Elle and I are moving in together in two months.
This is a HUGE step, both for me, and for our relationship. When I left my marriage, my life before, one of the things that was most important to me, as clichéd as it may sound, was finally having a room of my own. I craved, NEEDED, a space that was just mine, where I didn't have to answer to anyone, could be who I wanted, do what I wanted, without feeling the ever-present, strong pull I've felt my whole life to govern my actions based on the needs and opinions and expectations of everyone around me.
I needed to be alone.
And that "alone" time, these past few years, has changed me. For the better. I've started to be much more honest with myself about what I like and don't like, how I want to live and how I don't, what's okay in my daily life and what's not. I don't think I would have been able to really figure any of that out if I hadn't, finally, had my own space. I know what I like to do on a weekend night, I know how many dishes I can stand to pile up in the sink before I lose it (which is every dish I own, if you’re curious), I know that I can't STAND paper everywhere, but am also at a loss for what to do with it and can't really throw any of it away. I know that I like binge watching ABC Family sitcoms by myself. I know that I don't like too much noise after 10 pm, and that I like quiet mornings with the occasional morning radio show thrown in. I know that I can keep a fairly tidy house even if I'm the only one who'll see it. I know that I don't really like having people in my space, that my home feels like my refuge from the noisy, loud, demanding world. I know that dog hair drives me crazy, and that I hate vacuuming with a fiery passion. I now know that I need quiet hours to think about the future, and plan, and write things out. I know that I actually really enjoy spending time alone, with my thoughts, and that that's okay.
Elle and I have been together for more than 2 years. She began talking about living together at least a year ago, maybe earlier, and I just--I couldn't do it. I knew I wasn't ready, and it really had very little to do with her. Some of it did have to do with her, sure--we have very different thresholds for what kinds of messes we can tolerate, and the ways that she's messy irritate me and the ways that she's neat I don't even care about, and vice versa. So there were (are) concerns there, of course. But the real issue was that I wasn't ready to share my space again yet. I felt that I still didn't know myself enough yet, wasn't fortified enough yet to know who I am enough to be able to stay that person in the face of another's energy and constant influence, to stay that person in the face of my own extremely powerful urge to placate others and repress my own needs (thanks, childhood!). I needed to make sure I could stay me once I lived with her.
I was scared I would lose myself again. This fear has almost nothing to do with Elle. It is my fear, the result of my past, my trauma, my marriage.
One of the main reasons I left my relationship with my ex-husband was because I had lost myself. The person that I am had shriveled up and gone hiding deep inside. It had felt like my only means of survival.
Over the course of 10 years, my husband broke me down. The invalidation, the lack of friendship, the lack of respect, the raging narcissism-they all resulted in me giving up the fight. It was easier to just retreat. After so much work, so much energy, so much crying and begging and trying to be seen and heard, I just stopped. I was gone. And that is really why I left him. Sure, I wanted to sleep with women, too, but I had to leave regardless. He was breaking me and didn't even realize it, though I had tried so hard to tell him. He was breaking me, and claiming he loved me, but clearly not enough to try to see how he was closing me down and causing me pain.
And that was my last experience of living with someone. In my mind the sharing of space opens the door to being obliterated. Living together opens you up to the vulnerability of letting someone in enough that they can destroy you without you, or them, even realizing it's happening until it's too late.
It terrifies me.
And so I've lived alone for three years. I've built myself back up. I know who I am again. I know how I deserve to be treated, and how I will never tolerate being treated again. And about 6 months ago I started to really feel, for the first time in so long, safe enough to be in that vulnerable place of sharing my home. I felt ready. I'm back.
And scared. But excited, too. I love Elle. I know that she is not my ex-husband, and I am not the person I was back then. We have a solid, honest, loving, fun, good relationship and I believe that I can trust her to at least try to treat me gently. That's all I can ask for. And this time I know that I will ask, and won't forget that that's what I deserve.