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"II have shed more tears since Christmas than I have in 53 years of living. I have screamed into my pillow, punching it in desperation, curled into a fetal position wondering what is wrong with me. "

Another Kind of Pain
by Jack Rinella

This column has been a long time in planning, if that's what you can call a topic that weighs on a writer's mind for more than six months. It's not as if I haven't attempted to write these words before. In fact there are four columns on my hard drive that have yet to see the light of publication. Each of them is the result of my struggle to understand, to accept, or to resolve my hurt at the ending of my relationship with Michael.

If you scan the essays of the last five months you'll see hints of our struggle. On Christmas Eve I read a card from Michael's new boy friend that wished for many more Christmases together. I knew that this guy was more than a trick. I felt there was something going on and said so to my lover of six and a half years.

It's not as if I didn't know they were seeing each other. We did have, after all, an open relationship. I had long encouraged him to make new friends and to expand his social circle. I had met Steve and had even been to dinner at his home.

But something struck a chord deep within and in the ensuing months the heartbreak of a breakup clawed at me with greater acuity. By the end of January Michael admitted he and Steve were in love. Our discussion of the relationship became more and more difficult and more and more often I would take the train to his home for dinner only to return to Chicago that same night, feeling ever more lonely and rejected.

It was, and I'm sure still is, a mutual pain. I guess the only thing I can say is to do as I say, not as I did.

In looking back at our time as lovers, I see that we, or I, took much for granted. In the end our differences were starkly clear. To me, Michael was my husband. To him, I was his best friend.

He's told me he never wanted a lover and did, indeed, not like the word. To me it meant security and comfort, someone with whom I could grow old, a partner and an equal. He always treated me like a lover and so I assumed that he was.

I called him such often enough, both to his face and in print.

To list why we broke up would take a book. Simply put, in the end, he found greater comfort in the arms of another.

You know, I've written that it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Tonight, and for many nights in the past months, I've felt that may not be right. I have learned why so many of my friends prefer the single life rather than risk the divorce that comes from love gone awry. I've questioned my position on monogamy. I have spent endless hours asking myself "Why?"

I have shed more tears since Christmas than I have in 53 years of living. I have screamed into my pillow, punching it in desperation, curled into a fetal position wondering what is wrong with me.

I can't for the life of me figure out why I have reacted so strongly. Over and over again I feel like the kid in the school yard who is picked last, and reluctantly at that, to play on the softball team. I was that kid, of course, and knew that none of my classmates really wanted me to play ball with them. At my age such regression is scary to say the least.

I'm doing better these days, as the relationship has finally been put to rest: "I am really sorry about all of this and hope you can forgive me sometime in the future. I do still love you and always will, but I know that probably doesn't make you feel any better. If and when you want to talk, please feel free to call anytime. In the meantime, I won't bother you anymore. I think we both need some time to heal," Michael wrote last week.

This week went well until the third friend walked up to me at IML's leather market and asked how my family was doing. Each time I had to answer, the tears were harder to hold back. I finally had to retreat to the Red Line and go home. Some things just take time.

I don't understand, of course, why it hurts so much. My therapist thinks there's some un-remembered childhood trauma that needs to be resolved. I don't remember very much about my childhood and so I can't be very helpful. My dreams don't give any help either, though Michael was prominent in them last night.

For months that song "Breaking up is hard to do" has been echoing between my ears. I've lost weight from skipping meals, and have spent endless hours playing Free Cell and Mine Sweeper as I ponder what I did "wrong."

"What would Jack Rinella do," my best friends have asked, as I sought from them some clue to keeping Michael with me. In the end they finally began telling me the painful truth: "It's over Jack, get over it."

So that's why you're seeing me in the bars more often. I'm single again. Kinda anyway, as Patrick certainly hasn't gone anywhere and insists that he won't. He assures me that our master/slave relationship is fulfilling and exciting.

But cruising is only a diversion, something to get me out of the house. More often than not I just sit there, nurse a beer and go home alone. I don't want to jump out of one relationship into another.

There's hope, though, as I begin to think about what kind of man I'll fall in love with. I'm thinking he'll be a top. "Coming around full circle?" Master Lynn asks, wondering if I'm going to try slavery again. "No," I muse. I think I want a lover who'll enjoy my slaves with me, maybe even one who will bring guys home for us to share. A fellow master and sadist who shares my intensity, but who also knows that there's more to being human than a one-sided stereotype.

The irony of my breakup is that Michael found in his boy friend what I wanted to find in him: affection. Sometimes you know, even masters need to cuddle and kiss. The day that Michael admitted he had a hard time being affectionate with me I was devastated.

But it was too late. Long ago we had failed to agree on what our relationship really meant, to discern what each really wanted and needed, to find ways to say and show what was really within. As the years passed it was easy to take it all for granted, that nothing would ever come between us.

When someone did, it was too late.

Tonight I have no intention of there ever being a next time. I'm wrong, of course, because I'll get over this quicker than I think. The trick is to learn the lesson and make this an opportunity for growth, lest it happen again. I'll try and do that.

In the meantime if you ask me about my family, just remember that once the tears are wiped away, the memories will be as sweet as ever.

Copyright 2000 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact

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