Growing Through Relationships

Just because a relationship is easier, doesn’t mean that it’s better. This realization came to me as I was snuggled into my boyfriend’s side over the holiday weekend. For a long time before I met Nate, I struggled with the persevering obsession with my ex. Even when I hadn’t spoken to him in months or even years, that sense that we were supposed to be together never left me. Part of me was convinced that the obsessive thoughts alone were proof of that fact. There must be a good reason that I can’t let him go. I told myself that reason was destiny or some such nonsense that I never really believed in.

It seems obvious now, but only after listening to one of my favorite podcasts discuss this phenomenon of not being able to let a partner go, did I realize that other people felt the way I did. It wasn’t because they were “destined” to be together. Often it was just because the person was someone they loved as an adolescent. That teenage love has a tendency to be overwhelming and all consuming. It’s no wonder people can find it hard to let that go. Especially when no adult relationships seem to be able to measure up to that level of intensity. That isn’t because our high school sweetheart was the one. It’s because back then we were flooded with hormones and our prefrontal cortex wasn’t fully developed yet.

In addition to that, I also realized this weekend that one of the reasons I would often find myself comparing and preferring my past partner was because things felt easier with him. This ease was another sign to me that we were meant to be. However, all of a sudden I realized that wasn’t true. Things weren’t easy because we were soulmates. Things were easier because he enabled me. He allowed me to remain stagnant, to avoid any personal growth. I don’t think this was malicious or on purpose. It was just the dynamic we had together. His traits compensated for the underdeveloped parts of me. And that felt good. It felt safe.

On the contrary, I noticed that a lot of the little things about Nate that rub me the wrong way are actually qualities we both share. For instance, he is always agreeable and appeasing. Usually I am the one that plays that role. I’m terrible at making decisions and being assertive. It’s much easier when I have a partner that is. Then I can just go along with whatever they want to do. Seeing my own indecision and passivity in Nate is the reason I find it irritating sometimes. For the first time in a relationship, I feel forced to make decisions.

I don’t enjoy making decisions. However, for that very reason, it is important that I practice doing so. In the past, I let my partner make all the first moves and decisions for everything. I thought because I preferred this, it meant we were a good match. I’ve started to see things differently though. Now I realize that those relationships kept me from improving as a person. Being with Nate has already helped me to push past my comfort zone and work on some of the skills I’m deficient in. While this isn’t fun for me, it’s beneficial. It’s hard to work on ourselves. It’s hard to face the parts of ourselves that we may not like. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t, though.

In addition to helping me grow, being with someone so similar to me helps me to get a broader perspective on how others may perceive my behavior. I had always thought just going along with what whoever I was with wanted was a positive thing. I thought it would make me more likeable. Now I realize that it may actually be doing the opposite. I see how it might make the other person feel I am creating distance between us, not allowing them to see the full picture of who I am, what I like, etc.

I no longer feel uncertain about whether or not Nate is “right” for me. He’s perfect. Even his imperfections are exactly what I need. Not only does he help me love and understand myself better, he is also helping me to become a better person. I’ve finally been able to let go of my ex for good. I am now able to see just how unhealthy that relationship actually was. It is such a joy to be free of that mental burden and find rest in a love that is good for me.

Doing Things Differently

I follow very strict daily routines. There was never any real reason that I began doing things in this particular order. It just kind of fell together that way. Now it’s become a pattern that, although has its variations depending on what I may have to do that day, has become very domineering. It has started to concern me as it’s begun to strongly resemble OCD. This all day ritual that I must perform or else I won’t be able to feel okay. Not that I feel no anxiety even when I’ve completed everything perfectly.

I know that the obvious solution is to stop letting myself do things in this order every day. Then I will see that everything is still fine when I divert from my normal routine. But like any form of addiction, I usually tell myself, “But I don’t want to stop.” This feels like only a half-truth at best. Regardless I need to stop so that it doesn’t continue to escalate and become an even more overpowering compulsion. I’ve already seen it slowly expanding to consume every waking hour. Once upon a time, it was merely my mornings that were off limits. I’ve left lovers in bed so that I could start my reading and study Spanish. At that point it still just felt like being efficient and productive. Come afternoon I would be free once again to do anything I’d like.

But now that morning routine has bled out into the afternoon, the evening. It sounds crazy even to me, but yesterday it was a great internal struggle to allow my best friend to come over and hangout for a few hours. I dearly love her and don’t get to see her often enough, partly due to this madness of mine. Still I was so tempted to make up an excuse not to see her so I could make sure my day was an exact photocopy of the day before. I’m not sure if anyone in my life right now is even aware of this issue to be honest. If anything they just admire my “commitment” and “productivity.” Little do they know it’s more like an illness than a virtue.

Nevertheless, I am going to try to change, if even just a little bit. Yesterday I had my friend over. This morning I accidentally slept in, so since things were already going to be slightly off, I managed to do my yoga and meditation first thing. It was very interesting. I want to encourage myself to make small changes to my rigid routine every day. Just to prove to myself that I can. Maybe eventually I’ll even set aside a day to make totally different.

All of this sounds completely insane to me as I write it. I can’t imagine what it sounds like to someone who’s never experienced anything like this. I wouldn’t even know what a normal person’s days look like at this point. It seems like most people just sit around all day. Whereas I feel compelled to fill every single moment with something, even if it’s something silly. Now that I think of it, although I always have something playing on YouTube or Netflix, I can’t remember the last time simply watching it was all I was doing. It is usually just on for background noise as I work on something else.

It may sound like this isn’t a huge issue and that I must be accomplishing a lot, but sadly that isn’t always the case. A lot of the time, there are other things I actually need to be working on, but I never get around to doing them because I’ve already filled up every second of my day with other projects. It is becoming impossible for me to shift my priorities and focus on the things that need my attention, but aren’t every day activities. I feel like this leads to me appearing lazy or letting people down. It’s something I’m unable to explain or even justify to anyone else. So far I’ve been able to manage it, barely. But I fear that if I don’t actively work on dismantling this toxic, overbearing routine I won’t be able to manage it forever.

Photo by Polina Kovaleva on Pexels.com

Trading Pain for Pleasure

How much pain are you willing to put up with to keep someone close to you? I’ve been asking myself this question for a long time now. Some days I feel like I would sacrifice anything just to have that special connection. Other days I wonder if it’s really worth it, if I’m just addicted to reopening old wounds in a desperate attempt to feel something again. I can never decide what would truly be best for me. Should I try to protect myself and try to give up these feelings? Or should I follow what I feel no matter how painful the outcome? Can I really trust these feelings? Or am I deluding myself?

I always feel like there are two sides of me constantly arguing with each other. My brain, my logical self says, “Move on! You are being stupid. This is pathetic. You are romanticizing the past. There is nothing but suffering to be had by clinging to a memory.” But my heart, my emotional self says, “Nothing else makes me feel like this. Nothing else makes me feel anything. That has to mean something. I don’t know what, but I can’t ignore this pull. Everything else seems grey by comparison.” My brain interrupts in protest as I try to express this ineffable feeling, “You are a literal crazy person. You are one of those creepy, stalker, weirdos. You’ve lost sight of reality.” The shame and embarrassment of this likely conclusion usually halts me in my tracks, keeps me from acting, keeps me from even pondering the question anymore.

I am so terrified that any further attempts to reach out will only reinforce this idea in the mind of this other person. Is that how they see me already? Would they be right in seeing me that way? Maybe so. For the longest time, I felt cheated and insulted by the idea of mere friendship. Now I am horrified that I turned my nose up at such a generous offer. After all that I have done, I don’t really even deserve that. And maybe because of those past mistakes, those egregious, selfish acts, I should resign myself to this bond being forever severed.

I’ve genuinely never felt closer to anyone, never been known so deeply by anyone, never cared to know anyone else so deeply in return. But perhaps this fixation, this constant clinging, is what has been preventing me from developing any other significant relationships. Then again, I always come back to the question: Is it even up to me? Am I even able to truly let this go, even if I decided I wanted to? It seems like right now, the best I can manage to do is go numb, to not think about it. In fact, just writing this all out has left me emotionally exhausted. I think it’s about time to stop for now.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com