Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Ah-Ha Moment

(Note: This actually happened a little over a week ago, but I wasn't ready to post it yet. Seemed a little too dismal before the holidays.)

"Wow," I said out loud to myself after reading those two paragraphs for what seemed like the hundredth time. It all made sense now. They say hindsight is 20/20, but I've never seen anything so clear in all my life.


When your family embraces the myth that they have no problems, it can lead to your engaging in emotional reasoning when you're an adult. You are so used to dismissing problems or glossing them over that you may feel you're in a terrific relationship, and experience shock when it becomes undeniably clear that your relationship isn't so terrific after all -- it's just that you've been engaging in wishful thinking and denying very real problems.

You may also develop the habit of repressing your difficult feelings and expressing your anger and fear indirectly rather than confronting them and opening yourself up to the risk that your partner will end the relationship. The fear of bringing your problems out in the light of day makes you pretend everything is just fine, and remain in a relationship that isn't working. You may feel you have to say, "I love you" and kiss and make up quickly, even after you have been deeply hurt. (Excerpt from All the Good Ones Aren't Taken by Dr. Debbie Magids)



I've had similar thoughts. Beat around the bush about why I am the way I am in serious relationships. But these two paragraphs couldn't have been more to the point. Succinct. Blunt. Everything I've been trying not to be since the breakup.

Since I was very young I picked up on the "We're One Big Happy Family" fa├žade my family tried to portray. Even though my parents divorced a little over 5 years ago, it was obvious (to me and everyone else in the family) that they should have long before that. But I bet no one outside of our family knew that. Not even my closest friends because at that point in my life I closed myself off emotionally to everyone. That was how my family worked. My mother and I would have a huge fight; door slamming, cursing, the whole bit, but the next day we would act like nothing happened even though deep down neither of us felt any better.

Everything in my family was on the surface. Our conversations would be about how we were doing in school, what TV shows we were watching, what music we liked, what friends we were hanging out with that weekend. They were never about anything deeper. We never said "I love you". I knew my parents loved me. I had (and have) no doubt. But we were emotionally closed off from each other because we were constantly hiding real problems. There was even one huge family secret that was so deeply hidden I only found out from a family friend a mere three years ago (and it happened back in the 80s)!

After reading the excerpt above I realized how that has affected my love life. Even though I have long since abandoned my "on the surface" attitude when it comes to personal relationships, I now know that some of the more hindering tendencies have yet to disappear.

With The Ex I should have seen the end coming. He gave me all the signs. But I did what my family does best. Pretend it's not really happening and pray it will go away. (See one year anniversary post written a mere 4 weeks before the breakup. Reading that would you guess we had any problems? Probably not.) But what inevitably happens when you don't confront those problems right away? They grow and grow to the point where they are irreparable and blow up in your face. Hence why I have three failed long-term relationships under my belt.

Now I'm not turning around and blaming all my relationship blunders on myself. Hell, I can't take all the credit! There were things that The Ex did to lead the relationship to its demise. I'm just glad I've recognized my part, so I don't have a repeat performance anytime soon.

What I will change:
I will not gloss over any real problems. Even something that seems small, if gone unmentioned can lead to resentment down the road. If my feelings are hurt, I will wait for an apology instead of letting it slide. I deserve that at the very least. Those gut feelings? I'm going to start listening to them. They're usually right on the money. And most importantly, I will listen to my partner and not shrug off his lackadaisical attitude toward our relationship to "stress at work". Bringing up real issues may lead to the other person walking away, but I would rather take the risk in future relationships than be constantly worried things will never change.

Here's to finding someone who has the same attitude towards relationships. Forming a real, emotional bond with the person you love, and being able to tell each other anything without fear that the other will leave. I know he's out there.

52 comments:

Yoda said...

The author couldn't have said it better. Looking at my failed relationships, I see much of the same. The same glossing over of smaller issues. Small, yet important. Not letting her know that some things she said/did really bothered me. After all, we were meant to be together, right?

I hope you can change that in your next relationship. And hopefully, I can too!

Oh, yea, that HUGE secret about the 80s? I totally know ... 80s was a time of seriously weird hairdos!

:-p

Susie said...

I am totally the same way as you. When I was little I would throw HUGE fits if my parents ever fought. I will always remember my mom saying to me when I was about 12, "do you honestly think relationships are perfect all the time??" I said yes. And she told me I was in for a sad life if I didn't realize people have problems and that it's perfectly normal. I could not face that.

My family hides our problems with love. My parents are SUPER affectionate/loving/etc. which makes everyone think we're the perfect family. I hate talking about my problems and usually just think about my happiness instead. My ex hated that I wouldn't tell him about any serious issues until they HAD to come out.

And I am looking for the same kind of guy as you :)

Hope said...

Listen to our gut feelings. Definitely, they're always right. Could save us a lot of heartache. Really liked this post, Michelle.

Scotty said...

A gut feeling, something not quite describable, yet powerful.

Sometimes you wonder when that next person will come around. The person you can talk to about anything, the one you want to make yourself better for, the one you look forward to surprising with a thoughtful gift, the one you look forward to sharing yourself with.

They are out there, somewhere. Here's to that person, that partner. Because a relationship is not there for one, its there for each other.

Larissa said...

I truly believe that people can have real relationships with real communication. Keep on hoping for that, and don't settle for anything less!

lspoon said...

Some people never figure this out. Way to go for learning this early on!

And yes, you do need to find someone who shares most if not all of your views on everything, not just relationships. It makes for easier conversation at the very least :)

Amanda said...

I'll cheers to that!

Over the past few days I've also been thinking about my family and what I want from my future partner and possibly our own family.

Thanks heaps for sharing.

dreamgirl said...

Good for you! that's a great attitude and a great way to start 2008. sometimes just 'admitting' is the worst part - now you can really do something about it :) YAY!

stilettoheights said...

congrats you are still young with your life ahead of you...so many people waste their lives before they realize and come to terms with these things.

2008 will be a great year for you

Kristen said...

maybe you had to go through those relationships as learning curves. it sounds like you know what you want and won't tolerate anything but that, which is REALLY important. your happiness is most important in life. it really is.

good luck!!

Kristen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ChasingParadise said...

Pretty inspiring, Michelle. It's amazing how we don't discover how much our childhood affects our adulthood until we're in our mid twenties. I had an "ah-ha" moment myself earlier this year. My family was guilty of glossing things over too, and it led to me becoming a fixer. I wanted to fix everyone's problems. It was tiring. Now I'm learning to just take care of me. And you know what? I have a lot more energy these days!

Nilsa S. said...

Oh the things we learn from failed relationships. I have learned to open the lines of communication starting with little things. It sets the stage for talking about the larger things, some of which won't ever be easy. I always said if I can learn one thing from each failed relationship, I'll be in better standing for the next one. It took lots of practice, but I finally feel on really solid ground in my current relationship. You'll find him - he's out there for you, too.

Le Petit Chic said...

Before I met my now husband, I had the same kind of habits in my long term relationships. I was afraid to bring up any hurts and always tried to look on the bright side, but that ultimately only led to resentment and passive-aggressive behavior on my end. I credit my hubby for not letting me getting away with that and making me talk about my feelings, good or bad.
Kudos to you for figuring this out about yourself and making a change on your own. It's not not only a positive change, but a courageous one.

tiff said...

love the tag "woah that's deep" because it totally is. Glad you've figured it out.

Jess said...

I think I've been like that too, although possibly not to the same extent. Feeling the need to present some facade of perfect happiness and greatness. But then I wound up with someone really honest and open and loving who doesn't make me have to act like that. I hope you find the same thing. I feel sure that you will.

Andrea said...

That is such a wise observation. Luckily, I found a great guy, before I had to realize that. Maybe God didn't want to push me too hard.

P.S. Thanks for commenting on my debate post. I had to delete it b/c I have that party to go with her and I don't need any more stupid conflict. Just my luck she would read it right before the party... UGH!

pessimisticredhead said...

Wise words! Good luck with sticking to your convictions. Most of us 20 and 30 something women could use the same kick in the pants.

She Likes Purple said...

What a great self-reflective post. I read an interview years ago with Jennifer Aniston. She said even if the end of the relationship was only 2 percent her fault, she had to own and acknowledge that 2 percent. That no relationship ends because of just one person. I thought it was really inspiring, and I'll never forget it. You can only control you--determining your part in the relationship's end is the strongest and best thing you could do. Even if that part was small in comparison to the mistakes he may have made.

nicoleantoinette said...

Sometimes even these seemingly little "ah ha" moments can be life changing. I think you've realized some really important things here that will ultimately help you in your next relationship.

Annie said...

I'm a complete idealist and after my third long-term relationship ended I kind of realized it's not anyone's fault. It's heartbreaking, totally. The combination just didn't work. You can't fault someone for incompatibility, you know? That helped me get over my severe case of "If I want this to work really, really, reeeeeally bad enough, it totally will!" I took a while and I probably cried six people their own individual oceans, but hey, at least I got something out of it.

I want to read that book now.

Valerie said...

I'm glad your book has given you some insight. One of the biggest problems my parents have is the terrible blowup on Tuesday, back to normal on Wednesday. They never resolve anything. If you can learn from my mistakes, please, please talk about the issues when they arise. Kyle and I do it and our relationship is so much stabler than my parents'. I hope you had a wonderful holiday :)

distractedspunk said...

Michelle! I'm so glad you figured something new out about yourself. I love that you end on a positive note - it will happen someday.

Trish Ryan said...

You're right...he's out there. Here's to you finding each other!!!

:)

Samantha said...

Everyone said wonderful stuff so I won't repeat. I just want to give you a big hug through the internets.

Slightly Disorganized said...

brava dear. brava!

heidikins said...

I love this post. I love that you have decided to take a stand and change something that you recognize as not-the-most-healthy attitude. I love that you had the courage to recognize this and then to share it with all of us.

Love you girly,
xox

Virginia said...

You rock! Look at you! Look how much you have grown in just the past few months. To take that book passage and realize how it fits into the bigger picture, especially when it comes to the relationships you're in, that is really impressive. And sure, hindsight is 20/20, but the fact that you recognize how you can apply it to future relationships is amazing. Really. I am so proud of you and I know you'll find that guy out there who is simply perfect for you!

cdp said...

He IS out there!

And AMEN on listening to your gut. God gave us those for a reason, right?

xoxo

sassafras said...

I too could completely relate to the exerpt. It wasn't until I met BHF that I understood that fighting didn't mean that we didn't love each other and that I didn't have to act perfect for him to love me unconditionally.

It took me a long time to realize and really understand but communication is everything. When I finally felt secure with myself and with us I could tell BHF all my thoughts without fear of what he would do or say.

You will find someone that feels the same way and you totally deserve him!

Passionista said...

I had the same glossing over attitude as a result of being in my turbulent family situation. I keep things private and most of all don't stress the small stuff. But what I realized is my issues are not "small stuff" and the guy I'm with has to be able to deal with it! Otherwise, what is a good partner for? Here's to both of us finding that guy and good luck.

alyndabear said...

Sounds like regardless of the past, you've got a better idea of yourself for the future. You've accomplished so much!

Julie Q said...

My parents split up about 7 years ago (right before I went to college) and while people assume its easier for older kids to go through it- i definitely think it messed up my outlook on future relationships. Its tough, but you have a good head on your shoulders! Those two paragraphs were great btw

Tara said...

Wow! I think I just had an Ah-Ha moment too.

My family is the exact same way, and I know I put on "the perfect relationship" face with my now ex. I never realized I did it until about 5 months after we broke up.

grungedandy said...

Hey it takes a mature mind to realise that it takes 2 to make or break a relationship many people go through life brought up and expecting the “happily ever after” that we are taught in fairy tales to be how everything is support to be they don’t say - then Cinderella had children and went off sleeping with her prince or prince charming stayed out with his mates too often and got brewers droop or snow white found another prince charming at work or both the prince and princess worked too hard and just didn’t see enough of each other so they lost touch or try as hard as they could they couldn’t have children or that they hadn’t discussed having children and the prince wanted 5 where the princess didn’t want any! Or a hundred other things that happen to us all, we watch it on Dr Phil or Jerry or any of the other shows that get all those ratings!
It’s very difficult to take stock of what your feeling and actually sit down and say it out loud and deal with that gut knot you’ve got and not let it build into a booze filled fight about something stupid or have an affair as a cry for help or an easy way out.
It is also wise sometimes to realise when it’s just us with our insecurity and need to talk about just about everything and have just about everything analysed and when to leave a little to the imagination. We need balance those are the times when you talk to your girlfriends!
What I’m trying to say and probably not doing a very good job of it (I was on the naughty list this xmas and got flu) that you’ve made the right choice, that a relationship is an on going process where you have to both keep putting ingredients in to make it work, it’s not something that you ever say there it’s done!
Good luck, with the future search it’s only when you can see your patterns that you can break them, your much further ahead than I was it took me another 5 years before I realised this! And it’s not something you can really tell someone it’s something they have to realise for them selves, some people never get this!
Here’s for a better year next year 2008! Seeya hugya *G*
Ps sorry for the longness of the post, just want to say I’m so proud of how you’ve handled all this over the last year!

The Ex said...

"That was how my family worked. My mother and I would have a huge fight; door slamming, cursing, the whole bit, but the next day we would act like nothing happened even though deep down neither of us felt any better."

The same thing in my family - except sometimes it would go too far and one of us would slap the other. But then we'd pretend nothing happened. NOTHING HAPPENED. I don't want to be that adult and I struggle with it everyday.

Thanks Michelle :) I heartsandwich you.

elysa said...

Very well written both on your part and the author's as well. I do think that the most important thing to get out of any break up is what will I change next time around. A lot of people like to think about change in a retrospective way, more of a "if I had done this maybe ..." but all in all the relationship ended for real reasons and it's important to figure out what you want to do differently in your next one. Here's to you finding that guy who is looking for the same in a relationship as you are!

La said...

Seems like we've both had our"aha!" moments lately. I'm so glad you're in such a great place right now, and I really admire you. This post was amazing. And you are my strength for moving on. Know that. :)

Lisa said...

You read the best books. That's totally my family too. If my mom does or says something that hurts me and I tell her, she gets mad and I get mad. We walk away and 20 minutes later pretend it never happened. But I'm still angry that she said it. And she'll totally say it again. And if you call her on not apologizing she gets REALLY mad. It's pretty terrible.

Man, I so wish I was brave enough to post about my personal love life related fears. Michelle, you're the bravest blogger out there.

elysa said...

ps - you are 20SB blogger of the week! yay

erin said...

First, I think I need some recos on books from you. Secondly, I totally know where you are coming from. My family is like this (even now) and I know how much it impacts my relationships (with friends and with guys). We are very good at keeping things out of public view and keeping everything on the surface as you put it. It's all about work or a movie we saw or sports or whatever. We don't talk about the seriousness of my parents relationship (or lack thereof) even though everyone can see it. When it comes to my relationships, I have trouble being honest or acknowledging problems or just saying "I love you". Ok, I've commented enough. I think this deserves its own post on my own blog.

erin said...

And I am totally hoping things work out for the best for you in 2008! You are a great girl and you deserve a great guy!

L Sass said...

I, too, have a hard time accepting or dealing with the problems in my relationships. Now, I don't blog about that part of my relationship with AS very much simply out of respect for him, but I'm definitely the type to act like nothing happened the day (or 10 minutes) after a fight.

I need to work on this, too.

amanda rae said...

i think i definitely need to read this book. after reading this post i've noticed that we are a lot alike because i do most of the things you talked about in my relationships. it's like i'm to scared to be alone or something that i ignore everything that wrong, even though in the end i'm still miserable.

good post, it's something that i've needed to hear!

Valerie said...

Congrats on being Blog of the Week!

A Margarita said...

Amen to that. I think we're all guilty of glossing things over at one point or another, and it takes a real effort to deal with problems when they arise. But its also great that you realize that :)

The Mouse said...

You bet, sweet pea! Any man would be LUCKY to have you as his girl. :)

sweetanemone said...

'Here's to finding someone who has the same attitude towards relationships. Forming a real, emotional bond with the person you love, and being able to tell each other anything without fear that the other will leave. I know he's out there'

high five michelle! great post :) sorry i haven't stopped by in so long, seems blogging went away with the end of uni... hope to chat again soon!

Princess Pointful said...

Amen.
It is so great when you have those profound moments of insight, and suddenly your whole life seems to make a lot more sense.
Even better when you can learn from it!

Eve said...

Wow. But you know, don't be too hard on yourself. I think it's natural to gloss over what seem like minor problems. It's deciding which problems are really minor and which are indicative of major deal breakers. Hard to do though.

Deutlich said...

Wow, that was a bit like reading a page out of my old blog. I'm still wading through the repercussions of decades of anxiety-ridden family drama. I'm loads better than I was in the past.. but I have my moments. Part of it has to do with moving back in with my mother, who *just* finished a divorce this past August. I remember sitting up at night and just wishing on every star I could find that they'd divorce.. I'll begin to ramble if I don't stop here, but I'm sure I'll blog about it in the near future. Kudos to you for going with your gut instinct. It really IS the best way to go.

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