I was lonely... and feeling like my relationship was doomed

What I learned on being a couple- walking through this season, part 1/4: Nelson went back to work as a bartender. 

No, no, I don’t think you understand me. 
Nelson, a bartender. 

He’s a manly, soft handed, bright green-eyed, deep sexy voice, tall, olive skinned, bearded bartender. The way he pours a glass of my favourite Pinot noir gets my panties in a bunch. The way he caresses his beard makes me want to rip his clothes off, and put my lips against his mouth. His deep voice and strong hands make me feel safe. When he looks at me, it makes my face flush with shyness, and my heart pounds because his green eyes staring at me makes my stomach flip because I’m scared he can see right into my soul; my secrets. My skin burns as though my body is on fire, I want his strong arms around me, his cool mouth on my body. 

A bartender at a classy trattoria in an upscale part of Toronto where women throw themselves at him. Fuuuuck.

I can see why. He’s gorgeous. This has been a difficult season for me to walk through, to accept that this is Nelson’s passion; his calling. I’m not there fully, it’s really really challenging, it’s painful. 

I came from a childhood where I never saw my Dad sober, and constantly sleeping with other women, even though he was married to my Mom.

I also needed to accept that Nelson works with coworkers he’s previously slept with, and has had relationships with. I know that most of the men he’s around are divorced, well on their way to it, or are hooker’s guys. 

Nelson and I are a very strong couple, but starting back to his old job, as a bartender really shook our foundation. Embarking on it, we were about to find out how strong we were, or weren’t...

I remember when I was moving in with Nelson, how painful it was to find old uniform shirts from his bar in a women’s small, lingerie, and handfuls of numbers from different women scattered around the room, under dressers and bookshelves. I had just had a baby, my breasts were leaking, I was wearing a diaper full of blood.. I was the heaviest I have ever been and I felt so inadequate, ugly, fat and exactly the opposite of what Nelson deserves. 

We worked through it, I never went to the restaurant/ bar for his friend’s birthdays because I felt like he was too embarrassed to take me- which deep down I know it was true.

“Sooo I was offered...”

And it hit me.

“If you’d like to go back to the bar, Nelson, I’ll support your decision. I don’t like it, and it’s really hard for me, and I’m struggling with it, but I will support you. I know this is you, and I truly want you to be happy.” I knew from the faces and reactions of people finding out he was going back, that this would be hard.. I just never realized how hard it would be. 

I don’t get to see him often, maybe for an hour before he starts his shift, and this week he has one day off that we will spend grocery shopping/ fitting in appointments.

It’s really hard to be at home, parenting three young children, looking like ass, and to know that he’s in a bar, being a charming bartender, with tons of women flirting with him. I’m struggling with jealousy, with envy. 

How much I miss that he used to flirt with me, call me beautiful, laugh... I’m not jealous of the women, but of the time they get with my man. We had a breakdown, where I didn’t think I could do this anymore, and it was really hard coming to that realization that this relationship wasn’t working anymore. I wasn’t happy, I was lonely, I mean.. heart wrenching, cry myself to sleep- trying to find connection in sad songs on Spotify, lonely.

Yet, there I was- denying my loneliness... I felt like it was wrong to be jealous, wrong to feel sad. 

For some reason we often feel shame around being lonely. As if feeling lonely means there’s something wrong with us. As humans, connection matters. Our built in brains biology is literally wired for connection. We are wired for belonging. The biological machinery of our brain warns us when our ability to thrive and prosper is threatened. Hunger is a warning about her blood sugar is low and we need to eat. Thirsty warns us that we need to drink to avoid dehydration. Pain is a warning for potential tissue damage. And loneliness tells us that we need social connection, something as crucial to our well-being as of food and water. Denying that I feel lonely makes no more sense then denying that I feel hungry. 

But there is so much stigma around loneliness! Loneliness is usually someone to be perceived a loner, weak, or we think it’s just sadness. When we feel isolated, disconnected, and lonely, we try to protect ourselves. When we are lonely we want to connect, but our brain is attempting to override connection with self protection. (Flight or fight response.) That means we are responding to our loneliness with less empathy and more defensiveness, more numbing, and less sleeping.

To combat loneliness, I first needed to learn how to identify it and then to have the courage to see that experience as a warning sign. A response to that warning sign, should be to find connection. That’s not what I did first though. My brain is wired for protection. When I feel loneliness my brain goes into protection mode. It uses fear, telling me all these kinds of different stories: “he’s going to find someone else, so I may as well just enjoy the time I have with him,” to “He deserves that life, I should leave and let him have it.” Of course these self narratives don’t do anything but make me feel more disconnected, so I tried something else..

I tried being vulnerable. 

EVEN with the fear of rejection playing in my subconscious, I opened up and told him the stories I was telling myself, and said “Nelson, this isn’t working, I can’t do this, and we need to fix this, because I’m lonely and I’m thinking about leaving.” We talked, and talked and he held me as I cried with pain.  He took a little time off and we decided to have a date, where we sit across from each other and talk. 

He said the most brilliant thing. “I’m not your Dad. I’m not the “younger me” you’ve heard about. I’m not your ex who abused you. I’m not the men in your life that left or hurt you in the past, Echo. I am Nelson, your man who loves you now.” 

My “aha” moment.

There I was, always keeping him at a distance, and distancing myself because of my own deeply rooted, well-earned fears. Realizing that I was lonely helped me open up, which eventually helped me realize that he was not the father who missed all my dance recitals, or the ex-boyfriend who told me I was ugly, or the men who left me. 

The trust and faith we have between us is stronger, because I know he loves me, sees his work as just a job and he’s doing what’s in the best interest for the little family we’ve created together...and that I’m putting more fear into this by overthinking, by telling myself stories that are not true, holding myself back, being cautious and pulling myself and out of love... leaving me feeling disconnected. 

Now that I’ve been through this experience, I can recognize the lonely feeling without judgement. 

I know what it feels like to need human connection and with that, I’m able to get it before I get disconnected. I can call and say: “Hey baby, I’m getting that lonely feeling...”

When he comes home, he knows he needs to love me. He hugs my soul and warms up my heart.

Echo FeatherstoneComment