Thursday, April 28, 2016

The near BLOW OFF (and how we overcame it)

My boyfriend was able to make plans months in advance—which family we’d spend what holiday with, buying tickets to concerts, vacations. But talking about the future of “us?” Discussions about marriage, family, or moving in together usually ended with a change of subject-- if they were even brought up at all. The lack of future-talk made me increasingly anxious, which in turn made him question our relationship. And that caused him to not want to address the future... which made me more and more insecure about where the relationship was headed.

It was a vicious cycle and we didn’t know how to get out of it.

It came to a head about nine months into our relationship. We cried in my bed for eight hours, thinking it was over between us. Eventually we came to terms with the fact that we didn’t want the cry-fest to be the last time we ever saw each other. From there, we basically had to build our relationship back up... which wasn’t easy. There are resources on how to date and get into a relationship and there are equally as many resources for married couples. But there aren’t really any resources for couples who are in a relationship.

While I’m well aware that the deal isn’t sealed until you say “I do,” the path toward engagement is a huge deal, too. No one should get engaged and then deal with baggage. When marriage is being proposed, a “Yes!” should be exclaimed with eyes wide open.

Here’s what worked for us:

Friends are great, but therapy is the best way to gain an objective perspective. My therapist (she’s the best) helped me realize that my biggest insecurity in our relationship originated from something in my childhood. I never would have put two and two together because the insecurity didn’t present itself in previous relationships (my therapist explained that certain people bring out certain insecurities in us). After this discovery, I was able to identify the insecurity for what it really was, which made a huge difference in our relationship.

Pretty much everyone I know has engaged in therapy at some point. And it doesn’t have to be a big commitment: we were able to address what I needed to in three hour-long sessions.

Standing appointments with each other
The boyfriend suggested couples counseling, to which I was open. But what attracted me to counseling most was the uninterrupted, focused time we’d have, not the third-party mediator. Because we’re both busy and constantly connected, there was never really space to bring up issues or talk about serious topics such as marriage and family.

Now we have a standing appointment on Saturdays at 10:30am on my sofa, where phones are put away, the TV is off, and there are no topics considered off-limits.

We handle conflict differently
 The boyfriend used to bring up comments I had made or a "vibe" I gave off weeks prior, citing them as conflict-provoking. It always came as a surprise to me that (1) it was a conflict at all and that (2) it was being brought up weeks later (versus the time that the comment was initially made). I was lucky if I even remembered the specific conversation! We agreed to discuss and resolve (even if that means agreeing to disagree) issues right away versus weeks later.

These strategies wouldn’t work for everyone but I do feel that if both people are committed to it working, they’ll find the strategies that work for them. Did you ever come back from a near BLOW OFF and live to tell about it?

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