Sydney Reaches Out

The last two days Sydney has been trying to reach out to me. To “be friends”. It’s a challenging situation for me. I very badly want to tell her to F off, but I need to continue a good working relationship with her. Yesterday she wanted to tell me about her new glasses, and kept messaging me to keep a discussion going. I was engaged, but not emphatically so. I kept myself very remote, and focused on how a normal coworker would respond.

Then she asked me to lunch, and I had to decline and let her know I wasn’t comfortable with that. I could tell my response stung her a little. She replied with “Ok”, and then our discussion stopped for awhile. Fine by me. In the past I wouldn’t have let her sit on that depressed feeling, but this time I did not jump in to rescue her. She asked me to drop by after lunch to get coffee on her floor, but I ended up needing to go to the clinic because I wasn’t feeling well. She sent a few words of encouragement, but I kept my responses very simple and direct. Being careful not to allow any emotions to show.

Today though we had an in person meeting. I did make a nice comment on her glasses when she entered, but there were three people in the room at the time. It was something I would have said for anyone. Then we three had a nice discussion about our various levels of vision. It was funny. After that it was down to work, and I did have to work closely with Sydney on some scheduling for next week.

Just before lunch she messaged me “thanks for being friendly with me during our meeting.” To which I responded “You’re welcome.” and left it at that. Which led her to bait me with a pity comment. I hate being baited like this. She said “I hope you don’t hate being around me.” How am I supposed to respond to that? Because I DO hate being around her. I hate the way she treated me, and I want to ream her out, but I’m not going to. I’m respecting our work relationship, and burying the way I really feel about her. Lying, and telling her “Of course I don’t hate you” is what she wants to hear, so she can winnow herself back into manipulating me. But I’m not going to say that either because it’s not true.

Instead I waited some time, then I told her “I’m aware of the value of our work alliance, as I hope you are too. I am capable of separating my personal feelings to support that.” That may have been too much, but I think it gets the point across. After telling her I won’t go to lunches with her, and now this I think she’s getting the message. I know that I’m trying to walk a fine line of not angering her over the whole thing to prevent a blow-back, but also standing firm on my own convictions. It’s difficult because every ounce of my being wants to tell her how horrible of a person she is, but I can’t. Instead I said that line which was admittedly cold, but not nearly as cruel as her words were to me.

Her response was “This situation is very saddening to me.” I’m sure it is. She wants to keep me as plan B or maybe C, and just hanging out at her disposal. She has no regard for my actual feelings, and if some sadness is all she has to feel she should be very fortunate. Part of me really wants to tell her that, but I won’t. Sometimes the less you say the more impactful the statement. Either way, I’m holding my ground to keeping a working relationship with her only.

Next week will be a real test. We have a work meeting with just the two of us for an hour. We have a lot of work to muster through, and I’m 99% sure she will try to test how I feel about her. This weekend I will think of responses to various ways she may test me. This transition period is going to take time. What I’m trying to communicate now is: I’m here; we have a work alliance; I can be friendly with you M-F 8-5; I don’t want you in my life after that. (Secretly I wish you would leave this company and not be part of my life at all forever.)

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Thinking of Meredith

Now that all this drama with Sydney has blown over I find myself thinking of Meredith quite a bit. She was such a wonderful person through and through. Very unlike the narcissist that is Sydney. I will always have a place in my heart for Meredith. I don’t think I could think negatively about her.

I suppose this blow up with Sydney helped to open my eyes to what types of personalities are really out there. On the surface they seem nice and interesting, but underneath there is sometimes evil. I was clearly too naive due to sheer lack of experience, and from having such a good experience with Meredith. I guess I try to see the best in people, and make assumptions that they are good. I take words of affirmation to mean something. However some people are not good. Some people use words to manipulate. I clearly fell right into that trap.

You know what is funny to me is that if I told Sydney about her manipulations and games – even showing her the texts and words she chose – she would deny it. She would rattle off some clap-trap about me pushing her. I don’t think she would be lying either. She has convinced herself that what she is doing its moral and just. You can’t even look for liars because good manipulators may be telling their own truth.

I had a good discussion with the counselor yesterday. Just me. We talked again about my desire for other women and other experiences. We talked about the options around fulfilling those desires, and what it could look like. The basic rules of society give only two options: divorce; or suck it up. That seems too binary to me. In reality there are other options including affairs, although I really don’t want to go that route again. But I don’t know if I can face a long future just staying where I am.

Yesterday a good friend of mine had a stroke. He’s only 33 with two kids at home about my children’s ages. He lives in the same neighborhood, and is a very smart and very active person. To have a stroke at such a young age is really scary. He’s younger than me. It really brings mortality into the picture.

When I think about how I feel it brings two very opposing emotions. The first is to go live life. The desire to explore with other women. The other is to think about who I want to be on my own last days – a family man and a devoted father who stayed married to a wonderful woman. Those two ideals are far apart. They do not exist together.

But can they? There are other arrangements. Life and love can be more fluid and less binary than we make them out to be. Society puts the standard of monogamy on all of us, but the older I get the less I think that is the ideal for everyone. It may work perfectly fine for lots of people, but I’m not convinced it’s the ideal for a large swath of the population. Including myself.

Lately the idea of opening our marriage a little has been floating into my head quite a bit. It’s also been a subject of discussion with the therapist. Are there huge risks to it? Absolutely. There could also be enormous benefits. By allowing perhaps one outside relationship it could free up that anxiety and tension I have about the prospect of a future with only Claire. I could still be with Claire. We could still live our lives together, and raise our kids, and even have good passionate sex together. But I could also have someone to be adventurous with infrequently. I believe it would scratch that itch. If we did it in an open way then it wouldn’t have to be a secret which is the part that hurt Claire the most.

I realize this sounds self-serving coming up with this after the affair. Unfortunately I did not have my ducks in a row beforehand or realize how big a mistake I was capable of making. Yet there are success stories out there which started like mine. Where an open marriage grew out of a hurtful affair. Just sitting here thinking about being able to tell Claire about my adventures and being completely open – to the point where she could access my phone or read any messages with someone else, possibly even meet the person – sounds amazing. It makes me less anxious. I want to be free and open with her. To love and receive love from more than one.

Frankly the idea that one person could satisfy everything for any one other person is a lot to ask. Why are we so rigid as to not allow shared experiences? With openness and honesty I think we could benefit from an open marriage arrangement. If Claire decided she wanted another lover I would be ecstatic. I know that sounds odd, but to see her open up sexually is exciting. I think we would both learn a lot about ourselves that we could bring back into our marriage.

Also I think this is part of me. As I differentiate and become more comfortable in my own skin I feel like this is something I need to step up and ask for. Having another affair is the chicken shit way to handle this. Be who I am and ask for what I need. Compromise where possible, and work for a brighter future. Hopefully one without a divorce. I am already able to see Claire in a much more positive light just from working through differentiation and codependency issues. There is something here for us in our marriage, but even so I don’t think it is everything.

Thinking of opening up our marriage makes me think of Meredith again. Would that not be an amazing setup? Being able to have her back in my life on a limited basis? I know it’s a giant pipe dream, but I like to dream. She is worth dreaming about. (For the record Sydney is not an option anymore. I can’t stand the thought of her sexually.)

In the mean time I ordered a series of books to explore this realm. I ordered physical books so that I can share them with Claire later if such a time should come. If we do this I want to do it right. I will also keep taking with the therapist.

Psychopathy

This is what Sydney has driven me to. Researching psychopathy. It wasn’t where I started. I rolled my eyes at the thought because it seems so cliched to jump to that when you have been scorned. As I was searching the interwebs for similar personality issues to explain what I just went through with Sydney, the same theme kept popping up. Probably due to the sheer lack of empathy she seems to exhibit.

Yet I continued to skip over the links until finally one drew me in. It was titled something like “Six ways to tell you’re arguing with a psychopath.” I opened it and read through. By the third item I couldn’t believe it. It was describing my interactions with Sydney very accurately. Here is what I read:

1. They lie and make excuses.

Everyone messes up every now and then, but psychopaths recite excuses more often than they follow through with promises. Their actions never match up with their words and their lies disappoint you so frequently that you actually feel relieved when they do something halfway decent. They’ve conditioned you to become grateful for mediocre treatment.

RP: Sydney had an excuse for everything. She would constantly claim to want or to do things that would never happened in reality. Like trying anything for me, she would say she would do something, but then never follow through with action. When she would half-way show interest with actions I would be overjoyed. Only to be crushed later. Over and over. So many excuses. So many small lies, and lies of omission.

2. Their tone is condescending and patronizing.

Psychopaths often try to make you unhinged in an attempt to gain the upper hand. Throughout the entire argument, you’ll notice that they keep a calm and cool demeanor. It’s almost as if they’re mocking you — gauging your reactions to see how much further they can push. When you finally react emotionally, that’s when they’ll raise their eyebrows, smirk, tell you to calm down, or feign disappointment.

RP: This one happened several times. She would say the most hurtful things, and when I reacted she would then accuse me of being petty because she “would never react that way to someone.” Totally raising her eyebrows and feigning disappointment. Well excuse me for being human. She was very condescending, and sure to maintain the upper hand thought-out our discussion. Which was not difficult because the entire thing caught me off guard. She was calm, and cool the whole time. Making sure I was the only one showing any emotion – I was the crazy one.

3. They employ mind-blowing hypocrisy.

In heated arguments, psychopaths have no shame and will often begin labeling you with their own horrible qualities. It goes beyond projection, because most people project unknowingly. Psychopaths know they are smearing you with their own flaws, because they are seeking a reaction. The point is to lure you in so that you react and seem “crazy” to onlookers.

RP: Objective achieved here. We did have onlookers, and I could tell they were astonished at how crazy I looked. She threw lots of labels and grenades my way in such rapid succession it was impossible to counter. But the fact was they were all her flaws. She was pushing them on me. How do you defend against crazy? I certainly was not prepared, not to mention my soul was being crushed.

4. They seem to have multiple personalities.

When arguing with a psychopath, you’re likely to notice a variety of their personas. It’s sort of like good cop, bad cop, demented cop, stalker cop, scary cop, baby cop. Once you begin pulling away from their manipulation and lies, they’ll start apologizing and flatter you. If that doesn’t work, they’ll suddenly start insulting the qualities they just flattered two minutes ago. As they struggle to regain control, you’ll be left wondering who you’re even talking to.

RP: We certainly went through a variety of personalities. Mostly she was demented cop, but would then jump to good cop and even cry a fake tear. Then jump back to scary cop and angry cop. I completely agree with the flattering and insulting of the same qualities all happening very close together. It’s a real head turner. No way to make sense of it. I was completely beside myself – no longer sure who this person was sitting across from me. Not sure if the next thing I said was going to be met with scorn or empathy. Hint, there wasn’t a lot of empathy – none of it real anyway. She would only use it to manipulate my emotions.

5. They play the eternal victim.

Somehow, their bad behavior will always lead back to a conversation about their abusive past or a crazy ex or an evil boss. You’ll end up feeling bad for them, even when they’ve done something horribly wrong. And once they’ve successfully diverted your attention, everything will get messy again. Psychopaths cry “abuse,” but, in the end, you’re the only one being abused.

RP: OMG! This one! This is Sydney’s bread and butter. EVERYTHING she does is because of her past abuse. Yes she had a very damaging childhood and even through her 20’s. One of the worst I’ve heard, if she’s telling the truth. However she would pull that card out at every occasion to justify her bad behavior. She was abusing me over and over, and claiming I was the one abusing her. She’s absolutely nuts. And it works. I have a heart. I would feel pity for her. I did appreciate what she went through. It’s sad, but that is no excuse for being cruel to me now. What benefit is it of me to say “Oh, well you had it rough so take it out on me. That’s fine.”? None! She needs to treat people with respect, and stop blaming all her negative actions on her past. But that would mean she wants to.

6. You feel the need to explain basic human emotions to them.

You’ll find yourself attempting to explain emotions like empathy and kindness, guided by the thought that if they understand why you’re hurt, they’ll stop hurting you. You are not the first person who has attempted to see the good in them, and you will not be the last. They behave this way because they know that it hurts you.

RP: The number of times I found myself explaining empathy and kindness are mind-blowing. To a full grown fully functioning woman no less. I should have known better. And always with that thought “if she just understood how she is making me feel then she will see it’s better to stop and we can be happy.” Nope. It didn’t fit her agenda, and she didn’t care that I was hurting. She has no good intentions. She intended to cause pain. She used to say her hair was black like her soul, and I would always say she had good in her. Apparently I was wrong. I feel sorry for the man she is with. I can’t imagine his pain. He’s living with a woman with no empathy, and she just asked him for permission to fuck other men! Good luck dude! Maybe we should form a support group – Significant Others of Sydney (SOS). Ha!

There’s only one way out of these arguments. You need to disengage!

RP: Amen! This is the new direction I plan on taking.

The truth is I still have to work with her, and she is very good at her work. No emotions to cloud anything! Which means I need to maintain a basic connection with her. But it only needs to be basic. Just enough to get the job done. She claims to really want to be friends, but she barely makes an effort these days. If I don’t make an effort then it shouldn’t be hard to avoid her.

I really want to talk to her and tell her how cruel and horrible she is, but who would that serve? Me? Probably not. She wouldn’t hear me, and would find some way to blame it all on me anyway. It would also set me up for a future catastrophic event. Psychopaths can be very vindictive. I don’t need her lashing out at me with anger. I think it would be better to keep her right under the surface, always guessing and thinking I’m pining for her, rather than purposefully engage her, and create a hostile situation.

It won’t be hard to ignore her. I sent her an article about previous relationships needing months of healing before ex’s can be friends. If they can be friends. The article mentions six months as a good time frame. She did read the article, and said she understood I just need time. I’ll just let it roll to forever. She seemed to be OK with the concept. Which is also horrible that she cares so little, but I need to let that go.

Truth is she probably isn’t a psychopath. She probably is a narcissist or has antisocial personality disorder or some other such thing. She hates nearly everyone, and has no friends other than me, and her boyfriend. The only family member she talks to is her sister. It’s hard to say for sure, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t know her all that well. But I’m going to err on the side of caution. Rather than confront her, I’m going to let it ride out into the sunset. Slowly fade into nothing. Not as cathartic, but probably healthier in the long run. Definitely safer.

No matter how much I want to confront her so she can look in the mirror, and change she isn’t going to. I suppose that also means I’m probably not done writing about her, but hopefully the fireworks have died down. With any luck she will find a job at another company, and this situation will resolve on it’s own.

Soap Opera Returns

I hesitate to even publish this. But I will. I always do. I gave up on Sydney a couple weeks ago. We were through. I blocked her on our messaging app. I told her she caused me too much pain, and I felt that she did not respect me. Then I spent much of my time without her trying to move on. It actually felt nice to not have that emotional burden anymore. Somewhat freeing. Back to my old self. There was sadness though.

Then yesterday happened. She wanted to chat. She was very concerned for me because I have been quite sick. I have also been short with her via work chat. She has maintained her respect for me the whole time which I appreciate. She did not overreact or anything to how I was feeling. She felt very bad for making me feel that way.

Today we spoke openly again for the first time in awhile. She turned the world upside down again. Apparently she has wanted to speak with me because she had a long discussion with her boyfriend where they agreed to have a slightly open relationship. No dating apps, but if someone comes along then they are allowed to have a sexual relationship with that person outside of their primary relationship.

I know this was something Sydney had been considering for a while, and had even spoken with her boyfriend about it before me, but they never really settled on anything. Until now. Essentially she is in the clear to have a relationship with me without it being an affair (for her). There are rules they have come up with for sure, but this is a major major development.

One of the major hurdles for her stopping a physical relationship with me was not wanting to betray her boyfriend. That hurdle is gone. She was very open in our discussion about wanting a full physical relationship if we can figure out the practicalities. Like where. It’s not easy to find regular meet up locations. At least not cheap ones.

Of course the other major issue is my own primary relationship. We both agreed not to move forward with a physical relationship right now until that is figured out. Honestly I’ve wondered and thought about the idea of an open relationship for years, but I know Claire won’t like the idea. However with this new differentiation topic maybe I need to bring it up, and stop being so concerned with her feelings. She can tell me her thoughts and feelings rather than going purely off my assumptions.

Because frankly this may be an answer to many of the things bothering me. From marrying young to feelings of missing out on relationship growth to new experiences and adventure. All the while maintaining my core relationship.

—–

Then today the other shoe dropped from Sydney. I feel sick for even thinking this was part of my future. During her whole discussion with her boyfriend it turns out she wasn’t even thinking of me. WASN’T EVEN THINKING OF ME! What the serious fuck? Heart wrenching. She spent most of lunch laying into me about how wrong it is for us to be together physically. How inconvenient it is for her. How she wants all of that, but not with me. Shouldn’t I be proud of her? OMG. My head is reeling. Like seriously.

We went to lunch to work out some details. I thought we were working out communication and logistic details. I’m not sure what she had in mind, but it turned into “rip Ryan’s heart apart”. She did so very cooly, calmly, and with little remorse. In her head I’m sure she was “just stating facts”, and she couldn’t be sure “how I didn’t know all this already.” Well for starters you would’ve had to communicate – something she struggles with.

I went back through our text communication and my notes, as well as just remembering incidents. She was vague and question dodging at all times. There is no way for me to know what is on her mind because she doesn’t share it. We had a relationship of trust in one direction only.

The whole thing makes me sick. What she did to me, the way she treated me was cruel. Not just mean but cruel. I have never been treated as cruelly by someone who claims to care for me. It was outrageous. Then to have her claim she just wants us to be friends. F that. I would never be friends with someone who could be that cruel and cold hearted to me. She had no empathy for what she was putting me through. None. In her life she has all this sympathy for all these disadvantaged people all over the world whom she will never meet, but a real life person standing right in front of her in pain, and she had no empathy at all. Let alone the fact she was the one dishing out the pain.

Selfish is a good word to describe her. She of course continually made me to be the selfish one, but it was always her. We always did things on her terms. When she was free. When it was convenient for her. Never a sacrifice from her for me or us. Always me. She never understood or appreciated that. Even at the end she even told me at lunch that she could see us having a physical relationship a couple times a week if I didn’t have my wife or my kids and lived closer to her. Yes, read that. If I destroy my entire life in a way that could make it convenient for her then we could possibly have a relationship. No thought to what that was to me. The extreme selfishness left me without words.

For now I’m just going to think about how to react to this. Im tired of being a wounded animal. Her response was appalling and I’m through with her.

Passionate Marriage

I had a really great session with my counselor this week. It was just the two of us, no Claire. We covered a variety of topics and I think made some headway. This was the first time I really felt that the counselor understood what was going on with me.

We started by talking about something that had been on my mind. I had a few conversations with people who had been in lots of dating relationships lately and it led me thinking about my own dating history. I had one semi-serious girlfriend in high school. Then Claire the next year. That was it. I did not play the field. I did not experience the various personalities and wealth of emotions that can come with different relationships. In fact my employee is going through a hard break up right now and I realized I never really experienced the pain of a break up. I don’t know how to deal with these situations.

The counselor noted I am emotionally stunted in regard to relationships. I did not gain experience or knowledge in dealing with the highs and the lows of relationships.

When you combine that with some of the underlying biases I grew up with it forms a picture of a man who cannot deal with rejection. My own mother has a very anti-man bias. She blames most of the world’s and relationship ills on men. It’s always the man’s fault. I didn’t consciously think those thoughts as a young man but it was there. I had a clear desire not to lose a single relationship. Dealing with any rejection made me reconsider all I was doing wrong. Rather than recognize I can be right, rather men can be right, I just assumed I was wrong and tried to find a way to make it better. I don’t go to anger when I am rejected for something (generally), I go to sadness. Because I messed up. If I didn’t mess up then there wouldn’t be a problem.

The other side of not playing the field is that I find myself now desiring other women. Wondering what is out there. Thinking about the situations I missed and longing for a current version of that. I want to know what they are like. The quiet ones; the tattooed ones; all of them. What can I learn from them? What relationship secrets could I learn about them and myself? What would the sex be like? The level of intimacy? The tender moments after sex? What are their interests and desires? I just want to know all about this other life that I never experienced. I shared this with my counselor. She agreed that it would be natural to feel that way due to my history.

Then she redirected to a book I’ve been reading at her recommendation. A Passionate Marriage. It’s mostly about the need for differentiation within a long term relationship. I’ll be honest I don’t totally understand at this point as I’m only on chapter five, but the gist is maintaining yourself while being in a relationship. It’s possible this is what I’m struggling from, but I have yet to see exactly how or what to do about it. The author promises mind blowing intimacy and sex if we can figure this out. Color me skeptical. It’s also really long and dense copy. That also makes me skeptical.

Lastly we talked about an argument Claire and I had the night before. The argument started as most of ours do: I said something; she was offended; hours of discussion later still not resolved. The argument was about how she treated our daughter. I had set our daughter up to watch Mr. Rogers and she was getting really into it, asking lots of questions and what not. I was thrilled because she was learning something from TV. While I was making dinner I was very aware and in tune with my daughter and her energy flow. Then Claire walks in completely misreading the situation and grabs a play robot mask and gets in my daughter’s face talking like a robot.

It all happened really fast. As I saw what she was doing I said “Dear not now.” But Claire often doesn’t hear me when she’s in middle of something. The next thing I said was after it was done and my daughter started whining at Claire to stop. I asked Claire “why did you do that? She was focused on the show.” I mean it was a genuine question. I could not fathom how she thought that was a good idea. I finally got our child calm and in a learning mode, Claire was not going to stick around and play as she had stuff she was working on upstairs, it was just weird. Her response was that I was wrong and needed to allow her to parent her way. Then she got genuinely upset with me for the rest of the night.

The whole thing was so odd. The counselor and I spoke about it for some time. She really stood up for me on that one. That I don’t need to back down on things when I’m right. I need to hold my own. The problem is that I’m attaching too much emotional connection to my relationship. I have a codependent attachment emotionally. When my wife fires back I assume I’m wrong and feel hurt and rejected. It turns into a long battle about who attacked who.

A lot of those feeling come from my past as I mentioned earlier. It must be my fault so I’m right to feel hurt and rejected. Instead I need to hold my ground and calmly tell my wife why I feel the way I do and then let her figure out how to handle her emotions. Neither of us are good at it on our own. Listening to the counselor talk about this it didn’t immediately land, but over the week, as I worked on things, it made more and more sense. I regularly get pulled into emotional battles with Claire because we have become emotionally codependent.

I’m going to continue working on improving my own independence and mental health and we will see where it goes.

Emotional Connection

Can you force an emotional connection? Can you coax love back into a marriage with touch, empathy and communication? Claire listened to a podcast about emotional connections, and is trying to reach out to me. I can feel it.

At first it seemed very fake. After awhile though I realized that I actually enjoyed the touch. I enjoyed her forcing herself to pay attention to me. It wasn’t perfect, but it was something.

I’m also emotionally crashing from the Sydney fall out. It could be that I just need to feel loved right now. I can sense how weak I am. The attention from Claire is well received. I’m glad she’s trying. I don’t know what will come of it, but I’m glad she’s trying.

On the other hand our love life had taken a bit of a down turn. I think the energy Claire had from the affair discovery has worn off.

There are days like today where I just feel very down. Like I am not worthy of love from anyone. Both affair partners have rejected me. My wife deserves better. What am I doing? I know Claire wants to love me, but I feel that if I come crawling back to her she’s going to flip the tables on me. She wants stability, she doesn’t want me. If I become less of a flight risk per se then she will let me know how she feels without holding back. Because right now I am not lovable from any woman.

Crazy Coincidence

Something truly bizarre is happening. At the end of my affair with Meredith she was actively looking for employment elsewhere. She applied to a really wonderful company that is very hard to get into. Yet she made it in the door; past the phone screen; past the coffee interview; all the way to the full panel interview. In the end she didn’t get that job, but they asked her to come in one more time for a similar job in a different department. She declined because she found her dream job in the mean time.

Now I’m sitting here with Sydney who is also seeking employment elsewhere. She applied to the SAME COMPANY! She made it all the way to the final interview as well.

In the past I have applied to this company, and have had many friends apply. Very few get a single call back. It’s consistently rated one of the top companies to work for in the US. It amazes me that both of these women did so well in getting through the process. I know how ridiculously smart and capable they are, but it’s crazy to see how well others see that too.

Not sure if she’ll get the job. It would be nice because then I wouldn’t have to see her everyday. I sort of feel it’s in my best interest to help her out.