I feel really off today. Like, existentially empty and weird and numb. I don’t know what to do with myself.
It’s the same sort of feeling I get when I start to wonder and worry about whether I’m starting to get stuck. Stuck in my life. Stuck in some routine. Stuck in complacency. I don’t know whether I’m doing things the right way or not, and I can’t be certain about how I feel about anything.
Hearing from my old acquaintance Joe yesterday set me off into a funk. I wasn’t stirred by dormant feelings of romance or longing for him. I wasn’t feeling lusty or flirty or anything of the sort. Rather, I was stirred by a feeling of lacking something. Lacking what, though?
Pretty quickly, I started to realize that hearing from Joe caused me to put a spotlight back on my current relationship with my boyfriend. We’ve been dating for over a year now, and for the most part, things are good. We get along well and pretty much never fight. There’s no serious mismatch in personalities, and we both tend to be fairly laid back and informal people.
But if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about our relationship, it’s that there is a lack of romantic connection between us. Now, that’s not to say that my boyfriend isn’t kind to me, or that we don’t express affection for one another. But there is no real element of tender-hearted romanticism, pillow talk, eye-gazing, fondness in touching, or romantic gestures. The only time we’re overly affectionate with one another is in the bedroom, and even then, it’s often in the dark, beneath the covers.
Our relationship has a very intellectual/cognitive side to it, and rarely does it dive into the deeper sides of our humanness. The most vulnerable I’ve ever been with him was over the summer when I first got sober, and I told him point-blank that I need to feel like her cares about what goes on in my life, and that I want so desperately to feel like I am priority in his life. He explained to me that he, as a person, doesn’t go too deep into his own feelings, and that he is generally bad at initiating conversations about those things. He is made uncomfortable by people who express anger or frustration. He tends to never think about asking me how my day was. That’s just how he is, he explained. I understood it on a surface level, but still felt very hurt. I boiled it down to a difference in expectations.
All of those issues were talked through several times, and were mostly laid to rest after a few months. Things evened out for a while once my own internal world began to stabilize. We passed the 1-year mark in December and flew through the holidays into the New Year. On New Year’s Eve, I felt closer to him than I ever had, as we spent the night having some very honest and vulnerable conversations with some close friends.
I was able to put my complaints aside for a while and just not think about wishing for more.
But then, in the New Year, I got asked out at the gym. Twice. By two different men.
A member of my writing group asked me for drinks or food (though, this guy is more than twice my age and not my “type”), because he thought I was a very interesting woman.
And then Joe popped up yesterday and started reminiscing on the time we spent together almost 9 years ago, and commented that he wished I was single so he could take me on a date.
It makes me feel guilty and weird to compare the actions of other men to my boyfriend, especially when I’m not interested in the other men. But to feel like I’m missing some part of what I want and (dare I say it) need from my partner, only to have it expressed by other people is… well, it makes me sad. And it makes me feel frustrated, and stuck. Because to request those things from my boyfriend would, essentially, be me asking him to change how he operates. I would be asking him to change how he is just to suit me.
I love my boyfriend. I do. And I’ll admit that a lot of my frustrations and complaints are probably built on a foundation of fears: fearing that I’m missing out on something or someone else; fear that I’m not actually missing out on anything and just blowing things out of proportion; fear of long-term commitment, especially since I was so burned by my divorce; fear of being stuck and not knowing how to approach my boyfriend about it.
I wish life had a manual. I wish being sober just made this stuff easier. I wish it didn’t take so much reconditioning to unlearn how to be a people-pleaser. I wish I didn’t always feel like I need to keep an eye out for my “way out,” just in case. I wish I didn’t always second-guess myself. I wish I wasn’t so scared of speaking up for what I need, and what I want, just because I’m afraid I might hurt someone else’s feelings.
Damn, Em. Get it together. This life thing isn’t going to figure itself out.