have i mentioned how awesome my therapist is? ok, i know, i have. but i learned YET another fabulous thing about myself this week. something that i think will help me to improve my relationships, both friends and intimate partners.
i say it like i see it. if you piss me off, i am going to tell you. at least, i will if you matter to me. if we have a relationship that i want to maintain. for example, when i first started seeing andreas, for the first 14 months i dated andreas, i considered him a lover and not a boyfriend. so there were lots of things i let go and never mentioned. when i finally admitted we were dating, my perspective changed and i attempted to give feedback. the importance of the relationship had changed for me. the expectation of intimacy had changed. so i started to behave differently. i started to push back. my friend brooke posted, on FB recently, that she thought the people who didn’t attend the free NCLEX review course were “stupid” because it was such a great course. i posted that i did NOT appreciate being called stupid and that i didn’t attend because i had a conflict. and then i let it go. i told her how i felt and it was done. no reason to stay pissed. if she continues to do stuff like that, i may have to talk with her more in-depth about how these comments impact me, but it would be a LONG time before i decided to write her off. so basically, what i am saying is, i don’t just ignore things people do that bugs me, but i also don’t hold it against them (unless they are belligerent, of course).
i do NOT appreciate it, nor do i find it particularly effective, when someone let’s something , or things, i do annoy them, but doesn’t say anything. and then these things build over time and either 1) their behavior towards me changes, and i have no idea why or 2) they suddenly explode at me. nothing gets solved this way. no one is happy. and i don’t learn anything. i am going to go out on a limb here and say that my method of letting people know where they stand, in the moment. is a better way of communicating with a partner. andreas let the effects of the stress in my life after losing my job, getting hit by a car, turning 40, going back to school, suddenly not being able to sleep anymore, and generally being concerned about my long-term well-being, change his behavior towards me. when i called him out on it, he admitted that he had planned just to ignore my stress for 2 years until i was done with school at which time everything would “go back to normal”. he did also admit, this was probably a naive idea. patrick never pushed back. and then i think we got too far and it wasn’t possible to come back. i don’t think it was fair of him to do that. i don’t necessarily think there would have been anything he could have done about it, at the time, either.
i am far from perfect. i have some difficult personality quirks. but you know what? no one has ever pushed back. ok, well, i guess in my performance evals mgmt pushed back. but the people that took issue with my working style, never attempted to talk to me about it in any other context. seriously? so what did they expect? that i would get some comments in a performance eval and then miraculously realize what was wrong and then suddenly just change my entire personality? and what about the positive aspects of those personality quirks? i may be opinionated, but i am also loyal. i may tell you when i don’t like something you have done, but i also tell you when i super appreciate something or think you have done a great job. there got to be a point with patrick, i was SO frustrated, all i could do was get angry. which didn’t help. but i didn’t know what else to do. and at least that burned off energy. but getting mad and demanding things from him, certainly was not a formula for success. but he never pushed back. how was i supposed to learn about things i did that hurt him, to learn new better behaviors, if he didn’t communicate with me? same with andreas? same with lots and lots of people.
ok, you could say to yourself right now, “well heather, obviously you see the pattern, you know what the problem is, so you should work on changing it yourself.” and that is a lovely idea, but i have found it doesn’t really work all that well. i am not going to suddenly see things that i haven’t seen before, when they are happening. i tend to live in the moment so it is hard to reflect actively. what i am saying is, i need some help with this.
so, to wrap the two original ideas together, to express my a-ha! moment from therapy today…i need to find people that will communicate with me. people that will, in a calm manner, push back. people that will say, IN THE MOMENT, “hey heather, that hurt my feelings and here is why” and then work with me to change my behavior. i am not saying i am just going to stop expressing how i feel. i am not going to stop being opinionated and arguing my point. i am not suddenly going to have no needs as an intimate partner. but i would certainly be happy to change the way i express my needs, ask for what i want, share my opinion. i don’t even know that i would stop cutting people off. but i can guarantee that i would respond to someone saying, “please let me finish”. and i would probably cut them off less over the long-term. (btw, the definition of a discussion is a series of exchanges where you cut the other person off).
i am 42 years-old. i am pretty well defined. and i like me, a lot. i am awesome. but i am certainly willing to work with someone, if they communicate with me. and i think that is what i need to look for in life. i need to look for friends and intimate partners that are going to agree to communicate with me. it takes 2 to tango, so i am completely cognizant of the fact that my failed friendships are as much about my short-comings as those i was friends with (with a few exceptions. i mean, we have all known some truly crazy people) BUT, in trying to figure out how to have more successful relationships, i think i need to be clear with people that i need and expect them to communicate with me, in a constructive and useful manner, when i do something they don’t like. be clear that letting it bottle up is not going to work with me. and that it isn’t fair of them to let it bottle up and then either explode at me or just walk away. why would they want to put energy into a relationship, only to let it implode for lack of trying? and maybe it is a lot to ask. and maybe that means i am going to find myself limited in the number of good friends i have. perhaps it will make finding an intimate partner that much harder, since, generally, men do not communicate as much as women do. but, i think having made this discovery, i have the chance to improve my relationships in the future. find what i need and be happier.
perhaps there is hope for me. even at 42.
(btw, something andreas and i did, after we started seeing the relationship counselor, that i thought was awesome, was we had a debrief mtg once a week. we set that time aside to talk about things that irked us the previous week. at first i think we were both afraid it would be explosive, but actually, at least for me, it felt safe and it made the rest of the week better knowing i would have a chance to give me feed back, be heard and hopefully change/fix some things. definitely going to suggest this with my next boyfriend. i am getting more and more excited about having a super-awesome next relationship because i have figured out so many of the things that have thwarted me in the past!)