The Space In-between

Relationships are funny. You learn more about yourself than you think possible–and not always about your best qualities–and just when you think you’ve really understood a lot about someone else, they go off and do something baffling…leading you to respond in an even more baffling manner. Then, you’re left with the conclusion that maybe you have a lot to learn about the both of you and you don’t know anything about anyone after all. Perhaps that is how personal growth occurs, but I suspect it might also explain spikes in wine sales. -_-

Dating S. has been an interesting experience in many ways. Our different cultural backgrounds meant that we approach relationships in quite different ways, and neither of us knew how different we were until we were in the thick of it! Some of the things that are so hard for us have never been hard for me with anyone else before…though on the flip side, some things that have been issues in the past haven’t been a problem with us.

He’s worked hard to give me a heads up when he needs space, and I’ve done a better job of telling him when I need his support and then giving him space when he needs it (and then to not be upset, though that’s still a work in progress). I just find that my thoughts and emotions vary widely while we’re not having much–if any–contact.

I work hard to stay focused on work so I don’t miss him too much (or worry that the silence means he doesn’t want to date me anymore), but eventually, I’ll get melancholy and feel the need to retreat myself. I start thinking seriously about what I want and need, whether I “care too much” and should try not to want him so much, if I’m being naive and this is so “different” because it simply isn’t right…and then I end up pretty down on myself.

Since finishing grad school, I’ve really struggled with my self-concept during the time I’ve been home and not working full-time, even though I have been doing worthwhile things that have been very good for my family. But when I retreat away from him and the goofy, effortless happiness that being with him brings, I return again to that perfectionistic prison I know so well, where there are no excuses for weakness, wrong choices, imperfection, or uncertainty.

Within those walls, it makes sense for him to retreat, to not want me the way I want him, because I don’t have as much to offer as I should. That part of me asks, “Who am I without my accomplishments, anyway? What about me would draw you near when I am displeased with my own reflection?” No matter how much I would like to deny the truth of it, internally I feel that I have to have my whole life together before I deserve someone to be as deeply, madly, irrevocably in love with me as I want them to be. His slower pace during the dating stage plays into that fear, that belief, more than I would be willing to admit. Especially to him: my happiness is so important to him that knowing that fact would probably be really hurtful to him.

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