I feel like in most relationships, whether of a romantic nature or close friendships, the participants share bits of themselves...(memories, opinions, experiences, beliefs, etc.) and in so doing, learn about one another...become closer. Perhaps I just romanticize the whole relationship concept, but it seems to me that that is an important part of of the whole "getting to know you" process.
I also believe that you know you are really close with someone when you can reveal your true feelings, however complex or irrational or conflicted, and they express understanding and empathy. I'm not saying that differences of opinion are not expressed or that disagreements should be covered up. I am fully in support of healthy debate...offering alternate ways of looking at things, even arguing for one's position or point of view.
But i think that when people who really care about each other communicate, an underlying sense of "i understand where you're coming from" exists. It's kind of the foundation, isn't it? I mean... as we grow out of childhood, and develop the ability to choose with whom we develop friendships, isn't that a big part of how we choose?
I have never decided to pursue a friendship with somebody because i never had any idea where the hell they were coming from. It's not necessarily going to prevent me from liking a person, but i can't see feeling close to someone if i just couldn't "get" them at all. And even more so if i never felt like they got me at all.
Alright... I'm pretty sure i've overstated my point effectively.
And in my recent 8-year relationship, i spent a whole lot of time understanding. By which i mean that she and I were very, very, very different people with fundamentally different ways of approaching life, ways of thinking, ways of dealing with anger, ways of communicating, etc.
We felt very differently about almost everything. But I could almost always effortlessly see from where she was coming. I never expect people to think like i do. And the things I admire in others are often also the ways in which we are different. So it wasn't difficult for me to listen or to understand. And I spent several years being there for her and being on her side.
You can see where I'm going, right? Of course you can.
I can honestly say that I never felt that sort of understanding in return. Every time I expressed an opinion or shared a memory or talked about how I felt regarding this or that, it somehow became an argument. I never could figure out how it happened, either. I'd be talking about how certain punk bands helped influence me ideologically and philosophically at an important stage of my development and... before i knew it, I was in the middle of an argument about whether punk was simply a fashion and that punks were just another elitist, narrow-minded clique. And it didn't matter at all that i could understand that in her experience, that must have seemed the case OR that these were issues i struggled with myself as i was growing up. It was impossible to be a part of the punk movement in the mid-80s and not see that many of my "fellow punks" decried being persecuted for dressing differently from the norm and listening to different music...but were just as fucking shallow and judgemental of others as the worst of the mainstream. It angered me. But I still believed in bucking the status quo. I still believed that people should be free to be who they are...think what they think...dress how they want...listen to what they want. Just because some people in the punk scene were shitty toward people for being "goth" or "metal" or "straight" or whatever, it didn't make my beliefs any less genuine.
-But how the hell did i end up having a straight-up argument with my girlfriend about this shit in 2015 when I was just trying to share a piece of myself...explain how i came to a certain understanding about something or other as I was growing up?
Why are we shouting?
I was called a music snob for years because I listen to music that moves me...speaks to me, and i don't really pay much attention to anything else. I never insult or put down types of music. I rarely say anything negative about specific bands or artists (steve miller being a notable exception). People look for different things out of music. Why should i care what anyone else listens to or why? I listen to what I listen to because that's what does it for me. Why are you calling me a snob?
These are tiny examples of a constant atmosphere in which I became more and more hesitant to express myself at all to my girlfriend. I just settled into a routine of working, listening to all the things that pissed her off, helping to raise and financially support her children (who resented my existence), watching tv, and failing to sleep. Every once in a while I would try to bring up what I saw as a problem. It was never well received or given much weight. I know i can be overly sensitive, but this hurt me. And I felt more and more...
I could have left. You are probably asking why I didn't. And while I can't claim to be completely aware of all my motives, the fact is that she needed me. She has very few friends, two daughters, a personality which makes it hard for her to hold a job...she needed me. And I loved her. Not in the way I would have wished, perhaps. But I loved her. And my old shrink would say that I was conditioned from birth to feel as though what I want and need is far less important than...everything else.
But you are right. The honest and most loving thing I could have done would be to leave. To break up before my feelings of affection slowly faded and all that remained was a sense of obligation.