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December 14, 1998   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

Here's my wish list, with some background and explanation. It all started last Christmas actually... I'm in college, my boyfriend graduated from the same school about a year and a half ago. I went home for Christmas (I'm from about 2000 miles away, so it's a relative-distance relationship...40 minutes when I'm in school, a couple thousand miles when I'm not). At this time we'd been dating for almost eight months. Our relationship had been going mostly wonderfully, fairy-tale and all. It had been my longest relationship EVER, as before the longest relationship I'd been in had been for about two weeks. When we met, we became close friends quickly. He was smarting from his breakup with a particular psycho-hose-beast.

She was his first ever/serious relationship. Over the summer (while I was home) she called him, yelled at him for a while that he'd gotten on with his life (meaning she was jealous of me) and that was the last I'd thought I'd ever hear about it.

Well, it was the holiday season, so being the sweet sensitive person he is, he decided to send PHB a Christmas card in an attempt to "make peace." Personally, I would have never attempted communication with someone who treated me that badly. I would have lost their address, everything. So, there I was at home, trying to deal with my family and distant friends (also depressing holiday traditons) and one morning I got a phone call. I had been out all night the night before, so I was still asleep when my boyfriend called. My mom woke me up to tell me that he was on the phone.

I'm usually the one who makes surprise phone calls, so I was elated that he'd thought to call me in my time of misery. I really needed someone to talk to that day. Well, it wasn't really a surprise "wow-I-missed-you- and-I-think-you're-wonderful-I-hope-things-are-well-and-hope-you- haven't-killed-your-parents-yet" phone call. Instead, he was calling to let me know that he'd gone to the movies the night before. With the psycho-hose-beast. He explained to me that he'd sent her a Christmas card, to try to keep things peaceful (they were peaceful in the first place?) PHB had gotten the card, and instead of sending a safe-neutral Christmas card in reply, PHB thought it would be easier to manipulate him if she called him. So she called him, and invited him to a movie, "Titanic" in fact. They went to the movie, he'd even picked her up. (He didn't have a car when they were dating, so I think that might be a turf issue with me too, not sure.) He told me that he didn't know before that the movie had a "love-story" sub-plot to it, (this is when they were still trying to sell it as a disaster movie) and other than the movie, he'd had a miserable time, and he thought of me and bragged about me the whole time.

His reason for going in the first place was that he still had some things that needed to be "resolved" that hadn't been resolved over the summer. From what he told me before this incident ever happened, was that the things he wanted to know were things like "had she thrown away gifts he'd given her" etc.) Now I personally don't see how that could keep him from sleeping at night...

Back to the Christmas card, after he told me that he'd sent her one, he asked me if I'd gotten mine yet. I hadn't. He was surprised, as he'd sent it "ages ago." I don't remember exactly when it arrived, but I got it WAY after Christmas.

My first impulse was to hang up, which I didn't, but still regret. I did tell him that I was upset, and would talk to him later when I had slept some more (not that I could've fallen asleep after that) I don't remember exactly how the conversation went later, but he said that he'd thought about calling me before he went out with her to make sure it was all right with me. Instead, he'd asked some friends, who thought it would've been okay. He also said that if he'd known it would have bothered me that much, he wouldn't have gone.

I think I remember saying that I felt like he'd cheated on me, and that I understood that he'd felt it needed to be resolved, but why couldn't he have resolved things over the phone? And if he knows she's manipulative, why did he consider going to the movie with her in the first place?

At the time, I felt like my heart had been ripped out, and my nose was being rubbed in it. But I never said anything, because I wanted to handle it maturely. I never fully explained all of my feelings about it because I thought they were immature and childish, and I just needed some time. I knew in the back of my head somewhere that he hadn't actually cheated on me, and I felt if I had broke up at that point I would be giving into PHB, and it didn't seem like the right solution anyway.

I didn't know how much I was supposed to blame him for falling prey to the traps he'd fallen into so many times before (when they were still dating) and I needed some time to think. He even said that she'd "dressed up" which he'd interpreted as a ploy on her part to get him back and that it had irritated him. (I'm grateful that he at least saw through that one.)

I tried to be strong, I tried to be mature. I thought I could put it behind me. But every time I saw an ad, poster, etc. for "Titanic" I felt sick to my stomach. I figured that once the movie was out of theaters, it'd be easier to deal with and put behind me.

So then it became "the biggest movie of 'all time'" or whatever. I couldn't get away from it. I've never seen the movie and I don't ever plan to. I even had to walk out of social gatherings, turn off the radio, etc. every time I heard "that song."

It's now a year later. As the year went on, my tolerance for the film and the incident increased a little, and I had gotten over it considerably. My boyfriend still gets upset whenever I bring it up, it makes him feel like I really haven't forgiven him etc. but I don't really know if he understands the extent this has hurt me, and how hard it was for me to forgive him in the first place.

But now it's worse, because I'm going home for Christmas in a couple of weeks, and seeing all the decorations, everything makes me think of last year, and now I'm dreading Christmas, one of my formerly favorite holidays. Not to mention that almost every other holiday has been ruined by some sort of pain for me. All of the feelings I thought I'd put behind me are resurfacing, and to a greater degree. I've even burst into tears at random intervals.

I did finally work up the courage a couple of weeks ago to tell my boyfriend that I was scared to go home for Christmas. He asked if there was anything he could do. I said that there wasn't, but I wanted him to know, and to understand. I've felt better since then, but now that the holidays are getting closer, it's starting to bug me again.

Why can't I put this behind me for good? Why can't I just go home and enjoy the holidays like other people? Why won't it go away?

What do I want for Christmas? Peace, Love, and the ability to sleep at night.

-- Scythe

Dear Scythe,

If it makes you feel any better, we all have to walk out of the room when we hear "that song."

And listen, Scythe, every God's-gift we get comes wrapped in the styrofoam peanuts that are his/her previous relationships. You think you toss 'em all, but have you noticed how you always find one or two statically clinging in strange places? That's the nature of the beast, psycho-hose or otherwise. (Then we get someone with no past and we complain that they're "inexperienced.")

I understand that his ever having even one more thought about her, ever, drives you batty. Fair enough. And I understand that you wouldn't have sent that card, that you wouldn't wouldn't have lost sleep over the fate of those presents. Totally fine. But your boyfriend is not you. He's doing it his way. And as far as Breakup Girl is concerned, he's not doing such a bad job. He carded, she called him, they saw, he called you. It's not like anything, like, Happened, like her posing nude for him or handcuffing him to a pipe (right?). My take is that he is trying  -- perhaps clumsily, but indeed earnestly -- to be the good guy, to do the right thing, to make the best of a hose-beastly situation.

I do agree with you on this: I don't know if he understands how deeply this movie date has hurt you ... because I don't quite understand, either. The incident was likely inflated, yes, by the omnipresence of that movie. But there's got to be more to it, and it's got to have something to do with you. First of all, sounds like, for whatever reason, Christmas (though you're trying to put on a game face) generally makes you cranky. So it's like you're already gearing up, gathering kindling for that humbuggy, self-fulfilling flame. But I also feel, holidays aside, that this one relative non-incident wouldn't have rattled you so hard if you felt more secure and sturdy in your relationship(s) to begin with. Why don't you? What's missing for you? What can you find -- inside -- to prop yourself up? I don't know. But this is where you need to look.

Here's one suggestion, though: forgiveness. (Wow, it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!) I don't mean head-hanging, toe-scuffing, under-breath-muttering forgiveness; I mean real forgiveness. Which is different from agreeing with him! It is: finding it within yourself to really, truly, trust that your boyfriend did what he thought was right at the time.

And trusting that no matter what, he still thinks you are right for him at this time.

Forgivness also does not require another stressful conversation with him, either. This one's between you and the ghosts of your past, Scythe. Ask them why they're still around. And try not to give them any reason to be. I wish you many silent nights this season.

Breakup Girl



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