I really wish people would understand that when it comes to conflict between friends, family and loved ones, it's really, really important not to look at things from an adversarial perspective. If we could all work towards resolution from a perspective that everyone has a stake, there is no right or wrong, no sides to be taken, only feelings to be understood and solutions to be developed, cooperatively and consultatively... try to listen with an equitable and compassionate heart to all involved in the situation before drawing conclusions... I try to be sympathetic and compassionate even to those I'm very angry with (even though I have a tendency to get pretty upset about stuff and feel my anger very strongly). My parents raised me to believe that when there's conflict in relationships, that the fault lies with everyone involved. Whenever my siblings and I had a fight, they would ask "When two people argue, who's wrong?" (mostly to stave off the rounds of "He started it!" and "She did it first!") and we knew the correct answer was "Both." (Usually accompanied by sighs and eye-rolling, of course.)
I think I was spoiled by my family. We nearly always resolve our conflicts, if not completely, then at least partially, with a commitment to continue working on it. Time outs are allowed and often necessary, when feelings became too heated, but we always come back to it. We learned as we grew up that it was important to consider everyone's wellbeing when attempting to work on weighty issues - when people are tired, stressed, sick, hungry, etc., it's not a good time to discuss heavy things. Likewise, when traumatic changes are occurring - new job, starting school, moving, death in the family, etc - is also not a good time to discuss heavy emotional issues. My dad's favorite word at times like those is "forbearing". He goes around the house saying "We need to remember that we're under a lot of stress and we need to be forbearing with one another." My dad talks like that a lot. He's funny that way. Anyway, about my being spoiled... I guess I came to expect resolution. And not just nicey nicey resolution where you both say sorry, pat each other on the back and walk away without any real substance, but genuine, I get you, you get me, we're improving and growing together kind of resolution. It wasn't always easy. Hell, many times it's been damnably hard. We've had conversations that started Saturday morning and lasted all day and then were resumed the next day or the next weekend. Sometimes the discussion continues over a period of months, even. We've given up a lot of time to the process. But I've found myself having a hard time dealing with other people's limitations in this regard. I know other people don't resolve things, don't even have a concept of what resolution really looks like, have never been in that kind of guts-opening, heart-rending, soul-altering discussion that leads to transformation and increasing intimacy. I know this, intellectually. I just don't understand it. I can't live with that kind of lack of resolution, not in my really intimate relationships. For most people, I just decide to keep them at a certain distance and don't involve myself with them on that level. Sometimes my assessment of who is and who isn't capable of it fails me (both ways - some people surprise me with their ability to be fair and insightful, while others surprise me with their seeming lack of ability for same), and I don't really know what to do with that. I used to tell myself I should never trust people to that extent, not approach them with my concerns as openly or frankly as I would my family... but that feels patronizing to me. It's not a relationship of equals if I'm not trusting you to be able to talk to me on the level I talk to you, is it? On the other hand, we expect different things from different friends, and most of us accept and understand that. Maybe not everyone can be that kind of friend and it doesn't necessarily make them less of a friend, does it? I worry that it does though... at least as far as my own perceptions. I have a hard time imagining feeling as close to someone who isn't capable to a certain degree of that kind of communication, but I could be wrong. However, I'm really not sure how to switch gears, either... How do you transition from operating as if someone is capable once you come to the conclusion that they most likely aren't, at least not for now?
With my ex, we talked about stuff pretty heavily and resolved stuff fairly often, but I came to realize that a lot of it was very surface... we didn't really ever get to the level of communication and resolution that Brian and I share on a daily basis. It was quite a shock to me... that he could just walk away and never resolve things at all. It's unimaginable to me. But I was pushing for real resolution and he couldn't do that either, and I can't imagine how things would have worked if he'd maintained contact with me while never resolving things. Just apologizing and dropping it... that's not my style. It doesn't mean anything to me, doing that. I hate, hate, hate empty apologies. Apologies should be specific, aimed towards acknowledging faults and committing to improvement. If you have no intention of changing your behavior, don't waste time on apologies. But if you have no intention of changing behavior that you know very well (or ought to, anyway) you should be changing, then don't expect much support or patience from me for that either. I mean, it's one thing to struggle with it... where you know you need to change and you're in the process of thinking about how to do it... not much progress is made during the initial processing, sometimes. I understand that, and lord knows the time between when I decided that I had to stop becoming violently angry or storming out or engaging in other abusive behavior and when I actually made the change was a long one. Fortunately, the people around me were patient and had faith in me. But it only went so far, and one of the things I had to accept when I was in this process (it was similar for changing my habits in regards to substance abuse, as well) was that people had lost faith in me as a result of my own actions, and I had to recognize that progress included accepting that loss of trust as a consequence. That's just how it works. Unconditional love does not equal unconditional trust. We each have an obligation to protect ourselves from abuse. No one can really do that for us, though of course we can receive assistance and support for it from others. So I can be understanding about the struggle and the time and energy it takes to make the transition but if you're really doing nothing about it... well, it's hard to judge from the outside, I know, but it's still hard for me to continue to be patient and supportive. Especially if it seems like my support is really just enabling.
Like Brian, I feel like maybe people have forgotten how much we are dealing with right now and what our obligations are like. I know I can expect my family to be very patient with me and supportive of us in this difficult time of transitions (in the above list of stressful situations, at least 3 of them apply - add to that suddenly dealing with not having on-demand childcare, and life has become very very different). Not all of it is negative - there is positive stress and negative stress - but even positive stress is still stress, and very tiring. It drains mental and emotional energy. My parents, at least, understand the new level of responsibility I have with Zack and how much we have to plan things around him these days (though I'm not really sure that I do). Don't get me wrong, I'm not resentful at all - I really love him - but it does change my life significantly from how it was before. I don't even know how to begin to describe the differences, but I really feel like I'm becoming a very different person... so much of my energy and thought goes toward how to be a good mom to him, and half the time I'm utterly terrified that I'll completely screw it up, something terrible will happen or I'll fail him in some dramatic and horrible way. The first week after Brian moved, I cried nearly every day, thinking of how inadequate I was to the task. A lot of the responsibilities Brian was sharing with his mom before are now shared with me instead. I had a meeting scheduled and I didn't even think until two days before about who was going to watch Zack. I felt so horrible and stupid for that! How could I forget? Only a terrible parent would forget something like that, right? I eventually figured out that it was a function of the transition, and Brian himself was having the same difficulties taking into account the fact that his mom isn't around to watch Zack whenever we want any more. As helpful and supportive as my family is, they're not able to take up that role, either, nor should they. I lie awake at night reviewing every conversation, every plan, every moment and wonder if I'm doing anything at all right.
On the bright side, it is getting easier. My stupid brain has finally accepted that childcare for Zack has to be integrated into any plans we make. Zack and I are getting along very well most of the time, and it's clear that we both love each other. Both our lives have changed a lot, and all three of us have been feeling the stress of that, but I think things are starting to settle down... it's likely going to take another month or two before this transition stress is really behind us, though.
This is very rambling, but I wanted to get some of these thoughts out there, partly in hope that it will give some of you better insight into what I'm dealing with these days.