Everything in my life is in transition.
Not only do I feel unsteady during this time of change, but I also feel like I don’t have much control over anything, which both stresses me out and – at the opposite extreme – makes me feel bored with the lack of responsibility or ownership over anything in my life. It’s a confusing combination. I know God is in control, and I try to take comfort in that, but it’s a daily struggle not to feel simultaneously anxious, resigned and frustrated; complacent, frantic and defeated.
Something about weddings makes the men in my life suddenly take the time to reflect; think about the future; become emotional and feel inspired. Maybe it’s all the talk of love and lifelong companionship. Maybe it’s the free flowing champagne. Or maybe it’s just seeing me with my hair curled for once. But every time I’ve gone to a wedding with a boyfriend, by the end of the evening, he has transformed into a starry-eyed romantic spouting off dreams about our future together.
Seth and I attended a wedding together last weekend. I should have come to expect it, but I was taken aback when – in the middle of the reception, with lights flashing and music blaring and people pushing in on us from every side – Seth decided it was a good time to tell me that he’s been thinking about signing us up for Fusion – a pre-engagement weekend for couples who are dating seriously and considering marriage. “How do you feel about that?” He asked me, his big brown eyes innocent and hopeful.
My initial response was, in typical female fashion, to feel about six things at once. I was pleased he was thinking about our future; annoyed that he brought up the intimate topic in a loud, crowded room; excited to take another step toward marriage with him; concerned that he was simply responding out of the emotions of the moment at the wedding; happy that he was taking the topic of marriage seriously; and hurt when I found out the dates he was considering: June 23-25.
Fusion has weekend sessions going on in April as well as June. They happen about once a quarter. So why did Seth not want to go to the April session? Still further, I was privately hoping for a fall wedding, but if Seth wants to go to a pre-engagement camp in late June, that means he’s probably on a completely different time table than I am for wanting to progress our relationship. I had (admittedly, foolishly) imagined that he might propose for my birthday next month. Or our one-year anniversary in April. So the revelation that he still expects us to just be dating in June was surprising and hurtful, though he of course meant quite the opposite. His declaration of wanting to attend a pre-engagement session with me was intended to be sweet and kind and wonderful, and I wanted to experience it as such, so I wrestled internally against my feelings of disappointment.
I took a bunch of deep breaths, put a smile on my face, and told Seth I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to go to Fusion with him. Unfortunately, Seth can read me really well, and he tends to dig until he gets out everything I’m thinking and feeling. So in the midst of his friend’s wedding reception, we had an intense conversation about our desires and expectations for our relationship. Seth had expected me to be wholeheartedly thrilled and was crushed at my complex emotional response to his sweet suggestion for our future. And I grappled with my own spiraling emotions, feeling guilty for not responding in the way he would have wanted and – yes, rightly – expected me to respond to his pure-hearted declaration.
What should have been a happy occasion was marred by our conversation, and a suggestion by Seth that should have brought me nothing but joy ultimately made me feel like he was instead declaring: “I’m still not sure if I love you. I’m still evaluating you.” He has yet to say those three special words.
In the meantime, I got my lowest-ever performance review score at work. I’m applying internally to different jobs, but no one will take me because of my low performance score. My boss wants me off her team, and I want to be off her team, but her scathing performance reviews of me are preventing us from getting what we both want: for me to move on to a different position far, far away from her.
HR has gotten involved, and they have acknowledged that the issue is obviously with my current placement and incompatibility with my boss and her style. HR cannot justify firing me because I have historically been such a high performer. I am unwilling to quit without a severance package (especially since I still don’t have anything lined up externally). And the company is struggling to find a hiring manager who will take me because teams are already so sparse in light of the recent trend in oil prices. So we are at a bit of a stalemate, and I’m not sure of my next move.
For the past few weeks, my apartment has been plagued by the alternating smells of cigarette smoke and marijuana. I live in a state where marijuana is still illegal, so not only is there illegal drug use going on in my complex, but the absolutely disgusting smell of marijuana coupled with cigarette smoke has left my living quarters perpetually smelling like a skunk that ate a gigantic burrito for lunch and then spent the night at a sleazy nightclub. It’s awful.
I told my leasing office about the issue mere days after the first few offenses, but they followed up with no real action. The manager said she could have a courtesy officer do “random checks” on apartments near mine, but it would take quite a while since the checks have to appear random. In the meantime, she offered to have a third party come to air out my apartment with special air filtration equipment.
The air filtration was supposed to take place last weekend while I was at the aforementioned wedding. I had to be out of my apartment unit for 24 hours, so we scheduled the maintenance from Saturday at 1pm until Sunday at 1pm. Between the wedding Saturday night and church Sunday morning, I figured this would be a nonissue. But when I went into my apartment at 7pm on Sunday evening, the air filtration system was still running.
I complained to the leasing office, and they put me up in one of the model apartments for the night. Right around the time I got settled, Seth came over to hang out for the evening, and I directed him to the model unit number, fuming and venting the second he walked in the door.
“I specifically told management that the worst of the smell was in my closet and that all of my clothes now smell like marijuana and cigarette smoke. I even put a sign on the closet door with a big red arrow saying ‘This is the source of the smell.’ But I went home and found the closet door shut and the filtration system still running! Not only did they not finish on time, but the idiot maintenance worker closed the closet door so that all this time, my clothes haven’t been getting aired out – and they were my primary concern!”
Seth was quiet through all of my ranting, but the moment I paused for breath, he leaned over, brusquely kissed my cheek, and muttered, “Have a good night” before turning and walking out of the model apartment.
I was stunned. I sat rigidly on the unit’s fuzzy gray couch with obnoxiously bright, fuchsia pillows for a full ten minutes before I picked up my phone to call Seth. He didn’t want to come back, but I asked him to. We needed to talk out what just happened.
Seth showed back up shortly thereafter, and our stances were essentially as follows:
- Seth couldn’t believe the degree of my rage and felt like I was overreacting. He said there was no need to ever call anyone an idiot, and said, “This isn’t the Aurora I know.”
- I expressed that I don’t feel like I can ever completely let my guard down and just vent with Seth. When I have a bad day at work, I call Ashley or my mom because I have learned that Seth can’t handle me when I’m really, really upset and frustrated; when I just need to vent and have someone listen.
- Seth said he would have been happy to listen if I had adjusted my tone and language, instead opting to factually share my disappointment and frustration with the situation.
- I explained that: WOMEN. Women don’t operate that way. I am less emotional and more even-keel than most women, so I need him to be able to stand me on the rare occasion that I fly off the handle.
- Seth said that he takes very seriously his role of holding me accountable. He believes that, were he to be my husband, part of his role is to help me become more like the godly woman I’ve been created to be. He has higher standards for me than I have for myself, which has never happened in the history of EVER.
- I told Seth that, if we were married, and if he was my husband, I would know that he loves me. I could rest secure in the fact of his commitment, and from that foundation of love and commitment, I would be able to better accept his criticism of having a bad attitude or calling someone an idiot. But because we are still dating and I don’t know that he loves me or is committed to me, all I hear is: “I’m still evaluating you, and I am finding you wanting. This is yet another red flag that is giving me pause about committing to you.” I told Seth that I needed him to stop making me feel so judged and instead start extending some grace.
- Seth countered that he was extending grace. “I didn’t want to come back here. But I did. I decided to practice for marriage and extend grace by coming back to talk this out with you even though you were being unpleasant.”
I’m not sure how we left it. By the end, I was exhausted – both physically and emotionally. But when I called and told my mom about the exchange later, she sang Seth’s praises. “No one has ever been able to talk to you like that. And he obviously cares for you if he was willing to drive back. Dating Seth is like dating Jesus.”
High praise. And potentially true. The only difference – and it’s key – is that I know Jesus loves me.
What a difficult set of trials, especially when there’s no reprieve from them, even at home. I’ve personally experienced the combination of marijuana and cigarette smoke wafting into my apartment. Not only is it disgusting, it also gives me massive headaches, so I don’t think you were overreacting.
As for the situation with Seth, while I respect his honesty and straightforward manner, he also needs to understand that women don’t think or function like men do. I’m keeping you in my thoughts and prayers and hope things improve.
Thanks, Ally. I appreciate your support and prayers! And I’m sorry to hear that you are familiar with the marijuana/cigarette combination. It’s awful, isn’t it?!?!
I keep trying to pep talk myself and remember that I am actually profoundly blessed even though it feels like everything is going wrong right now. It’s nice to be able to write everything out; it helps me to process.
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Ouch. I’m sorry, it sounds really hard. I know there is always an element of compromise in a relationship, but your feelings are your feelings and you are entitled to them. You shouldn’t try to persuade yourself that they are ‘wrong’. You are understandably disappointed in his choice of date for Fusion (did he ask you?) and that’s how you feel, rightly or wrongly. You can choose not to share your inner feelings if you wish- it’s not obligatory. He can choose to comment that he doesn’t like you calling someone an ‘idiot’ but it feels very controlling to abandon you for such a small remark- trust me, in marriage you will have far stronger disagreements! Don’t mean to be too negative, sorry, but please don’t override your inner instincts, it’s dangerous.
Thanks. It has been a challenging week. Before me, Seth had never dated anyone seriously. I agree that he needs to learn to hear my feelings and not discount them, but I am also choosing to give him grace as he embarks on the very steep learning curve of trying to understand women and their world of feelings, both rational and irrational. Fortunately, my inner instincts say that Seth is a good man who wants to do right by me and act in an upright manner in our relationship. We are just going through growing pains.
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The great thing about WordPress is that we can take several days to gather our thoughts, decide what to share, edit before we publish, and even think for some hours before posting a comment. Dealing with communication in real life and in real time is a lot harder. When Seth surprised you with his mention of Fusion at the wedding reception, of course you had mixed feelings. And, because he’s a guy, he didn’t expect that. Walking into your apartment and seeing that your wishes were not being met by the building management–especially at the end of a stressful weekend–is naturally infuriating. You spoke your mind and vented your feelings, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Having Seth first bail out on you and then rebuke you, however gently, must have been painful. At best, he has a lot to learn… and I guess that’s the value of the Fusion sessions, isn’t it?
I don’t know how I would have handled the situations you faced last weekend, nor can I guess how I would have acted if I had been in Seth’s shoes. It’s great that you have a community of friends online who care about you, support you, and encourage you. I wonder where Seth turns for support and advice. J.
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Part of the reason I tend to prefer written communication is for all the reasons you described – namely, that it’s not as raw and unpolished as in-the-moment oral communication. People say and do things they don’t really mean, or we misunderstand based on poor word choices off the cuff.
Seth has a work out buddy he sees multiple times a week who is a fellow Christian and accountability partner. He has a few good guy friends from church, too, but I don’t think Seth (or most men) tend to talk out their feelings much. He has a great sister who is able to force conversations in ways that I am not able to at this time, so she’s been a huge help.
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wow… you are allowed to vent and you are ALLOWED to feel upset by things! Does he want you to suppress your emotions!? and I don’t think it’s just women who tend to be emotional at times.. I know a lot more men that are more emotional than me. I understand he’s trying to “help you be a better person” but seriously, life happens and even Jesus got angry and flipped over tables at one point in his life. Anger is a human emotion and you are allowed to feel it. My boyfriend let’s me be angry and then afterwards helps me calm down in a rational way, and we talk about how things can be better. I hope you and Seth can really reflect on these things to see if this is a person you really want to be with forever. I know when my bf had anger issues, it was a huge decision for me to know if I still wanted to be with him or not.
Also, sorry about your job. That sounds SUPER frustrating in itself. I am not happy with my job right now and it really wares you down. I hope you can find a better spot for yourself and be happier with that aspect of your life!!
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You are such a great listener and encourager! Thanks for understanding where I’m coming from and being indignant on my behalf! I don’t think Seth ultimately wants me to suppress my emotions; in typical man fashion, he just wishes I didn’t have those emotions to begin with. We talked last night about attitude and how we choose how we respond to our emotions. I wanted to punch him in the face, but I chose to retrain myself. (I’m kidding here. Kind of.)
I hope things continue to go well for you with your boyfriend and also that your job gets better!
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