I remember years ago when the book, The Rules, came out. For those of you who don’t remember, The Rules was a book about how to get a husband. It was based on the idea that men pursue women, so you have to present yourself as someone worthy of pursuance…by, apparently, playing hard to get and being manipulative. I never read it and just remember hearing some of the advice and a lot of it sounded quite dishonest and counterproductive to a fun, healthy relationship. Some examples include never, ever being sexual within the first three dates, not visiting the man in the long distance relationship until he has visited the woman three times, and breaking up if he hasn’t proposed before the two year mark. Basically, The Rules turn finding a long term relationship (and finding one that necessarily results in marriage because marriage is the only way to legitimize a relationship) into a stressful, dishonest, manipulative game that you win by being vague with communication and, as the woman, denying yourself what you actually want to do.
A lot of people have scoffed at The Rules because they generally sound pretty ridiculous to anyone who has been lucky enough to find satisfying relationships or to women who don’t want to play into the gatekeeper model of being female. At least amongst the people that I have generally spoken to about such things, it is generally accepted that hemming and hawing about whether or not to call someone or if you should wait to be called is dumb. If you want to talk to someone, call them. Then it’s on them if they want to refuse you. I’m not saying that it’s easy all the time to be an asker and not a guesser, to be the one to put yourself out there, but ultimately taking that step will either allow things to progress further or end before things get too difficult.
The thing is that people behave this way in non-romantic relationships, too. I spent a lot of time when I was younger trying to guess what people were thinking and wanting. I would wait for them to tell me…but most people won’t say what they’re really thinking or what they want either. So the result was that no one would be saying anything and no one would have any idea what was going on. Then one day, a big fight breaks out because you were too dense to read their minds or something. This is basically what highschool and college were like for me. I spent a lot of time not saying what I thought about anything and then by the time I left I was so angry and bitter that most of my relationships from then were beyond repair (not that this is necessarily a bad thing…my life seems fine without those relationships, but perhaps my teen years would have been more enjoyable if I said difficult things more often to people who reported to care about me). I also spent a lot of time observing how much people worried about every choice that they made when it came to social/romantic interaction. Looking back, and comparing things with the reactions I see now, all I can seem to gather is that it is generally considered desperate or rude to actually say how you feel and what you think. It is seemingly an accepted part of our society to sit there and worry constantly about everything and even when you are good at worrying and considering every possible ramification of your choice, you can still screw up and rudeness is close to unforgiveable.
Because the price of being “wrong” is so high, people just wait for everyone else to make a move, turning the entirety of social life into that same stupid, boring game. How often has a person been angry at another person for something they perceived as a slight and instead of confronting the “offender” about it, the slighted person waits for the “offender” to own up to what they did? If the “offender” has no idea they did anything “wrong”, why are they going to address it? Yet when it finally gets brought up after time has allowed the “wound” to fester, tensions and emotions run high and an argument breaks out. “You didn’t address this!!!” “I didn’t know it needed to be addressed…” “You should have! It was obviously RUDE!”
No. No, it’s not obvious. It is only obvious if you say something and say something clearly. Some people are not good at guessing. In other cases, it is very difficult to guess because a lot of people are really good at hiding how they feel about something. If you insist on waiting until someone notices that you’re having a problem, you will be often disappointed in people’s perception. This waiting combined with mounting disappointment can lead to awful insecurity or passive aggression on your part and both of those things are toxic. Saying how you feel or expressing worries can be very hard because the ultimate fear is that the worry is founded…but even if the result of the conversation is that your insecurity about a situation is based on reality, at least the conversation is happening. By not initiating conversation when you feel uneasy about something, your mind has a way of making things worse. For instance, I tend to project things onto people and I think many people do the same. You see what you want to see. You will find evidence to support your fears. The only cure for this is to find out the truth from the subject of your uneasiness. Finding out the truth may not necessarily make you feel better, but at least the bad feelings will be based on actual knowledge and not simply what you have assumed and cultivated.
To me the point of communication is not to reach consensus but to exchange information (factual, emotional, or both). This is not to say that often when communication occurs consensus does not occur…quite the contrary. When I bring up an issue, I generally hope that it can be worked out. But the goal is to let the information be known by concerned parties (or parties who I think should be concerned). If people commit to honesty once the conversation has begun, then the conversation will lead to a useful ending. Please note that “useful” does not necessarily mean “happy”. I simply mean that if people are saying what they really mean and how they really feel then decisions can be made based on reality. No guesses. This might mean the reconciliation is not possible. So be it. Sometimes things suck. Sometimes you don’t get what you want. Sometimes things go poorly. But why is it better to not talk about it at all?
Over the past few years my disbelief in a higher power or an afterlife has really affected the way that I view the world and my place in it. When I say that I only have one life to live, I’m not just throwing that comment away. This is important. This life that I have right now and for (hopefully) the next several decades is all that I get. What good is it to waste it not speaking the truth when I have issues with people that I care about? Because it might offend someone? So what? Then we can talk about the offense. I have worked too hard to open up and start speaking my mind to close up again. There is no use in it. If you care about me then you will be open, honest and unambiguous with me. If you do not wish me to be that way with you, then why are we communicating?
I am finally coming into my own. It is not easy. I think I’m experiencing some growing pains or something. For the first time in a very long time I feel like I am right about some things and am willing to fight for those things. And I might be proven wrong. But I do plenty of dancing on the dance floor. I don’t need to do it around subjects. I won’t be successful every time I try. But I’m going to try every time.