Sunday, March 20, 2011

Learning to live

I know Becky quite well. We've spoken to one another for almost ten months straight every day, with only one or two exceptions. In that time, she learned about my bad habits, and I learned about hers. Now those things are an in-one's-face, 24/7 experience, and I...need to learn how to talk to my beloved without being a jerk.

Allow me to give an example. Becky is a bit of a slob. I'm no "Felix Unger," but when I lived alone, I knew a few things. If I finished a drink, I've dispose of the cup or can as soon as possible, rather than leave it to accumulate. (This was NOT reflected when I lived in KS. My housemates didn't care about such things, and I adapted a similar attitude.) Now that I'm living with Becky, I try to make sure I don't leave a path of destruction behind me. But Becky will finish a drink - let's say a glass of milk - and she puts the cup down, and it sits...and it sits...and then she's off to work or school, and the cup is still sitting there, with Raine nosing her way toward the cup to try and get a few stealthy licks of milk before I put the cup in the sink. It's bothersome.

So what happens next? Well, it eventually bothers me so much that I feel the need to talk to Becky about it. Rather than let a mess build up, it's better to handle it as it's being made so that there's less to worry about when something like "cleaning day" comes along. Here's where MY problem enters the picture. It turns out that I don't so much talk to Becky than reprimand her, the way a parent might reprimand a child for being messy. The same thing happened when I realized exactly how much Becky procrastinates when it comes to getting school work done. I didn't give her a pep talk; I made her feel like a five-year-old doing poorly in preschool.

This is not what I wanted to do. I have the best of intentions, but I end up putting her down, and that's not going to encourage her in any way. I want her to be the best she can be. Instead, I make her feel miserable. That, in turn, makes me feel miserable, and the cycle of misery begins.

You wanna know what the REAL problem is? This is ingrained behavior. The way I speak to Becky is the way I was taught to do so by my biological mother. I can easily give a compliment, unlike like her, but when it comes to attempting to improve someone's behavior, I reduce them in age verbally. When I last spoke with my biological mother, I was in my mid-30's, and she still managed to make me feel I was a small child who didn't know better.

What I need to do is how to give a proper pep talk without beating up Becky emotionally. Since we'd like to have kids, this would be an excellent time to learn, as I'd hate to be ridiculing our kids. I'm going to want them to know that their best efforts please me, instead of making them feel like crap for trying. And that's EXACTLY what my mother did.

An example would be the time I brought home a test marked with an A. Considering the fact that I was a terrible high school student, an A was fairly spectacular. I was so proud when I came home and handed it to her. She looked it over, saw that my grade was the product of a couple of missed questions and my ability to answer the extra credit questions, and asked, "Why isn't this an A+?" From then on, I had to wonder why I should make the effort at all? I mean, if my best would be criticized to make me feel like garbage, it didn't really matter if I did badly, right? And so I returned to doing poorly, because my efforts were wasted anyway.

It may be hard to believe, but in a class of several hundred, I ranked around 7th from the lowest in the entire class. That grade comes from my lack of work and excessive absences...and I just didn't care.

My goal now is to burn away this G-d awful behavior and continue to improve upon the man who is me. I refuse to go on being like my biological mother, even if it is an unconscious effort. In order to fix that, Becky needs to learn something as well. She needs to be able to open her mouth and express her feelings, which isn't something her last few romantic relationships encouraged. We need to learn to live with one another.

Be well, all, and DFTBA!

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