Monday, November 14, 2011

The List

The Boy and I have been working on our relationship, which is a completely foreign concept to me. In all of my previous relationships, as soon as it became apparent that things were not working out, I would just break up with the person. Usually, it was clear to both of us that the relationship had run its course, regardless of who officially ended it.

Now I find myself trying to salvage things with the Boy and I am not really sure why. I have wanted to break up with him for awhile and yet something is holding me back. I think I have narrowed it down to two reasons: Fear that there is no one else out there, and hope that when the Boy finally gets a house and a new job that things will be better.

I like to tell myself that the hope is the primary reason I stay with the Boy, but I am pretty sure it is the fear. Aside from that, there is another part of me that is resentful that I have to deal with any of this in the first place. My Mr. Big and I dated for five years and never once did we have to "work on things." Everything just flowed along naturally and we were happy.

In my most recent attempt to make things work with the Boy, I came up with the idea for each of us to make a list of three things we wish the other person would do more of, and three things we wish the other person would do less of. I hoped that making the list would stimulate conversation and help to guide us out of this rut.

After dinner last night, it was time for the big reveal. The Boy and I sat on the couch clutching our handwritten lists. The future of our relationship was laid out on a plain sheet of white copy paper and a yellow legal pad. We decided to hand our list to the other person, let them read it and then ask each other questions about the lists.

My list was up first. Things to do more of: #1. Talking to me and asking questions. #2. Taking time to plan a date. It doesn't have to be anything expensive, just show that you made an effort. #3. Shave and wear contact lenses when we go out.

Things to do less of: #1. Bad manners when we eat out (like picking up food with your fingers.) #2. Being lazy and not wanting to get out of bed or go to work in the morning. #3. Binge drinking with your friends. #4. Saying the word "nice" every time I tell you something on the phone. "Nice" does not continue the conversation.

Yes, I realize that I had four things on my list instead of three. But #4 was really just a more specific instruction related to communication, so it doesn't really count.

The Boy read my list and said that he didn't have any questions. So much for my goal of stimulating conversation. We both agreed that all of the things on the list were pretty simple and I had mentioned them before, so they were not a huge surprise to him.

Then it was the Boy's turn. He used a slightly different twist on the idea, so his list focused on things he likes and doesn't like. Things he likes: #1. When you let me lead, embrace a new adventure and step out of your comfort zone. #2. When you follow your passion, like writing your blog. It is fun and exciting to be a part of. #3. When you choose to let slide a foible or one of my quirky behaviors. It is like getting away with stealing candy. Or when I say something stupid and you just let it go.

Things he doesn't like: #1. When you make comments that vilify men. Yes we can do stupid things sometimes, but so can women. #2. When you state how I feel and what I am thinking as fact or foregone conclusion without discussion. Or state my opinion for me. #3. When you say "we" referring to an ambiguous group. It can be confusing to myself and others.

After reading the list, my first instinct was to tell the Boy that it was over and to get the hell out of my house. But I had come this far in my attempt to work on things, so I decided to see it through and give the Boy a chance to explain.

We talked about his desire to take the lead and I pointed out that there is an interesting relationship between our two lists, especially on the "things to do more of" portion. The Boy would like me to let him take the lead more often, and I said that I wanted him to take the initiative and plan dates. So if we both want the same thing, why isn't it happening? The way the Boy presented the information made me feel like somehow I am the one holding him back from doing all of those things.

I also thought about his comment about me vilifying men. That is something I have never done in the past. I have been very lucky to have men in my life that I like and respect. So usually when I hear the typical male bashing that goes on among women, I choose not to participate. But this year with my sister getting divorced and me having problems with the Boy I realized that I have been pretty negative about men. When you are not happy with the man in your life, it is easy to just write off the entire gender and I don't want to do that.

Then I asked the Boy to give me an example of a time that I stated his opinion for him, but he couldn't think of any. The one thing on his list that I did not understand was the part about saying "we" all the time. The Boy explained that whenever I tell a story, I use the term "we" instead of "I". For example, instead of saying that "I" went to Petoskey on vacation, I say that "we" went on vacation.

"I probably do say that a lot," I acknowledged. "It is just something that I do. But sometimes I also say 'we' when I mean 'my Mr. Big and I' because I don't want to talk about him all the time and it is easier to just say 'we' and be non-specific."

"It doesn't bother me if you say his name," the Boy explained. "I know that you had something pretty intense with him, and that's ok."

Pretty intense? I thought to myself. That is an understatement. Whenever the Boy talks about my Mr. Big it makes me angry. He could never begin to comprehend the depth of our relationship or what it was like to have everything change in an instant. The reason I don't say my Mr. Big's name isn't to protect the Boy, it is to protect me. Whenever I think about something I used to do with my Mr. Big and then I realize that I am now stuck with the Boy, it just makes me sad.

As I went to sleep last night, I figured out that my entire strategy had back fired. All I wanted to do was find a way to get the Boy to make some changes so I wouldn't have to break up with him. Instead, I have ended up with this ridiculous list of things that I need to "work on" in order for him to stay with me. And I am still not sure whether I want to be with him.

Sometimes I wonder if I am really in love with the Boy. Or if I ever loved him at all. Our relationship was built on a foundation of convenience, as opposed to real substance. Even if the Boy did all of the things on my list, I am not sure that it would make me love him. All of those things are necessary just for me to tolerate him.

I keep waiting for the Boy to grow up. And his list did not give me confidence that a transformation would happen any time soon. There is one thing from his list that really stands out for me. It is the comment about me letting his quirky behaviors slide and the fact that it is like "getting away with stealing candy." That phrase epitomizes what is wrong in our relationship.

I am tired of being the "Mom" in this scenario, with the Boy looking to me to see what he can get away with and me trying to be permissive with his antics. Reading the Boy's list made me feel bad about myself. I wouldn't want to be in a relationship with that version of me.

I am not trying to lay blame on the Boy for making me act that way. It is still my choice. But I believe that the combination of the two of us just isn't working anymore. I want to be in a dynamic relationship with give and take between two equal individuals. I would like to admire and respect the person I am dating.

If you have to work on it that hard, then maybe it is not meant to be.


Anonymous said...

So imagine your fear is true - there is nothing else out there. And then ask yourself if this would still be your choice. Regrets are painful, but we sometimes suffer a bad situation a lot longer than we should as insurance against regret. I give you a lot of credit for trying - more information is always better!

Anonymous said...

Never ask them for a list about you!!

Anonymous said...

You just want to be with a grown up.