Relationships Take Work

I hear many people talk about their ideal relationship and it always involves minimal conflict, disagreement, and never going to bed angry. While that would be lovely, I don’t think that’s actually possible and I believe that the strongest relationships actually do need disagreement in order to learn and grow and exercise compromise.

I had partners who always tried to avoid conflict by compromising their own interests instead of telling me they would rather do something else. I also had partners who would twist any sort of argument to be my fault and that lead me to believe that it was me that was the problematic partner in the relationship. Both of these scenarios are common and wrong.

My most successful relationship was my last one. It was short, about 6 months with less contact than I would have liked given the program we were in, but we made it work. We were very different, but I think we were very smitten with each other regardless of our differences.

I want to interject the fact that I hate conflict. I don’t like confrontation or arguments; HOWEVER, I won’t back down if I feel like a conversation needs to be had. I understand that while it makes me uncomfortable, the relationship will be more uncomfortable if I don’t speak up.

So, this 6 month relationship with this beautiful woman was a dream in terms of communication and respect. I never felt disrespected or taken advantage of. I always felt safe and open to voice any concerns or thoughts. This hasn’t always been the case.

When there were things that arose as potential problems, we were quick to talk about it and “clear the air”. That was hard work for me. It was easy in terms of it was easy for me to open my mouth and speak words; however, it was difficult for me to get over the fear of confrontation ending in the termination of the relationship.

Oftentimes, conflict seems like the end of something, but it’s just a bump. It’s an opportunity for growth, for learning, and for better understanding your partner and your relationship.

This previous girlfriend taught me that and I love her for that. I am now far more comfortable having conversations sparked by a possible issue in my relationships (both platonic and romantic). I understand that disagreements don’t have to be explosions, and they don’t have to cause the relationship to implode, so it’s okay to have them.

Today In Therapy…

I came to therapy today with nothing in particular that I felt I needed to share. I did tell my therapist about a friend coming over yesterday evening and discussing commitment issues with said friend. Naturally, that quickly turned into today’s topic in my therapy session.

My therapist began by asking me if it was okay to visit the past, but not live in it- in terms of where we’re getting most of our information from. I’m fine with whatever, so I said yes.

He then asked me to retell what I told my friend last night, so I went over all of my relationships, one by one, and told him about all the moments I decided (and then internally celebrated) in each of them to end the relationship.

Then, he asked me to describe what it was like growing up with my now divorced parents. So, I recalled that I didn’t remember mom and dad ever being affectionate; I remember one hug in the middle of the living room, and I must have been quite young. I remembered dad sitting on the couch every night eating popcorn and drinking beer while mom was in the kitchen or reading. I recollected that for a few years, mom would come sleep on my top bunk every night instead of sleeping with dad. I knew dad snored, but looking back, I feel like that was a good excuse to cover up the true reason she didn’t want to be in the same bed as him.

Long story short, I grew up in a household that stayed together “for the kids”. There was a sense of loyalty they felt to our family unit and to us children, but the romance and intimate love was no longer present- and hadn’t been present at all in a decade.

The conclusion my therapist and I came up with today is that I have a fear of real, earth-shattering, ground-moving love. It is something that I feel doesn’t exist. At the same token, I do go searching for it every now and again and I give my everything to that individual for the time we are together. I am very open, honest, and loyal with my partners. I am even so concerned with loyalty and faithfulness that I will stay in a relationship even when I am no longer in love and then I search for a convenient outside factor or other reason to end things with people. For most of my relationships, I have done this.

Something I also have to be aware of and keep in mind is that even though I have clear commitment issues, my previous relationships were not built for long-term. There were major issues (or reasons we just weren’t a good match) in each one, no doubt. I think that even without these “let’s kill the relationship ASAP” issues, I believe that each of these relationships was not going to last.

With all that being said, I feel that it is difficult for me to be truly convinced of the extremity of my commitment issues, but I am fully aware that there is something there and I am working on piecing it all together.

My homework assignment to bring to the next session is for me to connect the things we discussed today with the flowchart that I made last week. Basically, my flow chart outlined my mental and physical process when having “what if” questions, when feeling anxious, and also when I’m having an actual panic attack.

As I connect these two sessions, I will write about my findings.