First, let's put a face with the name (I like putting faces with names) (yes, the human on the left):
Background: Marianne was my first real girlfriend from around 1986-1988. With the exception of two other very short-lived romantic relationships, it was the last as well. We met through the personal ads in a local newspaper (which seems kind of hokey these days, but it was actually a pretty bold move back then). I actually was sick of seeing really stupid personal ads, and basically felt I could do better. I did, apparently. Marianne's mother actually saw the ad and brought it to her attention. A discussion about music late one night (The DeFranco Family's "Heartbeat, It's A Lovebeat" was part of that) and a couple of movies/"dates" later and the rest was two years or so of history.
So what in heck happened, and why has this set the groundwork for an almost 20 year romantic void?
I usually tell people that the break-up was because we both wanted the other to be someone we weren't. I wanted to get married. I wanted to put a little distance between us and our extended families and childhood lives so we could start making decisions for ourselves and being adults. I had gained a good deal of experience in the computer field, and Long Island didn't seem to offer a good tech career track. Marianne didn't want to get married (in her words, she wanted to get involved in international business, jet-set around the world, and men would have to cater to her demands rather than the other way around), and her closest friends were her extended family which she had no desire to leave. A lot of our schedule was centered around traditions her family had established and we were both expected to follow. I wasn't real crazy about some of the traditions and relatives, and that strained things. We both spent the first part of our relationship (when you're all goo-goo eyes for each other anyway) adapting to the other's way of life trying to make things work. When reality set-in, the break-up was inevitable, but when you've become so deeply involved with another person, that isn't an easy thing.
It's that deeply involved part that created the baggage. I'm not necessarily a private person, but there are certain things I keep close to myself and don't generally share. I broke my usual convention with Marianne and awkwardly shared feelings (in addition to the obvious ones) with her that I hadn't with anyone else. Toward the end of the relationship, I also got into a deep funk because I felt trapped in my job and my relationship goals were going unfulfilled. While she listened to what I said, she really didn't communicate with me about them. Worse still, I tried to get past the "international businesswoman" wall she put up around herself and get her to share some of her feelings and came-up empty. I felt betrayed and the lack of communication led to a sense of mistrust ("if you're not willing to communicate with me, then what are you hiding?").
Then her father said something to me one day in the heat of an argument that cemented the ill feelings - "You always have to have things your way." My self-esteem and confidence were already low, and I was already confused about whether I was expecting too much out of the relationship or life in general, and my goals were already getting kind of messed up. This comment together with the reactions I got from Marianne when I tried to discuss our relationship and in trying to understand her left me not knowing what I did right or wrong (or what appropriate expectations are) in the relationship and a lack of confidence to try again. The two later short-lived relationships, while not the same as this, basically removed any remaining confidence.
I still blame myself deep down for this whole thing getting messed up. More than a few people have tried to convince me otherwise. I know they're right and sometimes I actually believe them, but I feel my track record speaks for itself. I don't really know what ultimately happened to Marianne - I kind of stopped writing to her when she refused to give any kind of congratulations on some work-related accomplishments that meant a lot to me. I wanted to remain friends, but I had real friends and those real friends know that my work means a lot to me (even if they have no idea what I'm doing) and give me the "attaboy" that you sometimes really need when things otherwise seem to be going like shit.
To be at least a little fair, here are a few highlights of things we did that were really kind of cool:
- The bowling league (we did rather well, actually)...the name of our team was "mixed nuts"
- If it weren't for the constant encouragement we gave each other to finish college, we probably wouldn't have, and it would have been a horrible mistake.
- Road trip to Boston ... and getting caught in a snowstorm
- Her feelings about not wanting children (one of the few feelings she shared) was what made me realize I felt the same and what ultimately landed me in NO KIDDING!