Monday, September 24, 2012

Shut me up

When I was with X, we joked that I was always in charge. I made our plans, paid our bills, decorated our house, bought our gifts for others, and generally, kept the ship in shape.

I also decided when we argued - or had "discussions." X never had a problem - unless he was reacting to my reacting to a problem I perceived. My panties got in a bunch; I said so; sometimes I said it in a not-so-nice way; this made him angry.

When we divorced, I discovered that a) Those tendencies were traits I really didn't like about myself, and b) I was tired of doing all that work.

I no longer wanted to be in charge of anyone but me. Some perceived this as a selfish change. Being the only-child of divorced parents and a total daddy's-girl, selfish is a label with which I'm all too comfortable.

Plus - whatever. I was divorced. For the first time in my life, I was living alone, truly taking care of myself. Yes, I could ask for help - but for the first time ever, no one was obligated to help me.

I figured if ever there was a time to be selfish - this was it.

Eventually, I found myself dating. Selfish was fine when I was on my own; how would it measure up when I was with someone else?

Turns out, it wasn't all bad. I have no urge to clean other people's houses, or move stuff around, or decorate to my taste. It's their place; they're in charge, and it's not my problem. The whole damn place can fall apart around us for all I care; I can always just go home.

I'm also not interested in scheduling his life. I'll ask him if he wants to do stuff. I'll invite him to go places with me. If he says no, it's not a problem - I'm used to going places solo, and perfectly happy to do so.

As one might expect - men like this attitude. It accommodates their preference to not wipe toothpaste off the bathroom mirror (how it gets there in the first place is one of life's unsolvable-mysteries), and to watch football games rather than be on-time for dinner.

Change is good. Most of the time.

I also no longer wanted to be in charge of when we argued; or "discussed" concerns. The only way I could come up with to not argue, was to not say when I was upset. Rather, I tried to let it sit; mull it over, and truly give some thought to whether or not whatever upset me was worth the argument.

That strategy is actually a good one, and one most relationship counselors would probably recommend. The problem comes when, after letting it sit, you always decide it's not worth discussing.

That's what I did. I shut down. Coming from a family where emotions and feelings are not discussed, shutting down came very naturally.

Understandably, people (including guys) assume when you don't mention a problem, it's because there is no problem to mention. Go figure.

I thought this was probably something I needed to work on. Surely there must be a way to express displeasure without starting World War III? But I would always come back to, "Why bother? It's just easier to not say anything."

I thought it was either a complete dysfunction on my part (thanks, family), or that I had just become an incredibly accommodating person.

Now, I'm starting to think that all that time, the real reason it was so easy to just avoid the conversation is because I wasn't really looking to be in a real relationship. Yes, I wanted someone to care for, and to care for me. Yes, I wanted someone to share experiences, and have conversations. Yes, I liked the idea that someone liked me as much as I liked him.

But now I've found a relationship that I really want - and truly accepted that it's going to be work, and it's actually worth the effort. I find that I actually want to say what's on my mind, without reservation or fear...

....and that I can't seem to shut myself up.

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