In the nearly decade and a half of marriage to my wife, I have developed the habit of trying to predict what she would want. I learned that I needed to know how she will respond to something before I dealt with it. Her temper was so bad that I found that I just gave up the idea of asking her certain things. I would choose to not see friends because it might disrupt her plans. I would do my best to live my life without inconveniencing or embarrassing her. I would do these things as a means of survival, not because I loved her and wanted to make her happy. I would do this to avoid conflict that was inevitable anytime I had plans that were not hers. We aren’t just talking plans she didn’t like, but plans that weren’t hers.
Now as I, for lack of a better term, have a girlfriend. I caught myself doing this with her. My high school reunion is coming up, and I wanted her to go with me. I put off buying tickets for weeks, because I was busy trying to figure out what she would say and think about the issue. I was concerned, because I am not divorced yet. There are people that will be there that know this, and know my wife. I was trying to guess if this would bother her. It took me a few days to realize that I was being stupid. This is not how a healthy relationship works, and that I was placing my old patterns and behaviors into this new situation. I immediately texted her, and asked her to go to my reunion. I warned her that there were going to be people there that might know my situation. She said yes, and made fun of the anxiety I put myself through in asking her.
I related the story to my mom. Other than the fact she is uncomfortable talking about me dating, the conversation confirmed what I was thinking. She told me if it was that hard to figure out then it was not a good relationship. She also told me she would kill me if I got into another relationship with a woman who made it that hard. She asked how my girlfriend responded, and then said good. She was pleased that it was just me over thinking things, rather than the woman I was with deciding to put me through the ringer for the sake of demonstrating her power.
One of the things that I have to learn to do, is to catch when I am following old patterns that aren’t healthy. The inability to make decisions based on my preferences, and to constantly look for the hidden subtext of my partner is a horrible habit. Its not fair to her or me. If I want to know what she thinks, then I can expect that she will answer me without malice when I ask. This shouldn’t be hard to figure out, but the results of spending so many years in a relationship with a high conflict woman has made my responses, even to me, bizarre. The new thing for me, is I express the intellectual and emotional quandary that I put myself into to her, and she laughs and makes fun of me, and then reminds me that she is perfectly capable of letting me know how she thinks and feels without any help from me. Such a simple thing. Two adults dealing honestly with each other. It is so liberating. You would think that I have found the fountain of youth. I know that things with me and her may not work out, but I am learning that things don’t have to be as bad as they have been with my wife.