I’d say I’ve been dating for about 10 years. I would say I’ve been seriously dating for about 5 years. I would say that I’ve been in a healthy relationship for about 2 years.
When Jesse and I started dating, my view on relationships was pretty messed up. I had definitely gone through the ringer in my relationships before that. I had devoted the majority of my energy on these relationships and felt like I had been left in the dust. In retrospect, I could see how these relationships were bad for me, but I wasn’t able to see it when I was in it.
So, you can imagine how scared and excited I was when I met Jesse. I thought he was great (and still do)! I was just worried because I had thought a few guys were great in the past and my judgement had been anything but good. Luckily, Jesse is pretty exceptional and it was easy to trust him. Almost two years later, I’m happy with my past self for trusting her gut and recognizing what a good guy Jesse really was/is.
This meant navigating a whole new set of issues, though. Gone were the days of emotional chaos, lack of communication, and intense fear that the relationship would end. We had conflicts about who would sleep where and on what nights (we were both pretty enamored with our own beds). We had discussions about not having the Play Station in the living room (you can guess who was on what side). We struggled with understanding the other’s love language. Anytime I had a difficulty, I was so scared to voice it because I had gotten the message throughout my life that voicing what’s important to you usually got you closer to being dumped. I didn’t want to be dumped! I was madly in love. I viewed Jesse’s love as tenuous. Something that could just slip away if I let the reins go.
Through time I learned that Jesse’s love is anything but tenuous. It’s steadfast. Instead of distancing when I had a problem, he wanted to work on solving it. He wanted a compromise. He didn’t want to let it sit there and stir inside of us, it was getting solved and it was getting discussed and there would be a solution that made everyone extremely to moderately happy (the Play Station is in the living room).
I’m sure that you’ve made the connection that I sometimes make myself suffer from distorted thinking. Cue everyone going, “Duh, Jen!”. I should have been dating guys all along who wanted to stay with me after a disagreement. I am not something to be qualified by one disagreement, but I had somehow rationalized that it was normal for guys to want to be with me less because I voiced my desires and needs. Of course my needs weren’t important. My needs were irrational. My needs would only lead to a life of loneliness…
That thought process is a big heaping pile of crap. No relationship can be successful if one person gives up their needs with the understanding that if they voiced them, the relationship would slowly crumble. That’s not a relationship at all, it’s just a voluntary prison sentence.
To this day, I struggle with putting my needs on the same platform as Jesse’s. Sometimes I get myself worked up over a few days before I burst with whatever issue I have and you know what? After pretty much every burst, I feel better because we talk about it, Jesse soothes my worries, and we find a solution or just flesh out whatever I’m thinking. It’s cool to go to your partner with a worry and walk away feeling like your shoulders are not carrying such a heavy burden as they were before the conversation. I’m incredibly grateful and fortunate that my partner gives me the permission to be myself.
However, there’s something I struggle with pretty often. Something Jesse really can’t help me with. Something that still hits that nerve where I have to be conscientious about how much my needs are being met. I am solely responsible for making sure I watch myself on this issue.
I make myself way too available. When it comes to immediate needs, mine almost always fall into second place. For example, when I started this blog, I wanted to publish a post every day. If you look back on my old posts, you’ll notice I was super inconsistent. Sometimes I’d publish two times a week. Granted I was busy, but I definitely could have budgeted my time better. Times I had set aside to write usually got looked over the minute Jesse walked in the door. I never even said anything to him about it, I just put his presence above my hobby. His need for my attention was more immediate than my need to blog.
Funny thing though, Jesse made it through his whole day without my immediate attention. He works on his own projects all the time. He will shut himself in his office if something needs to get done and be very deliberate about it. Me? If he’s in the house and has nothing to do, I feel responsible for providing entertainment. I feel like I should stop doing my thing and start doing our thing. Even with all the encouragement and support he gave me to start this blog, I still felt like it was just a blog and he was my partner. He has to come first, right?
Right. Totally right (especially with a beard like that, impressive huh?), but blogging doesn’t mean I’m putting him second. It means I’m taking care of myself. I am happier when I write. I am less snappy. I’m more likely to be at ease. I feel like I’m doing something with my energy. Something I need to do to feel like myself. Jesse has remarked many times about how much more pleasant I am when I’m occupied with things I find enjoyable.
With this realization, I realized that to be a good partner I have to take care of myself and make my needs come first, too. It’s possible to keep Jesse’s needs and my needs on the same platform. Of course if he came home with an urgent need, I would stop writing and give him my attention. I don’t spend all night writing. I have my time, he has his time, and we have our time.
I’ve stopped leaving dinner dates with my friends to answer his phone calls. I’ve stopped responding to his texts while I’m in class. I’ve stopped checking my phone if it buzzes while I’m working out. I’ve stopped interrupting my time because being that available isn’t healthy. I will call him after dinner and he won’t mind because he’s great. Same with texting. Same with the gym. He wants me to do my thing because it makes our thing so much sweeter.
So, if you have this feeling, the one where you get anxious because you are not meeting everyone’s immediate needs, especially your partner’s, try not being so available. Make yourself scarce. There is a reason why we have the cliché “quality time”. Time is better when it’s got substance, whether it’s time you spend with yourself or time you spend with your friends and partner. Allow yourself the quality time you think your partner deserves.
Seriously, though. Life is so much sweeter.