I’ve been thinking a lot about the conversation with our Ohio homestays, Kristin and Eric. Specifically the notion I brought up, that “I can handle frustration, pain, shame and someone making a fool of themselves.” And I have started to wonder if I’ve been oh so wrong about some of my actions over the course of relationships. Because how I acted with the Ohio date (not voicing anger, continuing a conversation where I claimed I was fine but wasn’t, basically gritting my teeth and bearing it) is indeed a reflection of how I have been with more than one boyfriend in the recent past.
The thing is, I have seen this trait in myself as a strength. As something that makes me resilient. I’m not the girl who outwardly melts down when my boyfriend refuses to declare himself my boyfriend or who calls said non-boyfriend out when he goes away for two weeks and doesn’t dial my number, choosing only to text every other day. I’m the girl who thinks I am demonstrating a higher state of living by allowing someone else to be themselves, dumbassery or otherwise, and not making a fuss. And what I want someone to see – a boyfriend, a friend, or an outside observer – is that I’m strong.
In pondering this, I’m reminded of my last break-up. We were walking around the lake. He acknowledged he’d been a pretty bad quasi-boyfriend. And he didn’t say to me, “You know Alicia, I think you’ve been really strong throughout the course of this relationship-type-thing.” He said, “Alicia, you’re sweet. You’ve been too sweet, really.”
And then other ghosts of relationships past surface. There’s me toning down silliness in my personality to try and keep a guy from being irritated at me while we’re baking in the kitchen and not once thinking maybe it’s his own damn fault he’s grumpy and not my responsibility to play into that. There’s me not saying “You need to stop drinking and getting violent with strangers and emotionally abusive toward me,” and instead worrying I’d hurt his feelings or make him defensive and even more destructive when maybe those were all signs that hey, this relationship is probably not good for me. There’s me walking down the street toward the subway feeling tense and anxious and not asking him to stop pressuring me as he walks beside me, conveying emotion I don’t think I feel anymore because it seems easier to just listen, to let him be him.
It’s monumentally terrifying to realize what I’ve thought makes me strong could be the reason I am where I am in life. I refuse to challenge someone because I fear repercussions of the silent treatment, of horrible insults, or worst of all, causing their own self loathing. But more than that, I refuse to trust them with what I’m feeling. In attempting not to be a victim in my relationships, I’m a victim.
These thoughts kind of makes me want to puke.