“Great” expectations: Habits & relationships

Today, and every day for the last few months, I have wondered about the habits we perform in romantic relationships: physical ones, mental ones, and most especially, emotional ones. You know what I mean; these habits are the little tics, the behaviors, the thought patterns unique to you that seem to migrate from one person you’re with to another.

Like for me, I know my fingers will always find their way around the hair at the base of his neck, no matter who it is. I know, that for the first few months — or even year — together, I will be a creature of insecurities, constantly comparing myself to their exes, telling myself I’m not good enough. And finally, I know my expectations, molded by the fire and friction of previous relationships, will cause me to be disappointed if he doesn’t meet them.

It feels like I have a template for relationships that changes subtly with each man. Ex #1 made me love men who could talk. Ex #2 made me love men who could dance. Ex #3 made me love men who did sweet little gestures for me. You know, etc. With the end of each relationship, that template would evolve and take a life of its own, like some constantly shifting microorganism, altering itself after some change in its environment. Little by little, the template adapts to incorporate traits that I love, and to accommodate for the traits that I, shall we say, don’t love, but am willing to tolerate.

This is fair, right? This is the part people always optimistically talk about — that grand experiment of dating different people to figure out what you like and don’t like, right?

Well, that all seems fine, but… what if you’re a neurotic freak who holds on to the past? What if that’s the case?

How would I know to trust my template? How would I know I’m being fair in my evaluation of the person I’m with? How would I know my expectations are still legitimate to hold on to? How would I know if my habit of holding on to these expectations is still healthy? Is it even right to hold on to expectations in relationships?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, and frankly, I’ve always been wary of ambiguity. I need rubrics, comparisons, examples, and long, drawn-out discussions with girlfriends who are just as neurotic as me, if not more so. Obviously.

This habit of mine, of keeping a death grip on my ideals based on past relationships, is not as cute as my finger wrapping around his hair. And although it’s perfectly natural that certain habits apply to my next relationship, the extent to which I let other habits overtake my relationship should be mindfully kept in check. Habits are hard to break, and are relics from our past that may no longer be relevant to our present.


Daily Post prompt: Expectation

The early stages

Exquisite, the lines of his hands,
As he runs them up my curves
Exquisite, as he squints into the sun,
The shade his eyes turn

(Does he think I’m good enough?)

Exquisite, when across the room,
He holds my gaze
Exquisite, when he slows his steps
To match my pace

(Am I worth his time?)

Exquisite, how time seems to stop,
Even as the world goes round
Exquisite, that as my love goes up,
His… goes down?

(I’m panicking just a little bit.)

* * *

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* * *


Daily Post prompt: Exquisite

Refrain

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Let me hear that titillating refrain, the one where you promise me
Depth.

Of emotion again. How tempting of a call, that siren
So I may sway off the boat into these drowning whispers once more.

It is a shell, you see;
A forlorn cavern found on a beach

Haunted only by echoes of a sun-drenched
Time.

How will it feel to float once more, a buoy in this infinite sea?


Daily Post prompt: Float

Emotional gaps

You know the words some people use to describe their exes. We’ve all heard them: crazy, bipolar, robot, delusional — all joking aside, these are words that literally question their exes’ mental health and humanity. “Bitch was crazy,” they’d say, as we sit there and listen—possibly in the role of current girlfriend—mentally vowing in our heart of hearts that we would never do anything to warrant being described that way. Never!

Right?

Wrong. It can happen to anyone, and unfortunately, it is an indicator of a gap in one or both parties’ understanding of the situation.

* * *

Picture this (and I’m actually gonna cheat and use my story):

Man and woman date for 5 years. They have broken up 4 times, and reunited 3. The man did the dumping only 1 time; the woman the other 3.

The man is convinced that they were happy, that nothing was wrong, and that all their problems were caused by external factors such as: lack of privacy due to a roommate; the roommate distracted and stole the woman; the woman was not giving 100%, and not completely focused on the relationship, and so it’s her fault; on and on it goes. To him, it wasn’t any of his fault at all. According to him, they would’ve been happy if none of these issues existed.

Whatever. He is free to feed himself that bull$#*!. It takes two to tango.

Here is what the woman’s experience was. She felt that she was being emotionally abused — being told that she would make a bad mother; that she was being embarrassing; that she was stupid for not remembering the dryer settings; that it was her fault the relationship was not going well; that she has anger issues; getting hints that she was still not good enough to marry, etc. She felt manipulated, trapped, guilted, suffocated — and she certainly felt like she couldn’t truly be herself around this man. And not to even begin mentioning the fundamental differences in values! It was Red Flag City.

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After numerous arguments and tears, the woman finally gave up in frustration and broke up with the man for the fourth and final time. It was hopeless to reach him; he was still in complete denial that any of it was his fault and is immune to any change in perspective.

* * *

If you’ve ever been with someone with whom there is a disconnect in understanding each other’s experiences in the relationship, adjectives like the ones mentioned above become much easier to use. When we use adjectives like that to describe our exes, we have emotionally distanced them from us. We tell ourselves this propaganda to deny their existence as complex people.

This is how we deal with the pain and deny responsibility of the issues that broke us up in the first place.

“Bitch was crazy”? Oh, please.

More like,

“Bitch was” in the middle of a 5-year communication breakdown with you while you buried your head in the Beach of Self-Denial.

“Bitch was” frustrated with your stubbornness and inability to compromise.

“Bitch was” trapped in guilt as you manipulated her and made her feel this little:         Yep, that little.

Hell, I’m guilty of it, too. I have thought him a robot, when I damn well know he isn’t. I now understand he is just a different creature than I  —  a different backbone, a different background. Who knows how long it will take him to be willing to work through himself, to take some responsibility, to detach bone from bone and reattach them in an unfamiliar way? How long before he closes that gap himself?

I’m okay not trying to bridge that gap anymore. Sometimes, it’s a battle you can’t (even shouldn’t!) join. You have to pull yourself out of it and protect yourself. You have to give the other person a chance and trust them to reach self-peace when they’re ready.

WordPress Discover Challenge: Mind the Gap