Jul 19, 2010

Communication? What?

I read my last post, and decided that if they exist, The New Rules of dating can bite me. Sure, there is that brief window of optimism when you meet someone new and really enjoy spending time with him. Due to my finely-tuned radar, however, I am now able to see red flags the minute they appear. No matter how charming Mr. Wonderful is on the first few dates, I pay attention to those red flags as they pile up. Because of that, I'm more likely to pull my head out of my ass and realize, "Huh. This guy's kind of a tool." This is a good thing; in the past, I've ignored all the signs pointing me in that direction until I was in way too deep, and one or both of us ended up getting hurt. Waste. Of. Time.

The words that really jumped out at me from that last post were, "I'm not up for a real relationship." What? Really? Yes, really, and not because of any wounds from past relationships. The time and emotional energy involved in maintaining a serious relationship are not luxuries I can afford right now. I've set up this sort of... unusual life that I'm leading so that I can focus on Grace and writing without constantly having to worry about money. These living arrangements are temporary. So why complicate things with a distraction I can deliberately choose to avoid? I didn't anticipate, however, that even casual dating would bring out the same jealousy, insecurity and uncertainty of a longer-term relationship, minus the shared history, friendship and real connection that almost make the unpleasantness worth it.

There seems to be a pervasive belief that, like a shark, if a relationship stops moving forward, it will die. I know I've fallen prey to this misconception in the past. As I said in a previous post, I believe more women than men focus on where a relationship is going, and maybe even tend to rush things. Most men seem to prefer not to think about it; maybe they want to simply enjoy what they have without worrying about the future, or maybe men believe that ALL CHANGE IS BAD. Could there be a middle ground?

My last relationship ended (prior to my foray into casual dating) because of what appeared to be a widening chasm in our expectations for The Future. He assumed I wanted a more serious relationship, whereas he did not. My knee-jerk reaction to this resistance was predictable: I felt rejected, hurt and a little (!) angry. We talked about it, but that's where the communication breakdown began. Neither one of us actually heard what the other was saying. BIG part of communication: listening. My weak protests of not wanting anything more may have seemed disingenuous, because I never thought about our future; it was too difficult to imagine incorporating him into my life, and Grace's. I hadn't yet decided what I wanted or didn't want.

Now I have. So, long story long, we're giving it another try, albeit in a very different way. We're enjoying the parts of our relationship that were fun (most of them), and not obsessing over where it's headed. I'll focus on my issues instead of worrying about him freaking out, and he won't assume I want more from him than I do. My issues have a lot to do with insecurity and jealousy, and I can't really work on those without first feeling them. I'd just as soon work on them with someone I know and trust. (What? Trust? Then why the insecurity and jealousy? I know, I know. I guess that's why they're called issues.) His issues are his problem. This is new territory. Far from choosing the path of least resistance, I've chosen to do something rather difficult: make my own feelings my first priority. I'd like to sit with those feelings of insecurity and jealousy and try to figure out where they come from.

So far, so good. We're having fun again, and there's no cloud hanging over us about what's going on in the other's head. No reading between the lines or making assumptions based on fear. I can appreciate the good between us, without expending so much emotional energy that my time and focus are taken away from Grace and writing.

What could possibly go wrong?

7 comments:

rhonda said...

i am a pessimist about these things. it is only a matter of time before one, or both, of you start wondering what the other is thinking.

rhonda said...

i am a pessimist about these things. it is only a matter of time before one, or both, of you start wondering what the other is thinking.

Laurel said...

And you feel so strongly about this that you commented not once, but twice! You may be right, but let's just say I hope you're wrong.

mama neeniebelle said...

kudos to bravery and looking at what's underneath the feelings...you have nothing really to lose and lots to gain in my opinion....sounds like good stuff lady!

Laurel said...

Now that I think about it, Rhonda, you're absolutely right. In fact, it's already happened. But now, instead of suffering in silence, we ask questions, and try to answer them as honestly as possible. That's what I mean by communication. I'm sure it won't always be easy, but here's hoping it will be a lot easier than it was.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The pattern of my relationships changed when I decided to take responsibility for, rather than being controlled by, my feelings and fears. Was this easy? No. Worth it? Yes. People still can't believe that I will say to my much-beloved partner, "Hey, when I asked you that question, your answer seemed evasive. Did you mean it to be, or did I misunderstand?" Most of the time, I've misunderstood. After enough misunderstandings in the same vein, I figure it out and no longer misunderstand him.

Vulnerability doesn't necessarily mean what people decide it means ... mushy sloppy letting your heart be sucked through a straw because it's so gooey. Really useful vulnerability is simple honesty. The other stuff ... is usually pretty self-indulgent, IMO, and more like the type of mushy drama that makes women annoying.

Which is not to say you are or ever have been guilty of defining vulnerability that way; just that your post made me muse about how redefining what vulnerability looks like has changed what I'm able to say in relationship ... not just my primary relationship, but all relationships.