Lessons Learned From Pulling My Head Out Of My Ass: State Of The Relationship Address

 

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 our security.

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 huge flight risk. I didn’t know when I was going to get overwhelmed and check out. So 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 always pulling away. My actions were ridiculous and predictably it had the effect that you would imagine. Not only was she afraid that I might break up again, the feeling of me pulling away told her it was guaranteed to happen.

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 wasn’t aware of my behavior and 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 start over. 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, we are not a couple anymore. I am slowly coming to terms with the possibility that we may never be together like that 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 daily how much she means to me. I can be the person she fell in love with and support her as 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 that wonderful can love me. Hopefully, eventually, someone else may come along again.

Either way, I want to be the person I was meant to be.

This is Your Brain on Drugs

In his TED Talk entitled, “Relationships Are Hard, But Why?” Stan Tatkin takes an approach you may not have considered previously. Relationship difficulties are largely because of how our brains function. That and because we’re wrong pretty much all of the time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xKXLPuju8U

So learn how to help cope with that crazy shit you think by starting with his speech. It’s helped me immensely.

A Sunny Day Gone Wrong

I love this and her entire article –

“…suggesting that, for men, any sexual overture is welcome. I asked how he’d feel if a fellow weighing three-forty cornered him somewhere isolated and manhandled him. Suddenly this struck him as way more sinister.”

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-crotchgrabber/amp

State of the Relationship Address: 4 pointers for dating and beyond

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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted one of these State of the Relationship articles. This is mainly because things have been going good for me as of late and sometimes it’s harder to know what to write in exceptional times as opposed to those of turmoil.

For the last six months I’ve been dating one person and I’ve learned so much from the experience. I’d like to talk about a few of those things here because I think that people don’t do this enough and it may be as helpful to you as it was me.

1. Push Your Boundaries

It helps to keep an open mind when you are dating or in any relationship. If I had stuck to my old habits and deal breakers I would have never met the person I am with now and trust me when I say that I would be poorer for it.

Obviously, there are boundaries you don’t want to cross. Dating someone with a recent history (or maybe any history, though I think people can change – see note 3) of perpetrating abuse on another is one that immediately comes to mind. I’m not asking you to step over that boundary. That’s a healthy one to have.

Take a look though at which of your deal breakers and boundaries are built upon biases and assumptions. Challenge them head on. I went against what I thought was my better judgement at the time to date the person I’m with now. I’m so glad I did because not only did I stumble (I can be inept despite my best efforts) my way into a relationship with an amazing person, but in exploring her personality traits that I thought were deal breakers I discovered that things weren’t at all what I had imagined them to be. Learning about my partner helped me understand her better. It helped me discover things about myself even and created some wonderful bonding moments for us. I don’t think these things could have happened had we not both pushed our boundaries and taken the time to understand one another.

2. Being Open Doesn’t Mean Being Completely Open

So I’m pretty much an open book. I have no real secrets and in a normal day to day conversation (I’m not sure I really have these, I tend to gravitate to deeper topics) I might tell someone any number of things about me that some people are guarded about. I’ll talk about my sexual proclivities, the fact that I cross dress and how it makes me feel and pretty much anything and everything else.

This helps people see who I am and it generally allows them to feel as if they can open up to me. Most eventually do and I love sharing that experience with them.

However, I’ve learned that there is a limit to this. I’ve always said that being open and honest is not an excuse to be cruel. Now I have another caveat to add to this, which is that it also doesn’t mean that I can share the details of other people’s lives without consideration. I thought that being open and true to myself meant that I had to be completely open about everything. I’ve since realized, with some help, that this should only extend to myself.

At first, this felt like a betrayal of everything that it meant to be me. How could I be open if I had to keep some things in reserve? Then I came to realize that having people open up to me was a measure of trust and that with this came responsibility. Now I realize the importance of privacy and to be truthful, I like the balance so much more. Some people need greater levels of privacy than others and navigating the differences in respect to the needs of my friends seems much more responsible

3. People Can Really Change

We’ve all heard the mantras about how humans don’t change who they are. Whether it’s “once a cheater always a cheater” or whatever other label you want to put in that cliche. The truth is though, some people change certain behaviors and some don’t. There is no rule that spans across humanity in general. The key is finding those people who want to change while trusting and helping them to do so.

Reading through the second item on this list should have been a really good example of how someone can change. Being open is a defining characteristic of who I am and changing that in any way was painful to me. However, through some talk with others and introspection I came to see that there was a better way of doing things and that it didn’t mitigate my need for openness or change who I was in any negative way.

The human experience deals us a mixed bag. Most of us have those personality traits that we can recognize as beneficial and valued by others. All of us have insecurities (or anxiety, ADHD, depression, etc.) and sometimes those insecurities or states of being lead to behavior that isn’t generally approved of by others. Knowing this about yourself is a good thing because the extension of this is that it is also happening to everyone else around you.

If someone is trying to tackle their obstacles head on then that’s pretty fucking huge. Give them some slack. Better yet, talk with them if possible to understand their situation and see if there’s any way you can help. Don’t expect to be their savior, you can’t be, just be there for them and do your damndest to understand what it is they’re telling you. These are the people that are capable of change and they deserve a chance to show you how awesome they really are.

4. Understand Before You are Understood

I had forgotten this little gem of wisdom, passed down to me by my grandmother, but her words came back with importance as of late and I’m glad they did.

So often I’m so concerned with making sure that someone knows where I’m coming from that I forget to really listen to what they are saying. I just want to make sure they aren’t hurt by something I said, but my inattentiveness can hurt even more. However, when I calm my mind and listen to their feelings I get a better understanding of them. That’s pretty valuable for obvious reasons. I really do care about them and taking the time to listen and understand them first is a way to demonstrate that. When I do this, the usual outcome is that I end up addressing some need that I hadn’t thought about before. This is an emotion that would have gone completely unattended had I not taken the time to understand my partner. I also learn how to better express my feelings to ensure that we are both talking about the same thing. This is relationship gold folks and you have my grandmother to thank.

The End: Be Prepared to Stop

So there you have it. Some things I learned about myself that I hope you can apply to your life. What are some positive things you have learned in your relationships to others? Please share those or your thoughts about this article in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you either way.

Getting Dumped, Kind Of: A story of honesty

For those of you who don’t know I’m currently choosing to date non- monogamously. For some of you this probably sounds great because I can have multiple partners. This is technically true, but it hasn’t really worked out that way for more than a week or two at a time. This brings me to the other part of being non-monogamous, that you may not have considered, which is that I end up getting dumped more often.

This just happened to me ten minutes ago (at least at the time of this writing). Here’s the skinny: I met someone online and reading her profile was like reading my own in many ways so I reached out to her and we clicked. On our date it was awesome. We met with a long hug. We laughed and shared intimate moments of our existence with one another such as how she doesn’t share her phone number with people until she can trust them. When I moved closer to her just for the sake of it she closed the gap, kissed me and then told me how great it was. Later upon kissing her neck she moaned. The night was over in a flash, but we had talked for 6 hours. When I walked her to her car we held hands and kissed goodbye.

I sent her a message later that night with my phone number. I told her that she didn’t have to use it until she was ready and that we could use the dating app until that moment arrived. She replied with a text telling me that I had beat her to it.

I was in, or so I thought. The day before our next date she sent me a text to say that our distance was an issue (20 miles) and that a relationship she had with a guy in the same town as me hadn’t worked for that reason. I called bullshit (in my head) on both fronts and decided to remove that excuse. I knew she wanted out and that I wasn’t going to change her mind; so be it, but I wanted to know the truth. I told her if that was all there is to it I could be the one to come see her each time. Of course, such a one-sided solution is not a tenable situation for any relationship, but I was just gambling and cutting through her fuck-poor answer.

It worked. “To be honest,” she said, (for the second time) “I was trying to make it easier by saying that. I’m just not feeling it.”

I told her I accepted that and thanked her for being honest. Just knowing the real reason helped me to put most of the situation behind me immediately. I don’t know what to make of everything else that happened, but now that I have the truth, somehow I don’t have to.