Ah ha! G-uno is pulling out the big guns. G-uno is and has been a part of one very long term relationship, so she is a pro on this one. She will be that little old woman holding hands with the love of her life you stare at the back of as they pass by and wonder “How do they do it? That must be wonderful.”
I, on the other hand, had one very brief marriage of a few years and not one relationship last longer than maybe a year or little over otherwise. I am currently in a mode of “don’t give a crap, leave me alone” as far as relationships go. My track record is awful. I suppose this is where it might be even weirder saying that I and several of my exes are still friends. I’ve just never seen the point in being hostile with someone just because you don’t mesh well. Even my divorce papers were handled by me and my former spouse alone and notarized by the lead singer of a local band in the area, who happened to be a notary and a friend.
I could give a multitude of reasons for the failures, all of them very objective and as brutally honest as I can muster. I’m very painfully aware that it takes two to make a relationship both succeed and fail. There were many fights I should have stood my ground on instead of caving, because it set the pattern of behavior that made us both miserable. There were times I needed to stop running from one relationship because I was still haunted by the failures of a prior relationship. There were times I needed to run right from the start.
At some point, it all just got very tiring. I have friendships that have withstood over 30 years, but intimate relationships… have just come to exhaust me. The very thought of jumping back out there makes me wonder what I can marathon watch on Netflix. I may change my mind at some point, but for now, I’m content being on my own with just my kid. My kid and I discuss this kind of thing a lot, mostly because I do not want them repeating my mistakes and we don’t have a lot of good examples to go on.
I remember the stomach butterflies that came with youth, how they slowly faded to a mildly elevated heart rate and a pointed glance. I was honestly glad when the emotional turmoil of youth cools and tempers to the more reasonable reaction of adulthood. We are simply not meant to withstand that emotional and physical roller coaster ride. Plus, I tend to say some stupid shit, but it always seemed to be on an epic level of stupid when I was trying to talk to the target of my affection.
I too have made the mistake of getting “too comfortable,” or complacent in a relationship. In one respect its nice to be at ease, but there is something alluring about having just a little mystery. I also never understood why people seemed to treat their own family members shittier than they did strangers. Why is this? Shouldn’t the one who has to choose every day to stay by your side, be more impressed with you than some total stranger?
I had the idealistic notion that relationships should just be balanced and fair. You were honest and disclosed everything to one another. You shared your deepest darkest because this was the person with whom you would be partners, and partners backed one another up. On some level, that would be great but you cannot assume anything. Everyone handles things differently. I found out very quickly that two people can speak the same language and still not understand a damn thing the other says. And everything I thought was completely bullshit.
I married a person who completely utilized my inner fears, hopes, and self-deprecation as tools to manipulate. Logically, I understood this came from a deep fear of being abandoned and a desire for a codependent relationship. We fought a lot. I backed down a lot. I came from a home that was constantly fighting so that was the last thing I wanted to do anymore. In response to the manipulation, I stopped painting and drawing, I stopped sharing anything about me, I stopped fighting, I stopped…. feeling. I just gave up, on them and on me. I saw them as a leech, and I was out to cut off their nourishment so they would drop off me and just look elsewhere. Then I could escape.
It took me about two years before I could sit down and explain that. It’s very frustrating that when you are too close, you really cannot “see” much of what is going on, and often not in enough time to prevent the damage. I felt trapped and suffocated and that stayed with me for years, to the detriment of at least a couple relationships that had vastly better potential.
G-uno nails it, you have to acknowledge you are two constantly evolving individuals. Hell, I cannot even get my family to acknowledge I’m not thirteen anymore, so it makes sense this is also a problem for couples. I have lost or left behind friendships because we simply evolved too differently. I have had friendships that blissfully picked up where we left off, even after years of little to no contact.
The last person I dated was very bluntly told that they were not someone I would have a serious relationship with, but casual dating was fine if that was fine with them. I welcomed and encouraged them to meet other people. For me, I was just stretching my legs in the adult dating world after a long period of just focusing on my kid. I just wanted to enjoy a decent meal and conversation with someone my own age in a place that provided no playhouse area and crappy burgers. They agreed that casual dating was fine.
I can now understand why communication is such a problem in relationships. Even though I was completely upfront about keeping things casual, I was not believed. They either underestimated me or overestimated themselves.
I’m not normally a self-help book reader, but a few years back I did pick up The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. I’m not sure where the recommendation came from or why, but I read it. Then I read it again. It sounded like such a self-help, gasbag of a book at first glance. However, after reading it, I realized it was a pretty solid life manual. I liked the analogy he made that relationships are like a bucket two people fill to enrich. We withdraw when we need support, we deposit when we are supportive and caring. If one or both is making more withdrawals than deposits, the relationship will fail.
The author said he was once asked by a man if he had any tips on how to save his marriage, as he was miserable and was nearly resolved to file the papers. The whole book is basically about taking a different perspective, and coming to a resolution through kindness, respect and rationality, without getting baited into a fight.
The author’s response was simply, “love her.” The husband was understandably confused. However, the point he was making was to behave in a way that is loving toward his wife and the emotions would follow. Revive the person you were when you were trying to woo her, in order to revive the person with whom you fell in love with and the emotions once shared.