Me: Hey there -- I saw you called. Don't know why I didn't hear my phone ring. What's up?
Her: Yeah...I called because I've been wanting to tell you, and Parker, too, that the things I am processing at this point in my life do not lend themselves to casual sharing. It's deep, difficult stuff. The way our relationships seem to be going these days...our conversations have become just news updates. And I am not interested in maintaining that kind of contact.
Me: [pause] Thanks for letting us know. Uh...there's not really anything I can say, is there? I mean, I guess I am not that surprised.
Her: If it seems later like you still have something you need to communicate, you can do that.
Me: Thanks. Well...I wish you the best.
Her: Thank you.
My relationship with Lilianna began in January of 2006, when my husband fell in love with her. It ended for the first time in December of 2008, when she wrote me and Parker an email saying that she didn't want any contact from either of us for "six months to a year." She contacted Parker two months later, saying she missed him, and was willing to resume a relationship with him if he would agree not to share anything that happened between the two of them with me. Although everything in me revolted at the idea of capitulating to this demand for secrecy -- because it flew in the face of everything I believed about the importance of transparency in open relationships -- I did not want to deny Parker the opportunity of reconnecting with her. He had been miserable without her. So, I agreed: she could have it her way. About a month later, she finally contacted me, and the two of us began the long process of repairing our relationship. We did a damn good job of it, too -- but I never fully trusted her again. In June of 2011, Parker and I moved with our children to a different state. Our intention was to maintain a long-distance relationship with Lilianna, and for a time, we did: we visited her; she visited us; we talked on the phone... a lot. This past January, Lilanna's father, who was elderly and had been declining for a long time, finally died. Afterward, she went into a phase of social hibernation, which we completely understood. We didn't hear from her for several months. Then one day, she called Parker, and said, basically, "You and I used to be on intimate terms -- we used to talk practically every day. What I want to know is whether you want to go back to being in frequent contact, or whether you would prefer to say goodbye for good. That's my question. And I want to ask Viny the same thing." Parker didn't like the two choices on offer: "Why can't we have occasional but emotionally meaningful interactions?" Apparently that was not an option. When Parker told me about this conversation, warning me that Lilianna was very likely going to ask me the same thing she had asked him -- to choose between "all in" or "over & out" -- I felt the same way he did: resentful. "Why is it always her way or the highway?" I wanted to know. (Rhetorical question.) I hoped she would drop the forced choice scenario, and we could figure out a level of contact that would work for all of us -- but I was also clear that, if I had to choose, I would choose to say goodbye. I avoided having the dreaded conversation by avoiding her calls, or by keeping things light when we did talk, and thus avoided having to make my choice known. I guess Lilianna listened to the silence and heard what I was saying, loud and clear. So, she brought down the axe. The End. Again. For good, this time.
I have spent the last 48 hours reading old emails and journal entries from the time of our first breakup. And here is what I have come to, for what it's worth:
1) Lilianna and Parker and I were in a bizarre love triangle from the very beginning: Parker put Lilianna first. Lilianna put me first. I put Parker first. For a while, the triangle held. The first break came when Lilianna and I had a major falling-out, and her relationship with Parker suffered collateral damage. This final goodbye has been a long time coming: over a period of years, as Parker has been getting less and less from his relationship with Lilianna, I have put in less and less effort with her.
2) Intimacy is a function of effort combined with openness. Sustained intimacy between two people requires an ongoing commitment to both, from both. And there cannot be any contingencies. I put in a ton of effort in my relationship with Lilianna. I gave her far more than I wanted to give, in fact: years of my life, literally. But I was never quite honest with her about the fact that my extra effort -- my going above and beyond what felt right to me -- was for Parker's benefit. My investment in her was thus contingent on her continuing to maintain a relationship with Parker. This is not to say that I didn't love her for herself. I did. But not enough to want to sustain a relationship with her on my own behalf, given the amount of effort she required.
3) I do not regret the past. I am grateful for my relationship with Lilianna, and for Parker's relationship with her. We had amazing adventures, and we learned a lot together. However, I have no desire for a future with Lilianna. It seems only right that she would feel the same way about me.