It's no secret that I was an unhappy married person. One of my best friends during that time in my life used to say "Marriage just doesn't agree with Shannon." She told me that later after I was out and she confessed that I just wasn't the person she knew me to be. She didn't know the backstory of abuse and my ex's addiction was fueling the personality change until after the fact. Regardless, she was right it didn't agree with me, for excellent reasons. Partly because of this when I left Jonathan I made some very deliberate choices about who I was going to be. I wasn't going to "lose myself" in a relationship again and become an angry, bitter person. But this commitment morphed into something else. It morphed into the inability to tell anyone I'm in an intimate relationship with (friend or partner) that I'm pissed off, or angry or upset.
Because I don't want to be an angry person; I have shut off my ability to express any genuine emotion that resembles that. Because I remember the futility of yelling and screaming at someone who didn't give shit about me, I refuse to tell those who may care when they offend or hurt me. Because I remember the pain of feeling so unheard for so long, I refuse to speak about certain negative emotions. I hold tightly to my ability to clean that shit up and package my emotions in a more palatable fashion before I share them. The messy, dirty, imperfect parts of me aren't welcome at the table. I literally have told at least one guy I dated that "I don't get angry." His response? "Bullshit, everyone gets angry." And in my head I responded with "And if I do you won't see it, I will handle it." I'm very good at handling things. (eye roll)
There are relationships I feel safe enough in to express my anger. My kids know when they've screwed up, not in a way that's unhealthy for them but they get to see when Mommy is displeased. My family sees my annoyances although I'm past yelling and screaming at them about anything. Thankfully my mother and I have moved beyond that for sometime now. The fam and I disagree about things and we're all passionate people but for the most part we express that in a calm(er) fashion than we have in the past.
I have seen firsthand what anger does when it festers in a relationship. I was not unjustified in my anger in my marriage but instead of remaining angry I should have gotten out sooner. I don't like to "should" on myself and I know why I didn't in hindsight (fear) but that anger produced a change in me I didn't like. But I have also seen what it does in my friends' marriages when it festers even over small things. It comes out in morphed ways against people that it is not meant for and it destroys everything in it's path. I know all these things about anger. I know how destructive it can be so it makes sense that I avoid it as much as possible. But just because I avoid it doesn't mean it doesn't happen for me. I get angry and admitting that feels dangerous.
I still share things in relationships. I talk about things that are uncomfortable. I can and do tell my partner when I feel hurt or misunderstood (safe acceptable things to talk about). I can ask for more sensitivity or greater understanding or more affection or affirmation. These are all acceptable things to talk about in my opinion.
But "Hey I'm pissed off, you said you were coming over and you didn't and I was looking forward to that and now I'm angry, I feel slighted and unimportant." Nope. That's a no fly zone. I don't go there. The question "Are you upset with me?" will always result in resounding "No" from me, because even if I am I have worked through it before I even come back to the table. Don't ask me what worked through it means. I don't really know. I just know that it's quiet before I reengage.
I know why I don't go there. It doesn't feel safe. The consequences I have paid in my former life were not pleasant and I don't want to repeat them. So my head yells at my heart to shut up about that slighted feeling because it's not okay, it's not safe to talk about that. If you talk about that bad things might happened, or you might get into a fight and you really hate fighting, it's not who you are, or this could happen, or that, or this. But all of this happens in the nanosecond that I decide not to share my pain. And I remember and embrace my old comfortable frienemy silence.
To express anger or frustration feels really intimate, like the level of security in a relationship would need to be a lot higher before I did that. But because I have never reached that level of security, that freedom of speech, I'm not even sure it exists for me. What would I need to know about someone in order to be safe to say I'm mad. How well would I need to know them?
The bullshit of it all is that I regularly ask my closest friends if they are pissed at me. I ask my partner. And they all freely tell me; I wonder if they have ever noticed that I never say the same in return? I can know people for a decade or more without telling them even once that I'm angry with them. So maybe the level of security just doesn't exist? Maybe I'd prefer to go without the relationship then to go there in a relationship.
I was in a relationship a while back for nearly a year. I thought it would last forever. Thought I would marry that person (which should indicate the trust level I had for this person since for the most part getting remarried is one GIANT question mark for me). For various reasons that didn't happen. But there were several times when he pissed me the fuck off. Once for saying something horrible about my kids' father in front of them (not something I do, not something anyone else is allowed to do around them). Once for putting me in a very uncomfortable position at his family's holiday gathering. I felt safer in this relationship than I thought possible at the time and yet I didn't get tell him. I didn't tell him calmly how angry I was or in a more intense fashion. I didn't express my displeasure in any palpable way. I just ignored it and didn't talk about it.
I went home and found my journal or a computer screen and God and I told them how upset I was. How not okay those things were. I sorted through my emotions solo before I reengaged in the relationship. Because I know that I can sort through my emotions in private and be safe. I have learned that I am the ONLY one who can 'take' the full gamut of my personality. I have embraced that belief system.
The problem with embracing that is that it's not true. Well it could be true but if it is than I am wasting time dating and looking for a partner because there is absolutely no point whatsoever in being with someone that can not embraced the full depth of your personality. And my unwillingness to share the fullness of my personality makes it impossible for anyone to make that decision.
But it's not only knowing them (well enough) that keeps me from sharing my unpleasant emotions. It's also about trusting me to keep me safe. It's about telling myself that it's okay to share this and if the response the other person has is not okay I will leave, I will be okay.
I have learned that I can take care of myself and my people in an excellent fashion. We may not have extra, but we have enough. I know how to emotionally care for them and prioritize that. I prioritize my own emotional health, I work out to work things out and I talk when I need to. But believing that I am safe in a relationship whether friend or partner is elusive to me. This reality has smacked me in the face and it's not going to work out for me long term. Either I need to pick "safer" people to relate with or I need to loosen the reigns on what I share and be more open. Trusting myself to care for me in a relationship has been an evolving process, I'm getting there. But trusting other people not to be giant self-centered assholes is taking a little longer.
This is a process, I haven't figured it out. But I have figured out enough to know that what I'm doing isn't working. The first step is acknowledging the problem, so there I did that. Now what?