The French philosopher Alain de Botton believes that we should never put our best foot forward when we first start dating someone. This is the convention, yes, but what it does is set up both parties for unrealistic expectations and disappointments. He suggests that first dates begin with the question: “How are you crazy?”
Basically, let’s cut ahead. What is it that you think I will find strange? What are your quirks? What is it you think I won’t be able to live with because no one else could?
While it is practical advice, instead of asking others, I thought to ask myself.
When I was younger I might have answered:
- Being easily given to jealousy
- A tendency to focus on that person and just that person
- The constant need for affirmation
These three are the traits of teenage love, young love, and while they can still be present (I won’t deny it), I believe that I have also learned to rise above these. There is one more answer, and that’s the one that has always stayed.
This is the beginnings of the defect…
I believe in people. I believe in being kind. I believe in being open, in honesty, and I believe that people believe the same. I believe that they will treat me the same, with kindness and respect. In fact, beyond believing, I expect it from them. So then I am disappointed when the opposite happens. Worse, the disappointment triggers a silence in me, and I close up and shut down a little.
I need time to process the hurt, to think about how I feel. I keep the silence to myself. I do my thinking at night. So in the day everything seems fine. After all, why bother anyone, why hurt them with an inexplicable and deafening silence? I love them, why would I want them to be uncomfortable? That would be unkindness, which is the opposite of what I believe.
Now time has passed, and it’s actually too late to bring it up again. I also know that the hurt will pass so I stay quiet, and before long so much goes unsaid. So I comfort myself. I tell myself it will be okay. Why waste time being upset and angry and making demands when I can just love them? Why bother them with my thoughts and feelings and needs when I can just love them? Because that is what we are taught love is, right? Love is giving, love makes no demands. Love doesn’t ask for more. Love is grateful.
It is a beautiful thought, but eventually the cup empties and you cannot give from an empty cup.
Giving until you break. Is that a defect?
When I finally have the courage to say something, they are surprised.
“How have you not said anything before?!”
They are not used to receiving that kind of feedback from me. It’s hard to believe. Why WOULD I spend years putting up with behavior I do not like? Behavior that continuously disappoints me?
I cannot blame the person for what happens next. They begin to question me, which is the worst thing when you are still reflecting because it throws everything off. You aren’t ready to explain yet, and so you cannot explain it right. They question the silences, and there is a mistrust towards my answers. Or even worse, they don’t question me at all. The silence is a comfort because it is something familiar, and so I continue to say nothing and the silence continues. I continue to neglect myself, not stand up for myself, feel sorry for myself, and not know what to do.
And even if it doesn’t look like it on the outside, I retreat further and further, and I get lost in myself and lost in the hope that someone will notice (heaven forbid I bring it up—that isn’t proper!) I stay quiet while waiting for someone to ask “Are you okay?” “Are you happy?” “What can I do?”
On the rare occasion I get asked, I wonder if my answers are being spoken in a safe environment, and sometimes because I am afraid of not being understood, I don’t tell them everything—so much for being open.
I am too afraid to speak, to ask, because I also want to show my love by (secretly) putting the other first and not complaining. I keep hoping someone will figure me out, that someone will just “get me” completely—a direct result of the ever famous love myth.
But you know what? That hope?
So the silence continues. And I know that’s crazy.
I’ll only be understood if I start talking.
I’ll only be understood if I ask to be understood.
Silence. This is my defect. What’s yours?