Yesterday I met with a friend of mine and we ended up talking about our old relationships. We don't exactly have similar experiences, since her break-up was traumatic for her while mine... well, you all know how that went ^_^. I've quite good break-ups, actually. Anyway, we were revisiting things about these more recent finished relationships and one of the topics touched stuck to me: the moment when you become neurotic.
I wonder if this happens to all of us...
Anyway, through her experience with her latest ex, she was slowly driven to a state of distrust that put her on a basically neurotic state around him. We talked about it at lenght and she told me that she isn't like that, and in fact, with her current boyfriend she isn't like that, but that with that guy - let's call him Jim - she always felt kept out of the loop, like he was constantly hiding things from her. My friend - lets call her Amy - told me she initially always trusted him and believed all he said, until she started noticing things that didn't match, or things that were left out. Jim seemed to be in a rush, was careless about things, didn't tell her about places where he went, people he met and stuff like that. This not in the sense that she expected him to report to her all of his activities, but in the sense that he was supposed to be marrying her eventually - so he had told her and so his parents told Amy - yet she basically knew nothing about him.
She would find out by others that he was meeting weeking with some friends and getting wasted quite often, when as far as he let her know, he hardly ever saw those friends. Later on Amy realized that Jim actively worked to keep her in the dark about his life. They actually broke up because Amy found out that Jim had never intended to marry her but considered her an entertainment while a suitable wife appeared. (Jim is of one religion, Amy is of other and Jim and his parents were actually pressing Amy to convert to their faith so Jim could marry her.)
Amy comes from a very tight, deeply moral family background, one of those old-school, large families, that are very tight, eat together and have big family gatherings at each holiday. Really, like in old TV series. She has this very romantic view of life and realtionships, and she did work hard to fit into Jim's world and Jim's life, so when she found out how she was merely and funny, laughable entertainment, it devastated her. Prior to that, however, though she did struggle to keep the relationship afloat, these fractures in Jim's stories made her pull her shields up and distrust of his words. He always kept her in the dark about where he was, what he was doing, who he was seeing or what he intended to do. As result, whenver he told her something, Amy would automatically think he was hiding something and tried to find out.
As she was telling me of these, suddenly I found myself thinking about my own relationship woth Kari, and realized that I had also become neurotic, though I had not realized it. I never really was into distrusting him about where he was or who he was seeing, but my concerns were always of the practical nature. Through the time we were together my trust in him eroded in aspects related to what he was saying to me and whether it was true or not, whether he was telling me something I could quote later and he wouldn't pretend he had said the opposite, but also matters like his reliability to do things, get bills paid, tell me if there was some issue with something, if there was some trouble that needed fixing, and also the eternal matter of financial situation. These things of course are entirely meaningless if your relationship is a light kind of relationship where you meet only to feel good, spend a good time, but all parties involved manage their own lives. Naturally in a life project that involves two people together, these are deal breakers for all the obvious reasons. And trust me: if these things appear, pack and go because there's no way in hell you can work around them. I know, I tried.
Anyway, back on topic, my brand of neurosis came from not trusting him about what he said, what he was supposed to do and how much could I rely on him with my livelihood. The thing is that, when you are on your own, you have a given set of expectations about your life that basically go around what you can achieve, and thus you are content with that, count on that and you are relatively sure about that. However, as a person enters a relationship, expectations about life change depending on the quality of the relationship itself. The person starts factoring the partner in different parts of their lives, such as for holidays, free time, hangouts and maybe even their life project. In good theory, when a person factors another into their life project, that obeys to the pair actually discussing the course of the relationship. Some people of course, rush ahead and think that because they were kissed in a party or someone winked at them, they will marry and have 2.3 babies and whatnot. No, I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about the case were you go out with someone and the topic of "living together" or maybe even "marriage and kids" comes up as the endgame of the relationship.
When a commitment of this magnitude is made or talked over, expectations of people change, and thus it's normal for people to expect their lives to start merging into a family unit. In Amy's case, she was made believe Jim would marry her as soon as she converted to his religion, thus while she struggled with the decision - she needed time to prepare herself - she expected not only support from Jim for her transition, but also their lives being transparent, both of them being clear with each other. It wasn't a matter of them losing their individuality, but more of living a life of openness, with no secrets held from each other. What does it mean? It doesn't mean reporting to one another, or reading aloud to each other each message and each e-mail received, but rather to involve the other person in their lives.
Ok, that peobably isn't clear, so let me give you an example. Say Amy likes, cycling. It doesn't mean that now Jim has to go cycling with her too, whether he wants it or not, but rather that he knows Amy likes cycling and Amy feeling sure she can tell him about her cycling adventures if she feels like it. It means Amy not just disappearing to go cycling, but letting Jim know "Hey! I'll go cycling! See you in the afternoon!". Perhaps Jim likes playing the guitar. It doesn't mean that Amy has to learn to play the guitar or go to all of his concerts, but it means that Jim opens the invitation for her to go listen to him play, when such a thing is possible, and that he would say "Hey, the guys and I signed it for a guitar camp next week! It's so exciting! I'll be back on Thursday". It doesn't mean that Amy doesn't even know that her fiancé likes to play the guitar and has to hear from others that he actually spent three days in Vancouver in a huge acoustic guitar concert... from a third party.
The neurosis Amy and I experimented came precisely from this: Jim and Kari created in us an expectation which they themselves undermined by being untrue or secretive about vital aspects to bring those expectations to completition. I believe our neurosis came as a defense mecanism we developped, each in her own turf of attack regarding the perceived threat upon the future that had been promised to us. In my case, my neurosis came from the systematic losing of trust in my partner and the conscious decision taken after each failure that I couldn't count on him for this or that, but that I had to rely entirely on myself to deal with these issues. It wasn't until I realize that I was basically "the relationship", that I came to the conclusion that I had to end it. For Amy, it wasn't until she realized that it was all a lie that she came to de decision of ending the charade. From the outside it looked like we were being neurotic - me the pushy girlfriend, she the controlling girlfriend - but what made this happen was the distrust that these guys fed in us, and our attempt at covering for their shortcomings in order to save a relationship that should have been left to die.
Through the coffee shared with Amy I realized that you can be a normal person and become neurotic under a given set of circumstances, and well, that's ok. However, when you become your neurotic self, when you are made neurotic, as freaking hard as it is - and trust me, it's so freaking hard! - you must stop yourself, take stock of what's making you so, and seek to cut the cause of your neurosis from the root.