These past few months have been an extremely eye-opening experience for me, and the past week has turned all of that into yet another set of lessons to be learned. Now that the dust is starting to settle, and I am beginning to see my way out of it all, I can take a little time to reflect and decide where my next steps take me and how I proceed.

A few months ago I met someone who really challenged how I’ve let myself open up emotionally to new partners. I’ve generally been a pretty closed off person. While I’ve let myself love to a point I have not made myself completely emotionally available. I have not taken down the defenses that have been in place for many many years, and that has worked fine for me. I’ve always considered Hubby a fluke. He was the first to find a way in that didn’t mean total devastation and the first to stay even when things got rough. Because of this he has been the only one to have access to all of me.

That is, until this summer. Suddenly there was this presence in my life, and I didn’t know how to react. I resisted at first, but by the time I realized how much he had managed to bring down my defenses they were gone. The feeling was both terrifying and liberating, but I didn’t really know how to process what I was feeling or integrate it into how I was operating at the time.

My need for past tense writing started about a week ago when the presence that had so suddenly appeared in my life just as suddenly vanished. Texts, phone calls, emails all went unanswered, and I had a choice to either assume something terrible had happened or assume he’d written me off for some reason.

It is no secret to anyone, and definitely was no secret to him, that I have some pretty strong abandonment issues. Years ago someone I cared very strongly for was sent to Afghanistan. Unfortunately he was ashamed of me, and his family didn’t know I existed. If anything had happened to him no one would have called me. I spent a few months reading lists of dead soldiers before really facing the fact at I had to give it up and move on or I’d drive myself crazy. Incidentally he came home alive, he just never called me when he did. It wasn’t the first time someone had up and vanished on me, and it wouldn’t be the last, but it seemed to happen that every time I really invested myself in someone he either disappeared or caused some other kind of serious upheaval of my life. When Hubby and I decided to be poly it gave me an outlet for my capacity to love but let me stay safeguarded.

I never imagined this is how this particular relationship would end, no matter how young it was. We’d had these talks, he knew I could accept that this just wasn’t for him. I’m pretty sure he knew I’d rather go through anything than a vanishing act, not just because of my issues with abandonment but also because until I accept that that’s what has happened I worry. There’s even an interim where I can’t even think “there better be a good explanation for this” because I care too much to think of something that serious happening to him. The caveat with that is that if nothing happened and I really have just been left hanging, why should I care? I do. Usually to a fault. It is this lack of certainty and the abruptness of it that leaves me more confused and hurt than angry. My mother in law tells me all the time that I don’t get angry enough, but what good does that do anyone? None.

In any case, I am left with a couple of options now. I can either revert to old patterns, and this was all for nothing, or I can garner some lessons and a chance to grow from it. Hubby has challenged me to move on without putting my walls back up, and I have promised to try. I am now learning to use the resources and support I have, the tools the last several years have added to my kit, and the people around me to develop more healthy coping mechanisms than I had when I was monogamous or single.

My first instinct is to shut down emotionally and throw myself into as many meaningless sexual relationships as present themselves. My next instinct is to stop taking care of myself and shack up with depression  for a while. This is no longer an option in my life. My family counts on me, Hubby still needs me to be emotionally available, and I owe it to myself to stay focused and stable. My goals, my focus, and my drive will not suffer because I feel like burying myself. I will not let myself believe I am broken or unlovable. I will not let this completely disintegrate all the confidence and self-worth I have managed to build, which was pretty non-existent until a few years ago. This may mean I actually have to face, fight, and overcome the mountain that is my fear of abandonment, and I have to do this without putting any extra dependence on my support system. Whew! This is a lot of unexpected personal work, but I feel like it’s been a long time coming and will really help me move forward in many areas of my life.

Relationship wise this has really taught me how polyamory can feel. Up until that bit at the end I was unbelievably happy. Something about it had that piece I’d been missing. I just need to identify what it was and learn to see it in future partners. It also showed me how I want to be treated by new people in my life and how good it can feel to have a relationship that doesn’t start with sex. You wouldn’t think that at the age of 29 this would be an unknown anomaly to me, but it was. I have never had a serious relationship that didn’t start with sex an develop into connection. Having it grow this way instead was a huge awakening for me, and something I’d like to reproduce. Maybe a part of me has felt that without that element I couldn’t hold someone’s attention enough for him to stick around. I’m ignoring he voice inside me that says I still haven’t, but seriously, I have settled a lot in the past because of the false pretense that anything comfortable was better than nothing. I think this experience will make me less likely to settle now that I know I am capable of opening myself up so much.

The biggest lesson to come out of this will be how to heal under the surface while getting on with the rest of my life. This is something I have never mastered, but something I’m prepared to take on if it means a more healthy me coming out of this. I had my core rocked pretty hard. Yes, I am still a bit shaken and shattered. I still expect to have my moments, but I’m learning to have them, let them out when I can, and move forward. Next time I will be better equipped and better able to handle this kind of situation. The alternative is to stop falling in love, and I don’t intend to ever try to harness that animal. It’s just who I am to love, and once someone gets that from me it’s complete. That won’t change.

I am fully aware that this will not be an overnight healing process. It will take a lot of time and work to be able to put myself in this position again, and I cannot just shutdown and turn all my focus inward. I have to accept that he will not be the one to give me my closure. There will be no explanations, and I have to accept that and actually be ok with it. In a way I’ve already changed how I deal with feeling hurt. I haven’t burned any bridges, and I have let him know that he can fix this if he wants to. Other than that there’s not much I can do except move forward and take the lessons I have learned with me.