Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

February 25, 2009

Wednesday Epiphany

I just had a huge relationship epiphany, sitting here on the couch knitting. American Idol is on the TV, Wine Guy is on the computer at the kitchen table. During a commercial break my mind wanders to plans for the weekend and beyond.

I ask him, "Hey, that screening of 'The Watchmen' you wanted to come to is next week. Monday night. That's the same night as your pilates. Do you want to come and cancel pilates or should I ask someone else to the movie?"

I meant this question exactly as I said it. A simple statement of fact. He and I had discussed the press screening awhile ago and I thought he would want to come since it's a "boy" kind of movie. He said he did. But when I checked the date today, I realized it was the same night as his favorite weekly event besides wine tasting - pilates.

So I was telling him this and asking him what he wanted to do. No big deal.

He responds, looking up from his computer screen, "Huh, what?"

Problem #1. I have to repeat myself since he really wasn't paying attention to what I said the first time. I do not like repeating myself.

I ask him again, "That screening of 'The Watchmen.' You said you had wanted to come with me. But it's on Monday, your pilates night. Do you want to come and cancel pilates or should I ask someone else?"

He responds, "Uuuh, yeah. I do want to see it...shoot. Can I think about it and let you know later?"

I want to kill him. What is so hard about deciding to go to a movie?

So I say this, trying desperately not to sound as irritated as I am. "No. Just tell me. Do you want to go to the movie or not? It's not that hard of a decision."

I sense a fight.

He is also clearly trying to restrain himself from sounding as irritated as he is.

I repeat, less irritated and more heartfelt. I sense we are at a point where we could either break out into bickering or just cut the shit and say it like it is. "Just tell me. I'm asking. Please. Do you want to go to the movie or do you want to go pilates? I'm fine either way, I just need to know what you would like to do."

From the look on his face, I think he might have actually heard what I said. This is familiar fighting territory. Me trying to make a plan. Wine Guy trying to avoid one.

He breaks, "Ok, Ok. I just really don't want to miss pilates, OK?"

I breathe a sigh of relief. Not just because I got an answer to my simple question, but because it confirms something I have suspected our entire relationship. He's stringing me along.

I exclaim inappropriately, "I knew it! I knew that all this time you have been just stringing me along ---"

He interrupts, "No, I wasn't. I do want to go to the movie. I just know that I'll feel awful if I miss pilates. And I am afraid I'll make you angry if I say so."

I almost laugh - is that what has been going on all this time?! "Oh my god. You have no idea. When I get mad it's not because you don't want to do something with me. It's because you won't give me a straight answer! That drives me more crazy than anything! I have plenty of friends to ask, dude." (Yes, I say dude in times of complete honesty. I am from So Cal you know.)

"OK, OK...." He clearly wants to end the conversation, thinking the problem is solved so he should be able to get back to his computer. I need him to understand how huge this is.

"No, you need to understand how huge this is. From now on, don't worry about making me angry if you want or don't want to do something. Just tell me and I'll deal. OK?" I am slightly giddy with how much a small shift like this could change our daily communication.

"Sure, fine."

I can see this as gone as far as it's gonna go in his world. And I think maybe he understands. I hope he does. We spend far too much time fighting over stupid things like this that are clearly about something larger. And I think it has created a vicious cycle:
  • I plan things.
  • I ask him first to accompany me - he is my boyfriend after all.
  • If he doesn't want to or isn't excited about it, he tries to postpone committing, assuming that telling me "no thanks" will make me angry.
  • Meanwhile, I am getting angry about him pushing me off.
Vicious, I tell you.

Now I am ferociously typing my epiphany while Wine Guy watches inane America's Funniest Home Videos, waiting for me to watch last night's Daily Show with him on the DVR. Always a plan we can agree on.



Melissa said...

One thing I learned from my girls is to make sure I have their attention before I ask them anything. It saves a LOT of time. So maybe start off with, "Honey?" Then make sure he is paying attention before you waste your breath. He may need a minute to shift gears from one kind of thinking to another.

Also, I hate to ask, but does he have any reason to think you might get angry with him for saying "no?" Beneath his stringing you along is a desire not to be on your bad side, and the reasons for that may be he's either afraid of your reaction, and/or he loves you and wants everything to be peaceful between you -- even if, at times, that causes him to avoid being honest. (You know -- I often have to "dance around" honesty in order to maintain the peace.) So perhaps ask him why he does this and see if you two can come to some sort of agreement.

lizriz said...

I totally say "dude" when I'm angry. Totally.

Anonymous said...

um, did you consider for a minute that you were in the wrong? he was busy. he was focusing on something else, and you were so self centered to believe that he had to drop what he was doing right there right then to answer a question that didn't need to be answered right at that moment.

i think you owe him an apology, dude.

Anonymous said...

One more thing --- when he was still trying to shift gears, you surprised him with something you had already worked out in your head: that two things he wanted to do were on the same night, and he had to chose RIGHT NOW! The fact that he needed some time to think about it, because, yeah, that's what people have to do sometimes when choosing between two things they want, didn't really matter to you. What mattered was that he accomodate your needs, which for some strange reason meant he had to give you an answer immediately.

Seriously. If you want this relationship to work, stop looking at it as warfare, and cut this apparently really nice guy some slack.

Anonymous said...

to insightful comment, except that your name calling ( "you were so self centered") makes you somewhat thoughtless as well!

Dating Trooper said...

Good feedback and clearly I hit a nerve with anonymous #1. But I hear you, Dude (I assume you're a guy, if not then you are probably a much more sympathetic girlfriend/wife than I am).

The word "epiphany" implies a lot. Perhaps I didn't express it clearly, but your comment helps to further my realization - I am still learning. Particularly about how men think vs. how I do (my mind races and sometimes I get impatient for others to keep up with it).

Relationships are hard - or can be for some of us. But sometimes you have to fight through the hard stuff (may I call it a battle or, perhaps a "war"?) to get to the good. Especially when you are as messed up as I am.

Oh, and I have not one, but two blogs. So, yeah, I"m self-centered. Duh.

Sonny Amou said...

I always hate it when anon comments put a pie in your face and run away. Kind of a cheap shot, to be honest.


Loverville said...

Good for you, for having this epiphany! I can relate -- I'm a total planner as well -- and I know myself, I'd want that answer soon-ish too.

Enjoy the movie! And happy blog anniversary! Maybe a cotton laptop cover?

Eileen said...

This is a great epiphany! Its so important to see these patterns in our lives. Because *seeing them* is actually partway to changing them.

The next time you find yourself in the pattern, if you can see it, then you instantly move to a mental space that is outside of it. Just through the act of observing it. Being there is awesome because it reduces your *identification* with your emotions in that moment.

You end up letting things be what they are. Which ends up changing them. Softening things. Hope that makes sense! This is very cool to read, I love how you're able to articulate this while you're figuring stuff out :)

walt said...

I think Anon is missing it. The problem was not that he needed more time to decide, the problem was that he already had decided, but was avoiding telling her.

Anonymous said...

right on Walt..that sounds like it..passive resistance..avoiding confrontation