Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Moving Forward by Taking a Step Back

Sometimes a sign of trouble in paradise is really just a
speed bump reminding you to slow down and enjoy the ride. ~Me

Yesterday Matthew and I reached a breaking point.

He'd called me like he does every morning so I can talk him through the drive home from work. He works nights and is often fairly exhausted by the time he gets off around 8:30am, so talking gives him something to focus on so he doesn't nod off while driving.

That call, like most conversations we've had the last few weeks ended up in an argument. It was silly and stupid and over nothing of any importance, which is why it was so upsetting to me. After ten minutes of trying to steer the conversation back to calmer ground I gave in and hung up on him. Sitting at my desk, crying, I realized that the time may have come to make a decision I'd been dreading for weeks, the decision that we really were just not meant to be together, that being in a relationship was killing the beautiful friendship we used to have.

I sent him a text and asked him to please not go to bed yet, that as soon as I finished up some work I was coming home. We needed to talk. He said OK. My boss had stepped out of the office so I dropped him a quick e-mail saying I had an emergency at home and had to go. Not entirely true, but not completely false either. The rest of my life was about to change and that seemed pretty important to me.

During my drive home I thought of all the things Matthew had brought to my life, all the changes I'd made as a person as a result of knowing him. I thought of what it meant to be with him, and what it would mean to be without him and as bad as things had been lately the thought of not having him in my life just took my breath away.

I got home, went into our room and sat on the bed. I'd cried all the way home and was still crying once I got there. He came in and sat next to me and for the next ten minutes that's all we did. Then he pulled me into his arms and I fell apart.

Through sobs and hiccoughs, I told him that as much as I loved him and knew he loved me something had to change. I told him that I thought that it might be best if we went back to just being friends, but I was too selfish to make that decision for us. I told him that having him in my life was the best thing that had ever happened to me, but lately all we did was argue and I just couldn't live that way anymore. I told him that where we once communicated so well, now we could hardly even talk without arguing. I told him that the thought us possibly breaking up was tearing my heart in two, but the way we were going, we'd end up not even being friends and that was just not acceptable.

We talked, we argued, I cried, Matthew sighed and when it was all over we'd finally communicated in a way we'd needed to be doing for months.

He was my best friend before we started dating, and in my inexperience, I expected him to somehow become 'more' when we became a couple. I'd loved him for just who he was before we got together, but when the friendship evolved into a relationship I thought somehow he should change.

Why? I can't really say. I know I sound like a broken record but not having ever been in a normal relationship has really put me at a huge disadvantage and growing up reading Danielle Steel novels has left a very unrealistic image in my head of what a relationship should be like.

And part of the problem was, he did change. He felt that I wanted 'more' from him and it left him feeling like I didn't think he was good enough. So he expended all of his energy trying to become what he thought I wanted from him, and in doing so lost the guy I fell in love with. The more he changed, the less I liked who he was, and the less happy I was the more he tried to change to make me happy. It became a viscous circle of me not being happy, him trying to make me happy, and his changes making me less happy, leaving him feeling more and more like he just wasn't enough, and the more he changed, the more I missed the person he was when we met. This was a monster I created and I didn't even know it.

On top of that we've both been under a great deal more stress the last several weeks than we usually are and without any other type of outlet, we ended up taking it out on each other. Money has been really really tight lately and you don't have to be a genius to know that financial issues are the number one killer of relationships. Add to that taking in the stray cat has left us with not only her, tracking food and litter everywhere, which drives this OCD clean freak insane, but four rambunctious kittens peeing and pooing every where but the litter box and draining finances even more with the increased need for food, litter and cleaning supplies. To make that worse, all of the shelters, kill and no-kill are full and we've had no luck finding new homes for them, so for the indefinite future we're stuck with 5 cats. And as someone who doesn't really like cats and hates fur and litter being everywhere, I can't even begin to tell you the stress that's brought me.

Being stressed, angry, hurt and generally frustrated for so long has taken a drastic tole on our levels of communication. When we first met we would sit and talk for hours about everything under the sun. Now, aside from niceties and required conversation we rarely speak to each other. And again, the mess I mentioned before has also had a lot to do with that.

Before Matthew and I decided to date we'd already planned on him moving in as a roommate. And even though I mean roommate in the literal sense of the word, it really was just going to be two friends living together. We were just going to happen to share a bed because my extra room was already occupied. That may sound odd but he'd already stayed the night a few times - as a friend - with nothing happening but sleeping and it worked great for us.

So we already lived together when we decided to start dating. Now I can imagine some of you going "Oh girl, that was your first mistake", but I don't think so. The real problem with living together and dating, was that the only other time I'd lived with a guy I was in a relationship with, we were engaged, and in every way but paper we lived as a married couple. So when Matthew and I decided to take our friendship to the next level I automatically slipped back into that role. I became Mollie Homemaker with someone who wasn't quite ready to make house.

To make an already long story short, we realized that we moved too fast. Matthew has never lived with anyone he was in a relationship with and I'd only lived with someone I was for all intents and purposes married to, and we didn't take the time to find a middle ground before getting together. So we're not breaking up, but we are backing off. Taking time to find a common ground for both of us where we're together but still living our own separate lives.

School starting back will help because I'll be gone from morning to late evening on days I have class, which will give Matthew some personal time, and help me not miss him so much when we're not together, because I won't be home sitting by myself while he's asleep in the next room. I'll also be doing personal training a few nights a week which will get me out of the house and give me some time to focus on me, which I don't do nearly enough.

It's strange, but once we talked everything through and realized what our problems were and what we needed to do to fix them the air around us just seemed to lighten and the happy couple we started out as found their way back. We spent the rest of the evening laughing and cutting up like we used to do. We were happy.

As for the "something is not right" feeling in my gut, it's abated and now my heart, head and gut are all filled with a warm happiness. What tomorrow will bring remains to be seen, but we know that we love each other and for today, that's enough.

4 People who coughed on a furball:

Anonymous said...

Aww! I'm happy you two are working on your relationship. Communication is so important and a lot of times it gets put on the side and left alone which in turn causes friction in a relationship. You two seem to be completely into each other and it would make me sad for you guys to give up easily. Communicating AND facing your problems AND be willing to work on your own problems is very difficult to do because many of us hate to face our own issues better yet tackle them head on (especially for someone else). I'm so proud of you two. I hope if I'm ever faced with your dilema that I have someone as caring and loving as Matthew and that he is willing to talk things out and get back to the basics with me. Good Luck to both of you!

Momma Sunshine said...

I think you just showed how very important communication is in a relationship. It's the most important thing, in my opinion. Learning how to navigate one another is always one of the big challenges in a relationship, and it always takes some time to figure out how to "be" together. But if you're able to communicate through it, then you'll be fine - whether things ultimately work out between you as a couple of not - because you are both learning some very valuable relationship lessons.


Anonymous said...

Hey... all the best in ur relationship. Do continue communicating with each other. :)

Christine Staley said...

I hope things work out for you guys! Remember - listen to your gut :)