I’ve lost track of how many dates I’ve had with Dave over the past few weeks. They aren’t really “dates” anymore. We’ve started doing mundane things together since things like running errands are more fun with company. At the same time, I’m not used to doing mundane things with other people. I am kind of “old” and “set in my ways” when it comes to certain things. These are really just OCD tendencies.
I don’t have the greatest social skills, especially when it comes to relationships. I’ve been single for most of my adult life. This is partly because I historically have terrible taste in men. It’s also partly because I don’t know how to “do” relationships. I had your typical dysfunctional family upbringing. I’m still trying to figure out how healthy and normal people do things. I’ve figured out a lot of it, but the whole relationship domain is new territory for me.
In the past, I haven’t done it (relationships) much and I certainly haven’t done it well. In the past, conflicts were either buried or turned into arguments. Conflicts either smoldered over time or ended in break-ups…or some combination of the two. Now what I am struggling with is how to handle conflict in my current relationship. I use the term relationship loosely because we haven’t defined it in the formal sense. I use the term because we have a human relationship that the word friendship doesn’t accurately describe.
There are moments when I feel uncomfortable emotions welling up inside me and I feel panicked. I know I can’t ignore them, because they will come to the surface no matter what. It’s best to consciously and carefully bring them to the surface verbally, or they will come out in my behavior. As I bring up different concerns with Dave, I feel a tremendous amount of anxiety, like whatever silly (or serious) thing is on my mind is going to trigger the end of our relationship.
I partly have my last “boyfriend” to thank for that acute association. This was a few years ago. He was literally, the sociopath next door. He was such an @$$hole that every time I brought up a concern about our relationship, he would respond with something like “well, then let’s break up.” He refused to participate in any kind of conversation that was the slightest bit uncomfortable. He only wanted to be in a relationship with me if things were fun and light. Otherwise, he was more than happy to give (or threaten) a cold shoulder.
In addition to my experiences with the sociopath, I didn’t exactly grow up with any appropriate modelling for how to deal with conflict. It was just avoided at all costs. I internalized all of that conflict over the years until it came pouring out of me in the form of depression in my teen and young adult years. I was the youngest in the family, and all the $hit got passed down to me.
So, now here I am, at the age of 36, trying to figure out how to deal with the smallest amount of (potential) conflict in a romantic relationship. Fortunately, Dave is very kind and stable and is more than ready to talk about any concern I may have.