I’ve been spending my time since my last State of Relationship Address recovering from a horrible relationship and reaping the benefits of a new one with an intelligent, compassionate, beautiful human. However, there is a problem. Somewhere along the line, I lost my way; I forgot two of the tenants that I live my life by and I am paying the price from a lack of trust and security that now exists on both sides of the relationship.
I’ve always valued communication in a relationship. It’s sometimes hard, sometimes gritty, sometimes beautiful, but it’s always worth the effort. In the past, I moved on from a relationship because communication wasn’t there so I know it’s important to me. Another relationship I left because I was punished for communication. It’s that last one that matters more.
It smells like shit in here
In that last relationship, there was no reward for sharing my feelings. Sharing meant that it would trigger the other person and because of their insecurity, they would try to manipulate and control me. So I stopped. That didn’t work either but since the relationship was abusive it didn’t really matter, nothing was going to work. Little did I know, this survival habit had remained in place waiting for someone to come along who didn’t deserve to have it used on them.
Tenant 1: Communication is key, no matter what
I have been dating the beautiful person I mentioned in the opening paragraph. She is the brightest light I have ever had in my life and one of the strongest people I have ever met. She has been by my side even when I wouldn’t allow myself to be by hers. I kept her at arm’s length because I was afraid of talking about things that bothered me in our relationship. These things I would later learn were small and insignificant. However, when you don’t talk about your fears, you start to believe them.
That led me to end the relationship in a panic but I couldn’t stay away. I ended it a second time but kept getting drawn back. I realize now that I was returning for a good reason; I truly adore her. Instinctively, I knew I should be with her but my fear kept pulling me away.
Essentially, hiding my fear was a way of trying to protect her from what I thought would be hurtful information (and maybe it was), but the real damage is that I hurt her in an entirely different way which cost us more.
Tenant 2: Let the best version of me get rejected
Historically, I don’t hold back with people whom I am romantically interested in. If I get rejected, I want the best version of me possible to get rejected. The best version of me, not coincidentally, is also the truest version. I don’t want to meet someone and try to fit their mold just to get spurned anyway. I would always wonder how things could have gone differently if I would have just been me. I have never regretted being rejected as myself.
As I mentioned, I was a flight risk. Because I didn’t know when I was going to get overwhelmed and feel like checking out, I kept her at arm’s length to protect her (which is quite possibly the stupidest thing ever written).
Now, I love affection. I don’t mean sex, though wonderful, it’s not really what builds intimacy. I’m talking about walking hand in hand with a partner, pulling them close for a loving squeeze, coming behind her and sliding my hands around her waist while putting my lips on her neck as we prepare dinner, locking eyes with hers and staring deeply, and not so innocently brushing her butt with my hand as I glide past. These, and thoughtful compassionate words, are little touches that let someone know you are thinking about them, that they excite you, and that you love them.
Because I didn’t want her to get too close I kept myself from doing these things, the very things that would help her feel like I wanted to be around her. From her perspective, I was pulling away. My actions were ridiculous and predictably it had the effect that you would imagine. This made her feel as if another breakup was imminent.
Man it’s bright out here
The security rubberband finally snapped. We separated again, this time it might be for good. Now that we have nothing to lose, or perhaps because we have everything to lose, we are finally talking like we should have been from the start. It turns out she was holding things back as well because she was afraid it would push me away. I’m not sure that it would have but back then I don’t know if I was in a place to respond appropriately. We bared our souls to each other and I suspect we have more to go.
I learned a couple of things from this experience. The first is rather obvious, I need to live up to the standards that I set for myself. I let my fear and past trauma pull me from the correct path.
I should have been myself. I put the best version of me forward in the beginning and we won each other’s hearts. Then I became scared and let myself diminish. This allowed our relationship to wither. Now the person that she has come to know isn’t really me. I stopped being that loving, appreciative, fearlessly open person she fell in love with, and if we are split for good I have to live with the fact that I could have been more but was afraid. If I had remained true to who I was, we might be giggling in each other’s arms right now.
The second thing is something that I didn’t expect. Being honest with each other and talking through things has taken me from wanting to leave to wanting to begin again. More than that, I love the conversations we are having now. It’s not all easy to hear, for either of us, but I feel so much closer to her now. Talking about my fears removed their power over me.
I want to do the things with her so badly now that I never took the time for previously. I want to give her everything, show her she is loved, cherish and protect her heart the proper way, help fulfill her dreams as if they were my own, and provide the stability and belonging she so desperately wants. The difference this time is that I can do it. Our openness has actually given me that new relationship energy back because, let’s be honest, this is truly new.
What happens now
However, while we still have a relationship as friends, we are not a couple anymore. I am slowly coming to terms with the possibility that we may never be a couple again. I still have hope but I realize that sometimes the damage is too much and the risk for her may be too great; which leaves me with a painful conclusion. It’s possible I ruined the best thing I ever had. I may have woken up too late.
I’m trying to look on the bright side of either outcome. If I get a third chance, we are learning how to talk to each other better than either of us ever have with anyone. That coupled with eliminating my fear will let me show her what she means to me. Hopefully, I can be the person she fell in love with and support her like she deserves.
If we can’t continue, then my path there is clear as well. I will work to recover like I have before and take my lessons and move forward. Thankful for what I had and secure in the knowledge that someone wonderful can love me. Hopefully, eventually, someone else will come along again.
Either way, I want to be the person I’ve worked so hard to be.