Time After Time
Caught up in circles/confusion is nothing new
Cyndi Lauper, “Time After Time”
I don’t know what happened. Where along the way we stopped being lovers and started being roommates. Maybe it’s inevitable when you start with so much passion – a fire like that can’t blaze so brightly forever. We seem to have burned down to embers, and I’m not sure how to get things back to the way they were.
I’m supposed to recount to you my understanding of how we got here and where we’re going in a journal after each session. Even if I think we’re on the same page (ha ha) about things I have to give my perspective. So here goes.
Here’s how we started: we had been working together for 6 months, fighting like cats and dogs over everything. Then one day, in the middle of an argument, you grabbed my arm. I think you only meant to emphasize your point, but it stopped us both in our tracks. There was this electricity between us as our eyes locked, and we ended up going at it on your desk. It was incredible.
Over the next few months, we continued our illicit affair, unable to keep our hands off each other any time we were alone together. We started having dinner after work, and going back to one or the other’s place. At first, neither of us stayed the night, but after awhile leaving got to be too much of a hassle. Soon we each had clothes at the other’s place.
No one knew about us then – we were careful not to let anything slip in front of our coworkers, and we enjoyed the feeling of keeping our little secret. It wasn’t paranoia – it wouldn’t impact my career for people to know, and you figured everyone with political aspirations has something in their metaphorical closet and this was less titillating than most. But we recognized the conflict of interest issue, and that kept us quiet even after things started to settle more into a relationship than an affair.
Then you got transferred to Major Cases, and the need to keep things quiet disappeared. Letting everyone know about our relationship was less of a big deal than we expected. The guys were all just impressed with me, and your new peers really weren’t that into each others’ personal lives. The Captain said he didn’t want to know when it started, and I obliged.
Not working together anymore meant less fighting, but we still had the spark. It was freeing to be able to engage in PDAs without worrying who might see us. We had to work a little harder to see each other, but it was nice not to talk about the horrors of our jobs if we didn’t have to. In fact, after awhile we stopped sharing the details and kept things broad. I guess I figured you didn’t need my gore on top of your own. Plus, you didn’t think much of the ADA who replaced you so it frustrated you to hear too many details of how the trials were going. And I didn’t get to know your new colleagues very well since they didn’t socialize much, so even office gossip wasn’t too interesting.
Moving in together was perhaps less of a romantic, meaningful event than it should have been. One morning, when I had to go back to my apartment to make sure some plumbing repairs were done, you commented that things would be easier if I just got rid of the place. My lease was up a couple of months later, and half my stuff had made its way over anyway, so it was simple enough just to sell off my furniture and bring over what was left of my possessions.
The first few months of living together were a mix of nice and weird. On the one hand, it was nice not to have to wonder when we’d see each other next when one of us had to work late. And at first our sex life ramped up again – spending every night together gave us more opportunities, I guess.
But we started fighting a bit more than usual – now it wasn’t about not getting to see each other enough and was instead about being in each others’ hair too much. It’s not like we hadn’t spent a ton of time together and knew each others’ little quirks. But there are some things you only do in the comfort of your own home, and when you share that home with someone else things shift a bit. Even after all those months, we had managed to be on our best behavior most of the time. We did our cleaning when we were alone, and it turned out neither was as neat as we had presented ourselves to be. You leave your shoes everywhere. Five hundred dollar shoes, and you leave them strewn all over the place. I about broke my neck when I’d get up in the middle of the night. And I’ll admit, I tend to leave the dishes in the sink for days. I claim I’m letting things soak, but really I let things pile up and then take care of them all at once. Maybe we started channeling the energy we used to put into our fights at work into petty squabbles. Way less sexy, though.
After SVU found the kidnapped daughter of a guy high up in the budget department, they suddenly found money for two more detectives. With my seniority, I worked fewer nights and weekends. Having fewer cases meant there was less to run out in the middle of the night and deal with. Besides, I finally had something motivating me to come home, rather than being just as happy to keep working than return to an empty apartment. That’s not to say I never worked late or got called out – it just became the exception rather than the rule. With your help and Elliott’s, I seemed to have worked through some of the demons that drove me to join SVU, and I didn’t personalize every case. And with both of us in committed relationships, Elliott and I weren’t pushing the other to work until all hours of the night.
Here’s where we went downhill: while my workload went down, yours increased. It seemed there was always something that hadn’t gotten done. Work started creeping into the bedroom. At first it was just typing up a closing statement while I went to sleep. You said you didn’t want to be apart from me and that you liked going to bed at the same time, which I thought was sweet. But then it became the norm and there was no more snuggling as we drifted off. If I managed to get to sleep over the clacking of your keys I was lucky, and if I didn’t, I’d pretend to be asleep so you wouldn’t feel guilty. One can only hear “ten more minutes” so many times before giving up. You never complained about the times I got home at 10 or we got woken up by the phone at 2 am, so I tried to cut you the same slack.
That pattern led to a pretty steep dropoff in our sex life. If we were lucky we’d find the time to be together on weekends, but it wasn’t a priority and, more often than not, we’d both be too tired by Sunday evening to make an attempt. When we did manage to do it, it was pretty perfunctory. I felt like you were just doing it to keep me happy and that you might be writing an opening argument in your head while I went down on you. I admit, I took care of myself when you weren’t around, but after awhile I wasn’t even that interested anymore.
I’m not sure what pushed me over the edge. Maybe it was when I really needed someone to talk to about a particularly rough case and I realized that we hadn’t had a substantive conversation in months. I didn’t even feel like you would want to hear about it anymore. Or maybe it was when you spoke to me like you do defendants when you accidentally knocked over a half-empty beer bottle I had forgotten on the end table. Or when I realized I had started working late on purpose to avoid going home. Or when I noticed it had been four months since we’d had sex and neither of us seemed bothered by it.
But the night I finally snapped was the 12 th in a row you’d stayed up late working (yes, I had started counting). I had tried to talk to you how relieved I was we had caught a stalker before he harmed the woman he was obsessed with, and all I got in response were distracted mm-hms and the like. If I wasn’t getting laid and I wasn’t getting support, the least I’d settle for was a few moments of undivided attention. And I couldn’t even get that. Figuring there was nothing left to lose, I tried teasingly removing those still-sexy glasses and coaxing you to put the work away and kiss me. “Not now” was all I got in response, as you went back to typing.
You know what happened next, at least in actions. But here’s what was going on in my head. Tempted as I was to blow up, I just didn’t have it in me to raise my voice. Maybe I should have – that kind of fighting is what got us together in the first place. Instead I just said quietly, “Then when?”
You were still distracted at that point, and all I got was a “Hmm?” I tried to tell you how I felt – how much it hurt that you always seemed too busy to talk to me or kiss me or even look at me. We went from being unable to stay clothed in each others’ presence, to barely noticing the other was there, even if they were walking around stark naked. Now I had gotten you to look away from your computer, but you were still confused. I asked if we had made a mistake in trying to turn a short-term affair into a long-term relationship.
“Where is this coming from? What are you saying?” you asked. Finally, I had your attention. I told you I wasn’t happy anymore, that we were just existing in the same space, but not together. I said I didn’t know what you wanted from me anymore, but I knew I wasn’t getting what I wanted from you.
You thought I was talking about sex, but it was so much more than that. I asked if you had noticed how we hadn’t connected in any way for too long. Then you gave the wrong answer.
“I hadn’t really thought about it.”
The mature, rational me left the building. Somehow indifference hurt so much more than if you had acknowledged your own disappointment in what had happened to us. So I walked out and told you to call me once you had thought about it. I spent the rest of the night at the station on an uncomfortable couch.
You called me the next day and asked me to have lunch with you. I agreed to dinner. I didn’t need our issues getting mixed up in my workday. That night we ate at the Italian restaurant by my old place we used to go to all the time. You said I was right, that we had drifted apart, and you didn’t want it to continue. To show me how serious you were about us, you proposed we see someone. You thought a professional would be able to make sure we covered everything and didn’t leave something to fester after we thought we were back on the right track. I think you also figured neither of us would be any good at this. The year and a half we had been together was probably longer than all of our previous relationship attempts put together. I simultaneously appreciated your cool confidence we would get through this and worried it meant you didn’t see how close we were to falling apart completely.
I thought we’d be having sessions together, but after the first one we’re spending a few weeks meeting with Dr. X separately. I guess there’s some merit to working on our individual issues before we get to our collective problems. We’re not supposed to share this journal yet – I guess she doesn’t want us getting into the collective stuff without her – but knowing you’ll read this somewhere down the line is both scary and liberating.
How did we get here? That’s the question for this first entry. I thought Dr. X would start us off small, but I guess since she’ll be the only one reading these journals for the time being, she needs to hear what we think led us to her couch.
I’m used to writing dry legal motions and impassioned opening and closing arguments. It would be easy to take this assignment and break down our relationship into stark facts and figures, citing precedent for our behaviors and making a case for a judge decide in my favor. The symbolism of a closing argument is too scary to contemplate, but an opening argument might be the way to go – letting the jury know my side of the story and convincing them to return with a favorable verdict. I hope my passion comes through, even if I keep it factual. I don’t think you’d buy it if I suddenly got flowery.
The day I met you was the day I fell for you. It shocked me – not because you were a woman, but because of how strong my response to you was. I didn’t even know you, but I wanted to be near you. You made me nervous, and I’m not someone who gets nervous.
In the beginning, being with you was a rush like I’d never experienced. You were this strong, sexy woman who commanded everyone’s attention, and the fact that you wanted me was exhilarating. I started pushing your buttons just to get you to fight with me – any excuse to interact with you was worth it. Plus, I could tell you were affected by it as much as I was. When I touched you in my office that day, it wasn’t calculated. I really wasn’t trying to seduce you. I just couldn’t have you that close to me anymore and not reach out. Your arm seemed the most innocuous place. Apparently it wasn’t.
Contrary to what everyone thinks of me, I’m not so politically motivated that I’d live in the closet. In New York, being a lesbian is so far down the list of out-of-the-box things a person can do that I wasn’t worried it would hurt my chances of being DA one day. But dating a co-worker might, so we kept things, as they say, on the down low until I changed divisions. Was it hard? Maybe by the end. But at first it was distractingly hot. Seeing how much innuendo we could put into our conversations in front of the guys without them catching on, making out in the interrogation room, locking the door to my office while we “discussed a warrant” – they injected a charge into my life that had never been there. Even the thrill I get of being in the courtroom couldn’t compare – there’s too much calculation in trying a case. With you, even when I plotted to get you alone, there was the potential for the unexpected to occur when I did.
Once everything was out in the open, there was an easing of both a good tension and a bad tension. The sneaking around took its toll, but losing the secret altered our relationship significantly. I can’t deny some of the spice went out of our love life. But we settled into a new routine, and I found I liked the feeling of stability that replaced the anxiety of our previous situation. Whereas before I could only seem to see a day, a week ahead, now I could picture our future in terms of months and years.
I was so nervous about asking you to move in with me I may have erred on the side of nonchalance. I didn’t think you’d want some big fancy proposal or pomp and circumstance, so I casually mentioned it would be easier if all your stuff were at my place. I told myself if you weren’t into it, I’d just laugh it off and pretend I was kidding. But you seemed happy to get rid of your place and bring what remained of your things to mine.
Since we weren’t seeing each other on the job much anymore, I decided I’d rather come home at a decent hour and have dinner with you than work late all the time. But that meant I had to take work home with me. Being near you while I wrote a brief or planned an opening statement was so much better than sitting in my stark office, but I realize now I didn’t see how frustrating it was for you.
You never said much, though. You just sighed or made sarcastic comments. Sure, I could have called you on it and made you tell me how you really felt, but fighting at home was never as exciting as our arguments when we worked together. It threatened that sense of stability I had come to appreciate. Or take for granted. So I let it go. And I did my share of snarking back. Once I did try picking a fight with you about something innocuous, to see if it would lead to the old spark, but it just turned nasty.
So we didn’t have sex as much as when we started out – but who does? And we didn’t take the time to have fun – discovering new restaurants, going to film festivals, walking in the park like we used to. I guess in the back of my mind I thought this was the path a relationship inevitably took – a slow devolution into placid sameness. It’s certainly what my parents’ looked like.
The night everything came to a head, you took me by surprise. After so many months of the pattern we had fallen into, I didn’t expect you to do something about it. All of a sudden you were asking me these deep questions about our relationship, and I wasn’t ready for them. I didn’t mean to hurt you with my responses. But if you want my honest feelings, it wasn’t fair of you to save it all up and lay it all on me out of nowhere.
I know I’ve seemed really rational about all of this – asking you to lunch like a business appointment, suggesting we see a therapist – but inside I’m panicking. I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want to lose us. I’m just now realizing how far apart we are and how much I want that to change. I intend to do whatever it takes to bring us back together, and I hope you’re committed to doing the same.
This weekend, after our first session, was weird. We were oddly on our best behavior. It wasn’t exactly comfortable, but at least we were making an effort. Dr. X suggested we do something we used to do in happier times. I laughed and said it probably wasn’t a good idea to go have sex in the precinct bathroom. She asked if we had any other hobbies. And then told us, oh by the way, that we shouldn’t have sex until after we start our joint sessions. That injecting that back into our relationship too soon could throw us off track. I refrained from bitterly commenting that it shouldn’t be too hard to comply.
So after sleeping in on Saturday we went to the movies, a copout way to spend time together but not have to interact. In other words, my idea. As much as I’m the one who initiated fixing our problems, I’m still harboring a fair amount of resentment about the fact that we’re here in the first place. I’m not saying it’s all your fault. There’s no telling what you’re writing about in your journal. But I’ve felt rejected for so long that spending an extended stretch of time together without having addressed any of that felt a little forced.
We’ve gone from being distractedly unaware of each other, existing in the same space but barely interacting, to being hyper-conscious of each others’ presence but still barely interacting. At least not comfortably. I wanted to hold your hand during the movie, but I was too scared the overture would be rejected. I think we’re just getting through the time until our second session, trying not to make things worse, so we can start fixing things.
I was surprised when we started out with individual sessions, and then I was surprised when the individual sessions weren’t about our relationship. Apparently we’ll get there, but for now it’s all about our own issues. And you know I’ve got more than my share of baggage. Dr. X seems to find it significant that I haven’t had many models of healthy relationships, romantic or otherwise. Obviously the stuff with my mom skewed things for me big time, but even outside of her I haven’t had friendships or relationships that didn’t have some element of competition or stress. Male cops are often intimidated by women, and female cops seem to have something to prove, even to each other, so I’ve never gotten too close to anyone at work. I have a great working relationship with my current colleagues, but I certainly don’t let them too far into my personal life. Men I’ve dated wanted to prove they were butcher than me, and women insisted on being more feminine. I always felt like I was playing a role – when I was younger I tried to be what they wanted, and as I got older I perversely tried to be the opposite.
For all of our friction, you never wanted me to be anyone but myself. But I got into a pattern of forcing you to push me to open up, rather than volunteering. We’d have these huge emotional moments after a hard case, a cathartic letting off of steam, but we’d never deal with the small things before they got large. Somewhere along the way you stopped pushing, and I couldn’t bring myself to speak first.
I never thought my parents’ relationship was a bad one, but I’m realizing it’s not one I want to emulate. Unfortunately, I may have inadvertently done so. They’re like two people playing the roles of “husband” and “wife.” They go through the motions of what they think a couple should do, but there’s no spark underneath. Their focus is more on other people than each other.
When the rush wore off for us and we settled into domesticity, I wasn’t alarmed – it fit with my expectations. That’s not to say I didn’t – or don’t – want more for us. I just had no vision of what it could look like. And perhaps there’s a part of me that derived twisted satisfaction that my so-called (by some) “deviant” relationship was just as mundane as anyone else’s.
Now I don’t know quite what I want for us. I know it’s not this. I can only hope that our joint sessions with Dr. X will help us map a new course that will make both of us happy.
I’m feeling a little paralyzed. These individual sessions are good, but in the meantime, I don’t know yet how I’m supposed to interact with you. I don’t want to accidentally sabotage what we’re trying to do by going outside of Dr. X’s playbook, but I hate this feeling of treading water. No matter how much it might surprise the guys, I really do buy into the need for professional help in this arena – I certainly don’t have a clue how to salvage a relationship. But I’m impatient, and I don’t like feeling powerless or in the dark. Dr. X hasn’t told us what the joint sessions will be like or what we should be doing in the meantime (other than “try to relax” and “don’t have sex”).
I just want to get back to a place where you want to be with me and it’s not uncomfortable being in my own home. As soon as possible.
Life hasn’t been on hold while we work out our relationship issues. Work continues, and even though I know it’s a big part of our problems, I don’t know how to balance all of this yet. Tonight I stayed at the office a little later than usual, so as not to bring so much home, and then I asked if you’d mind if I took care of something after dinner. You looked surprised that I asked but still peeved that it was happening. Going to bed together, or rather, going to sleep at the same time, was a switch from our pattern of late, and while it probably should have been a nice change, it was still pretty awkward. No touching but for a perfunctory kiss goodnight.
I miss your kisses. The real ones, not these pecks you’ve been giving me lately. You used to kiss me with such concentration, as if nothing existed but the two of us. Which was dangerous when we were still sneaking around. You wouldn’t hear someone approaching the interview room we were making out in and I’d have to push you away lest we get caught. I have no illusions that we can recapture that feeling, but it would be nice to feel like you meant it when you kissed me.
Dr. X said something to me today that really resonated. She said, “You’ve lived a whole life in the silences.” She’s right – I’ve had entire conversations with you in my head, assuming I knew the outcome. And they all ended in disappointment. She said even if I was right about how the conversation would go some percentage of the time, by not speaking aloud, I didn’t let you know how I felt or what I thought, so you never knew how much my frustration was increasing, and you never had a chance to do something different.
I’m realizing that although the conversation that brought us to this point had been building for a long time in me, I had only given you hints of how I felt. Apparently, I’m going to have to be more open. Sounds like fun.
You’re so strong. It’s one of the first things I fell in love with about you. When I was with SVU, I usually had to push you to acknowledge how the cases were affecting you, and then your tough façade would crumble when you finally let it all out, usually in dramatic fashion. Later, I think I knew you were struggling a bit with some tough cases, but without being responsible for working with you on them our conversations moved into different territory. If I didn’t know the situations and wasn’t there with you through the process, I lost the opportunity to get you to open up about things. Seeing your sadness and not being able to do something about it was hard, and I never figured out how to talk about work in a new way.
Similarly, I know how you want to fix things for me when I struggle and how frustrated you get when you can’t help. My new job has way more pressure than SVU – the expectations of an ADA’s conviction rate for Major Cases is exponentially higher than the hard-to-prove sex crimes cases I was used to – but I didn’t want you to know how much it was getting to me. I thought in some weird way I was protecting you, but I think I was just protecting me, avoiding having to make hard changes. My desire to succeed drove me to seek perfection in a world where that’s impossible.
So I started bringing my work into bed. I hated the thought of you alone in there while I was in the other room working, but I think now it was selfishness on my part. I wanted to get my work done and be near you at the same time, never considering what you wanted. Over time, I think it became a matter of some misguided principle, rather than a genuine sentiment. Maybe it was my twisted way of trying to keep us connected when I knew we were drifting. If I took my work back to the office or even the living room, I’d have to acknowledge things were going wrong.
Dr. X had a challenging conversation with me today about how much of the work I take home is really necessary. My insistence on being completely prepared, on proving myself at a higher level, has taken too much of a toll. I have to figure out when I’ve done enough to get the job done and let it go. And I have to tell you when things get rough and let you help me. I hope you’ll do the same.
I want to move. Or at least redecorate. Dr. X helped me realize today that I’ve felt like a visitor in your home since I moved in. Anyone who saw it wouldn’t even know I lived there. And, yes, this is another area I haven’t spoken up about, so it’s not your fault, but I don’t think I had pinpointed the issue until now.
Nothing about your décor changed when I came. My things found their way into the drawers and cabinets, but the apartment is still only you. The art, the furniture, the way things are arranged. I can’t even imagine what an apartment that incorporated elements of us both would look like. But I think I’d like to find out.
And while we’re at it, why haven’t you ever bought me flowers? You, of all people, know my tough persona is largely an act – you don’t think I can be girly? Dr. X asked me today about how we historically showed our affection for each other, especially considering that women are traditionally the woo-ees, not the woo-ers. I said I used to stop by your office with flowers when you first started in Major Crimes. Admittedly, I stopped, perhaps after the excitement of being able to openly acknowledge our relationship went away, but that’s not the point. The point is you’ve never bought me flowers. Good grief, I sound like a Willie Nelson song.
I went a week without working late or bringing work home. And your goodnight kiss last night lasted longer than half a second. I’m starting to feel like we’re making progress, like we really can fix this.
But I’m resisting the urge to go back and edit my previous journal entries to make sure there’s nothing in them that will push you further away. You’ll be reading them tomorrow, and I’m nervous. Despite my fears, I have to be honest about everything – the whole point of this is working through things, not covering them over. I have a feeling things are going to get tougher before they get better, now that we’ll be meeting together and starting to tackle our joint issues.
At our first joint session today, we read each others’ journals. And then, as Dr. X is so fond of saying, we “processed” our thoughts and feelings. It makes me sad to think you believe a relationship inevitably fades into even less than what ours has become, and I want to prove you wrong.
You’re also wrong when you say we were distractedly unaware of each other. You may have been, but I was paying attention to everything. I obsessively chronicled the slow crumbling of our relationship in my head. What Dr. X made me realize today is that I bear responsibility for letting that crumbing happen. I didn’t intervene. I expected you to wake up and change things, but I never told you I wanted things to change until I was ready to walk away. I’m sorry.
I’d love to react to your journal entries by saying, “Why didn’t you talk to me?” But I know, in your roundabout way, you tried. I didn’t give you much to work with. I realize now how much I changed when we moved in together. I stopped being the passionate person you were first attracted to, and I settled into taking you for granted. What a bait and switch.
It never occurred to me that you wouldn’t feel comfortable living in my apartment. You never seemed too attached to your things, and I’m not as into decorating as some might think, so I never thought to redo the place. Maybe this weekend, though, we’ll give it a shot.
You’ve hidden your romantic side from me, and I intend to change that. Underneath all that toughness, it turns out there’s a woman who wants to be courted. I know we’re still working our way back to each other, but I’m committed to showing you how much you mean to me and understanding that when you act like it’s no big deal you’re just pretending. Flowers will be just the beginning. That’s all I’m saying in a journal I know you’ll get to read. The rest will have to be a secret…
Now that we’re into our joint sessions, we’re working on the sex stuff. Well, not sex yet, but Dr. X believes reconstructing our overall relationship requires steadily reintroducing the physical elements. We have to do these cheesy exercises that are supposed to slowly help us reconnect both physically and emotionally. I have to admit the first one, that we did tonight, wasn’t too bad. We had to hold hands and look into each others’ eyes and one of us talked for five minutes about whatever we wanted. The other responded for two minutes, and then we switched. I know how powerful eye contact is, but it’s been awhile since I let it affect me, versus using it to influence someone else.
I started off sharing some of the hurt I’ve felt over the past few months, but by minute five I was blathering about how much I love you and don’t want to lose you. I guess Dr. X knows what she’s doing. Looking at you, touching you, while I talked, it helped me get back to what’s most important – rebuilding our relationship. I have to let go of my resentment if we’re going to move forward, and tonight was a great step.
Having you listen to me attentively and respond sincerely felt like pressing a reset button. It was like our early days when we hung on each others’ every word. Back then it was somewhat of a necessity because it was about work, but this was good practice at making it part of our personal relationship. I know I have to get comfortable initiating conversations about what matters to me – no more expecting you to be a mind reader.
It was such a relief to hear you say you still want us to make things work. It allowed me to share, during my five minutes, some of my insecurities about not being good enough at work and at this relationship. Your response was eye-opening – you gently made me see that I’ve been putting an awful lot of effort into being the best at work and very little into our relationship. I’m going to try to rectify that imbalance. Our relationship is more important to me than my job, and I want to start living like it. You, the notorious workaholic, have made me a priority over work, and I need to do the same for you.
Rebuilding our emotional relationship as we rebuild our sexual one is a novel concept for us. We started out with sex, and the relationship was a byproduct of that. Not a very romantic sentiment, but it’s the truth about how we came to be together. After our session today, I’m realizing we never bothered to communicate about what it was we wanted in the relationship part of our relationship. Do we even want the same things? All this time, have I been expecting things of you that you never intended to give? Have you wanted things I wasn’t aware of? I never even asked. Maybe rebuilding isn’t even the right word to be using – in some ways we’re starting from scratch. This counseling thing is not as simple as I thought it was going to be.
Here’s what I want in our relationship, in no particular order: your attention, your time, your body, your mind, your ridiculously dry sense of humor, your honesty, your love. Cheesy as it sounds, I want you to make me feel special, and I want the opportunity to show you how much you matter to me. I want you to be the person I fall apart with, who puts me back together, and to be the same for you.
Dr. X had us talk today about what we want out of our relationship, and I think we’re getting to the root of our issues. How could we possibly navigate the myriad pitfalls of living together day-to-day if we haven’t even let each other know what we need in the first place? Talking about this on the spot was challenging, so we’re supposed to write some things down after we’ve taken time to reflect. So what do I want?
To take care of you
To be taken care of by you
No wonder we’re in counseling. I’m a mess of contradictions.
Just as Dr. X said it would (I suppose I should be happy she’s always right – it means she’s not a quack), I find not escalating our physical relationship harder and harder. The more we open up and connect, the more I want all of you. This morning, seeing you wrapped in a towel after your shower, I wanted so badly to peel it off of you and take you back to bed. We haven’t seen each other naked in weeks.
I saw you looking. And it felt good. That part of me I stopped prioritizing is awakening again. How much longer until we can get down to business?
Wow. You weren’t kidding when you said you’d woo me. The flowers, the dinner, the dancing – they were wonderful. It felt like a first date. In some ways it was. But my favorite part was making out on the couch at the end of the evening. I honestly forgot how hot a kisser you are. And how much that spot behind my ear turns me on. And how you like your scalp scratched. It feels different when the context is a real relationship, not a purely physical affair.
And the truth is we didn’t kiss all that much when we first started – mostly it was in the context of a sexual encounter. A fulfilling physical relationship, it turns out, should be about more than getting to the destination as fast and as acrobatically as possible.
I feel like a 16-year old who’s discovered kissing. And, unlike being 16, knowing we’re not going to go any further means I can just enjoy it without stress or pressure or wondering what else you want. I’m not saying I want to stop here forever. Just to enjoy it while it lasts. I said we couldn’t recapture what we had, and I stand by that because we’re building something better.
We’ve been making out at every opportunity since our date last week. That intensity you used to have has returned – it’s like you put your whole self into the connection between our lips. Although it’s not like your hands aren’t busy either. I see now how we accelerated the disintegration of our relationship by pulling away physically. Being touched by you – your hands caressing me, pulling my body into yours – it’s like righting something that’s been off-balance. I feel more stable in all aspects of my life now that we’re comfortable reaching out to each other again.
I promised myself I’d take the initiative and open up to you more, so tonight I gave it a try. It wasn’t that anything big had happened – that’s the whole point, right? Not saving things up until I blow. It was odd at first – now that I have experience seeing a professional, it was hard not to feel like I was talking to a therapist. But telling you the good, the bad, and the ugly is part of sharing ourselves with each other. It really was easier when our lives overlapped more, but it felt good to let things out. You can’t magically find the rapist we’re looking for, but there was an easing of pressure just to be able to rant about my frustration and to hear you sympathize. It seems so obvious, but I fought it for so long. Not telling you about my work isn’t sparing you something terrible, it’s keeping you out of an extremely important part of my life. I shut you out of a lot after you transferred out of SVU, and I see now that having to talk about the difficult things I see every day doesn’t feel like opening closed wounds – it’s more like irrigating them, to use an unfortunately disgusting metaphor.
I know you love me when you surprise me with tickets to the opera. And you try to understand what’s happening even though you can’t understand a word they’re singing. Thank you for a very romantic night. It felt really good to be appreciated. And known – you remembered Tancredi is my favorite. I thought you had been tuning me out whenever I went on and on about what you declared boring (even though you’d never seen one).
And the massage in our bed afterwards was a lovely way to get naked without breaking Dr. X’s rules. Your hands were like magic, easing all my aches, both physical and emotional. I felt closer to you than perhaps I ever have.
Dr. X asked us today if we think we’re at a point where we can return to a full sexual relationship. Or something similarly classy. Basically, she wants to know if we’re ready to get back to knocking boots. As much as I desperately want it, I’m nervous. It’s crazy to be afraid of something we’ve done hundreds of times, but our level of intimacy – real intimacy, not just physical – is so much higher now that it was before that it scares me a little.
I want you so badly I can’t stand it. I’m ready – so ready – to show you how much I desire you, how committed I am to us. I love you. We haven’t said that enough to each other, and I intend to rectify that.
You seemed hesitant when Dr. X brought up sex, and I understand why you’re nervous. Of course I’m willing to wait as long as you need. But I’m crossing my fingers it’s not much longer…
I can’t believe I cried. I really can’t believe I cried and didn’t care. Making love with you – I can’t just call it sex anymore – was so beautiful I don’t even have words. You were so passionate and tender when we were together, and so understanding when I was overwhelmed afterwards.
I know it won’t be that dramatic every time moving forward, but I think this marks a shift in how we see our physical relationship. Whether it’s sex or kissing or just little touches throughout the day, we need to stay physically connected to help sustain the rest of our relationship. If we pull away physically, it’s easy to start pulling away emotionally. For me, who has trouble sometimes initiating the emotional stuff, Dr. X says I’d probably be more comfortable reaching out to you physically, even in small ways, to connect before I spill my guts. That eye contact/hand holding exercise sure worked awhile back.
After our incredible night, I don’t think I’ll just be wanting to reach out when I’m having emotional issues. Wow. I almost forgot how good it felt.
It was the very definition of catharsis – a cleansing of emotions. Now we can start fresh and let go of the old hurts. They’ll still be there, behind us, reminding us of what can happen if we don’t take care of each other, but they won’t be right there on the surface, waiting to break through.
I wanted to let you initiate taking things to the next level, and I admit I was a little afraid it might be awhile. But yesterday morning you let me know you were ready. We agreed not to put any additional pressure on ourselves by having some fancy date beforehand. We’d just relax after dinner and let things flow. It was a little awkward at first, knowing what we had planned and not having done it for so long. But as soon as we started kissing, we just went with it.
It was intense – not having been touched in that way in months heightened all the sensations. For that reason I thought it might have been over rather quickly, but we managed to move slowly and reacquaint ourselves with each other. Reaching our peak set off something in you that it never has. It humbles me that you can show that vulnerability to me and not pull back. I see it as the ultimate sign of strength to be able to let someone else in.
Dr. X was right – waiting to reintroduce the sexual side of our relationship was the right thing to do. It made it about so much more than the physical – now those actions are intricately tied to our emotional relationship, rather than just being fun activities we indulge in. And it probably would have been more awkward if we had done it sooner, before we really felt reconnected. Now we just need to start making up for lost time…
We’re going to keep seeing Dr. X for a little while longer, just to solidify all the lessons we’ve learned. I’m at a place now where I don’t expect that we’ll always be on the same wavelength, and I have some tools to work through things when we’re not.
Dr. X wanted us to write down our relationship goals for the future, so we’ll have something to hold us accountable if we ever start sliding back into our old patterns. Mine is to keep our communication open, to let you in. I may need to be reminded of that when I start to close myself off, but now that it’s an issue that’s out in the open I hope you’ll be more comfortable calling me on my crap.
My goal is to avoid taking you for granted like I did before. To believe our relationship can stay vibrant if we work at it. It won’t happen magically, so it’s my goal to do my part and to make sure you do too. The vacation we have planned to Martha’s Vineyard is a good start. You in the bikini I picked out should ensure an exciting week.
And yes, it’s my goal to leave work at work as much as I can. I’ve found in these past few months that conviction rate hasn’t gone down despite working fewer hours, and I’m in a much better mood while I’m at work because things are going well at home. That’s not to say there won’t be cases that consume me, but I believe they’ll be the exception rather than the rule.
When I started this, I said I didn’t know how to get back to where we were in the beginning. I’ve finally realized we can’t go back there, and it’s not where I want us to be anyway. The best relationships are those that can change as life inevitably changes. We aren’t the same people we were when we got started, so our relationship shouldn’t be the same as it was then. I think we’re on a path to building that fire back up – maybe it won’t blaze as brightly, but it will burn more steadily, with a strong foundation that can sustain us.
I love you.
I love you.