Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Everyone has baggage

I hate to talk about my own baggage... I prefer you all think I'm wonderful and perfect. But who are we kidding? I also hate to share anything that might make Toyfriend seem like anything other than the kind, wonderful, thoughtful man that he is. So please keep that in mind.

It turns out relationships require more work of me than I expected. I didn't think I would have such a tough time with insecurities and baggage. I know I am strong, and I like to think can handle a lot. For someone I love, I can handle just about anything. I never expected to find baggage that put me to the test.

I also had no idea that my own baggage was so freaking heavy. I don't have the sort of personal baggage that most people think of when they hear the term (kids, ex, finances, work). But I have a crap-ton of emotional baggage. Some I thought I'd checked, and some I wasn't even aware I'd ever picked up.

I know I have a fear of loss, and of being left. A counselor would say I have "abandonment issues" because my mother left me as a kid. Like, literally she was there one day and gone the next.

Since I was a little kid I have worried that anyone who was not right in my line of sight might be gone in a second. Irrational? Yes, but there it is. I am aware it's an issue, and while I can't totally shake the feeling, I am able to talk myself away from the edge, which is not something I could always do. Let's hear it for therapy!

I also have a big thing about anyone (obviously in this case, a boyfriend) making concessions for me. I know that relationships are about compromise, and I know that compromise is a two-way street. I am aware that I should give some things, and I should be able to ask for (and expect) some things in return.

But I've been called a "problem" and "needy" and "selfish" and told that I "ruined a life" when I've asked others. Now - those guys were being jerks; I know this. I know they were just laying blame to avoid taking responsibility for the way they were treating me. I took the blame and guilt because, well, that's what I knew.

I know better now. I have learned that is neither fair nor healthy. But I also know that just because their tactic was wrong, that doesn't mean their feeling wasn't valid. I probably was being unfair or needy or over-sensitive sometimes.

Now, even though I know I can ask, I still struggle to know if what I am asking is reasonable, or if I am being a little unfair. I find myself doubting whether my feelings should be hurt, or if I really am being over-sensitive.

I also find myself wondering if the doubts in my head are legitimate, or if I'm just dragging my past baggage into a current relationship. Of course I want to look out for myself... but I also don't want to blame Toyfriend for something someone else did to me.

I suppose life would be easier if I'd stuck to my guns and avoided falling for a guy who I knew had baggage. If I had just continued to shut Toyfriend out, and kept looking for a guy with zero complications. None of this would be an issue.

But then I think, how can I really know that for sure? My insecurities are obviously still there. Maybe it would have just taken longer to see them with another person. It might be something else that would bring them up - but they'd still rear their ugly head.

The truth is, I was never going to find that baggage-free guy. So maybe I'm lucky to have found someone who is willing to share his baggage with me, so I'm not left wondering. So I always know where he's coming from, and where I stand.

I'm also really very lucky to be in this with someone who takes the time to understand where I am coming from, and who will meet me halfway.

Baggage is much easier to carry when you work together.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Not quite cool chick

Relationships have a tendency to make me really insecure. I have been working on my insecurities for years (literally). I know I’ve improved, but I also know I have a long way to go. For a while, I thought I had totally overcome my worries and fears, but I have come to find that what I really did was eliminate true relationships from my life. Without the investment I had nothing to lose, and without anything to lose, I had no worries.

Toyfriend comes with a little baggage. It mostly holds the sort of complications you would expect of a guy in his fifties who was married for a long time, has kids, and is now single. But some of the complications have proved to affect our relationship. Let’s just say Toyfriend has some things going on that prevent me him from including me in every part of his life (at least for right now).

By itself, that isn’t a big deal, and certainly not a deal-breaker. I don’t mind solo time. I am used to attending family and social functions alone, and I can continue to do so as often as I need (or want). But it is something that matters more than I expected. It turns out that since I can include Toyfriend in every part of my life (if we choose), it bothers me a little that he can’t do the same. I feel a little left out, and I find I feel a little vulnerable, that something more important will come along and I will lose him.

I’d love to be able to say that nothing bothers me. That I’m the “cool chick” - OK with not hearing from someone for a few days, always wants her own space, and totally OK with a host of female friends, family or work obligations, etc. But the truth is… that’s not me. That was only someone I could pretend to be when I avoided actually caring about another person.

Of course, I’m also not “uncool-crazy-will-yell-at-you chick” who needs everything her way. I guess I’m “not-quite-cool-but-still-willing-to-compromise chick” who tries to understand the real issue so it can be resolved, and is willing to admit things are not all about her. I am that chick who needs communication and consistency and clarity, even if it’s just for my own peace of mind. I am that chick who likes to know she’s loved and needs to feel some security. As long as I have all that, I can become the cool chick, who can manage just about anything.

This is not the first time I have felt this way in a relationship. It is the first time that I was able to identify the problem, process how I was feeling, and discuss it with the other person openly and honestly (and rationally – that’s key). It is the first time – ever – that I have felt my worries and insecurities were something I could share with my partner, and that he would face them with me. For the first time, I feel like I’m in a relationship with someone, rather than holding everything  together all on my own.

I know strong, independent, confident women are not supposed to admit when they are wrong, or scared, or need something. I can tell you from personal experience that it took a lot more courage to admit to Toyfriend when I am scared or worried, than it ever did to just avoid my insecurities altogether.

I am much closer to being the cool chick.