Last week, I was really anxious before my session with E, because I knew I was going to read her the letter I had drafted. I genuinely wanted to be more straightforward with her about the hurt and distrust I continued to carry with me ever since she cut off our extensive texting so abruptly. But at the same time, I feared I was opening up the possibility of a new rupture and all the pain that would go with it.
Nevertheless, she persisted!
Yep, I was afraid, but I did it anyway. We sat outside together, in the garden behind her office, and I read her the whole letter aloud. I didn’t soften it or leave anything out.
Overall, she responded well. She clearly heard me, and for the most part, she accepted what I said.
She did have a momentary lapse into, “Well, it was my first time in such an intense texting relationship, and so it was my first time ending one. I didn’t really know how to handle it…” But I didn’t go for that. It wasn’t a fair protest either, because ages ago she admitted to me that she didn’t give it any thought ahead of time or even try to plan it.
But except for that one early, half-hearted protest, she was really good. She said some of the following things (because it was so intense, the order of things gets blurry in my head and I can’t really reconstruct the full conversation):
- She’s very sorry to have caused me so much pain.
- Contrary to what I had feared, she had not been hating our texting relationship for ages, but had only right before that started to feel it was messing with her work and personal life boundaries.
- She had not been aware that I was carrying this and that it was still affecting me.
- She’s glad I told her.
When she said she didn’t know how to handle it because it was new to her too, and she still didn’t know what she should have done differently, I said:
“You could have said something like, I have to make a change that I know you aren’t going to like. It’s not a reflection of how I feel about you, but about what I need in my own life. Still, I can imagine that your different parts will have a lot of feelings about it, and I want to invite them to show up and express their emotions. That can be today, or next week, or next month…”
She nodded along as I said this, and then added, “Or in two years, if need be. Yes, that is right. All the parts are very welcome to have their say.”
And at the end of our session, she reiterated that I could bring this up again, and any part could express its feelings and needs, if I wanted. That felt very validating.
She also told me several times that it must have been difficult to come and read her the letter, but she really appreciated it. She thanked me for taking the risk and telling her how I really felt.
When I got home, phew, I was slammed with a vulnerability hangover. My first reaction was to crawl in bed and rock myself. But once that immediate sense of overload calmed down, I felt relieved. Freer. Lighter.
I don’t want to claim that everything is now going to be all right forever and ever. I can imagine that at different times I will still have different emotions about it, including some residual anger or resentment, but also including pride in myself for having spoken up in defense of the hurt parts.
Now I’m fifteen minutes away from my first session with her after reading the letter, and I’m curious what it will be like. Will she still feel as open to it? Will she bring some defensiveness into the session? Will we move on as if nothing happened (probably not). Will I backtrack some of it to make sure she is not upset? I don’t intend to, but I have done that, not just with her but with other people many times in the past, so it wouldn’t surprise me.
I am trying to stay grounded and centered in my own experience. I can let her manage her own experience. She knows how to do that. And I hope we’ll find nice ways to go forward together.
CREDIT: Photo by Annie Sprat on Unsplash