I’ve always kind of known I was bad at being in a relationship in the past. Mainly because I was in relationships that I didn’t value very much. But now, I am in a relationship that matters and still…I’m bad at being in a relationship.
I’m not taking infidelity or abuse or anything borderline inappropriate related to your significant other. I mean I am just not good at it. Like driving stick shift. A lot of times we stay with manual. We know manual. It’s simple, it’s easy and it never changes. Stick shift, while some might find easy to use, we can never be as good as it as we are manual. We can get the best car on the planet, a classic beauty, but while we love and enjoy it, we still can’t get used to the stick shift.
I’ve been in a serious relationship for 6 years now (holy cow does that make me a grown up?) and still, I learn more about how to share your life with someone. My sister always said you need at least two years to really know someone, and now I see why. After six years, we finally had the talk. The talk some couples never even get to because they have bottled it all up and exploded on one another. The premise of the talk was this, what’s keeping us around and what’s giving us the idea to leave. It was as simple as that. We discussed why we don’t want to be with one another, and why we still are together.
I’m not going to spill the beans on what was wrong and right in our relationship, but I will say, my inability to be a good partner came up. It was something I knew about myself, but never something that I thought would truly risk my relationship.
So why am I bad at being in a relationship? Well it’s complex and some of it is personal, but to sum it up, I am selfish. I care only about myself and my goals and my ideas. That’s different from not caring about someone. I care about my boyfriend’s well-being of course. I care about his health, his happiness and all that good happy bubbly stuff, but I really care about me. It’s like when Samantha told Richard on Sex & The City, “I love you, but I love me more.” Of course that was in reference to his infidelity but still.
When it comes to planning my evenings and weekends, the first thing that comes to mind is me, not us. I think of the chores I want to get done, the things I need to do and so on. The only time I think of something together, is when I need his help doing something. If I need to do some yard work, then the him and me time will come into play. Other than that, I only think of what I am doing.
I never put timelines on our relationship, only on my life. It’s no secret to my friends and family that I don’t feel the need to get married. I do however want to have kids. So I have been harping on my boyfriend about the year I want to have a kid. I told him and he would say, “ok, we’ll see” and so on. But never did it occur to me to ask him when he wants to have kids. And since I need him to have a baby and raise it, that’s something I should consider.
If we are doing something like watching a movie on the couch or driving in the car and talking to one another, I will almost always have my phone out. Like most people, I look at my phone while I do other things. Who doesn’t watch TV and look at their phone at the same time? It almost feels weird not to multi-task at this point. But I didn’t realize that by checking my phone, I was withdrawing myself from the present. I wasn’t focused on the movie we were supposed to be watching together. I wasn’t paying full attention to what he was saying while we were in the car.
Not only do I only think of myself when I am in a relationship, I assume everything. I assume he will be mad at me if I do something. I assume he won’t be able to make it to an event I am attending or even want to go in the first place. I assume how he will feel about something, and 9 times out of 10, I am wrong. It took him telling me this to realize that I assume situations in my head and project them without seeing what’s in front of me first. Making these assumptions are part of why I feel more invested in myself than in the relationship, I assume the worst.
If this sounds anything like you, awesome! That means I am not alone! But also, it doesn’t mean you can’t change. But if you are really struggling with giving more of yourself in a relationship, it probably means you are not in the right relationship or it’s just not the right time in your life to be with that person. That’s a tough decision to make and one that we all have to wrestle with when we think about the person we are with. Because I value the relationship I am in and want it to work, I decided to let some of my guard down and care less about myself. It’s been a few weeks now and I can say we are doing great.
The first big challenge I had was giving up my Saturday. My weekends are planned down to the hour, because I really value that time off. So I schedule all my tasks and excursions very carefully. So when Labor Day weekend came this year, you know I had a full schedule in my head of all the things I wanted to do, of course they revolved around me and what I wanted to do. So when my boyfriend woke up Saturday morning and said he thought we should go to the Museum of Science and Industry for the day, my stomach almost dropped. My gut instinct was to say no. I am not exactly the best at spontaneity, plus heading to a museum in Chicago on the weekend sounded like a lot of time and effort that I didn’t want to deal with. So I didn’t say no right away, I said maybe. But I knew I should go, because while it’s important to keep up your house, your health and other things like that, it’s important to keep up with your relationship. Since I could tell he really wanted to go, I went. I was stressed for much of the day, getting out of my comfort zone. I took a Xanax (I have a prescription for panic attacks, which I get often) and was finely able to enjoy the day. We ended up having a great time and I even got him to go to this gastro-pub restaurant that I assumed he would hate. He loved the food and I love spending the day with him.
Now that doesn’t mean I am completely cured and ready to be the best girlfriend ever. I may never be that, but I am taking steps. No more assumptions and when we are having dinner or idly chatting in the car, my phone is put away.