At what point do you need to stand back and take a long, hard look at yourself?
You don’t want to do this too often; becoming a self-reflective nitwit, narcissistic, self absorbed, eventually jading your own judgement with your own self-importance.
Saying that, you don’t want to never do it. Like avoiding your reflection in the mirror in the morning, until after you’ve had your coffee, or perhaps forever. At which, you never end up knowing yourself; living the emptiest, loneliest life due to the key love of your life being missing- you.
Surely there’s a bell-curve telling us all when it’s safe to look? Surely this kind of important information gets passed down from generation to generation, like a family heirloom. Mothers telling daughters, “think about your essence and happiness at 15, 21, 28, 30 and continue on a path of semi-demi-bi-annual self reflective path until you feel old enough to not give a fuck.”
I had a moment like this the other night- it was almost like one of those moments where you leave yourself, and observe from above, like watching the penguins slide around in and out of the water at the zoo. There’s nothing like drunkenly screaming at your boyfriend on the street and sobbing hysterically in public to give you one of those experiences.
My boyfriend of 8 months, John*, has had a rough few weeks. He’s moving house (out of the house he shared with his ex), his car broke down, his uncle died, his work van got a flat and he had trouble changing it, then on the same day he backed the work van into a tree and smashed the back window. It’s been a stressful time.
We went to the pub with my housemates to watch a band, drink beers and have dinner (not in that order). Things were fine until he made some kind of insensitive remark about the song ‘Papa Don’t Preach’- Madonna. I had told him I loved to sing this song on karaoke. He had said that was a surprise, but also fitting for me, given the song content. I looked at him with utter shock and despair. I couldn’t understand why he would say such a thing and make such light out of something that he knows I still struggle with. I asked him how he would have felt if I had made some kind of remark like that about his own personal demons.
Feeling a bit raw and sensing a growing meanness in him, I left it. He had never been so cruel and I had never seen him behave this way, though he had told me about previous experience with other partners. As the night went on, one of my housemates made some kind of remark about being told he was the best at something by a woman. It was innocent. John jumped in and snarled, “oh that’s what they all tell you.” I was incredulous. What had gotten into him?
“Really nice,” I said as I got up and walked away.
“What was wrong with that joke? I really don’t know, ” he messages me.
Was I over reacting at a throw away comment, or was he in fact insinuating that all women, including myself, were only there to make men feel good and tell them what they want to hear, like some kind of manipulative sirens. Or was I reacting this way because I was already hurt?
I reassessed his behaviour and mood when I came back. I could tell he had a black cloud over him, thick and thundering. He was muttering things under his breath. As I was speaking to Mark, one of my housemates, I felt my bag vibrate. After a few minutes I checked my phone:
John: Why don’t I leave you and Mark alone, and I’ll go home.
As I read that and looked back up at the blues band playing, pure rage and anger bubbled over. I re-read it. I watched the band, shaking my head with utter disappointment. How could he do this? I stood up, slowly and assuredly. I turned to my housemates and said goodnight and that we were leaving. I stuck my finger in John’s chest and said “we’re leaving.”
I walked and walked and walked. I felt like I was going to explode with utter disappointment and anger. Finally I turned to him, who was trailing behind me, spitting things like, “What!?” and “Why did you just leave?”.
“How dare you! If you ever do that to me again, I will walk away from you so fast your head will spin on it’s neck.”
“What? I didn’t do anything. I was just saying how I feel.”
” You were fucking jealous and you were accusing me of talking too much to my housemate. Do you know how fucking unreasonable that is?”
” No I wasn’t, I was just saying how I feel.”
“What, so suggesting I spend the night talking to my housemate, while you go home was a genuine suggestion, because that’s how you felt?”
“Well that’s interesting, because that’s what you wrote. You think that I was speaking to my own fucking housemate too much? You were jealous that I was talking more to him than you? What now I can’t even speak to other men?”
“No, I was just saying that I felt left out.”
“Then why the fuck didn’t you just say I feel left out, rather than making accusations and sounding like a child. Why don’t I just leave you and Mark to it and I’ll go home?”
“You don’t need to use that tone! That’s not how it was and that’s not a nice tone.”
” That is how you sound. God, that is so unfair. I would NEVER do that to you. I would never make you feel like that, even if I was feeling jealous. That’s so fucking unfair.” I start to cry and continue walking.
“Oh well, this was bound to happen sooner or later.”
It was at this point when I stopped and stared. I could see all over him that he was about to take this to another level and I wasn’t ready for it. We had barely argued ever since we got together. In fact, this was by far the worst one we’d had.
“What do you mean this was bound to happen? What are you talking about?”
“Oh it’s inevitable. Arguing, fighting. This is what happens.”
“What the hell!? We barely argue, this is a first. What are you saying?”
“Yeah that’s because you’re too nice. I’ve got all these things wrong with me and you’re perfect. You don’t have anything that’s bad about you.”
Then the sobbing happens, uncontrollable, unbearable sobbing. I start to shut down, seeing where this is going. My entire view of our relationship was dashed with those few words. I had been so open hearted, free from fear and doubt, I had always thought that he had been the same. Now, all I could see was the he felt it was inevitable that we would break up; that I was just like all the others; that I had invested my whole heart, trust and love wrongly. That certainty I had felt was so far from reality, that it was pure fantasy and once again, I would be cast aside because I am, what? Too nice. It was this point where I started to feel self evaluation kick in and I lifted from the situation like a fly on the wall. Had I completely misread his intentions? What will happen to my friendship with his brother? How will I ever be able to feel like I can open my heart again, after fucking up so majorly?
Our discussion continued until eventually we got back to my house. My housemates had beaten us home, having ridden their bikes. Any argument would have to be continued quietly. We lay in bed.
“What’s your catch? You’re so perfect? What’s your catch?” John asked me. I said nothing. “You’re so nice and I’m so fucked up, sometimes I think I have to look for something wrong, because it’s too perfect.”
“Oh my God. I fucked up. I so fucked up. What was I thinking? What is wrong with me?” I said, sobbing hard, covering my face. “Fuck, fuck. God. Are you breaking up with me? Is this what is happening here? Oh Jesus. Why are you doing this now?? Ahh Fuck, I chose the wrong one!”
“What!?? No! No!! No, I’m not! It’s OK! I’m not! It’s OK, I won’t leave you!”
And just like that I felt the world move and shake, as it came crashing down. It was almost like I could feel the time continuum sudden uproot itself and change direction, as my future just took a different route.
The next morning I continued to cry. I was devastated that my own perception has let me down so much, and that I had been so utterly misguided and naive. Shattered and broken. He didn’t seem so moved, perhaps not realising how much of a clusterfuck his words had been for me. He apologised, saying he hadn’t meant to upset me. I had asked him what had he wanted me to do? What had he expected me to do? I was so secure, that I don’t need continual attention, why does he not feel that way? What can I do to make him feel that way? And lastly, I had asked him that if I had of said those things to him, instead, the inevitability, the searching for problems, how would he have felt? I left those questions with him, knowing he would consider them over time.
For me, I wondered whether there was any going back. Would I feel that unmarred joy again? The illusion of pure love and happiness had dropped down like a big, rosy curtain. Is there any going back to that after it’s been crumpled on the floor? Do I want to go back to something that could never be as good again?
With precious words, apologies and future plans, things can be as good. Forgiveness is a big tool to have in your belt. Forgiveness and a sledgehammer of self-reflection.