This new relationship is shiny and fantastic, but it’s also useful. I’m learning things about myself that I didn’t quite realize before, and I’m being forced to articulate them. I’ve never been good at expressing actual vulnerabilities to someone, but, in order for this to work, I need to be able to tell Carrie* when something hurts so that we can discuss it. It feels like giving someone ammunition against me, and even though I trust her implicitly I find that difficult. Still, if I don’t take that plunge, we won’t be able to move forward.
One of those vulnerabilities is really more related to the end of my last long term relationship than anything in this one. I’ve always had a need to feel uniquely important–as does everyone, I suppose–and that’s much of the reason I was willing to be monogamous in the first place. I assumed that being The One for someone necessarily followed from being the only one, but it turns out that that’s not true. Toward the end of my relationship with T, I got the impression that it wasn’t that she wanted to be with me so much as that she wanted to be with someone. That’s, in large part, why I broke up with her. I think that impression’s been borne out, since then, by the speed with which she moved in her next relationship, but that’s immaterial. The impression itself is what’s relevant.
Cut to now. I’m not the only one that Carrie has, but I do feel like I am myself and I am important, and that’s what I need. As a rule, she does a fine job of making me feel wanted, but that’s because it’s not a job to her. She just wants me, and it comes across clearly enough that I don’t need to worry about it–usually. However, my own need for that uniqueness combined with flashes of that last relationship cause problems every once in a while, and have done so in two fairly specific ways.
One is that Carrie, as someone who sees a lot of people, naturally draws parallels between me and her other friends. This isn’t a problem, normally, except when it’s someone she’s in an intimate friendship with; when that happens, I lurch a little, and briefly feel like I’m just part of an undifferentiated sea of men she sleeps with. It’s not rational, but it’s there, even when–perhaps especially when–the parallels are entirely superficial. The fact that the last three people she’s dated (including me) were all born within a few months of each other, or that we all seem to be in some flavor of IT (although that’s like saying “I’m in sales”, in that it doesn’t narrow things down much), or when she describes to me personality quirks in me that track with someone else she’s dating, etc. I’ve mentioned that this triggers that seasick sensation in me, but it’s also something that can’t really be avoided; I don’t want to muzzle her ability to talk about her friends with me. As time goes by, I’m learning to deal with this one, and the lurch is less in each instance.
Now, something in a similar vein, but much more painful, requires a bit of explication. Carrie has a quirky phone greeting that she and R (one of her other boys) use together. It’s an odd little inside joke for them. Occasionally, she would accidentally use it with me; in fact, the reason that I even know it’s a thing between the two of them is that it was odd enough that I remarked on it the first time, and it had to be explained. This continued for a while, and it seriously bothered me whenever she would do it. At first, I didn’t say anything, but after a bit I did speak up a bit. Carrie didn’t see it as a big deal, understandably, because she wasn’t actually confusing the two of us, so she was a little dismissive. I let it go for a while after that, but eventually said “I wish you wouldn’t do that with me” after another instance. It still didn’t end, though, and eventually I had to lay out exactly why it was a problem for me and just ask her not to, which, when she realized that it was that much of an issue, she did gladly.
The difference between the two things is that, while both are a bit superficial and irrational, the former is something that I needed to get used to while the latter was simply an easy change, and so, while the comparisons still pop up, the phone greeting has stopped. I think Carrie and I did a fine job of discerning between the two. It took a frustrating amount of time for me to get across how important it was that she answer the phone differently, but that’s because it seemed like such a small thing to her and I wasn’t willing to express exactly how I felt about it, until I just finally had to. I’m getting better about that, though, and future pitfalls will be discussed as thoroughly as necessary much sooner.
We run into other issues, of course–some on my end and some on hers–but those are for another post.
* Carrie is “C” from earlier, if that’s less than obvious. She’s given permission to use her name.