Two Extremes in Relationships
Coming off my marriage, I did what most people do. No, not sow as many oats as possible. As if!
The sincere answer is that I was determined to date someone different than my ex.
I tried to be smart about it, though. I didn’t want to go to the extreme and date someone TOTALLY different.
In many ways, my first (well, only) serious beau after my separation wasn’t that different from my ex or many of the guys I dated.
Physically my beau (I’ll call him “Evan”) and my ex looked very different, but both were responsible, intelligent, had fairly similar jobs, and liked many of the same things.
I knew, however, that I wanted someone who was capable of being more emotionally connected and sensitive.
Evan was definitely more sensitive and communicative than my ex, but after a few weeks I began to see that he could be very moody, temperamental, and easily upset.
I was willing to overlook some of Evan’s flaws and the red flags of our relationship because I was determined to give this new relationship a real chance. Plus, I thought that Evan’s moodiness was simply part of the price that came along with someone who was more emotional.
Besides, I was working through my own issues (which I was honest with Evan about), so who was I to expect Evan to be “perfect?” A good girlfriend who was flawed and damaged herself should be patient, accepting, and understanding.
So I gave this relationship everything I had.
Over 18 months I learned more about him, his past, and his relationship with his ex-wife.
It took me a long time to see the pattern of volatility and drama of his marriage and other family relationships.
This impacted our relationship in a variety of ways.
One of our biggest obstacles was that he is an external processor and I’m an internal processor. (In fact, I wrote an entire story about that.)
I would frequently get sucked into 3 and 4 (even longer) late night phone calls that spiraled into tears and hysterics.
Even if I attempted to cut the phone calls short to allow us to cool off, he would twist the situation so that I was made to feel that I was failing him. I wasn’t listening to him. I wasn’t understanding him.
Despite my giving it everything I had, my efforts were never enough.
He didn’t mean to hurt me emotionally or psychologically. He was not a malicious person.
(To be clear: he NEVER hurt me physically. Never!)
But the relationship was based on break-ups, make-ups, trauma, misunderstandings, drama, and (frequently) his forgiving “my” shortcomings.
I hated it! I hated the drama!
But fear and guilt kept me in this toxic relationship. Over time that toxicity seeped into my body.
In fact, I almost died from the unrelenting emotional pain and stress as it eventually manifested physically.
When my organs started shutting down, I finally removed myself from the situation and made a full recovery.
I acquired so many hard-earned lessons from that relationship.
One of the biggest observations I made was: if I have to choose between being neglected and ignored in a relationship OR being in a volatile, angst-filled, confrontational relationship, I would rather be in the former.
I think the damage from being in a conflict-filled and dramatic relationship is more harmful.
To be clear: both types of relationships are damaging. I have no interest in being in either of those types of relationships again.
Nonetheless, it was eye-opening for me to see the fallout from Evan’s unhealthy marriage filled with explosive arguing (from him and his ex-wife).
I haven’t dated anyone else seriously since my breakup with Evan, but I have dated a few other guys that alluded to erratic, emotionally volatile marriages.
The fragments of their stories and the behavior patterns that I have observed…these guys have a tough road ahead of them.
Interestingly, I have NO doubt both parties played a role in the unhealthiness of these relationships and both of them will need to heal.
There are some very damaged, aggressive women out there, too. This is certainly not just a “man” problem. Sadly, this is a human problem.
I think people instinctively understand how damaging being in a physically and emotionally dramatic/abusive relationship is.
On the other hand, it’s harder for people to get their heads around severe neglect. There is a presumption that it’s simply “falling out of love” or not getting enough of one’s Love Languages filled.
The type of physical and emotional neglect I’m talking about is actually quite rare and leaves a much, much deeper wound than many people are aware of.
Neglect and Isolation Vs. Volatility and Drama
I see these two types of relationships as residing on opposite sides of the relationship spectrum. On the one side you have constant bickering, arguing, volatility, overreaction, and worse. On the other you have isolation, emotional abandonment, and emotional and physical neglect.
Finding balance in a relationship is what I’m seeking now. I don’t want to be hidden and ignored anymore, but I know that I’m not cut out for the highs and lows of a constant emotionally-charged relationship either.
That balance for me is someone who is responsible, has a good head on his shoulders, and can roll with life’s bumps but also has passion about something (whatever that something is) and a passion about me!
I’m still looking for him, but I’m sure a lot closer in knowing what isn’t healthy for me. What type of relationship doesn’t work for me.
And there is something comforting, even healing, in that knowledge.