We confront the ones we love

Peter Paul Rubens Sennacherib's DefeatI believe strongly in healthy confrontation.

That doesn’t mean I like it.

Tonight I took a few deep breaths, and called someone I loved. I was ready to read her the chicken scratch script I had scribbled on both sides of an envelope earlier. I feel that our conversations as of late have taken a turn into a place I don’t want to go. After I get off the phone with her I have to spend some time telling myself all the good things  know about me. It’s kind of fucked up. So I thought of some constructive things I could suggest for the relationship, and my concerns, and how I felt, and listed them in the opposite order, and steeled myself to talk to her.

Then I got the damned voicemail and had to wait a fucking hour to have the real conversation.

I asked her if it was a good time to talk. She sounded pretty tired. It’s not a good time to have these talks when one party isn’t emotionally available (distracted, frustrated, tired, irritated, so forth). But she was good enough. And it went fine. I admitted that I don’t know how much of this is my perception and how much is real. And we talked. She was glad I had the guts to bring it up instead of just ditching her. And she said she’d work on what I asked her to work on (mainly her tone and not beating me around the head and shoulders with my mistakes). She also mentioned some things that she thinks I need to take into consideration (namely, what is it about me that takes on criticism and uses it as a lens to highlight all of my faults? Why am I so fucking hard on myself? What’s that all about? Maybe Seer needs to lighten up on herself a little). It was good and productive. And it’s also the second time we’ve had this conversation in two years.

It’s good. But I still don’t know how much is my perception. How much of this is me and my denial about me? See, this relationship is really one of the more constructive ones about my growth as a person. I look to her for a lot of advice and suggestions. So of course there’s some criticism. But I don’t need to get so bent out of shape about it, really. She’s on my side. She’s not fighting me–I’m the one doing the fighting. And I’m the one who feels shitty about that.

I’m glad I got the skills somewhere along the way to talk to people directly about the problems I have in my relationships. I’m not sure where I got it. I know over the years I’ve had some very hard confrontations with people, some of which have gone better than others. They’ve included talking to someone who I thought was getting out of a marriage and into another relationship too soon. I questioned her motives. See, I just don’t think you can get over someone by getting under someone. That’s my philosophy, anyhow. I have told Someone that I think Someone’s partner was abusive. I’ve told someone else that I thought the pills were a problem. (He died.) I think it’s my responsibility as a friend in a lot of instances to tell you if I think you’re headed into a pileful of pain. But after I tell you once, that’s that, and I’m silent on the matter. What else do you need to hear from me? Do I have new information? Usually not. Moms loves a good, “I told you so,” and I can tell you it’s never made me feel any more loved–judged, always; loved, never. All you really need from me is my love and support. If I can’t love and support you up close, I usually take a step back, because throwing shade isn’t helping, and it’s usually just over something that conflicts with my morals, not over something objectively wrong.

There’ve also been breakups of friendships. Those are the hardest confrontations. When I found out that a friend had been living a secret life, including a secret boyfriend (I was friends with the fiancé), I had to end the relationship. I couldn’t handle being in a relationship with someone who felt that level of deceit was acceptable as long as she got what she wanted. I was almost willing to stay, too, until I learned that she had been planning the divorce. She was going to marry my friend anyway, and then divorce him and run away with the boyfriend. That was the last straw. I told her that I wished her no ill–I really didn’t–but that I didn’t want to have contact with her anymore. She married the boyfriend and I hear they’re still together, so I guess she made the right decision for herself.

There’s someone else who I can’t confront because she has a traumatic brain injury and every time I confront her she fucking forgets and gets back in touch with me. The only way I can keep her out of my life is to not talk to her. She’s not good for me, either. She comes from a really toxic part of my past. Every once in a while I would get a pleading, pathetic phone call from this woman asking me to call her and it would pull at me, because I wanted to cut that tie. Four years later, I changed my number and she finally can’t contact me anymore. It feels underhanded, but it’s not a good idea to contact someone out of the blue to tell them not to contact you anymore. Do you call someone you weaseled out of dating three years ago and say, “Wilbur, let’s make this clear: we’re not fucking. Okay? We’re not. You were a lousy lay and I don’t like you. You aren’t terrific, you aren’t radiant, and you aren’t humble! Good-bye!” Or something way nicer and more principled. No, no you don’t. Not even if he calls you when he’s drunk for some odd reason. You don’t open up the line of communication just to close it again, is what I’m saying. That’s crazy-making.

I hope I don’t have to do this again–confront someone–for a little while. It’s hard.

But if I don’t ask you for what I need, it’s my fault that I’m not getting it in the relationship. After I do ask for my needs to be met, then you have the opportunity to respond and actually show up for me. If you choose not to, again, the onus is on me to decide what I want to do with that knowledge: you knowingly choose not to meet my needs, or you are unable to meet my needs. Now I can no longer sit and wish that you would read my mind or my interpretive dance or my smoke signals and satiate my desires without my being explicit. It’s better this way. It’s harder for a moment, because of the actual confrontation, but it’s better afterward. You get to grow this way. The other way is all small death. I’ve lived both ways, and that’s my conclusion.

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