We are sitting on the beige couch in the living room. The TV’s playing Modern Family reruns on mute. My heart beats in my chest like it’s trying to escape. I wish I could run away, myself. Disappear off the face of the earth. The dreadful conversation starts something like this:
Look, I need to get myself together.
I don’t understand. What do you mean?
I mean, I need to work things out. On my own.
But, we can work it out together.
I don’t want to hold you back.
I grab his arm as he heads for the door. I plead for him to stay and give him that piteous look that Puss-N-Boots gave Shrek in Shrek 2. It seems to work. At least ephemerally. He spends the night. In the morning, just when I think all is well, we have another conversation as we eat our whole wheat pancakes and egg whites.
I’m serious, I need to figure things out.
Why can’t we do this together? I’ve got my own issues.
Then, it’s a good idea we take a break. You know, get ourselves together.
He seems resolute on leaving. I don’t even try to argue because I’ve learned a valuable lesson from an old, wise woman named Medea: if someone wants to leave your life, let them. It’s not meant to be. We eat the rest of breakfast in silence. My eggs are cold and lack salt. I don’t add any. I already feel salty enough.
Romantic dissonance. There may come a point in a relationship when both partners feel out of sync. Perhaps one partner makes significantly less money than the other. Maybe the other isn’t where they want to be career-wise. One would like to think their professional life wouldn’t spill over into their personal life, like water from a deflated kiddie pool, but it does. How successful we are at work affects our overall attitude, and therefore, how we treat our partner.
This is especially true for men. I should know, both having a Y chromosome, myself, and hanging around many people who do. Whether gay or straight, somewhere we got this peculiar idea that we must have it all together before getting into a relationship. We need to have a nice gig, a car, 401k , life insurance, a three-piece suit from Express, and a flawless 10-year life plan as detailed as the U.S. Constitution before we can commit.
When we men are unhappy at work, our partner feels it too. No matter how much we try to hide it, that feeling will seep from our pores and stink like sweat. If we remain silent too long It may have catastrophic effects on the relationship. Like when we abruptly leave so we can have time to figure ourselves out and decide what we want in life.
May I ask one favor, though? If you are the type who feels the need to break off the relationship to get things together, then do just that. Get it together! Unfortunately, too often I’ve seen people break up because they claim they need space to work things out, but they never do. They enter the next relationship, carrying with them the same baggage as the last. They just had a layover relationship. Nothing’s changed except the time.
I have a brilliant idea: stay in the relationship and try to work out things together. You might be surprised at how much closer it will bring you together. You see, I believe the best relationships are the ones where two imperfect creatures work on their flaws together. No, I’m not talking about the Twilight series. I mean when two people make things plain, leaving their souls naked before one another. Less blood-sucking involved, hopefully.
How quaint that we men can easily get naked physically, even if we don’t know that person’s name, but, for some reason, it requires a Herculean effort for us to bare our feelings.
This requires something called “vulnerability.” You might have heard of it. I know, it’s a scary word. Letting your partner know your deepest insecurities can be terrifying. The first thing you think is how they could use them to hurt you. Didn’t we learn our lesson from Samson and Delilah?
But I believe this trust is the true test of a relationship. When you share your insecurities with your partner it’s like you hand them a chest containing your beating heart. Now, you get to see what they will do with it. Hopefully, they will encourage you and help you overcome your issues as you do theirs. You both come out better people than you were before you entered the relationship. Now, that’s a true relationship.
Nonetheless, if you never share your insecurities and failings to your partner, you may never know true love. How can you partner know you if you remain guarded like Asgard in the Thor movies, complete with magical shields and anti-air cannons?
Instead, I dare you bare yourself to your partner. Not just any lover, naturally, but one who’s earned your trust. Your insecurity might not be about your career, it could be about family, religion, sex, or a myriad of other possibilities. Let your partner know that. If you’re lucky, your conversation may go something like this:
I need to work things out.
What’s that supposed to mean?
I just need to get myself together. Alone.
That’s silly. We’re in this together.