How I Fight With Boyfriends
A really dysfunctional tactic I picked up from good 'ole mom and how it's evolving.
I’m in the process of renovating my fighting-with-boyfriend style. To be honest, it’s a gut renovation right down to the studs. And it’s kind of going amazing, so today I want to flex. I’m starting from such a low place that honestly, being normal is a flex for me, but hell, I can’t be the only one who is used to fighting dirty. Anyone? Anyone?
I used to have a signature fight move that I inherited from my mother. Let’s call it The You’re-Dead-To-Me. It was my go-to when I genuinely didn’t have the emotional musculature to deal with the situation at hand. Like a week into dating The Bear, he told me he had plans with his ex-girlfriend that pre-dated our togetherness. In all fairness, our getting together was kind of cosmic and out of the norm. We didn’t have a typical first week. It was a love-at-first-sight kind of craziness which also speaks to my emotional immaturity coming off my 26-year relationship. But the point is, when he told me he had this dinner plan with his ex- and and they were planning to go vote together, I shut down all conversation and just said, “That’s great. If that’s what you think is appropriate, I hope you will feel you made the right choice down the road” and I hung up. He kept calling me over and over. I wouldn’t answer. Of course, by the end of my maneuver, he had cancelled plans with his ex- and cut off communication which probably felt abrupt and confusing to her. But once that happened, I was back to my warm-I’m-gonna-love-you-forever self. (Cue the Jessica Simpson song please!)
Believe me. I take no pride or pleasure in sharing this with you. I may have “won” but we both know, there were no winners in this situation. I feel like vomiting as I type. Definitely feeling ashamed. Grief for how I treated him…and in turn, her. The power play. The manipulation. Easy to see why he and I are not together anymore. 🤮
The original Ice-Out Queen was my mother.
My mom would stop talking to me for the most minor infraction. I mean…what could a 6-year-old girl really do to legit deserve the silent treatment from a grown up, right? I honestly couldn’t name one thing. Whatever it was, it displeased my mother who would go days at a time not speaking to me. She wouldn’t even look at me. She’d make all my meals, sure, but then just kind of drop the plate in front of me. No eye contact, no communication. What complicated the situation is that most days, almost all days, and certainly to the world-at-large, my mom would be considered one of the kindest, most loving people you’d ever met: A Ph.D. level people-pleaser who left everyone feeling amazing in her wake. Including me. So those days when I was iced out, were some of the hardest of my life because when her sun shined on me…girl….it was so warm, bright and beautiful. And when it didn’t? It felt like I had nothing. My dad wasn’t really a player here. He was sick and not present for most of my childhood and died when I was 16. My siblings are a minimum of ten years older than me so I was really on my own with mom. In those moments, I would’ve done anything to get her warmth back. Absolutely anything. But I had no control over it. Eventually, she would just, almost shyly, little by little start looking at me and communicating with me directly. I just had to wait it out. I can still feel the lump that felt permanently parked in my throat during those stretches. At home. At school. It was tough to be present with anything else during those dark periods.
My relationship with her toxic coping mechanism shifted as I got older.
Once in college, I spent the second part of Christmas break in my unheated dorm room to escape it. Mom didn’t like my boyfriend. Her way was to say something judgmental about him/my choice and unless I acquiesced, the silent treatment commenced. By that age, I had more independance which kicked off my Fuck-This stage. I had about 20 dollars cash. So I bought a loaf of Wonder bread and a huge Cadbury chocolate bar, you know the kind you can only get at the grocery store. I ate microwaved chocolate sandwiches everyday until school (and the campus meal plan) started back up. I didn’t share my feelings with anyone, because honestly? I didn’t really have words for what I was experiencing. It was all I’d ever known. I just knew the situation with my mom didn’t feel good and instead of being a scared child at her mercy, I was a pissed-off young adult.
Today, I have so much compassion for my mother.
She just didn’t have the tools to communicate her harder, more complicated feelings so she just totally shut down when she felt she couldn’t control a situation. I understand this now because I’ve used the silent treatment to manipulate every man I’ve been in a relationship with – and plenty of friends, as well. It’s something I’ve had to sit with and accept in order to do things differently. Like if you’re in denial that you have mold in your house, how can you ever do a proper renovation?
I tucked this tactic away in my emotional attic. So when a situation would come up, I’d just stick to the narrative of how wrong the other person was and gloss over my toxic (and if i were to be honest, abusive) response. Like in the Bear example, I would just focus on what bad judgement he had keeping plans with an old girlfriend when he was in a new relationship. No awareness that I didn’t have the emotional muscle - the courage to be vulnerable - to say how I was feeling. That I was scared he still had feelings for her. That I felt ashamed all the closeness we shared meant less to him than to me. That I wasn’t enough. That I was afraid.
Then a few weeks ago when Sweet Yogini got scared during our first fight and responded with a out-of-character text saying, “Fuck off, Leave me Alone,” followed by two weeks of silence, for the first time, outside of my mother, I saw it from the other end and…it was definitely unnerving. But I was able to recognize what it was. He was scared and didn’t know how to voice it so he totally avoided all communication. It helped me see my own conflict resolution skills (or lack thereof) more clearly. Listen, I don’t give people the silent treatment anymore. But I DID do that to the Bear just a year and a half ago, so I’m in an active repatterning process with this.
I’ve asked Sweet Yogini for a few “fast” periods since we began dating in November. These are one or two week consensual communication breaks we have taken when I feel things are moving too fast and I sense my old defense mechanisms wanting to kick in. These fast periods have been really helpful to me, to us, to slow things down so we can remain mindful of how we feel, how we want to show up and not just rely on past patterning. I don’t think these types of changes happen overnight and I’m sharing the intentional fast with you, in case it resonates. For some of us, dysfunction just kind of naturally clicks in when relationships are moving quickly and this has been a gentle way of bringing awareness to those moments before we fall back into unconciousness.
I’m seeing the fruits of that labor.
This week, I felt complicated feelings in a conversation with Sweet Yogini and I suddenly got quiet. Now in the past, like in my marriage, I would have turned it on him. I would have blamed him for “making me feel” a certain way and I would have withdrawn until he was able to, with a lot of effort, coax the cat out from under the bed. But this time because we are moving slow. Because I have the intention to be mindful and not just rely on my old “skills.” Because at age 50, I want to finally have the kind of deep and connected relationship I know I deserve. Because, because, because of…all of it. I told him, I’m feeling a lot of shame and I need some space to sit with it. And I did. I didn’t want him to “make it all better” and I didn’t want to project my shit on him. But I did need the space to process and I asked for it respectfully instead of imposing it as a punishment. And by the way, it wasn’t easy for him to hang back and let me have that space, either. His first instinct was to over-explain and reassure me. (Guys who are attracted to girls with toxic habits are there for a reason, right? He is also repeating some patterns from his childhood.) But, that’s not his job. I don’t want to date people who are controlled by my life-long toxic patterning. By always having partners that tip-toed around me, I never grew my own ability to sit with hard feelings, metabolize them and respond from a mature place.
So that’s it. That’s where I’m at. I’m building little muscles. I’m good at sitting with hard things alone. Less good in front of a beloved. Our love relationships are usually a laboratory to work out all the inherited shit we got from our most dysfunctional parent. We can either keep bopping from one relationship to another pointing our finger at the other person. Or we can take off our shoes, stay awhile and keep practicing as a good friend advised me to do almost 15 years ago. He told me love is a marathon. I finally get what he meant. Thanks for sticking with me for this marathon, I’m here for you, too, 24/7, as always, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Soundtrack of my 🤍🖤❤️: