Is the Honeymoon Already Over?!!

September 2, 2008

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.

The Sociopath Next Door

August 20, 2008

Fortunately, I moved.  You may be wondering what I’m talking about.

This morning, a coworker referenced the book The Sociopath Next Door, assuming I had never heard of it.  Not only had I heard of it, I have a copy of it.  I bought it a couple of years ago because it has a funny title.  I’m always curious about how sociopaths minds work and I had recently dated my next door neighbor, whom I suspected might be a sociopath.

I told her briefly about our relationship.  On our first date, he asked me what I thought about marriage.  I told him I was ambivalent about it.  He proceeded to tell me how he liked the idea of marriage.  Further into the relationship, he denied ever having said anything like that.  I later realized he was constantly lying about things, saying whatever he thought would get him what he wanted at the time.  We have long since broken up, but had maintained a friendship of sorts since we continued to be neighbors. 

When I finally completely got over him, realized how manipulative he had been, forgave him (for my own mental health), and had zero interest in ever dating him or anyone like him again, he regained a romantic interest in me.  I never told him I thought he was a sociopath.  Not that being a sociopath is as simple as being a liar, but what’s the point of confronting a liar about their lies?  They’ll just keep on lying.  And they will refine their game.  So, I never gave him that advantage.  I maintained a casual friendship for the sake of civility.

I was telling my coworker how he called me after I moved.  I ignored his phone calls and eventually he stopped calling.  But, strangely he called today.  His ears must have been ringing.  I didn’t recognize the number, so I didn’t answer it.  I was surprised to listen to the voice mail message and find it was him.

One of the takeaways from the book is that, as the title implies, there are sociopaths among us.  They are people without conscience.  They have learned to act like they care to maintain relationships, but they really don’t have the capacity to care.  My neighbor had been in a severe automobile accident and suffered from a closed head injury.  His behavior may have been a result of that.  Or maybe he has always been like that.  I’ll never know.  What I learned from that situation is to pay attention to people’s behavior – not just their words, but their actions as well.  Discrepancies between words and actions are a red flag.