Moving On

Like many triggers for growth, it came upon me suddenly: an internal knowing that was reinforced by sign after sign.
Nine months into a relationship is a natural time to take an emotional inventory, to hold the thing in your hand and feel its texture and heft. The thing I held in my hand felt the same as when it began, safe and companionable, but hollow. Sweet and fluffy, like cotton candy. And with a similarly fleeting experience of joy, a moment of pleasure soon dissolved and forgotten.
Friends would ask: "How are things with Kevin?" My consistent response: "The same. We get along and have a good time." I never called him my "boyfriend," just "the man I'm dating." And that was enough.
Until it wasn't. After nine months, even that sounded hollow, necessitating justification for the time invested in a relationship synonymous with "meh."
This isn't any criticism of Kevin. In fact, he is a lovely man and everyone likes him immediately. I like him. He is sweet, attentive, witty, generous, affectionate... mild, safe, unthreatening, and, ultimately, utterly unlike me.
We had little in common, aside from enjoyment of dining out and sex. (And maybe a little Rock Band action here and there with our self-created band “Butter Spank.”) In fact, I felt very much like an unmarried trophy wife. My part of the deal was to be chatty and sexy and fun. His was to wine, dine, admire, and laugh at my jokes. We shared bedroom responsibilities and rewards.
It was an unfamiliar arrangement for me, but it was alluring to be desired and spoiled with gourmet meals and gifts. I knew it was superficial, but I savored the taboo, forbidden aspect of it: in my social circles, intelligent women of substance didn't let themselves be objectified. On the contrary, we insisted on being admired for our sharp wit and informed opinions. We split the check at dinner. We certainly didn't enjoy showing cleavage and getting mani-pedi gift cards from our beaus.
Yes, that aspect of letting myself be taken care of rather than cared for as an equal... there was something shameful about it which loomed just beyond my field of vision. It caused me to feel that I needed to justify why I stayed in a relationship that didn't intensify, didn't mature, didn't become more intimate. To justify why I preferred cotton candy over tiramisu.
I justified it with some valid reasons. There was a simplicity to it. Our roles were clearly defined and there were no demands. We saw each other weekly, and might stay in touch with a daily text message. One, not dozens, or none at all. And it felt fine. Nobody's feathers were ruffled, no resentments built. There were no long phone calls or confessional emails to be savored over and over. No falling in love. No fear of loss or emotional vulnerability.
At nine months, I felt the shadow of a year approaching. What did I have to remember this year by? A year with a man whom I barely knew and didn’t love.
I started to feel the power shifting, from the excitement of being a toy to the point where I had outgrown the excitement of the forbidden. And just like with a toy, without conscious decision, you reach a point when the toy is no longer your favorite and you leave it behind because it is... the same. You've outgrown it.
At some point I realized (guiltily) that I was unconsciously checking for wedding rings on attractive men at the dog park. Despite my adamant commitment to monogamy in relationships, I was moving throughout the world as though I were single and unattached. And I was, in fact, unattached in most senses of the word.
Kevin was a mirror, one that reflected back an idealized and attractive image. He was an agreeable and even-keeled presence that didn't threaten my need for attention and validation. Never an argument, never a complaint. Narcissus' reflective pool. And yes, that makes me Narcissus.
Buddhism endorses the concept of non-attachment. One can love and be grateful, but in order to be free from suffering one must accept “what is.” I wasn't suffering—not in the least. But I needed to detach from a relationship that was not serving my spiritual truth.
Each moment, we make choices about what to hold and what to let go. Each commitment, object, and relationship potentially stands in the way of something else that might better suit the person we are becoming. Or at the very least, it might reinforce patterns that no longer serve us.
I want to make my choices conscious. By letting go of Kevin, I choose to engage in a process of reflection and growth to ensure I don't fall prey to habit or safety—especially when change and experimentation might bring me closer to my best self.
Thank you, Kevin.  And goodbye.

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