The Dandy and I talk a lot about past relationships and I can’t tell if it’s because we’re both middle-aged (thus thoroughly at the stage of abandoning all dating pretense and straight-up saying “here’s my baggage and here’s what I need in a partner, you up for it or not?”) or if we’re both maybe not quite over all that previous stuff.
I definitely try to hold back on that kind of talk when I’m with a young’un because they’re usually so fresh and optimistic and inexperienced that they don’t really talk about past experiences, they just wanna throw themselves into this awesome new one. So stuff doesn’t really come up and it would feel gauche to wedge it into the conversation. With guys my own age (in my very limited experience) it does come up a bit more; the mutual sussing-out of compatibility is a lot more blatant. But I still haven’t usually talked about my history as much as I do with The Dandy. Not this early in the game, anyway. We name names, even. He knows the names of the exes who have affected me most. I know the names of his. I have never been on that sort of basis with anyone until months into a relationship. I like it. But I still worry that it might be unhealthy, because worrying is what I do.
The Dandy is usually absolutely silent when I tell him things (like explain about how my mental issues affect my life or tell him I’m anxious about something or mention other partners I have) and it unnerves the shit out of me. My ex-husband was usually silent when I had anxiety freakouts and I’m 99% sure it’s because he had no idea what to do and was panicking. So he’d listen and maybe be sad that I was suffering but feel helpless to stop it and he’d go get shitfaced with his friends in order to drown out his icky helpless feelings. I think with The Dandy he’s just trying to be non-judgmental and let me vent? But I’m not sure, so I’m kinda waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Like, yesterday I gave notice at my part-time gallery job because I realized I just don’t have the right kind of brain to handle the level of multitasking and human interaction required. During my quitting talk, my boss said she was relieved to understand that’s what was going on – that she’d been frustrated, wondering why I wasn’t doing certain aspects of the job (“Does she just not like doing those things so she doesn’t do them?”). I had told The Dandy ahead of time that I was planning on quitting and he asked if I would need him to come over after work for emotional support*. I ended up summoning him, and cried in his car after work. I told him how the big quitting talk had triggered some baggage for me because it’s not the first time people have attributed the symptoms of my brain problems/health problems to some kind of moral failing. I told him how when I was a kid my parents had all these earnest talks with me about why I wasn’t cleaning my room when asked. Why oh why was I so lazy and/or disobedient? I even asked myself that. I didn’t feel like I wanted to disobey my parents; I wasn’t a rebellious kind of kid. So I figured I must just be a lazy shithead. Except actually I had undiagnosed celiac disease and was basically suffering from malnutrition and felt sickly all the time and that would be why I had a hard time doing things like cleaning. I told The Dandy all of this and he just kind of absorbed it in absolute silence. I’m really pretty sure the two of us just have different communication styles but my knee-jerk reaction is that if he agreed with me that my parents/boss/etc were being assholes and that I am not in fact bad or lazy, he would say so. And he’s not saying so, so…
But he’s still going out with me so it’s probably fine.
Still, though, I prefer a more active sort of support so I should probably mention that. I still find myself having boundary issues (a problem that plagued me with Minx and The Pedant as well)…it just feels like it would come off so controlling and petty to be like “You’re not even saying anything! Tell me I’m not a bad person and stuff!” (even if I say it nicer than that). But I do want that, and maybe if I asked for it he’d do it. I tend to go straight to assuming that a thing I don’t like about a guy is part of his core personality and I’d therefore be an asshole to try to change him.I mean…I really like The Dandy. But I’m not in love with him. So maybe he’s the ideal practice ground for throwing caution to the wind and just (tactfully) telling him what I want from him instead of always talking myself out of it and trying to adjust my reactions, instead. And hey, if he adjusts his behaviour and starts doing the things I want, he’ll have become a better partner to me and this actually might make me fall for him.
People are funny. The Dandy is a better partner than The Pedant in almost every way. Not just better for me; I mean universally better. Better communicator, better life prospects in general, better conversationalist, better at paying attention to what his partner enjoys and doing those things. The Pedant is weird and selfish and claims to suck at reading people…but he was preternaturally good at dealing with my anxiety. I never even had to explain what I needed from him, that I recall; he was able to see what needed to be done and do it. If I’d ranted to him about people calling me lazy, he would have said they were stupid and that I’m obviously not lazy because [examples]. When I had anxiety freakouts he wouldn’t just nod sympathetically; he’d be able to see exactly how my thinking was fucked up, break it down for me, and – if I was freaking out about a task I needed to complete – he’d break that down for me and give me a small first step to focus on so I wouldn’t keep angsting about the “big picture” and feeling overwhelmed. And I miss that, especially when I’m telling The Dandy how I’m freaking out about a thing and I kind of pause and wait for instruction but he just looks at me and nods. ARRRRGH.
The Pedant never contacts me anymore, btw. Perhaps when he said we’d remain friends he was just paying lip service. I’ve thought about calling upon him for support when I’m anxious, but if he doesn’t come through for me I’ll be crushed and if he does it’ll probably inflame my ardor again so it’s tricky. If only I could magically transfer his considerable skill with my mental issues directly into The Dandy’s brain…
*That’s the second time he saw I was maybe not doing well emotionally and offered to come be there for me without me having to ask. I love that so much. Like…so much. With The Pedant I didn’t ask for his company when I thought The Veteran was stalking me and might show up at my apartment because I was positive he’d say no.