Relationship Standards

I was watching an advice show where someone wrote in to ask about how not to bring old relationship baggage into a new relationship. This person was feeling anxious about similarities in behavior between her past and present partner and wanted a way to ease her mind and stop worrying about being dumped by her new partner. I don’t know what I expected to hear, but I was a little disappointed that this person’s situation wasn’t more comparable to my own. Because I was hoping to get some advice or insight for myself.

My problem is almost the exact opposite. I can’t seem to find anyone that is similar enough to my old partner. I know I shouldn’t be comparing them to him in the first place, but I can’t help myself. Yet there are so many factors I have to consider while I’m doing so that I wonder if it’s really the other person falling short or me. Now, I’m trying to be fair here. I don’t expect them to be perfect, or a carbon copy of someone from my past. I am just looking for that same sense of connection.

On paper, it probably wouldn’t look like there was anything too remarkable about my last relationship. But there was this ineffable vibe that this person gave me. I don’t know what it is exactly. It’s not just that person either. My best friend is one of those people. My coworkers seem to be of that kind as well. I even randomly met someone the other day who has been in my mind since then. Just from that brief conversation I could tell they were potentially one of these special people as well. I’ll try my best to explain what exactly this quality is I am searching for in others.

It feels like when most people look at you, they aren’t really looking at you. They are seeing you distorted through all of their expectations and assumptions. They are seeing the person they want you to be. When you speak to these people you get the sense that they didn’t really take the time to hear you. These special people of mine are different. They really see me. And somehow they accept me anyway, love me anyway. What could be more beautiful?

Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t consider myself a great listener or someone who is open to letting people be whoever they are and accepting that. I don’t know if the people in my life that are like that with me are even like that with everyone. Perhaps there are just invisible threads that connect some of us in that special way. But even though I’m not always open and loving, something about being seen lets me be. It is a vulnerable, thrilling place to be. It makes me feel truly alive again to be near these types of people.

The problem is there don’t seem to be very many of these people. I’ve only met a handful my entire life. When I start talking to someone new, I really try to give them a fair chance. Even though I can usually tell if someone has that vibe or not right away. Meeting through the internet makes it kind of hard to be sure. These people are always conversationalists though. They are as good at talking as they are at listening. They ask lots of good questions and have interesting opinions and perspective on things.

It is quite emotionally exhausting to sift through the population trying to find these people. I feel guilty every time I have to break things off with someone for seemingly no reason. Most of the people I’ve met were perfectly fine, but they just weren’t right. I wasn’t feeling that connection. They weren’t really seeing me.

This is where I start to doubt myself though. Is this all in my head? Am I projecting all of this onto the people around me? Am I just looking for excuses to keep carrying this torch for someone who couldn’t care less about me now? Is this some kind of complex defense mechanism to keep people away?

Occasionally I’ll push forward with a new relationship long past when I’ve basically decided it isn’t going to work for me. Just to see if the person just needs more of a chance, if they’ll grow on me. I always end up just feeling guilty in the end for leading them on and wasting both of our time. I’m not someone who would ever “settle.” That has never been an option for me. I much prefer being on my own to being with someone I don’t absolutely adore. I guess I’ll just keep looking and trusting this one sliver of intuition that still speaks to me.

Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

Questions

One of the reasons I suspect I may be on the autistic spectrum is my inability to comprehend and/or engage in small talk. Ever since I was a child, it has always seemed boring and nonsensical to me. I didn’t (and still don’t) get the point of saying: “How are you?” “I’m fine.” “Nice weather, today!” Or just asking random, vanilla questions for seemingly no other purpose than to fill silences. I do hate awkward silences, but I seem incapable of generating these space fillers that come so easily to most people.

Part of the reason it seems to be so difficult is because I am not really interested in having those types of conversations. I feel like I’m being phony. Asking people questions I don’t really care about the answers to. It’s like putting on a show. It’s a lot of work for me. It’s tiring. And maybe I sound cold. Do other people genuinely care about the answers to all those generic questions? I’ve just never had any interest in talking for the sake of talking. The silence is only awkward to me because I feel like other people are expecting me to talk. I supposed I quickly got tired of hearing people say “you’re so quiet!”

There are questions I’d like to ask people I don’t know yet. I realize that each of us has our own universe within our head. I am fascinated by the different things people think and their perspectives of the world. I like to know about people’s pasts too and how that has influenced who they became. The problem is, I don’t really know when the appropriate time is for learning those things about a person. I guess that stuff is usually divulged organically through other conversation. But often if I just wait for that to happen I find myself stuck in a limbo of surface level interactions.

I have a hard time remembering to ask questions, because the questions I’d like to ask are too random and possibly inappropriate, offensive, or insensitive. And as I’ve said I feel weird trying to make small talk. So instead I usually end up talking about myself a lot. Sometimes I wish other people would do this too. That way I could know what interests them, what is important to them, get a good idea of who they are. I always get along best with extroverted people that easily fall into talking about all sorts of topics and branching out from there. I’m absolutely hopeless at carrying on a conversation with someone who is quiet and reserved. It’s almost palpably painful for us both. I find myself wishing social etiquette would allow me to just remain silent. I guess that is rude though…

I want to make a list of some of the questions I’d really like to ask of people I don’t know yet. Maybe someone reading this could tell me if they’d be okay to ask or what context I could give them to make them okay. Here are just a few that come to mind:

  1. What is the last dream you can remember?
  2. What is your first memory?
  3. Do you believe in God?
    • Why or why not?
    • How has that impacted your life?
  4. Have you ever done any recreational drugs?
    • What have you tried?
    • What was your favorite and why?
    • Why did you try them initially?
  5. Are you afraid of dying?
  6. What was your childhood like?
    • What is one impactful moment from childhood you remember?
    • How do you think it’s affected you?
  7. How do you see yourself?
  8. How do you think other people see you?
  9. How would you like people to see you?
  10. What is something you’re passionate about?
  11. What was the most difficult time period in your life?
  12. What was the best time period in your life?

These are just the first questions that came to mind. Some seem more appropriate than others, but I wouldn’t know how to sprinkle any into conversation naturally. Maybe you could suggest some more interesting, yet normal questions to help me chat with a new person. Can any of you relate to this type of discomfort? How do you handle it? I’ve definitely gotten better at faking it with time and practice, but I still don’t think I’m a very good conversationalist. I’m not sure that’s really something you can learn.

Branch Out

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Hello dears! Today was my first day back at college for the fall semester. So, as I usually seem to do, I set some new goals for myself this year in West Liberty. I want to make new friends. This may seem like something that wouldn’t need to be a goal, but as I have stated in one of my previous posts, until recently I suffered from a lot of social anxiety. Getting to know people was a terrifyingly and taxing affair.

However, I have been taking the anti-anxiety medication Paxil for almost a year now and am feeling very differently about things. I had been noticing myself getting bored with my life for the past few years, but only after quieting my anxieties have I been able to figure out why that is. I miss knowing people. All of this time I have been getting lost inside my own head. I forgot the joy of the moments like the one pictured above. This is a photo my closest friend for over twelve years took the other night of us talking. This photo really represents to me all of the wonderful and heartfelt conversations that we have had in those twelve years.

I feel the warmth and significance of those encounters and the way we have helped and watched each other grow. I realize now that these moments with other people are one of the most precious things in this life. To discuss abstract concepts and ideologies and really consider and discover the way another person sees the world is a magnificent thing.

Now that I am no longer so nervous around people, I would really like to work on forming more close relationships and seeing the world from some new perspectives. I am tired of living inside my own head and I am curios. I am curious to see if there are any other minds out there as beautiful as my dear friend Valarie’s. 

So let’s all try to be a little more open to new people and new encounters this year. Who knows who you will meet?

Stay peaceful, friends.