Dear Bitter Butch,
I recently ended a rather long relationship with a rather heavy dose of Paxil. I tapered off from 40mg a day over a month down to nothing, and have been off it totally for about two weeks. I expected (and got) dump trucks of emotions backed up to my yard, and I’m still sorting through them. This is not easy, but with the support of my shrink and my friends, I feel like I’m doing ok, mostly.
So what’s the problem? I’m begining to question the viability of one of my major relationships (I’m poly/bisexual) and I can’t tell where the questions are coming from and whether I should pay attention.
First off, I’ve been seeing this guy for coming up on seven years. He’s in the closet about being poly, I’m not. He’s damn close to my perfect sexual being. He and his wife treat me like family, and I’m close with their young children.
And …? Well. He is and always has been a man of high standards, in that he tends to judge those who don’t meet them. I’m finding myself uncomfortable with some of the jokes he makes, and while my reactions are lukewarm at best, he still makes them. He also has quite a temper and is not by nature introspective. Things that go wrong are rarely his fault in his mind, so when challenged, he bites back hard. In my current emotional state, calling him on any of this seems terrifying. There’s more, but so much of it seems like petty details when I examine them.
And of course, I still love him and his family. I don’t want to end a relationship I care so much about because I’m dealing with SSRI cessation syndrome, and a whole other host of stressors. I really picked the wrong month to go off Paxil, but now that I’m here I’m reluctant to backtrack.
I think, in general, making major life decisions when you are withdrawing from a med is a bad idea. I think you’re right to at least wait on this impulse.
I do not think, however, that questions you are having come from med withdrawal. I think questions you are having about your relationships, your job, your financial situation, your location, etc. should ALWAYS be worthy of your attention. Rash decisions might be a result of meds withdrawal. Intense emotions might be a result of a med withdrawal. But questions about the viability of a relationship? No. They are legit to pay attention to.
Even if you don’t agree with me on that, I’ll tell you that I am not withdrawing from Paxil at the moment (in my case it would be Lexapro, but I digress), and your description of him made me ask some pointed questions, and set off some . . . if not alarms, very very Spock-esque raised eyebrows.
For instance: a “man of high standards.” Why is it that people with high standards seem to apply them to everyone but themselves? I mean if I had high standards, one I might hold for myself is to not be a judgmental shit. Or to not make jokes that clearly make my partners uncomfortable. Or to take responsibility for my actions and inactions, and to work on my faults (like a bad temper). I mean, if I was going to hold myself to high standards.
It sounds like you and your therapist are working hard on healing and on getting healthier mentally (congrats on weaning yourself off the Paxil, BTW — I hope to do the same someday with my Lexapro when I am feeling stronger), and often when we get healthier, the relationships we formed when we were thinking in less healthy ways begin to look . . . worse.
And even though I put great stock in sex (near-perfect human sexually is a big deal and I don’t mean to minimize that), here’s what I think: a judgmental man who cannot admit any fault, won’t engage in introspection, and who ‘bites’ when challenged sounds like someone that an increasingly healthy person will probably walk away from, in the end. No one needs to be in a hurry, but I think that’s what you’re going to do and what you SHOULD do.
(That said, if the Paxil withdrawal gives you the anger, strength, and lack of impulse control to do what needs to be done in the moment, you might want to use it, you know?)
This is always more complex when you have become part of the family. It will be hard. Maybe his wife and children can still be a part of your life in some way. I hope so.
But as you continue to get healthier, some of the less healthy people in your life (and the man you describe is not only not emotionally healthy, but also shows no signs of being willing to become that way) are going to get less and less palatable for you. You are going to get tired of walking on eggshells, and you’re going to crush those fuckers to a powder.
You are already strong, sister, so I won’t tell you to BE strong. I think you know what you need to do and that you will eventually do it. I wish you luck, I encourage you to take your time, and I feel hopeful that other beings will be close to perfect sexually with you down the road.
BITTER BUTCH aka Haddayr Copley-Woods is a queer, a cripple, a nerd, a mom to two kids with neurological differences, and has a truckload of opinions on everything including sex and relationships, parenting, disability issues, family relationships, work dynamics, gender/sexuality issues, and etiquette. You can reach her with all your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
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