Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Dated A Man


I dated a man. Sweet man. Helpful man. Needy man.

He called one night. After three weeks of nothing.
I picked up the phone, even though caller ID warned me not to.
I couldn’t ignore it. I HAD to see what he was going to say.

“Hello?”
“Will you marry me?”
“What?!”
“You heard me…I want to marry you.”
“No, you don’t want to marry me AND we need to talk.”

There are so many things wrong with this conversation.
    Answering the phone in the first place.
    No boundaries as far as the eye can see.
    Not hanging up immediately.
    Pretending it was a rational conversation.
    Seeking to prolong it.

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to figure out that the rest of the conversation did not go much better. He did not call to listen to me; he called so that I could listen to him.

I’m good at that. Listening. So I listened and I soothed and I thought.

I thought about a conversation I had just had with my oldest daughter. The one where I told her that relationships should add to your life, not take away from your life. A good relationship makes you feel better, look better, be better. Not all the time, but most of the time, enough of the time to make it worth the effort.

My relationship with this man had lost most of the better.
When it was finally my turn to talk, I told him that.

I told him that one call a month cannot sustain a relationship.
He said he was sorry and he had been selfish. Then he pointed out that I had not called him either.
Classic turnabout tactic. Clearly he was listening when his coach taught him that the best offense is a good defense.
“Yes,” I responded, shutting my eyes so as to avoid seeing the brick wall against which I felt compelled to bang my head, “I didn’t call because, the last time we talked, you said that you would call me back as soon as you got out of the store.”
“You’re right, I did say that. I can’t remember why I didn’t call you. Something must have happened, a call from the kids or work or something. But I’ve been checking my phone for the last three weeks to see if you’d called, and you never did.”
Ah, he took lessons from my mother as well. Just keep repeating yourself, like a broken record. No matter what the other person says, just keep on repeating your main point. Don’t respond. Repeat.

I see that the conversation is going nowhere fast. But, what the heck, it felt so good to pound my head against that familiar brick wall, so I kept on going. “I’m tired of always being the one to call, so this time I waited.”
“You’re not always the one to call. I called you. Even though you didn’t call me for three weeks!”

And so it goes. Around and around. Until we can’t talk anymore. Until I get angry and he hangs up because “it’s pointless to talk angry”. He always says we’ll continue our conversation after we have “cooled down”. Of course we never do. By the time it’s time to talk, memory makes the conversation into an irrational discussion about who was supposed to call whom, which really doesn’t matter, and is not worth rehashing.

The deeper discussion, the part that gets buried under the rubble of a failed conversation, is lost.
This time, I think it’s best just to leave it there.
Leave it there and move on.
Without him.

12 comments:

BBC said...

Nice blog.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

"I responded, shutting my eyes so as to avoid seeing the brick wall against which I felt compelled to bang my head..." LOL!

NOT a funny situation, but thanks for the laugh! I wouldn't feel the need to laugh if I weren't so INTIMATELY acquainted with said wall!

LOVE that you're taking your own good advice! Way to go, Mom, that will be a nice, clear message to your daughters, what you DO, not just what you say. Take an A as a mom, lover, woman, human!

Dianne said...

You are so right about the "turnabout tactic" - and sadly women so often get caught up in that.

great post! I found it so comforting and affirming. thank you

Nancy said...

"relationships should add to your life, not take away from your life. A good relationship makes you feel better, look better, be better. Not all the time, but most of the time, enough of the time to make it worth the effort."

Will be reciting this statement to my 9 year old daughter now until she starts dating. Perfectly stated!

Kapuananiokalaniakea said...

bbc,
Thank you.

Carrie,
Yes, I think we've banged our heads on that same wall at the same time! Funny how that wall seems to have magnetic qualities sometimes.

Dianne,
A lot of us get caught. The key is in recognizing the trap and avoiding it. I've figured out step one -- I'm still working on step two.

Nancy,
You're so wise. I think it takes years of repetition for something to sink in.

Molly said...

Good plan.

Wanda said...

Back away from the narcissist. I repeat...back away from the narcissist now and no one will get hurt.

shauna said...

I could have been there holding your hand. That's sooooo been my life for a long, long time, and thanks for the reminder that's not what I want anymore either. Here's to holding out for someone fabulous!

Michelle O'Neil said...

Wow. This sounds like really "young" stuff. Like he's stuck somewhere between 17 and 25.

I think you nailed it when you said relationships should add, not take away.

They should make you feel like more, bigger. Not less, smaller.

Will you marry me? Give me a break buddy.

meggie said...

I agree with Wanda- back away.
Think you are right to move on, without him.

What I dont understand is why we do respond to these types, when we know it is just a circular narcissistic tactic.

Jerri said...

"My relationship with this man had lost most of the better."

Whoa! I could have saved myself so much heartache if I'd learned to recognize this point.

You may have been banging your head against a brick wall, but apparently your eyes were open all the while. Good for you!

Kapuananiokalaniakea said...

Molly,
Thanks for understanding.

Wanda,
Backing away slowly. No sudden moves.

Shauna,
My youngest daughter's motto is "Don't settle for anything less than everything." I'm finally listening and raising the bar.

Michelle,
Here's to bigger and better! Like HT and STM.

Meggie,
Because the world goes round in circles and that's where we're comfortable. Sometimes, though, that rut gets a little too deep and much too muddy and it's time to jump out and forge a new path.

Jerri,
Recognizing and acting do not always go hand in hand. I'm working on having a shorter lag time between the two so as to cut down on the wall time.