Thursday, May 24, 2018

In my shoes

When I was married, the question I hated most was, "When are you going to have kids?" 

I understood that people assumed I would have an answer like, "We're trying!" They assumed I would because that would have been their answer when they were in my shoes.

But they were not in my shoes. I was in my shoes - and from where I stood, the question was rude and presumptuous. 

Even more - the question was thoughtless and potentially hurtful.

I could answer, "never" or "we don't plan on kids" easily enough. Aside from the judgy looks and
awkward silence that followed, it was no big deal.

But what about women who wanted to have a baby but couldn't? That's a much tougher question to field. Especially if you have to do so while fighting back tears.

That was how I came to realize that asking a question that assumes an answer is risky business - and something best avoided.

I thought getting older and divorced would mean my days of awkward, invasive questions were over. But since Toyfriend and I have been together for nearly 3 years, and we are neither married nor living together, I do have the occasional well-meaning friend ask me, "So when will one of those things happen?"

Once again - I get it. They want me to be happy - and they assume that I have a simple answer like, "Pretty soon" or "We're talking about that." 

But it's not something we're talking about, and it's probably not ever going to happen. That is tough enough for me to accept privately. It's even tougher to fight back tears while I try and pretend that it's OK with me, or even that it's my choice. Neither is true, but I am embarrassed to admit that, so I pretend.

Then I cry later.

I think we should all just agree that we should stop assuming the way things must be with other people based on the way things are with us. Everyone is different.

You really have no way of knowing how another person's shoes might fit.

Monday, April 30, 2018

A little growth

One of the things Toyfriend I share is Christianity and church. To be fair - he is a lot more grounded and traditional in his faith. I'm sort of... not a typical Christian. But, it is important to me and I am very grateful to be able to share it with him. We differ in some of our beliefs, but overall it's an important part of our relationship and I don't think we could be as strong as we are without faith.

That said.... currently, our Pastor is doing a series on relationships. We're three weeks in to a five-week series of messages that deal with different types of relationships, including marriage (but not romantic relationships outside of marriage... which ticks me off... but that's a different post).

Week one was a foundation for how relationships work, and the model for a relationship between two Christians. Before that message, I had always thought I knew what it meant to be committed. I mean, I know how to stay faithful and honest and how to share. I know how to look out for the other person's needs and wants.

But listening in church that day, I realized something I don't do that is just as important in acommitted relationship.  I don't know how to trust.

Part of the take-away was that a Christian relationship* is "mutual submission" - each person setting aside their own needs and looking out for the needs of the other person. Without that foundation, a Christan relationship cannot work.

I do know how to look out for Toyfriend's needs - but I do not trust enough to let him look out for mine. I still try to protect myself and look out for myself... and while in some ways that is important and healthy, it is not the relationship I want.

To be fair... I don't think he trusts me enough, either. Even though he is always looking out for me, I think there's a small part of him he keeps for himself, to look out for what he needs and protect himself from being hurt.

For the longest time, I have thought that was OK. That two people could build a relationship like that and it would work. I still think it could, as long as both people are on the same page. But I know that Toyfriend and I are looking to build a relationship with a Christian foundation. If that's what we want... our current model is not going anywhere. It may work fine, but it won't grow the way I'd like.

It is a little scary to learn I will have to give in and trust if I want more... I'm not real good at letting down that guard. But it was a huge relief to be able to finally see very clearly what needs to change - and what my part is in the change. It was also helpful to be reminded that I can only change myself... Toyfriend will need to make some changes on his end as well.

Here I thought this series was going to be about the worst thing to happen to our relationship. Turns out, it may be the best.

*It's important to note that it's church, so the ideas they are discussing revolve around how a relationship should look between two Christians. The ideas probably could apply to a relationship between non-Christians, but that's not their point.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Communication is everything

A friend and I were messaging last week after she accidentally outed herself on Facebook as having been in a relationship for about a year. I should probably say "accidentally outed" in quotes. While she mentioned the guy in a post, the relationship wasn't the focus; it was part of a bigger story. Just like it was in real life - not her focus, and not really a secret, just a part of her story that hadn't come up before.

Anyway, she told me a few details about the guy and their dating style that make their relationship a little less than conventional. It's a style many would consider unacceptable; some might even consider it unhealthy (I'm not one of those people; just wanted to offer some context without sharing a story that's not mine to share).

She said for her, it's been the healthiest relationship she's ever had. No co-dependence, she gets alone time (which is important to her), and they don't take each other, or the relationship, for granted.

"We TALK," she said. "That is huge."

It got me thinking about my own relationship, and how it probably appears to others - lack of commitment, going nowhere, unhealthy.

We don't live together because we're not married. Toyfriend is too traditional. But we'll probably never be married because... well, that's a separate post. So it's likely we'll never share a roof.

We often spend holidays separate because combining families is complicated. He doesn't attend every function
with me because he always has a choice and sometimes the choice is one of his kids, or a friend, or just a night to himself. 

But we also talk - and that is everything. I know how he feels and how committed he really is to me and our relationship. We are not always together, we don't share a mailbox, and he doesn't do everything I want - and that's OK. Those things, while nice, are not proof of commitment or love - and I am lucky to be in a relationship where I don't have to rely on those things to feel secure.

All of us spend spend so much time and energy searching for this missing something in relationships. We think it needs to be marriage or family or living together or whatever. We convince ourselves that if we just take that one little (or big) step, we'll feel secure and sure of where things are, and where they are going. 

But that security, or those steps, are not what's missing. What's missing is communication. Once you find that, you realize it's the thing you've been searching for; that other stuff was just a substitute.

It's the one thing you really need.

Communication is everything. It's what's missing in most relationships, and when you find it, you realize that's what you really needed all along. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

So much more

I've resolved to write more this coming year. The thing is, sometimes I put it off because I don't have time to write out the whole thing, or I want to organize my thoughts, or I want to use a real keyboard instead of my phone. But sometimes you just have to go with what you got, start typing and see what comes out. Then hit publish and hope for the best.

Last year was HUGE for me and Toyfriend. We honestly almost broke up at the beginning of 2017. I never would have imagined we'd get to 2018 together, let alone happier.

We had a lot to overcome. Some boundaries to negotiate - then renegotiate. We had to improve communication - on both ends. I, personally, had to work on setting, and managing, expectations.

We just celebrated our best holiday yet. We were able to share it with both our families and some friends. Most importantly, we shared it with each other with just enough compromise and no conflict.

I know that may sound silly, but for me, it is huge. I have come to expect conflict at holiday time. Being able to share the time with someone is big - and being able to rely on his support during all that family time means everything.

I spent a lot of time in 2017 learning what I want from my relationship - and also realizing what I can expect (realistically). I know I will need to give up some things - some just for now, but some maybe forever.

It's been a battle, figuring out what I can live with, and without. Sometimes it feels like too much to give up.

Then I have moments of real clarity - a genuinely happy holiday, for example - and I realize that while I may be giving up some things, I am getting so much more in return.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Sort of single

I find Facebook groups to be a little like a hostage situation, with most members suffering from something that resembles Stockholm Syndrome. We didn't ask to be there, we're not really sure how we got there, we can't figure out a way to leave, and it seems easier to just try and get along with everyone.

But I am in this one group that I actually enjoy. It's all women (at least it seems to be) and topics for discussion range from mascara to childhood surgery to mental health to pumpkin spice.

Most of the ladies in the group are married moms. Please don't misunderstand - I like married moms. Some of my best friends are married moms. Some of the best people on the planet are married moms.

But I am not a married mom. What's more - I'm not a married mom by choice. I'll definitely never be a married mom, so I'm not even a married-mom-in-waiting.

So some of the posts aren't really for me, which I accept and scroll on. Or maybe I silently troll the comments. It sort of depends how bored I am at work.

Not long ago, I was scrolling along and saw a post that opened with: Single ladies, this one's for you! What do you want to talk about?

Super-excited, I stopped all the work I wasn't doing and eagerly dug in. Finally a conversation I could join!

Except - I really couldn't. They wanted to talk about dating, and family pressure to find someone, and a host of other topics to which I could totally relate.... back before I started dating Toyfriend.

I realized, not only am I not a married mom - I'm not even married, or a mom. I'm also not really single, either. I used to think I would always consider myself single until someone was helping me pay rent. While I still don't have that, I don't really feel single anymore, either. I have relationship issues similar to my married friends - but I have it easier because I have a boyfriend, not a husband, and my own space. I can relate to my friends who are in unmarried relationships - until we get to the part about planning to be married and/or have a family. That's not me either.

So I'm not really single - but I'm also not in what most people consider a relationship. I don't seem to quite fit in anywhere.

Which is probably a good indication that I'm in a relationship that is right for me, since I almost never do well when I do what everyone else is doing... but it does leave me with surprisingly few people to whom I can relate.

Maybe I need to start my own Facebook group?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Perfect to me

I've been sifting through old posts today, trying to find one that I clearly remember writing... but don't remember when, or what I used for a title.

It was about what I was looking for in a relationship. Not something typical... I wanted more. Something wonderful and amazing that made me feel loved and powerful and safe, all at the same time. I had come to realize that for me, love probably wasn't going to look like it does for everyone else... and that was finally OK with me.

(I did find this post... which speaks to some of those ideas. I'm linking here just because I looked for so long, I feel like I need to have a link...)

It's been on my mind because Toyfriend and I have had a couple of long discussions about where our relationship is going, and how it's working. The truth is, he does not want to live together. He says he may in the future, but I disagree. I think if he doesn't already want to take that step, it's likely he never will. Either way, I either have to accept that, or move on.

He asked me the other day, "In five years, if we're still like this, you living one place and me living in
another... will you be happy?"

I was honest and answered, "I don't know."

But I do know that if he had asked me that two years ago, I would have said that wouldn't be acceptable... and yet here I am, 2 years later, and it's perfectly OK with me.

I think love changes you. Not in obvious ways, like the way you look or your attitude or your job or your political affiliations. Real love changes your soul. It makes you dig deeper, and grow stronger. It changes your perspective. Suddenly, the things you thought were most important really don't matter much at all. Maybe it changes your priorities - or maybe it just changes the way you see them.

Toyfriend told me he wants me to be able to say to my friends, "He's perfect." He worries that he's not perfect if he won't give me what I want on this issue.

I thought for a moment, and then I told him, honestly -

"You are perfect in all the ways that matter."

Friday, August 4, 2017

Nice guy syndrome

This is a departure from talking about my ongoing struggle with relationship anxiety. I saw a post from a friend who is dealing with something I have always found pretty intriguing (and also pretty annoying): Nice guy syndrome.

In case you're wondering - this is actually a thing. Urban Dictionary defines Nice Guy Syndrome as:
A condition where a guy feels he is entitled to dating a girl simply because he has been her friend and let her cry on her shoulder about the jerks. When she is not attracted to him, he chooses to blame it on the fact that he has been a "nice guy" and she only wants to date jerks. Really, not the mentality of a guy who is actually nice, because one should not be kind in the hopes of getting a girl and simply be kind for the sake of being kind. Any guy who tries to guilt you into dating him simply because you are friends has the mental affliction known as nice guy syndrome.
In my friend's case, her post says that she and Mr. Nice Guy went on two nice dates - and then he showed signs of being a little clingy. Since he's recently out of a relationship, my friend viewed that somebody.
as a red flag that he's not so much into her as he is into having

My friend isn't going to settle for just being anybody's somebody (hats off to my friend here). So when she told him things just didn't seem to be working out (perfectly fair after two dates, I'd say), his response is that girls just don't want a nice guy and his friend chimes in that she (my friend) must be damaged if she doesn't want to date him.


It is not damaged to decide something that new just won't work out. It is not damaged to decide you're better off on your own than settling. It is not damaged to be upfront with another person and let him know where he stands.

It is damaged to try and lay blame on someone for doing any of those things. It is damaged to expect that just because you were nice to someone literally twice that she owes you a date, or a relationship, or friendship, or sex, or... well, anything.

A nice guy knows that a woman doesn't owe him a thing. He is not nice with an expectation of something in return. He is nice simply because he is a nice guy. If it doesn't work out, a nice guy thanks the woman for her time and the memories and whatever - and moves on.

Listen - women do this too. We find excuses for the guy not liking us or not calling back or ghosting or whatever. We tell ourselves we're too much of a woman, or we're too strong, or too this or too that. It's all an effort to make ourselves feel better. Maybe this is just the guy way of making themselves (and their friends) feel better.

That's fine - but then you keep it to yourself. Think to yourself, "Well I was nice, so it's her loss," or whatever you need to think to get yourself past this moment. But don't bring it back to her. That's not something a nice guy would do.

It reminds me of a quote from the Social Network. Erica - Mark Zuckerberg's college girlfriend - tells him:
You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you're going to go through life thinking that girls don't like you because you're a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that won't be true. It'll be because you're an asshole.
Even the nicest guy can be an asshole sometimes.