|Blogs > shaken_storm > The Heart of the Storm|
Lately, I have been spending a lot of time thinking. Thinking about the reasons that I have done the things I have the last few months. Thinking about the things that contributed to me being the way I am right now. Thinking about how I was pointed in the direction of this train wreck that is currently my life.
What it comes down to, as far as I can tell, is a near-compulsive need for comforting. The quest for someone to comfort me has been a theme for almost my whole life.
When I was four years old, my mother left my father, taking her other children (from relationships prior to the one with my father) with her (except her eldest, who chose to stay and complete high school where he was). I’m not going to go into a discussion of whether she was right to do so, or not, for both of my parents have been cruelly hurt by the series of events that led into the dissolution of their marriage. What I will say is that my father has never allowed himself to love another woman since.
The result was that he and I ended up together, on our own. My father is a good man, but he is not someone who could really ever be described as comforting. He is a gruff, proud man ‒ one whose attitudes and beliefs hearken back to a time when men were men. He did the best he could by me ‒ but the absence of a woman in the home as a long-term presence showed.
He did try ‒ we went the live-in housekeeper/babysitter route, and that didn’t work out because the woman brought in had a son who ended up being a bad influence on me. He also married a woman who had two children my age, but the marriage was never one of love ‒ and we (the children) became one of the arenas for conflict, instead of bring things together ‒ so it died in less than two years.
As I became a teenager, this meant that I was a misfit, because I didn’t have any understanding of women, or how to relate to them. I saw the peers I looked up to in school, and they seemed to all be dating, and they were happier than me, so I automatically assumed that I had to have a girlfriend to be happy. In some way, I saw the relationships they had providing a source of comfort that was missing in my own life. But I had no understanding of what to do.
As a result, the first girlfriend I had was in my first year of college. And she was a high school girl who thought it would be fun to be with a college boy and then got scared when he fell for her, hard. A week after Cherity and I started dating, she was saying she didn’t mean it, that she had been drunk on the night of my first kiss.
My first girlfriend, mind you, was not my first exposure to romance. Just my first success at it, as fleeting as it turned out to be. In the years right after my mother left, there was Monica, a half-Japanese girl my age who was part of my close circle of friends (about six of us who were kind of like a little gang), and I think if she had been part of my life for the longer-term a relationship might have been presumed by everyone (and to this date, I still think Oriental women are extremely lovely). And then there was Rachael.
For four years I loved Rachael. She and I were friends who used to walk home together every day from Junior High school, and we were very close. She viewed me more as a friend and almost a brother, and for a long time, I was too terrified to tell her how I felt. When she left after our sophomore year of high school, moving to California, I was crushed. I later found out that after I left home, she came back, looking for me…
I was eighteen when I had my first real relationship. I had gained a job through the local OIC for the summer after my first year of college, working at the Goodwill store. There I met Christi, a troubled woman a year and a half older than I. She and I clicked, and we started seeing each other. Thus began a rocky, on-again/off-again relationship that lasted for five years. During that time, we broke up and got back together numerous times, we had two children (one boy and one girl) that we gave up for adoption, I asked her twice to marry me, and we tried to make our relationship work long-distance for almost two years. In the end, the relationship failed because she ended up homeless in Seattle while I was in Tacoma, going to a business school so I could get a decent job and stop being a starving artist ‒ I wasn’t there to save her when she needed saving, so she went and found another knight in white armor.
I then finished business school, and working for a market research company as an interviewer. I promptly fell in love with one of my co-workers (Tara), a woman a couple years younger than me who was unhappily engaged to a brute of an ex-biker. We became friends, and I brought her into my circle of friends, where she found people who accepted her. In time, her feelings for me began to deepen. However, even with the feelings we knew were developing between us, we agreed that we would stay friends. And so I started seeing her younger sister, Melissa. When I started lavishing attention on Melissa that had before been focused on Tara, she grew jealous, and decided that she was in love with me.
This led into the only situation during my single life that I can really point to as something in common with the young people shown on The Real World. Melissa and I had almost become intimate, when Tara said that she must be in love with me and came on to me. My feelings for Tara still being there, I ended up going ahead and sleeping with her, which her fiancé found out about and he went after me, but was thrown out of Tara’s home by her parents. Then, Melissa and I decided that we couldn’t just turn off what had started to develop between us ‒ and I ended up sleeping with her too. Added into the mix was a mutual friend to all concerned (Kim), who wanted a friend with benefits.
I was out-of-control. I had never been the focus of so much female attention, and I reveled in it, instead of thinking about what I was doing. Consequently, I ended up losing all three, after Tara found out I had slept with her sister and with Kim. She broke up with me. Kim stopped seeing me, and drifted away, while Melissa tried to stay just friends and fight the backlash that had developed ‒ because Tara’s friends and family sought to place the blame 100% on me when there were others who deserved blame as well. I’m not saying I was blameless ‒ just that others made choices, too…
Afterwards, I entered into a period that lasted for more than five years, where I careened like a pinball from one relationship to the next. I was faithful to the relationships, but they never seemed to be successful ‒ and my life outside of dating stagnated into a routine of gaming (table-top RPG and miniatures, trading card games, and computer and console video games) and work. Everything was basically in a holding pattern.
During this time, due to a lack of other dating avenues, I utilized the computer as my main way to meet people. Undoubtedly, this contributed to the short lifespan of many of the relationships during this period. The initial anonymous spark eventually died, and was never transformed into a sustaining fire based upon reality.
Then I met Dee in the late fall of 1999. She was a young, liberal school teacher from the Kitsap Peninsula. We met through an ad she had placed online ‒ and decided we’d give things a shot. During the six months that followed, there was friction a-plenty, but also something magical that had been missing from other relationships. Eventually, though, she chose to break up with me, citing my unwillingness to change behaviors that were detrimental to a committed relationship.
A little more than a month after Dee broke up with me, in July 2000, I read an advertisement on the Yahoo personals. It was from a woman who was desperately needing someone to make her feel like a decent person. Her husband was emotionally abusive to both her and their daughter. The desperation in her advertisement struck a chord within myself, and I contacted her. That woman’s name was Heidi.
Within a short time, we agreed to meet. At the first meeting, something sparked ‒ and before she left to go to her work, we had sex. The exciting rush of the first illicit encounter carried us forward, and we found that we liked other things about each other. Amazingly, we also had a couple mutual friends (a former co-worker of mine who now worked where she did ‒ and his wife). Quickly, she was making time to come see me whenever she could.
A month later, things became much more serious, because she made the decision to leave her husband. To everyone, including her husband, she played up the mutual friend as the reason I was willing to give her a place to stay. The first months were amazing, even with the usual bumps and bruises emotionally when a woman moves into a lazy bachelor’s home and tries to get things in order. Then we found out Heidi was pregnant.
When we started having sex, Heidi told me she couldn’t get pregnant. She had tried for years with her previous husband, as well as with her current husband. Consequently, we had not taken preventative measures. This pregnancy made things much more serious, and we had to face the possibilities that result from a pregnancy coming after a woman’s thirtieth birthday (increased risk of birth defects, primarily).
In the twenty-second week, Heidi was stricken by pre-eclampsia. Her blood pressure skyrocketed, and she went through congestive heart failure. The only way to get her through was to induce labor, and take our baby daughter.
Both of us were crushed by the blow. Elisa (our daughter) was delivered on New Year’s Day, but had not survived the labor. Her tiny form was blotched and blue-black from anoxia. The pain was so real that we both couldn’t bear to hold her. Adding insult to injury, the hospital ICU made a mistake that led to an IV site becoming infiltrated with calcium, which turned a silver-dollar-sized section of Heidi’s arm necrotic. The resulting damage would keep her out of work for most of four months.
Heidi sank into a deep depression, and struggled to cope with the physical aftermath of the pre-eclampsia. Her blood pressure stayed out-of-control. Physically and emotionally she was a wreck, and she turned to me to try and support her.
As I supported Heidi, I ignored my own grief and the need to seek comfort. There was nowhere I could go ‒ Heidi was unable to offer comfort when she was already overwhelmed; My circle of friends were unable to do anything to provide support ‒ the experience was too raw and outside of their limited experience; My father had nothing to give.
In a pattern that would be repeated in the future, I looking for somewhere else to find comfort, even as I moved forward with preparations to ask Heidi to marry me. That first spring, I saw a woman who was visiting the area from Toronto, and we hit things off, but her visit ended before things went further than a kiss.
The inability to seek comfort from Heidi led to a wall between us. The result was an increase in strife between us ‒ we fought more and more ‒ and the anger pushed us away from each other. We both tried to reach out to each other, and I proposed to her.
It was partly an effort to do right by her. It was also partly an attempt to heal the wounds between us. I had misgivings, but so do many men who ask a woman to marry them.
The wedding and honeymoon, in the spring of 2002, was one of the high points of our relationship, and, indeed, of my life. The moments were magical, and I will always cherish them ‒ tainted as they were by the continuing ill health that plagued my wife.
Then we found out that my wife was pregnant again. When we went to see a perinatologist, the specialist flatly told us we should terminate the pregnancy, that there was no chance of anything happening but another lost child. Abortion was not an option my wife was willing to consider, and she sought another opinion. My mind reeled under the image of another situation like the loss of Elisa. I turned back to the dating sites, posting an ad on an adult site, to try and find the comfort that would not be available at home, I irrationally thought. I met someone and had a liaison that was unsatisfying for both of us, to say the least. After that was when I heard from Dee again.
After we broke up in June 2000, Dee tried to stay in touch with me, and made it sound like she would have welcomed a second attempt at a relationship, on a lower-key plane. Of course, I was already dating Heidi, so I told her that I was dating someone else, but I did not tell her we could not be friends. Correspondingly, I’d get the occasional e-mail from her, touching base. After one of her e-mails, shaken by the news of the doomed pregnancy, I contacted her. We found that all of the magic that had existed before was still there, and the reasons for conflict seemed to have disappeared. We made plans to meet.
We met and had a couple of intense make-out sessions. During the second session, we barely resisted the overwhelming temptation to have sex. That night, my wife smelled Dee’s perfume on me and confronted me about it. We had a long battle/conversation that resulted in my decision to break off the impending affair. We then took a trip down the Oregon coast to try and re-connect.
During the fall of 2002, I spent most of a month in the hospital, and Heidi spent a month in the hospital for close monitoring of the pregnancy. While I was in surgery for a double volvulus, she went into false labor, and was hospitalized soon thereafter. The baby was still at risk, but each day in observation meant a day more of development for our child to have a better chance of life.
The stress of travel back-and-forth to Seattle every other day, coupled with my ongoing recovery from my surgery, was more than I could bear. I sought comfort from Dee, this time, only as a friend. I rationalized that conversing to her as a friend would be okay, and would provide me with the person I hungered to be able to share my load with. Thus it was that Dee was one of the first people I called after my son’s birth. This betrayal, when my wife found out, hurt even more than the sexual betrayal had ‒ because I had told Heidi I had severed all ties with Dee.
For the next year-plus, we struggled to keep our lives going, as we took care of our infant son, Nathan. There were countless ups and downs, and the wall between us grew ever thicker.
As Christmas 2003 rolled around, I made a decision for a number of reasons. One of the primary ones was to try and make a new start. I told my wife that we should move to North Dakota, to be closer to her family ‒ something she had wanted to do for most of the relationship. We moved in early spring 2004.
My wife’s health issues continued, though, culminating in a case of acute renal failure in February 2005. I felt massively isolated in North Dakota, with no friends around, and with a lack of people who shared the same interests I had. I had all of the stresses of being a father of a two-year-old to cope with as well ‒ and Nathan was proving that he was both intelligent and challenging.
Still feeling unable to ask for comfort from a woman whose health was only getting increasingly worse and whose focus was forced inwards due to the disease that was ruining her life, I started looking elsewhere, taking advantage of the staggered shifts we had (I worked overnights and my wife worked days) and renewing the ad I had had before on the adult dating site and updating the information therein.
That ad led to an affair in May ‒ which my wife discovered. The affair was called off after one meeting, and severe measures were taken to prevent me from being online while I was at home ‒ denying me the opportunity to cheat on her in that way.
We tried to patch things up, and then she got pregnant. The specialists said the same things as before, and we sought a specialist who specialized in high-risk pregnancies.
But the same problems exist that did before. I still found myself unable to seek comfort from the one person I should have been seeking comfort from…