I plan to generously pass on Lessons Learned from My Partner in the next 7 blogs. I got angry at her today, and for some reason that makes me want to remind myself of the things she has taught me in the last twenty-five years. I’m sure I could fill many more than 7 blogs, but I’m not sure she could stand it (she’s become addicted to reading this thing!).
So. Lesson 1: The Healthy Uses of Avoidance as a Relationship Strategy
First, one must understand that I’ve learned most of what I know about how to behave from books. Or, to put it bluntly, I decided at about, oh, age 6 that my parents were completely clueless (and that they thought I was an alien from outer space and had no idea what to do with me), so I looked for other resources. I read books on how to communicate (“I” statements, be honest and direct), books on how to be assertive (“no” means “no”), books on how to deal with children, how to have better sex–I mean, I have a reading disorder. I read unbelievably fast and remember almost everything I read. I read a couple books a week at minimum. I get that this makes me strange and a bit of a freak.
Anyhow, all the early reading meant that I created my own rulebook on how to behave, communicate, be assertive, etc (the sex part I extemporized on…a lot, but we won’t get into that). And, as I have mentioned ad infinitum, I have a certain penchant for drama and never doing anything halfway. I mean, if I’m going to be direct, I’m going to be DIRECT.
I will say this–being DIRECT creates a lot of drama in your relationships. Like, you’re getting to know someone, and you notice that she is a monologuer. Meaning, she says, “Hi, can you talk?” You say, “Yes.” She then talks for 44 minutes without taking a breath. (If you’re me, you’re holding the phone away from your ear, swearing at it, making faces at it, dancing around and generally being extremely mature.)
Now, my rulebook says to be direct, so I call this person up a couple days later (this all happened about 20 years ago) and say, “Did you know you talked for 44 minutes in our last phone call without even asking me how I was?” And she says, “YOU WERE TIMING ME???!~!!!!!!”
This was when my partner decided to do an intervention on me. She sat me down and said, “You need to learn that if you don’t want to be friends with someone, JUST DON’T PICK UP THE PHONE!”
I was like, “You can do that?”
My partner then tore all her hair out at once. It grew back, though.
“YES!!!!” she said (after the hair had been cleaned up and she’d stopped swearing).
“You don’t have to tell people everything you think?”
“You’re completely hopeless,” she told me.
Later, she came back and explained that if you want to be friends with someone, but not as close as they want to be to you, you wait before calling them back. Or you do only group outings. There are, it turns out, about a million ways to keep people at a distance without telling them that you’re timing their phone calls.
Besides my partner, I mean.
And so I came to study Avoidance 101. I thought psychological health grew out of direct communication, but it turns out that mostly drama grows out of anything the least confrontational. AND, my partner tells me, if you tell someone what bothers you about them, that’s actually pretty intimate, so if you don’t want to be close to them, it’s better not to say it.
Of course, if you do want to be close to someone, direct communication of the skillful variety is a good idea. My partner has to study that with me, though, because guess what? Being direct isn’t always her strong suit.
Anyhow, here I am, making a pitch for The Healthy Uses of Avoidance.
Some of us just need things spelled out.
All the time.
And while I am a student of avoidance, I personally prefer to say what I think with no punches pulled, and to hear things that way as well. As long as it’s gentle, kind, and basically complimentary. Of course.