I write today because I am stuck. I am usually great at change, adapting to the new forces of nature, going where the winds blow, but in this situation, I am not. And this leads me to believe that the situation at hand is not really the issue, but that the situation has this greater meaning, and I cannot see it.
The "situation" is rather simple. For a year I dated a guy, and about a year ago he dumped me. And I, the adapter, the move-along type, have not moved along. Instead, I miss him like crazy. I cannot entertain the notion of another man. And I struggle to find the right words to comfort myself.
He: early 30s, attractive, smoldering type, limited education, ex-delinquent, ex-alcoholic, a street philosopher and a creative, artistic entrepreneur. He is about movement, taking on new skins, new jobs and new women. He lies; I can sense it is a general tool that he uses to smooth things over, to avoid confrontation, to avoid telling the truth. Both he and I, we are both very intuitive, and I sensed early in our relationship that he could not be trusted. He is a survivor and will overreact to ensure self-preservation.
Me, I am also early 30s, a serial dater, like him, though with fewer and longer relationships, also attractive, sexual and creative. But we are different in how we handle our need for movement. I have been able to channel this energy into getting my Ph.D., practicing yoga, writing, eating healthy food and maintaining friendships. I have learned that without plans or follow-through you will walk again and again down the same well-worn paths. And I despise circular living more than I enjoy the mad rush of taking a spontaneous risk. After some time, I think he grew bored and frustrated with my refusals to suspend these goals and to adapt more generally to his worldview, so he dropped me off on the side of the road and continued on his movement. And I, I am still chasing after the fumes. And so I ask you, Why am I chasing? What am I chasing?
We did have such a lovely time in our relationship. We zoomed around on motorcycles and jumped out of airplanes, took lazy train rides to visit friends, ate lots of food picnicking on the floor, danced, and had many four-hour-long conversations. I took vacation days off work to ride along with him on his construction job. We laughed a lot. And the sex, it was amazing, for the entire year! But, of course, the light that was so strong was pushing back the darkness. He lies; he does shady work on the black market. We both espouse commitments to integrity, fairness and concern for the common man, but I think I'm the only one who actually follows through on that.
But even in the darkness I felt some joy. For me there was complete suspension of artifice on both sides. There he was in all goodness and badness. There was nothing hidden from me; I understood. Now, he did not like that I saw all of it. I think that is part of why he dropped me off on the side of the road. He likes to see what is real in others, as he did in me, but he does not like the reflection.
So, Cary, here I am, wondering what is going on. I've dated so many attractive, capable, worthy men, but here is the first one who makes me think that marriage might be something I'd like to try out. I knew when I met him that he was for me. I know that he is a liar, manipulator, womanizer, and is unethical. And most important, he left me a year ago and while he still checks in, he is not interested in returning. But I am stubborn and want him back, even though I would never take him back.
That, Cary, is why I am stuck. Please tell me something to help the waters start moving again!
Still Waters may run deep, but I want them to be moving
Dear Still Waters,
I think the way you get these waters moving again is you dive down deep and retrieve your shadow self.
That is the work you have to do now. You projected your shadow onto him, so when he left, that vital part of you seemed to disappear. That is why you are paralyzed. You have to go into yourself and retrieve that dark, powerful anarchic energy that you felt with him. You felt it with him because he allowed you to project it. Now you must own it. When you do, frightening feelings may be unleashed. You may feel out of control, without him there to manage the forces of darkness. That's OK. That's the price of retrieving what is rightfully yours.
Now, I am asking you to take a risk. So I will also take a risk. I will speak from pure intuition.
You are drawn to the lawlessness in him. Why? So the lawlessness in you can surface safely and be recognized. Yet in allowing your lawlessness to surface only in his view, your lawlessness has remained unexposed to the world. You have not developed other ways to express it. So now you have to go down deep and retrieve it, bring it to the surface and break it open in the light of day. Others may observe you when you do this. Perhaps that frightens you. Perhaps you would prefer to say, well, all this stuff is his. It's not mine.
So maybe it's for the best that he has left, so that you can fully accept your own shadow. Where did all that energy come from in the relationship? It came from the simultaneous release, entwining and devouring of two shadow selves -- yours and his. Paradoxically, his shadow is actually his conventional self, his aspiring self, the self that longs for security and permanence. For him to remain the rebel, he has had to suppress that conventional self and make it his shadow. That part of him feels false and un-charismatic, boring and traditional; he must fail at those things in order to remain a true rebel. So his shadow is attracted to your light: your aspiration, your security, your sure-footed navigation of the world.
If each of you could own your own shadow self, perhaps you could achieve a mature relationship. But maybe he doesn't want to own his shadow self.
One thing I feel fairly sure of: Until he does own his shadow self -- his vulnerability, his need for a home and security -- he will continue to wander and as he wanders he will deteriorate. There is no other way. Outlaws get worn down. It is a rough life.
As for you, the sacrifice you would be making, if you did make a long-term relationship of this, is that the fire and craziness of your twin projections would have to die down as each of you owns a little of what you have been projecting. You would have to replace that highly combustible fuel with something slower-burning.
So there I have gone and spoken like some fortunetelling woman. I have no idea if what I'm saying makes sense. It is just me trying to wend my way through some territory that feels both familiar and alien, as though I had been somewhere like this once, and am trying to retrace my steps.
Makes a great gift. Can be personalized for the giftee of your choice. Signed first editions on sale now.
What? You want more advice?
- Read more Cary Tennis in the Since You Asked directory.
- See what others are saying and/or join the conversation in the Table Talk forum.
- Ask for advice. Letter writers: Please think carefully! By sending a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org, you are giving Salon permission to publish it. Once you submit it, it may not be possible to rescind it. So be sure. If you are not sure, sleep on it. You can always send tomorrow. Ready? OK, Submit your letter for publication.
- Or, just make a comment to Cary Tennis not for publication.
- Or, send a letter to Salon's editors not for publication.