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.
“Will you marry me?”
“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.