The men in my life part 2: Greg

Peggy (in photo) and I met Greg in 1987 through a national group marriage organization that was headquartered here in Eugene. He considered me morose and Peggy bitchy, and we were indifferent to him, but since we were all interested in hiking and camping, we started spending time together. Coming as we did from flatland Mississippi, Peggy and I knew nothing about travel in mountainous wilderness areas, and he knew a lot, so he became our unofficial leader and supplier. If one of us needed an extra coat, Greg would pull one out of his pack, and if we became lost, we knew we could rely on him to get us home. He liked taking care of us, and we liked being taken care of.

Greg was charismatic, and most of his friends—other than Peggy and I—were younger than himself and treated him with deference. We liked having a charismatic friend, and we also liked having a friend who made us think he could do anything, anything at all. We felt safe with him while mountain climbing, backcountry skiing, and other activities that we wouldn’t have done on our own. Then Greg got interested in beekeeping, and I like bees, so we became still closer. At one point, I even worked under him when he was shop foreman at British Automotive.

Whereas Peggy and I tried to keep our lives orderly and predictable, Greg was wild and spontaneous. His house was a mess; his Land Rover had moss growing inside the cab; his cat ate from the kitchen table with everyone else; and his yard was junky and overgrown. He was also unlike us in that his generosity was boundless. For example, a year after we met him, Peggy and I moved to Minneapolis to be a part of a group marriage. When the marriage fell apart two years later, Peggy came back to Oregon alone leaving me to move our stuff, and it was a lot of stuff. When I phoned Greg on the day of the move and told him that the friend who was supposed to help me load the truck and drive it to Oregon had backed out of doing either, Greg said he would fly to Minneapolis that afternoon. I reminded him that a last minute plane ticket would cost a hell of a lot of money, and I didn’t want to pay for it. He said he didn’t intend for me to pay for it (I still had to turn him down because it didn’t seem right to accept a gift that exceeded my own generosity).

Over the next ten or twelve years, there were two occasions when Greg and I had arguments and didn’t speak for a couple of years. During these times, he didn’t see Peggy either because he said that a friendship with just one of us wouldn’t work. What he did do when we were apart was to trash me to other people. When I confronted him about this, he sometimes denied it, and other times said that he did it in order to encourage my friends (the ones he was trashing me to) to come to me and work out our issues (issues that wouldn’t have existed had Greg kept his mouth shut).

During the mid-nineties, Greg and Peggy became lovers, and we all discussed him moving in with us as an equal partner. Unfortunately, he was different from Peggy and me in two ways that stopped us cold. One was that if being a total slob regarding your house and yard is a zero, and being a total neat freak is a hundred, then Greg was a 15 and Peggy and I were 85's. The second problem was that Greg spent money as fast as he got it while Peggy and I squirreled it away. His fun-loving spontaneity was great in a friendship, but we couldn’t imagine happily sharing finances in an intimate relationship. Greg assured us that he would change his housekeeping habits, and that our financial differences could be worked out through written agreements.

When we were unmoved, Greg proposed to Peggy that she live at his house part of the time and here part of the time. This suited her and me, and the arrangement continued for a few years until she got tired of living in two places. The next day, Greg dropped off everything the two of them had shared (their "living Christmas tree" is now 20’ tall). Then he didn’t talk to us for a year.

In the late ‘90s, Greg went back to school and got a masters in counseling psychology, but he didn’t work long as a counselor because he needed more money than he could make while he built his practice. Specifically, he had married a welfare mom with two children, and the three of them looked to him for support.

Greg, Peggy, and I were by now reconciled, but we were never close again because he had to work long hours and because his wife disliked Peggy and me—and vice versa. As with all Greg’s women other than Peggy, I suspected that this one suffered from a personality disorder. The final blow to any real intimacy between Greg and me came on the day he said he wouldn’t be reading my blog anymore because he found writing (including personal letters) less interesting than talking on the phone, and he didn’t think much of that. This was a reversal of what he had been telling me for twenty years, and I was speechless.

Then I developed health problems, and had ten surgeries in ten years. Greg was there for me until surgery number eight, which was by far the worst. Peggy was away, and I was in pain, heavily drugged, prone to falling, and only had the use of one arm. Despite two requests for help, Greg never came over. Surgery number nine was even worse because not only was it winter and Peggy was gone again, but one of our dogs—Bonnie—became ill on Christmas Day and nearly died. To keep her alive, I had to find someone to give her steroids and other drugs every twelve hours. I would have found it humiliating to ask Greg, and he never called or visited.

Greg dropped by one night a few months later, and I jumped all over him for having abandoned me after my surgeries. I was such pain the night he was here that I couldn’t sit up straight, and I was so mad that I could scarcely talk. Greg listened for what seemed but a short while before he asked if he could hug me (I said yes), and then he walked out the door. That was two years ago, and I haven’t seen him since.

I knew that Greg and I weren’t going to work this one out, so I had to decide whether to let him go, or whether to put my hurt feelings behind me and try to regain his friendship. I decided I wanted him back, so I emailed him briefly every few months to ask how he was doing. He wrote back occasionally, and two months ago, he asked if he might visit the next week. I said he would be welcome, but he didn’t come. He later emailed an apology and asked if I still wanted him to visit. I replied that of course I did. I haven’t heard from him since.

I can hardly blame Greg for all our problems because my moodiness, my tendency to take things personally, my passive-aggressiveness, and my tendency to go overboard in the other direction and speak too harshly have certainly been hard for him. Greg has told me that I’m the most difficult person he has ever tried to be close to.

If Greg and I had settled for being less intimate, perhaps we would still be friends, but we weren’t willing to do that. I think it's also true that being close friends is harder for men than for women. At least, Peggy and her women friends make friendship look easy as they go year in and year out without a cross word. I’ve never been able to come close to that, at least not with the few people with whom I’ve really tried to share intimacy.

28 comments:

Mad Mind said...

Friendship, marriage, and family are the hardest things to maintain. It requires such a degree of commitment that it's hard to keep that up. The only ones that last are the ones whose personalities are more in tune and all parties want to make it work.

That corgi :) said...

I'm not sure what to say, we have never stayed in an area long enough to have friends that have a history with us over many years and then to have them no longer be friends or want to be friends, I haven't had to deal with that. Usually we move, we say we will stay in touch and then we never do. We make new friends, we move, repeat cycle etc. But it is sad if you did have a connection with Greg for a long time and he sort of abandoned it, then I can see that you would perhaps be mourning what once was.

On that note, I hope you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving!

(didn't realize you lived in Eugene; lived in Medford many years ago; beautiful state!)

betty

The Elephant's Child said...

I would never have thought of you as predictable in any way. So I guess I have learned something new, and I thank you for that. It sounds to me that you have bent over backwards to keep him in your life, and would still welcome him.
And I can understand him finding you difficult, but I would think that the rewards outweigh the difficulties. I do hope he makes up his mind to that as well.

Sightings said...

Just stumbled onto your blog from Aging Gratefully. I've never had a relationship with a man like you've had with Greg ... I think several of the episodes would have just ended it for me.

I went on to peruse some of your postings -- interesting life you lead; very different from mine. Hope you don't mind if I stop around every once in a while to check and see what's going on. Meantime, happy T'giving, and I hope you're feeling well.

rhymeswithplague said...

I appreciate your honesty, Snow. That is about all I appreciate about this post, though. You and I are so very different and have completely different lifestyles and beliefs. We became friends through our writing and I think the only way it could ever have happened is at a distance of 2,000 miles. Which is to say, I suppose, superficially.

Keep on writing, though, because your writing is fascinating, and I will certainly keep on reading. I am not upset with you (you have to be you, after all). My mind is just boggled at the moment at the latest revelations. (You don't suppose I am a prude, do you? Don't answer that.)

I suppose what I get mostly from this post is "Welcome to the world of atheism!!" It is an interesting place to visit occasionally, but I could never live there. No rules. Or at least a very different set of rules. Maybe by "rules" I mean "morals"....I hope this doesn't come across as judgmental; I'm really not intending to sound that way.

PhilipH said...

Fascinating tale. Opposites attract. Sometimes. Nothing lasts forever.

A dear blogging friend has just died, Vicki (Nolly Posh Dreaming). I felt so sad when I read of her death earlier today and I quietly wept.

Friendships, real or otherwise, hit hard when they end.

Robin said...

Dear Snow.....I will return to comment on this post soon....but I wanted to let you know that our dear friend Vicki died yesterday. I hate to be the one to tell you ....but still, as someone who cares about you, I know you would want to know this.

Sending you, Peggy and the Furry ones many hugs and love,

♥ Robin ♥

Marion said...

I'm amazed that you're a neat freak, Snow. I'm a slob, but my husband is pretty neat so it balances out most of the time.

I had a best friend for over 25 years who, when I was unable to attend her out-of-state 60th birthday party due to my bad back, just dumped me like yesterday's garbage. Poof!---she was gone just like she'd died and never existed. I still miss her and mourn losing her friendship. I could understand if we'd had some sort of major disagreement, but over a birthday party? Sheesh!!! So I sort of understand how you must feel...bereft...It's like a death, to lose a good friend.

I hope you have a peaceful, pain-free Thanksgiving. I'm grateful to have you as a friend. xo

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Having lost a 22 year friendship in the past year and dealing with the severe damage that has altered a 10 year friendship has been difficult.

It makes me wonder why I attract so many people that expect things from me and yet cut me out of their lives the first time I'm unavailable to their beck and call...

I hope you and Greg work it out. But how do you avoid walking on eggshells after so many ups and downs??

Snowbrush said...

Rhymes said: "I suppose what I get mostly from this post is "Welcome to the world of atheism!!""

I had never considered the possibility that more atheists than theists might be polyamorists (adulterers, as some might say), and I rather doubt that they are. I've never even been in a group in which the issue was discussed, yet I've spent a lot of time both with atheists and with polyamorists. Rhymes, if this post shocks you, I can scarcely imagine how you might react to some I could write. Peggy has a postcard on the refrigerator door that reads: "Incredible as it seems, my life is based upon a true story." That sentiment certainly applied to both of us at one time, but now we're pretty staid, mostly due to a lack of interest in the sorts of things that we used to pursue. I don't know about you, but I find that growing older makes me feel less inclined to go to a great deal of trouble to get from A to B. I had simply rather stay at A unless things are really bad there.

Creekhiker asked: "But how do you avoid walking on eggshells after so many ups and downs??"

I'm not experiencing feeling that way because: (1) I've become stronger within myself over the many years that I've been trying to get along with people; (2) I now recognize how weak Greg really is in some ways (this keeps me from expecting more of him than he has to give, and then blaming him when he doesn't give it), and (2) I'm willing to let him go at any moment. I don't want him to go, yet I fully accept my complete lack of control over his choices. I can't tell you how much hell I've been through when close relationships ended simply because I was emotionally incapable of accepting the other person's choice to go away (or to at least alter the nature of the relationship). Now, I am capable of sitting peacefully and waving goodbye to anyone in life with the possible exception of Peggy, whose absence would be unimaginable. Yet, even with her, I think I could pull it off, having seen where the other road can lead. There is no greater wisdom than in recognizing the importance of letting go gracefully. The very fact that I don't feel needy toward Greg is what makes it possible for me to give him all the time in the world to do whatever it is that he wants to do.

rhymeswithplague said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zuzana said...

Very interesting post. Despite the fact that I must be so very different from you in so many ways, I find your writing refreshing and intriguing as it gives me a peek into a life I can not even imagine, on so many levels.
So what is a group marriage (I mean how many are married at the same time;) and do they work?
And how could you stand sharing Peggy with another man... I do not get that at all, although I greatly admire it, as this must be truly unconditional love. I guess I am so conservative in this, I can not imagine the man I love sleeping with another woman. I guess intimacy is to me reserved for one partner only, at least for one partner at any given time.;))
Still, I agree with you on the neatness, I am neat too.;)
Sorry about the friendship that eventually did not work out. But I think it is because people change, or sometimes they rather do not change at all.
Have a great Thanksgiving.;))
xoxo

rhymeswithplague said...

If atheists observe Thanksgiving, a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and Peggy. If they don't (doing my best Gilda Radner as Emily Latella impression), never mind.

Ranch Chimp said...

Happy Thanxgiving SB

Snowbrush said...

"So what is a group marriage (I mean how many are married at the same time;) and do they work?"

There are no rules, so groups can be big or small (I'm familiar with from three to fifty), heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, etc. Some group marriages have lasted for decades, but the experiment has been but little tried in modern America, and it has much going against it in a country that considers serial monogamy to be perfectly acceptable but anything else as deviant. I don't know of any actual studies, and I'm no longer involved in any kind of pluralistic communities.

"And how could you stand sharing Peggy with another man..."

I never had a problem with this. When I've been jealous, it was over the amount of time I was getting with her versus the fact that she was having sex with someone else.

"this must be truly unconditional love."

Oh, no, nothing that rarefied. It's simply that the thought of my wife having sex with someone else never pushed my buttons. Other things do though, and I don't know that unconditional love is even possible. I mean, take Peggy and me. We have been together for 40 years, and I love her a great deal and my trust in her is complete. So, would I still love her if I learned that she enjoyed torturing small animals? Not nearly as much as I now, I can assure you.

patsy said...

Every post I read by you always makes me wonder but this time I am left with my mouth open. My gosh you take the cake!

Punk Chopsticks said...

Oh gosh this sounds like my friendship with a girl named abby, it's a long story so I'll leave it at that. still, kudos for having made it so long. I'll quote Elizabeth Gilbert on this one

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.

A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master...”

Beau's Mom said...

I don't know how to open my subject, so I'll just jump in.

Peggy was able to live with this man with whom you couldn't keep a steady relationship.

I would really LOVE to hear what Peggy found so tolerable (loving?) about him since he and you seem to be at opposite ends where personalities are concerned.

Snowbrush said...

Patsy said: "My gosh you take the cake!"

Now, would that be a BIG cake or just a small one? Ha. I loved your comment, Patsy. Nothing like shocking the shit out of my readers. Actually, I recall hearing the same words you used from my mother. The two of you would have probably gotten along famously.

Punk said: "A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master...”

The rest might be true enough, but I don't know about the spiritual master part, and I don't believe in soulmates. I just believe that the world contains thousands of people with whom we might be married more or less happily. I got Peggy because I was lucky. Not many couples would still be together after all we've been through.

Mom asked: "I would really LOVE to hear what Peggy found so tolerable (loving?) about him"

We both cared a great deal about him, so please don't get the image of Peggy being close to someone whom I resented having around. Our friendship with Greg was largely based upon our differences with him. He was a Winnie the Pooh fan, and he saw our differences personified in the characters. He designated himself Tigger, Peggy was Rabbit, and I was Eeyore. You'll remember that all of these characters had some severe problems. Our differences with Greg also made it hard for us to have a mellow kind of a relationship. There was simply a level of rapport that was lacking, as if Peggy and I spoke a different language. Because Greg was a Tigger, he was forever ready to charge ahead, and this too was a problem for us because we lacked his confidence that our differences could be worked out.

Just_because_today said...

Friendships are the most difficult relationships to maintain. That is why nobody has an abundance of them.

I dont understand the kind of closeness without contact; if a friend is too busy to drop me a note or a call, they are too busy to be my close friends. I have tons of annual friends, those I see or speak to once a year at best, but would never call them close.
Never heard of a group marriage...several couples married to everyone in the group?
Regardless of the reasons why the relationship with Gregdidn't survive, it is painful. I find losing a close friend one of the most difficult things to go through. It can be devastating.

Snowbrush said...

"Never heard of a group marriage...several couples married to everyone in the group?"

It's what people want it to be. I guess the starting point would be three or more people with a marriage-like commitment, but not necessarily to include sex among all members. For instance, I'm heterosexual, so sex between another man and me wouldn't work.

Vagabonde said...

Yours is certainly a different blog than the rest – you are very open. I don’t think I could ever talk like this on my blog – on any very personal topic. I also enjoy reading all the comments. I have had good friends but never real close friends – it must be nice but at the same time it brings pain – as you relate.

Snowbrush said...

" I don’t think I could ever talk like this on my blog – on any very personal topic..."

What it is that you envision happening if you were open? The worst I can imagine--in my own case--is that someone might not like me anymore, and I can live with that if need be, although it's the reverse of what I want.

kj said...

"I can't tell you how much hell I've been through when close relationships ended simply because I was emotionally incapable of accepting the other person's choice to go away (or to at least alter the nature of the relationship)."

i may never learn this, snow. i can't figure how someone who loved me leaves. it's my greatest weakness, i really think it is

to me, this reads like the anatomy of a hippie generation. the 60's. free love. greg the hot guy.

as is often the case, i enjoy your comments as much as your essay. your readers crack me up: you so easily shock (me too!) and yet we are loyal to you. (so it shall be)

it sounds like greg will be back, at least for a time, one of these days. good that you have no need to complicate matters.

with love
kj

All Consuming said...

"I can hardly blame Greg for all our problems because my moodiness, my tendency to take things personally, my passive-aggressiveness, and my tendency to go overboard in the other direction and speak too harshly have certainly been hard for him. Greg has told me that I’m the most difficult person he has ever tried to be close to." - That's as maybe, I still want to bitch slap the guy after reading about him.

Wine in Thyme said...

I agree with All Consuming. You could have given Greg the alias "Dick".
And I'm neither shocked nor surprised that you and Peggy have an unusual (by today's standards) relationship. I am surprised that either of you would have lasted so long in a relationship with Dick, I mean Greg.

ellen abbott said...

I'm sort of catching up here. I've let go of several long term friendships and one short term in my life. I let go when I realized that if it weren't for me making all the effort at contact, I would never hear from that person again. and I was right. I don't mind making the efforts but I want them to reciprocate once in a while. So I wonder, were we really friends?

During my first marriage, we considered we had an 'open' marriage in that we could have sex outside out relationship. what I discovered was that it was only he who could have sex outside the relationship. when I did it it always caused a major fight. I only put up with that a short while since I don't do double standards.

The Bipolar Diva said...

half way.