The Other Man Was My Tears: On Crying in Secret

a glass walled tiled shower with a white stability bar
Image by osseous / CC BY

Crying in the Shower

I slump against the shower wall, fumbling for the spout.

As soon as the hot water hits me, water springs from my own eyes. It’s like a rainstorm in the desert. My lungs open like desert blooms, and I sob with my full might.

I hear footsteps in an adjacent room. I turn off the water. Suck in my breath. Waiting. Holding in the next sob.

But other signs of life soon emerge. A TV blares. I can hear him typing furiously away at his keyboard.

Satisfied, I turn the water back on and cry until I’m exhausted.

Learning to Hide My Tears

I feel bad hiding anything from him, so I tell myself that I’m being “discreet” by crying in secret.

Because the other times that I’ve fallen apart in front of him have gone terribly.

He always panics, doesn’t know what to do.┬áMy pain causes him pain, he tells me. Especially when it’s nothing he can do anything about.

“I don’t expect you to do anything about it,” I tell him. “I just need to cry.”

“That’s a selfish way of looking at it,” he says.

It doesn’t feel selfish. It feels like survival. But I have a feeling he won’t understand. And he’s generally suspicious of too much explanation.

“It’s not anything you’ve done,” I say instead. I try to explain that it’s people in my past who’ve hurt me. And now that he’s made me feel safe enough, the old pain is catching up to me. A backlog of sorrow, anger, despair. Like a pile of emotional bills I haven’t paid for years.

“Well, I’m not them,” he says, resolutely. As though I don’t know that already. And as though knowing that will take away the feelings. Or cause me to make progress any more quickly.

“I know,” I say, stroking his arm.

He tells me that if I don’t get my shit together he’s going to have to break up with me. That watching me cry is too painful. And that he deserves a relationship where he’s not in constant pain.

I sigh, nod. In a perverse turn of events, the fear of losing him makes me feel like I’m going to cry again. So I excuse myself to go to the bathroom. I run the water and cry as quietly as I can.

Afterwards, I dab my swollen under-eyes with a moist hand towel and stare at my face in the mirror. I fix my face the best I can.

When I rejoin him, he doesn’t notice that I’ve been crying — or at least doesn’t let on.

The One Who Let Me Cry

We are monogamous for 8 years. After the first 4, we marry. Four years into the marriage, we find out that close friends of ours are polyamorous. And along with many others in our friends circle, we take the leap ourselves, opening up our relationship.

One day I’m with a new partner talking about completely different things when a profound sadness overwhelms me. And this time, I don’t catch myself before the tears come.

“Oh my God,” I say. “I’m sorry. The last thing you probably want is for me to cry in front of you.”

And yet, this new partner doesn’t scowl. Or tell me to stop. Instead, he smiles and says, “No, not at all. Of course I don’t mind.”

I’m so stunned that I don’t know what to say.

“New Relationship Rule,” he continues. “Either of us can cry at any time for any reason.”

And at that moment, something long dead begins to stir, to come to life.

*

My book is out!

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory

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