I had a paid cuddling session the other day that kind of turned my world upside down a little. He was an older gentlemen, who wrote me because he had a paid cuddle person he saw semi-regularly but she was far away from his home and I was closer. He asked for a session in a private place without being at his place or outside in a public space and decided to get a hotel room instead.
I already had a clue from my past experience that him not having a space to offer and wanting privacy likely indicated desire for intimacy he wasn’t getting from a romantic partner. I kept it in the back of my mind as something to ask about.
We met outside the hotel. Unfortunately, the room was supposed to be ready but wasn’t yet. We ended up waiting almost an hour for it, but this gave us time to talk and get to know each other first. He immediately offered the reason he was meeting with me. It was not an uncommon story – his wife would not/could not give him intimacy he desired (simple stuff – sex too, but mostly just…love, platonic affection). In this specific situation, it seemed to be due to a semi-medical/psychological reason. But really, in the end, it doesn’t matter. He hasn’t been getting what he needs for seven years (SEVEN YEARS!) and on top of that has been abused verbally and possibly physically by the only person he is “allowed” to get intimacy, love, and care from in this world.
It brought up this deep well of compassion and sadness in me for him – and for myself a year or two or three or ten ago. I felt so strongly in him the feeling of being “stuck.” In his mind, he has no good options – 1) He leaves his wife and loses everything he’s ever worked for but receives freedom (in some ways) and would likely be viewed in a horrible light by others soon after. 2) He stays and continues receiving abuse and little of what he wants or needs, but is “stable” (whatever that means). 3) He stays and continues receiving abuse and gets what he needs elsewhere and has to deal with his own guilt, shame, etc (on top of everyone else’s who knows).
I came away from this session hurting for him, seeing the only way of integrity, truth, and freedom was option 1 and that he has to see it himself, and HUGE frustration. It pissed the fuck out of me that people hurt each other like that and make the situation unbearable to someone they supposedly love. Like, really, you LOVE this man and make it impossible for him to want to stay with you. Additionally, why is he staying? He hasn’t received what he needs for seven effing years! Loyalty to someone only goes so far, especially if you’re being abused in the process of doing “the right thing.”
Of course, this is all just coming from a deep well of my own shit, as usual. I’ve found that whenever I have a strong reaction to something, it means I should poke more, dig deeper, and ask more questions. So I did.
What I came up with was that I was really still angry at myself – for staying with D, for feeling so stuck then when in reality the solution was so simple! Leaving him took me a year…in reality, eleven of them. About a month ago, I came across a draft of an email I never sent to D about wanting to break up. I wrote it not even a year into dating him. I knew then and always that it didn’t feel 100% right. But I stayed. Because I felt stuck. I felt like no one would ever love me better than D. I felt I was unlovable. I felt like I deserved less. I felt like I would always be a person who doubted, that no relationship would ever be perfect. I was scared of where I would go and who I would be without him to “ground” me. I was afraid of being alone. I made all the excuses all the time…but I always knew deep down that there was something wrong. Even weeks into dating him, tons of red flags had come up and I just ignored them, convincing myself it was my paranoia. And the more enmeshed I became with him and his life, the harder it seemed to me to get the hell out. I remember fantasizing about him dying…way way before I even considered leaving him. It seemed like the only easy solution to my predicament.
Codependency and relationships are always a two-way street. Yes, I was manipulated. Yes, I was abused. But we *both* had problems and I needed him “taking care” of me as much as he needed me needing him. No matter what anyone says about me in this situation, my accurate retort is: He was never keeping me there; I was. Sure, I didn’t recognize it as abuse until much later, but I definitely *did* feel like there was something wrong and I didn’t trust my gut; I actively ignored it. And of all the anger I have about the situation, this is the anger that I have the hardest time letting go of.
I know, I know. I can’t go back in time and all that, blah blah blah. And I do love my life and see that all that shit made me who I am now, brought me to this very moment. And to regret the past if you like the present is not helpful or even logical. I know! My brain knows. My heart still says “Why didn’t you listen to me? You could have saved yourself all this grief and hurt.”
And so when I come across people who feel stuck, it is easy for me (as an outsider) to say “The choice is clear. Just go do it.” Once I left D, a swarm of people came to me almost falling on their knees happy that I finally made the decision they knew I would all along (or hoped I would at least). I couldn’t make that decision till I was ready, till I could see it (enough of it to make me go). And I know this is true of everyone’s journey; it is theirs, I can’t choose it for them.
But to the angry girl inside of me asking why I didn’t listen to her so much earlier, all I can do is cry, hug her, and genuinely say: “I’m deeply sorry. I hear you now.”