This is probably one of the hardest articles I’ve attempted to write. I mean self-reflection can be a hard thing to do – to turn the spot light on yourself especially in public for everyone to read. But, self-reflection is necessary.
So, here I am at 47 years old – looking at the woman in the mirror. I’ve been out of my last relationship that lasted four years for almost two years now. Last year, I ventured into the dating game, and I can tell you that it’s much different now than when I was in my 20’s and even my 30’s.
But, first, let me tell you a little about myself. I’m shy and a Scorpio – knowing the zodiac for some seems to speak volumes to some people. Anyway, I’m the quiet, good listener observant type.
Anyway, I digress. Let me get back on track. I’ll be the first to admit that communication is key to any relationship or friendship. However, it is an area where I sometimes struggle. For some people I’ve dated, they feel that I’m too quiet. But, most everyone will say that I’m a great listener. I agree that’s my niche – maybe it’s a carryover from my news reporting days when listening was REALLY key for me. For my friends and loved ones who needed someone to talk to and listen, I was the go-to person, and I must add I was also known for providing some pretty good advice.
But when dating someone, communication often comes up. It doesn’t matter that even in dating profiles I describe myself as quiet and laid back, my quietness and slow to warm up/open up ends up causing problems or maybe it causes doubt in the other person. Now, don’t think that I’m just showing up with nothing to say. I talk. But, I end up doing what I’m most comfortable doing – listening. I answer questions when asked, but I’ll admit that I’ve come to realize that I answer the question asked - I don’t think to add extra or try to make my responses longer. Offering up information about myself doesn’t come easy for me. It’s not that I have anything to hide, but I’ve just never been good at talking about myself voluntarily. Plus, I realize that I seem to attract people who are more talkative and extroverted than myself, which has made it easy to keep me in my quiet comfort zone.
Recently, I was dating someone. The connection was great. There was mutual encouragement to pursue goals and passions. More importantly, we enjoyed spending time with each other and got along really well. But, we seemed to bump heads and have frustrating conversations. She said she wanted to get to know me and wanted me to open up. I wanted nothing more than to open up and let her get to know me. But, you guessed it, I fell into my usual role of listener. I took in everything she had to say and even listened to some of her stories multiple times and didn’t mind. I shared some stories of my childhood, family trauma (mother cutting me off and not speaking to me three times over religious reasons because I came out years ago as gay and left the Jehovah Witness organization), goals and things I thought of pursuing. The easy conversations flowed with ease.
Unfortunately, there were times either the way questions were phrased or topics chosen, the conversation exchange was frustrating. I felt my responses weren’t good enough or my answers not long enough. The additional questioning or comments came across aggressive, but I think what stood out the most was her tone. I shut down. I had things I wanted to say, but it was like I was frozen. I couldn’t get my responses to flow, and I felt like a bumbling fool at times. In hindsight, I realized that her tone, which she denied having- therefore she couldn’t acknowledge how I was experiencing the communication exchange. You guessed it. I shut down. I’m not saying that it’s the right thing to do. But, here’s where self-reflection comes in. I came to realize that her tone reminded me of the tone my mother had when she called to tell me that she would no longer talk to me. So, anytime there’s a change in tone I associate it with something negative to come.
I tried telling her that at times the way she came across was a trigger for me. I again assured her that I did want her to get to know me, and that I was trying. . But, I’m a thinker, processor and take my time – thinking things through. She was the opposite. I communicated in other ways – by doing things, cooking for her, buying takeout dinner since Covid-19 is a real thing she wasn’t comfortable going on out-to-dinner dates a lot, helping out where needed, hanging out watching movies and even just sitting and being near when she still had work to do. In my opinion, these are all ways you can also find out about the essence of a person.
As I’ve thought about us since her decision to end the dating process because she felt she had been begging me to open up and I didn’t change fast enough I was of course shocked and sad but the truth is we both ignored what each of us was trying to communicate.
She wanted me to open up more and at a faster rate, but I was stuck because I couldn’t get past the tone or the lack of acknowledgement of my experience of her communication-style. Like many she felt it shouldn’t be frustrating. However, while I agree it was frustrating at times, I felt that it was typical in the early stages, even after two or three months, you’re still learning each other and how to communicate effectively with each other. After all, we are unique with different experiences and relationships take work. Every day won’t be easy, but any experience of getting to know someone especially with a potential relationship as the end goal will take patience and work to learn the best way to communicate with each other.
I do want to improve my communication and that is my current goal and mission. Self-reflection not only helps makes you more self-aware but eager to put in the work to make necessary changes happens.