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Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

It seems this is the season for long-term couples to look at themselves and their relationships and decide not to be together anymore.  Okay, really, it’s more the season for one half of the couple to do that.  I’ve got a few friends who are making the transition from ‘us’ to ‘me.’ 

What I really want to talk about is the freedom that comes with the untangling, the dis-enmeshment of a breakup. (I love that new word I just made up!)  So many of my friends had been living with the constrictions of their relationships – afraid to do things, buy things, go places because their partner disapproved.  The relationships had a power imbalance that was subtle, abusive, and insidious.  It grew out of patterns of behavior that may have started benignly (“Honey, you’re so much more savvy with money – you do our finances”)  but grew into chains.  (“Can I buy this?  Is it in our budget?”) 

I have a friend who just last week finalized her divorce and she’s been slogging through it for a year now.  Her husband told her out of the blue and began a systematic tearing down of her, beginning with the finances.  She has been on the defensive, first trying to regain his love, then trying to hold on to anything, countering his every legal move, let’s just say it’s been exhausting.  But now it’s done and she is finally able to sit back and look at her life – think about what she wants, where she’s headed, what is important to her.   

What I notice about her is that she is finally prioritizing herself again – for her – not so she will be a good “catch.”   She has stopped being driven by fear: that he will leave her, that she will not have the American Dream, that the kids will leave her too, that her friends will judge her because she failed.  She smiles now. 

Fearless living my friends.  Makes you amazing!  Allows you to love yourself first and others unconditionally.  Every person I know who moves from ‘us’ to ‘me’ has been given that opportunity.  Some grab it and hold it and own it for the rest of their lives, and others refuse the gift, too afraid to believe.

My hope and wish for all of my friends, especially those who are hurting, is that they will grab the chance, kick fear to the curb, and fly.  Wouldn’t it be beautiful to see all those womyn with wings?

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Another interesting meta-phrase, “I miss you.”  Was talking about this with a friend who was feeling particularly lonely and said those words.  Followed by something to the effect that saying so seemed needy, didn’t it?

Now, let me go back to the truth that communication is never as clear-cut as we would like it to be.  I say something, or write something, or even move my body and the first thing that happens, even before I do any of those things, is that my mind considers my purpose, my audience, what I know of that audience, and what kinds of response I have received in similar situations with others and with the intended audience.  All of these filters come together to help me choose the way I convey my message.  And then my message hits your filters.  I can say ‘your’ in this case, since you (whoever you are) are reading this.  And those same filters come into play, except from your perspective.  So, really, do we ever communicate exactly what we want to communicate?  Ah, too big a question for me!

But back to ‘I miss you.”  I have a pretty standard overall feeling about the receiving of that meta-phrase.  It’s a compliment.  It says, “You are important to me.  I want to spend time with you.  I enjoy your company.  You bring me joy.”  Why else would we miss? As the receiver,  ‘I miss you’ are words that I enjoy hearing.  It makes me think about the giver and often spurs me to find a way to make more real time with them.  Because, honestly, I miss them too.

But now to the perspective of the ‘sender’.  I think that all of the above apply in any situation of saying, “I miss you.”  But emotional state is a big factor.  When we are doing something that we know the other person would love, we might give them an ‘I miss you,’ because we want them to have that fun experience.  Or when we’re doing something that we think we would enjoy more if that person were there, we can have an ‘I miss you’ moment.  Both of those are happy and celebratory of that person. 

But when we’re feeling low and/or sad, it’s a natural tendency to think about what external things would make us happy.  Often it’s a good friend or lover.  Connecting then and letting them know you miss them feels weak or wrong or needy because we’re not in great shape.  But really, let’s look at that.  The people who are important in our lives are important because we can turn to them.  Because they support us through everything – the good and the bad.  And to recognize that – they’ve helped us feel good, shared their joy –  to want that when we are down, isn’t that normal? 

What a gift to give someone!  You enhance my life.  Thinking about you makes me smile and right now, I could use a smile.  I miss you.  I would feel better than I do right now, if you were here.  It would help me get out of my own way.  Telling someone you miss them is not a demand for time or attention.   In this case, it’s an acknowledgement of not feeling good and one possible solution.  It’s still a celebration of that person.

Okay, so, ‘I miss you’ has been sent, it has been received and now the reaction.  This is where needy, greedy, happy, grateful – judgements come in. 

As I have been writing this, I’ve been thinking of anther friend who has just gone through a really sad break-up.  It came as a surprise to her and she has had a hard time really believing.  Her ex would probably even say that the deluge of texts, e-mails, snail mails, etc. would amount to stalking.  And every one of those communications had some form of  ‘I miss you.’ 

So, as I’m writing this, I’m also thinking about that, and what I’m writing is losing form and purpose, because I’m writing about people who care about one another, and who want to spend time together, but I’m writing as if my truths about this meta-phrase were universal and then I’m trying to accommodate the ‘I miss you’ that is not a reciprocated feeling.  so.

I think what I’ve come up with in my muddle is that I still believe ‘I miss you.’ is a compliment.  I still believe all of the things I have written about it.  Whether one takes the compliment or not, is up to them.  But the needy part, the part that feels ookie to the receiver is not the I miss you, but the rest of the message – “What is wrong with me? I can change.  Please come back.”  All there, although maybe not in those exact words.  We mix the compliment with the tragic lack of self-esteem and have that, “Ew!  Yuck!  Get away from me now!” feeling.

Remember when I talked about our filters?  I think we’ve all had the ‘I miss you’ around a lost partner or friend.  I know I have, and I’ve had the ‘I can change’ feeling too.  And I’ve communicated it.  I think that’s where my friend was coming from when she said something to the effect of ‘sounds kind of needy, doesn’t it?’  We start to associate missing someone with them not wanting to be around us.  So the more important someone is, the less we want to reveal that they are.  Because if you are important and I want to be around you, you are going to leave me because wanting you around (or to be around you) is needy.  And nobody likes needy or clingy.  How sad that our experiences can be so convoluted that we become guarded with our joy in each other. 

I know I’m just beginning to unlearn it.  It’s a part of an intentional life.  A life not ruled by fear.  And so to my very best friends, (and I know you’ll get this message) “I always miss you.  You help me be the best womon that I am, and you make me feel more alive.  I wish that I could spend so much more time with you because of who you are and who I am when I’m with you.  There is richness in our togetherness that I cannot find anywhere else and I carry it with me when we are apart.  I love you.”

lifetimes

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connections and space Peace PagodaI was talking with a friend the other day (okay, we were emailing and the last installment was yesterday) and we were discussing the need for space.  Physical space, to be alone, all alone, especially when you’re in a deeply intimate relationship.  And not just any space – space that feels like it’s yours.  She had asked me a while back which be more difficult – admitting I missed my girl, or realizing that I really don’t.  I totally misunderstood the question and thought it was about the demise of a relationship, but it was really about space.

It’s funny that we are taught that humans are such social creatures, because most of the people I hang with have real boundaries about how much time they want to spend in the company of others.  Including me.  And I sometimes feel guilty about my need to be all by myself.  Being in a long distance relationship means that I do miss her all the time, like the sound of a brook through the bedroom window.  Sometimes it’s fully present and all I can focus on, and sometimes it’s not even noticed.  I find that I don’t notice the missing when I’m engaged in something I want to do.  Being alone is often what I want to do.

In past relationships, my partners haven’t understood the need to have space for a day or a week, or even an hour.  And not just, “I want to be in another room from you,”  but, “I want you to go shopping without me and do lunch and let me have this space empty except for me for at least 2 hours, please.”  Somehow that seemed personal to them.  So I have spent many years fighting for the right to have space.  And accommodating my partner’s needs to have my presence.

That’s something that is different now.  In this relationship, maybe because we took it so slow, maybe because the distance is so great, maybe because we are so very intentional with each other, and check in at every point, I have freedom.  I know and have experienced the, “I need space alone and it’s not about you.”  From both sides.  And it works really well.

To be honest, the first time I was on the receiving end (she needed space), I said all the right things and did all the right things, but it was such a different experience that I had to sit and really process that it wasn’t about me, and I didn’t have to get insecure or needy.  And I didn’t need to share that processing with her.  Huh.  Okay, maybe I went through that a couple of times.  But one thing I know is true – we are our actions.  And  my actions were loving and respectful and what I wanted to receive when I needed space.  And so, I grew up and was open to being able to trust her a little bit more.  (Which is scary and leads to the need for more space!)

One of the things I wonder about needing space is why.  I’ve come up with a couple of things and I think in different moments they are all valid.  Gonna’ bullet these, because I probably want to come back and explore them more deeply later.

  • I find I have a greater need for space the more intimate I become with someone.  It’s new territory and hits all my trust buttons, and I get worn out, unsure, and afraid. 
  • Sometimes I need to be able to be me without feeling like there might be even the slightest chance of judgement.  Indulging in popcorn for dinner, or the cheesy movie I would never admit that I had seen.
  • I like me and need a date with me every once in a while.
  • Sometimes (and this is going to sound weird) I sit and savor the lonely.  Makes me more grateful.

My biggest gratitude today is that I have this freedom with my love and she has it with me.  It makes us strong and allows us trust.  I most deeply appreciate that my friends are on this same path of healthy investigation and growth.  We can talk objectively and emotionally about this stuff and in that process, I get the gift of being more available to trust and intimacy with them, too.  Maybe I will be a social creature one day! Ha!

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Been thinking about that three word phrase, “I love you.”  I know someone who doesn’t use it often, because, as she says, “‘love’ is one of those meta words that can mean different things to different people.”  She prefers to go straight to the detail, the aspect of love that would inspire an ‘I love you,’ and make comment on that. 

It used to bother me.  And honestly, sometimes it still does.  I like being told that I am loved.  I’ve been looking at the whys of that, and what saying ‘I love you’ means to me.  I totally agree that it has become a catch-all phrase, and sometimes I am guilty of using it that way myself.  As I become more linguistically aware, and more intentional about what I want to convey, I have also been examining what I mean when I use the meta phrase.

My truth is that ‘I love you’ has different meanings for me in different contexts.  In order to use that phrase with someone, I need to have a clear, defining conversation about what it means in connection to them.  This is something I am learning to do, and it is something that has made me stop in my tracks on the way to saying ‘I love you.’  I think that’s a good thing.

‘I love you’ is more than just an expression of strong feeling.  It is a promise, a commitment, an acknowledgment, an appreciation, and a sharing of joy.  Beautiful, “here is my truth about you,” joy.  It has no expectation of reciprocation in any form.

For some, it’s a bid for attention, a contract, a binder, and a softener of blows (“I love you, but…)  In other words, it is conditional and part of a power grab.  At its mildest, it’s a statement of insecurity (“Do you love me too?”)  At it’s most damaging, it is coercion, a non-consensual expectation of ways of relating.

I saved this blog entry to drafts because I didn’t have time to finish it, and recently told my lover about it.  It led to a really deep conversation about what we mean with ‘I love you.’  It was caring, and sweet, and unpacked baggage, and was really, really clear. 

One of the interesting things we discovered is how often ‘I love you’ means, ‘I’m grateful’ and ‘thank you.’ May we always be so lucky as to be blessed with appreciation and gratitude for each other first and foremost.  lifetimes

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LDR

One of the things that I’ve found interesting about being a teacher and being in a long-distance relationship has to do with summer vacations.  First off, let me say that my lover and I are both people who value our alone time.  At the same time, we enjoy sharing  the small events of our days with each other.  Gotta’ say, texting is perfect for that. 

The other thing I should mention is that I like to be busy.  My mind is always going, even if my body isn’t.  Summer is my time to travel, explore, catch up and visit.  And there is the odd part.  The visiting.  As I said, my lover and I value our alone time.  At the same time, I miss her and see summer vaca as a great opportunity to go visit, spend some quality time, spend some not-so-quality time.  She and I are all up for it – before the visits occur. 

Honestly, it messes with our equilibrium a bit.  Neither of us is looking for a live-in lover, but being long-distance, we look forward to having more than just a long weekend together.  But, the visit always ends up a bit like playing house.  Goes well for 5 or so days, but then it takes on a different tone and while we might not be ready to end the visit, we are ready to not be living in the same house.  But not ready to sleep apart, either.  It’s an interesting dynamic.  I’m on vacation; she is not.  Our internal baggage starts to show in really kind of sweet ways.  I worry that she’s not getting enough alone time.  She worries I might be bored.   What I love is that we notice what is happening and talk about it.   And I have to say that she is one of the most caring, gentle womyn I’ve ever had the good fortune to be loved by.

So at this moment I’m back home, having some alone time for the first time in a couple of months, and I’ve been thinking about that.  I’ve also noticed that with my still being on vacation, I am able to send a few more emails, and a few more texts than usual.  I’m enjoying the flexibility in my time and activities, but our equilibrium will not really settle back in until work starts back up for me.

In the meantime, we’re enjoying those extra moments, and I’ll be going to visit again sometime next week.  Yay!

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