I feel like Bryan and I had some really important, enlightening, breakthrough conversations over the last couple days of our trip. We have struggled with emotional intimacy (neither one of us seems to want to be emotionally vulnerable), so I’m grateful that we were finally able to articulate certain thoughts and feelings to each other that will hopefully blossom our relationship as we live out our respective revelations.
I needed Bryan to hear the implications of my struggle with perfectionism and the havoc wreaked by the voice of my internal critic. So often when he – in completely bewilderment – has watched me shut down, it is because his words (unbeknownst to him) have been warped by the perfectionistic voice in my head to tell me that I am wrong or stupid or incompetent and therefore unloveable. The brokenness of this way of thinking is something I’m keenly aware of and still learning to battle effectively and consistently. My hope is that Bryan’s understanding of this struggle will ease our communication going forward.
Bryan needed me to hear his experience with the burden of always having to be the responsible one. The oldest son of six kids, with their father having passed a few years ago, Bryan is also the wealthiest and most highly educated of his siblings. As such, he shared with me that he perpetually bears the brunt of his family’s needs in addition to requests from countless friends for loans, a place to crash for the night, travel advice, networking favors, etc.
Bryan has a way of putting those around him at ease. He is connected and competent, and that unfortunately causes many of those around him to switch off their brains and lean too heavily on him. I did that to him this trip. In an effort to leave my high-strung Type A personality at home and just enjoy my free-spirited vacation, I intentionally didn’t print off our itinerary, and I forgot to call my credit card company to let them know I’d be out of the country. As a result, Bryan was always the one both driving and navigating, paying for expenses I couldn’t cover with my wad of cash, and generally ensuring we survived the day unscathed.
As nice as it was for me to unplug and just depend on someone else (for one of the first times in my life – a deliberate choice I made), Bryan told me that he was hoping for a partner; he expected us to operate as a team, and he had counted on my usual independence, responsibility and organizational skills to come through on this trip. He was disappointed by my dependence and perceived neediness, and I was hurt by his frustration and resultant emotional distance.
We had some hard conversations, but hopefully we now better understand one another so we can engage in healthy, joyful, life-giving interactions in the future. Time will tell if choosing vulnerability was worth the risk.