want to buy and oh-my-god-what-does-that-mean-for-our-credit-rating?
Discussions with mum and her friends only came back with the awful thought – oh please tell me you’d not be counted as defacto, what does that mean for debt like that – do you share it like you would have to share anything else?
While I didn’t think Peter would expect me to take on the burden of his debt, I didn’t want it to be a legal obligation that I would have to sell my house to cover his bills, and then be left with a massive chunk that I would still owe. Especially since some of the money I used for the deposit was from my dad’s last will and testament. It hurt to even think that I might lose that all in one swoop, and even more so when I didn’t know if I wanted to still be with this person – even if they maybe got better from their depression.
I researched and came up that we had to have been living together for two years for the relationship to count as defacto – I breathe a small sigh of relief to Peter: we’d only been together for the less than six months at my house, and even if you added in the entire year before where was half-living at Peter’s place, it would still only total 18months max, so it was okay – I wouldn’t have to sell my house.
His reaction was not what I expected.
He said “I guess we were raised differently then”. He meant that if the rolls were reversed he’d have sold his house and born the brunt of the one hundred thousand dollars or more of debt that would have been nothing to do with him.
I don’t even think we agreed to disagree on that one. I was incensed. Especially when it comes out that because it is his mum’s car, she’ll be the bearer of the insurance companies’ bills and had decided that she would probably declare bankruptcy herself. I thought it was interesting that I was raised differently, in that I could never expect either of my parents to take on such a massive responsibility for something that was my fault and that I should have the balls as an adult to stand up and face.
Anyway. We let the differences in how we were raised slide, and things went back to the stale not-great-but-I’m-waiting-for-you-to-transform-from-toad-to-prince-already.
I did everything that I could. And I tried not to complain about work. Or nag or start arguments about the lack of housework or that I’m never home to find dinner waiting for me. Nor that the finances were even tighter because without a car, he couldn’t work, and his wallet and phone were still in the damaged car, which was still being held in police custody while the investigation was being conducted. It also meant that I was kind enough to lend him my credit card (and then later I even paid the bill for his car to be towed from police holding — all of the promised IOUs for this now non-returned-money live in a box in my head labelled “bad debt”).
I guess the main sore spots of the money of mine that he spent – when the credit card was supposed to be for food or emergencies – was on video games (because they gave him something to do and kept him happy), and on lots of synthetic marijuana.
His substance usage at this point had been sporadic and minimal and mainly with friends on nights off. But with less work, and perhaps less purpose in the mornings, plus a significant increase in his frailty and depression, he said smoking the stuff even on his own was something that enabled him to relax and that he enjoyed, it helped keep him happy.
But the smell made me sick, I didn’t like the person he became when he was high, and I worried about going to work smelling like any kind of funky incense and how that might impact on my medical registration. So I asked him to not smoke it in the house. Then when that plan failed, I asked for not in the bedroom. Then I had to ask not while I’m around. Then I had to add in the proviso not when I’ll likely have time off and want to spend it with him.
That last addition to the smoking rules was created on a Saturday morning before I went to visit my mum for the weekend. I made it clear that I was going to return on Sunday afternoon-evening and that I would love to spend some quality time with Peter since we were rarely getting any time together. I said it clearly – I didn’t want him smoking the stuff on Sunday so that way I could enjoy the evening with the person I love, and not while he’s high.
I sent a text before I left my mum’s that Sunday – giving him just over an hour’s notice that I’d be coming home. I was hopeful that maybe the place would be cleaned (I had kind of asked), but I was mainly hoping that he wouldn’t disappoint me and that he’d have stayed away from the pot.
It was the highest I’d ever seen him.
I walked into my house – unclean and untidy, in the same state I’d left it in. I walked to the bedroom to try to find where Peter was – maybe he’d fallen asleep? He was coming out of the bedroom, holding the pipe in one hand and the lighter in another. His face was slack and quite space-cadet. His eyes were bloodshot and droopy. His mouth was ruminating slowly on what was clearly the lack of saliva that probably meant he hadn’t heard my car come up the driveway, and instead of coming to greet me, he was heading to the kitchen to eat the snack food I’d bought for myself for work lunches.
I couldn’t even say anything.
I saw the redness of rage clouded by an intense disappointment in both him and myself – what the fuck was I doing? (And I rarely swear, so this internal dialogue was quite emphatic).
Even though it was seven or eight o’clock at night, I clipped up the dogs and went for a walk to burn off some of the steam. I called my mum.
I’d been keeping the drug use from her because I didn’t want her to seem him in that way – I didn’t want her to think that there was more to why he wasn’t good enough for her daughter. Don’t get me wrong, my mum liked him to begin with, but I think she’d hoped I was going to fall for someone more successful, or perhaps more good looking, or perhaps smarter, or maybe less flamboyant.
At this point I still hoped the relationship had the potential to be saved if he could only get over the depression then I could have back the same guy from a year or two ago. So I told her they were herbal cigarettes. This seemed less worrying than marijuana, even in its synthetic form. I thought that if the relationship could be saved, that I didn’t want her to look at him as someone who had ever been a pot smoker. (Months later after we’d broken up she said “they weren’t herbal cigarettes were they”. Smart cookie she is.)
I vented for over an hour, with hot angry tears welling but not quite falling, and I can’t even remember what kind of conclusion I came to about it all. Just that I was so angry that he’d done everything I asked him not to. Recently I wondered if he did all of it on purpose. But I don’t really think he was that cunning, nor in the right frame of mind to be able to formulate such a convoluted break-up-plan.
After I got home from my phone call with mum, Peter and I argued. We reached some kind of agreement I think, and somewhere along the way he moved to the spare room to help give me some space. I still got to clean up most of the rubbish that lived on his side of the bed (including two juice boxes that had exploded – orange juice on the wall and cupboard, and pineapple juice on the floor and corner of the bed = excellent. p.s. physically cleaned the orange juice off the wall some two months after the break up, that was how stubborn I had been, and how awful things had gotten).
This meant that a few weeks later when my mum called me to say she thought she’d broken her arm tripping over the dog on a walk (I promptly told her to call and ambulance and that I’d meet her at the hospital asap – likely about an hour and a half later), I turned to Peter, and explained that if my mum has broken her arm she’ll have to come stay with me for the next week because I had four night shifts to go until my holidays and she’d not be able to cope on her own – which meant that he’d have to get out of the spare room, so I’ll let him know if I’d need him to kindly change the sheets over and move his things out of that room and that I’m sure as a couple of five years we would cope reasonably well with sleeping in the same bed.
Didn’t quite expect the huff that followed. Nor the annoyed tutting/sighs that I heard through the walls when I finally got her home to my house around 1am and our arrival (with mum’s dog) made my dogs bark.
The final chapter of the relationship had opened on a Wednesday.
We had a short conversation because he’d decided, again without me, that he wouldn’t be going back to uni for second semester either. This time more because of the depression and he was just starting to sort of see some improvements. There was more to it, but the rough gist of the conversation was thus:
In a fairly calm manner, I asked when was he going to grow up, when was he going to finish university, when was he going to be an adult and be able to contribute to the running of the household, to the bills, to the mortgage, when was he going to get it into gear and have a job to earn money to show he could provide for me and hence would be in the position to propose and for us to get married?
His half-joking mostly-not reply was that we both knew I was the one in the relationship that wore the pants.
But I don’t want to always wear the pants, I tell him. I want to be equals in this relationship; I would like to not have to go to work if I don’t want to; I would like to be able to continue with time off work when it comes time for me to go on maternity leave however far into the future; I would like to not have to wear the pants, but I don’t have a choice in the matter right now.
He responds. But he doesn’t want to wear the pants either. He doesn’t want responsibility. He just wants to be happy.
(And that doesn’t include me?) Implied, not outright stated.
Conversation concludes somewhat awkwardly and I leave the moment for working out what it all meant for later, because I didn’t want to have to face the facts: what I felt and wanted was that I did not want to be with him anymore, because even without the depression, I didn’t think that he still wanted to be with me, and how on earth was I supposed to break up with someone in a state like his, especially when he lived in my house?
I woke up the day after, on the Thursday – the morning after mum had broken her arm, and Peter and I have another short conversation. Again, there was more to it, but the important part was thus:
He said I get the feeling you broke up with me yesterday.
I do not speak.
He said he’s getting his dad to pick him up shortly and he’ll move out.
That was the end.
Anticlimactic wasn’t it.
It still took him two months to move all of his stuff out of my house.
It was an obvious enough break up that there were no doubts or questions left unanswered, but it was painful and so there’s little hope of returning to something of the solid friendship we had before it all started.
He’s doing quite well now. He’s off medication, looked happy and healthier when I last saw him, and has since moved to the states to work on cruise ship (as part of his mid-twenties crisis).
I think ultimately, he didn’t want to be with me, but didn’t know how to end things when I was completely supporting him, and besides, how do you end things with the person you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with? Especially when they’re still of that mindset and that surely there’ll be better days. Horribly bleak prospect to have to burst their bubble. Somewhat fair ’nuff then that he turned to getting high. Wish he had found the guts to put his pants on and break up with me when he first had the thought.
He tells people I broke up with him. I let him take the pity if that’s what he wants. I’d have had to have said it all anyway, he just saved me the trouble.
If you’ve stuck with me until now (I’m sorry and thank you), my theory today might be a bit abstract, but it’s perhaps simple enough for the occasion:
Theory #24: Pants have two leg holes: it’s easier to walk when things are distributed evenly.
– Dr Gigi.