Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Pattern

Life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope--a slight change, and all patterns alter. --Sharon Salzberg

There is a pattern to each and every one of my romantic relationships. It goes like this:

I meet a guy.

I like him right away.

I am slightly hard to get at first, until I know he's pretty interested.

I'll start dating him.

He will do something nice for me.

Then I start to really like him.

So I start to do stuff for him.

And I like him even more.

So I do even more stuff for him.

Then one day, I realize I'm doing all the giving and he's doing all the taking.

In fact, he hasn't done much for me since date #3.

I have spoiled him.

Then I begin to resent him.

And I hint around at feeling taken-for-granted.


Which leads to a fight and/or my crying myself to sleep.

And then I hate him.

And I stop doing everything and begin to have an attitude.

I turn into an Ice Queen.

And he feels confused, guilty and caught unawares.

Then we break up.

Hey, I never said it was the healthiest, most mature way of handling things. But it is what I do. Does anyone else out there do this? Anyone know how to break this vicious cycle? I have tried and tried and tried to not do things for guys I like, but I can't help it. I derive a lot of pleasure from doing things for guys I date. It makes me feel good to do something for them. I'm a very affectionate person by nature. I have an easier time doing something for them than telling them how I feel. I'm a show-er, not a tell-er. (Had to do the hyphens. Otherwise it would have said, "I'm a shower" which makes no sense.)

I used to think I suffered from this pattern because I was dating selfish jerks, but now I realize that the holding pattern here is me. Every time, the only thing these relationships have in common is me.

I'm dating a nice guy. Who I really really like. Who really likes me. He loves that I do stuff for him all the time. He appreciates me. We even joke about how I've spoiled him. I'm not saying I regret doing these things for him, because I'm crazy about him and I want to make him happy. But I'm getting a little twinge in the back of my brain. That feeling that I'm gradually doing all the giving and none of the taking. Maybe I'm a score-keeper. I hate that thought. I guess I just don't want to be taken advantage of. I don't want to be made a fool. It must be a self-protective thing. Maybe I'm high-maintenance. Or insecure. Or needy. Or just bad at asking for some attention. I know what you are going to say: Love like you won't get hurt. Love makes fools out of all of us. [Insert cheesy adage here.] Well, buddy, easier said than done! I do have some pride, you know!

Maybe we are just getting comfortable. Is that possible after less than 2 months of dating?

I have hinted to him lately about my feelings of doing all the giving. So it's not like I'm keeping him in the dark--he knows what I'm saying. But I am hesitant to say outright, "Hey! I need you to do something for me for a change! Stop taking so much!" Like most women, I don't want him to do stuff because he feels obligated. I want him to do stuff for me for the same reason I do stuff for him: because he wants to. If he feels like he has to do stuff to stay out of the doghouse, I won't enjoy it and it will make him miserable. Then he will resent me. That's why I'm hesitant to be really blunt about this. I don't expect him to read my mind, but I do expect him to pick up on what I'm implying.

I wish I knew what my problem is. At the end of every relationship, I feel empty and emotionally exhausted from giving all the time. And I end up resenting all of my exes. Even the nice ones. And I vow to be self-centered in my next relationship. (It never works, obviously.) I don't want to feel like this with Repo. (I don't want him to be an ex, either!) This is hands down the best relationship I've ever had. So I'm really hoping I will break this pattern. I'm trying to just chill and not worry about it, I can assure you.

Please don't read this and think that Repo and I are having problems. We are good. He just called to see how I'm doing as I was writing this. So don't get the idea that he's not doing anything for me. He is doing little things here and there. And I'm grateful and appreciative. I'm just afraid this old problem I have will rear its ugly head again and the same things will happen with us. This is a pre-emptive post. I want to be prepared in case I start to really feel that resentment creeping up on me. Because it's a slippery slope. A gradual process. I'd like to have a gameplan. Or at least a better understanding of my behavior.

But it sure would help if he took me out to dinner soon! (And no, I still haven't gotten my birthday present yet.) See? There I go, The Scorekeeper! I can't stop! Is this a woman thing, or do guys feel like this sometimes, too?

So much for not talking about my relationship on my blog...


anny said...

hey, don't be so hard on yourself. you're not automatically a scorekeeper just because you'd like reciprocity in your relationship. in fact, you should expect equality. but my best advice would be to just go out and do things you like, and you'll have less time to think and possibly resent. that way you're fulfilling your own needs, and anything nice he decides to do for you will just be a pleasantly surprising perk. if at any time you genuinely feel like you're being shafted (after having a rational discussion about it first, of course), then by all means dump him. haha.

sassafras said...

Yes, I agree. We just might have the same brain. And gosh, I guess I don't have much insight as a result~ lol! You might just have to spell it out for him (afterall, he is a guy). And I'm sure that he will do things because he wants to, not because he has to.
Myself, I have realized that when I start to feel this way, I am feeling insecure in the relationship.
I agree with Anny, don't be so hard on yourself. You're still trying to figure each other out.
I am very curious to get a guy's take on this as well...

The Dummy said...

VB, you and I are similar that way - we're both givers, and I can relate to having been in your situation from time to time. I enjoy giving, and enjoy it even more when it's reciprocated, but pull back when it's expected, demanded, or just taken for granted. It feeds an expectation if it's there all the time, and gradually diminishes its value. I'm not sure exactly how to best address it, other than to let that other person do their own thing for a while and keep myself busy and do things for myself. I'm curious to see what comes of this and how it's resolved, because I could learn a thing or two about this myself.

NML said...

It's GOOD that you recognise that you have a pattern because the power in your hands so that you can bring about change. It's only if you bound through life mindlessly repeating the same pattern, never changing where it's worrying. Ask yourself why you feel the need to 'give' so much and if you want to avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy, the next time you go to 'give', stop for a moment and ask if you really need to do it. In facr, don't. Just because someone does someone does something for you, doesn't mean that you owe them something in return. You don't have to be a hardass, but it is the bare basics to be kind to each other. Also remember that men and women have very different ideas about doing and giving. Our giving can be caught up in the little things, with emotional bits attached whereas his can be very practical. Hold down the urge to give so much. If you could cut your giving in half and end up with the same result, you gave too much in the first place. OK, enough of my waffle. I think I'll write an article on giving and taking (not the sex type obviously)...

jennster said...

LMFAO- i love your cycle dammit. find a guy who won't stop doing nice shit.

Anonymous said...

OK so I hate to give advice...because I really don't know you and all I am is a blog lurker. But I do enjoy reading your blog, and often find myself relating to your stories!

And your post compelled me to comment! When I first started dating my boyfriend, we kind of had the same problem. I had a friend who happened to give me a book called, The Five Love Languages, How to Express Hearfelt Commitment to Your Mate writen by Gary Chapman. Ok it is kind of dorky, and has a "duh" factor to it, but my friend also gave me a quiz to go with it (It doesn't come with the book, but perhaps you could find it online).

My boyfriend and I took the quiz together, and learned a lot about each other. We show each other that we love each other in different ways. He shows love by giving compliments, I show love by making dinner. The trick is realizing the way someone is showing you love. Perhaps Repo is showing you how much he cares, be calling and checking in on your day, maybe he doesn't show love by taking you to dinner. Your way and his way are just different, and the trick is to see how he does care. I find myself reminding myself how my boyfriend shows me that he loves me, and occasionaly remind him what I need.

:) Sorry for the long comment! Hope you don't mind, Tricia

Original Me said...

Recognizing the "pattern" is half the battle, isn't that what they say? If he is the right one, then it will all have a way of working out.

Stuck said...

I think you should be clear on what your expectations are. Men can't read women's minds, and would go crazy if they could. You can't hint. You can't be vague. You can't even have an open-ended conversations. We simply won't know what you want.

Don't say, "I expect some reciprocation for all this crap I'm doing for you." Instead say, "I think you should take me to dinner this weekend."

He hasn't taken you out for your birthday dinner yet because you didn't set a deadline. Maybe he hasn't even decided where he's taken you. He needs pressure, and he needs fixed exectations.

I'm not saying nag him. I'm just saying prod more forcefully.

I'm reminded of a commercial for some web-travel agency where the wife calls her husband at work to ask what he was planning for their anniversary, and he totally makes up the whole thing right there on the phone. "I'm taking you to a spot in Thailand for some bird-watching." (While he's looking at a spot on his tie and a bird flies up and lands outside the window.)

The Dummy said...

I have that book! Very good advice on finding out your styles of communicating your feelings for each other.

Stuck makes good points as well - seems to know his stuff very well, on this and many other posts.

Virginia Belle said...

great advice, guys. i am going to make an effort to do a little bit more of my own thing to keep my brain occupied on other stuff. i have a bunch to do anyway. i think this could just be a classic case of "we have been spending too much time together".

anny--you're right. i should expect reciprocity. i am being too hard on myself. i shouldn't feel guilty for wanting something from him. i am taking your advice.

sassafras--yeah, i guess i am feeling a little insecure about it. i'm worried that he doesn't like me as much as i like him. (which is A LOT). i guess it's freaking me out.

DD-- i can't tell you how glad i am to hear that guys can be like this, too! i thought it was a female thing. although, at the same time, i would not wish this on anyone. i think being a taker would be much easier! i'll keep you posted on how my "stay busy" strategy works...and yes, stuckey is a pretty smart guy.

NML--your comment makes me feel empowered!! i have a tendency to feel like someone won't like me unless i do something nice for them, which is not true. thanks for the wakeup call. i needed it. and you are right that men and women show affection differently. it's hard to remember that sometimes. i'll try to cut back.

jennster-- glad i humor you so much!

tricia--thank you so much for commenting!! that is a great idea! i will see if i can find a quiz like that. although, getting him to take it is another story....he would tease me incessantly if i suggested it. :) you can comment whenever you like! or lurk away if you want!

original me-- i agree completely.

stuckey-- ok, get ready for a "men are from mars" moment. i agree with what you said. however, like most women, i live in fear of being the ball and chain. i don't want my guy to ever say, "i have to go take VB out to dinner now." as though it is a chore he has to do to stay out of the doghouse. and if i were to tell him to take me to dinner, that's exactly what would be happening. he should want to take me out, not feel obligated. and he hasn't taken me out yet because he works too freakin' much. and stuff keeps coming up in both of our schedules. i guess he hasn't had much of a chance. that commercial sounds hilarious. typical male behavior.

Anonymous said...

I suppose I should give up the anonymous since there is a new one now!

VB, remember there are givers and takers. This is just the way it is. YOu would probably be complaining if you found another giver in that you would feel he is a better giver than you. Lets just call this what it is: Drama hunting.

BUT!!! there is another gauge by which you can measure this. If you start to dislike giving (NOT AT ALL the same as you have described here) then perhaps its something to watch more closely.

The reason is because when you find a REAL companion, you do NOT suffer one another. You compliment one another (as in give and take). One day you will pull the load in the relationship...the next, he will pull. In love, we really look for companions, not givers and takers.

Hope this helped out even though Im late to the party...again.