Lately, I've been having very strange and sometimes scary dreams. One reoccurring one involves me being stuck, in one way or another, with my ex. Sometimes it's just realizing I'm still in that relationship, others are in a more physical way, like "he won't go away".
For me, it's not just that I no longer like the person that I was with, but don't like the person I was when I was with him. The dream that prompted this reflection was of a series of fights between me and the partner I'm with now. There was screaming. There were doors slamming. There were all the signs of dysfunctional communication. But when I woke up, the depressing thought of us being in that state was quickly washed away by "That's not us." Because it's just not.
Years ago, I was a highly volatile partner that could get seething mad at the drop of a hat. I was the kind of partner that yelled during arguments. I wanted to be louder than the other person, like that was the only way to prove I was angry or serious. Obviously, I was the one that had the right to be the most upset. I was the kind of person that dramatically threw shoes on and stormed out the door. In hope that the other person would be left alone and hurt just as I had been. Sorry they had said or done whatever it was for that particular fight. I had wanted them to feel the pain of me rushing out the house. I was also the kind of person to literally run from the problems of being in a relationship.
I had never wanted to be this person, but in that setting, it was who I became. In the six months we were together we fought many more times than I have in my four-year relationship with my current partner. And a hell of a lot harder. I could blame it all on him, and often do, but let's be honest, I wasn't a calm person.
Now there's a difference between partners helping you grow into a better person and them forcing you into a "better" person. I no longer yell because I'm not yelled at. It's no longer a screaming match of who should be more upset. Now it's a quiet talk to understand why we had upset the other person. No longer just playing the victim, but learning how not to be the 'attacker'. I was never told I had to stop yelling, I just learned I didn't need to.
I was also never told I "should really work on" my conflict resolutions skills. Instead, as a pair, we've learned what works and what doesn't for us. Storming off does no good. It just leads to bitter quiet stewing when we see each other again. So we take a minute apart if we need to and then actually calmly talk about it. Hell sometimes we even joke about how absurd it had actually been.
This, of many reasons, is why I find myself wanting to write romance novels. I keep thinking I should focus on the science or the fantasy of a book, but instead feel myself drawn to showing a healthy relationship between two people. Despite once thinking romance novels were only good for one thing. Guilty (unrealistic) pleasures to make you smile. In my current project, I want to fully flesh out the change one person has inspired in the other. Not one person fixing another, but a gradual shift in that person's attitudes and behaviors, even if they don't realize that person was the cause.
Granted me and my partner are a much better fit. But I think our limited number of fights is due to the change we've brought out in each other. A healthy change that isn't always shown in romance novels. It doesn't have to be forced or planned, one-sided, or even dramatic. Like saving a 2-dimensional workaholic woman from deportation and opening her eyes to the joys of love and therefore changing her life forever. Though I do love that movie, Reynolds ‘perfect male’ character had zero development. Only the bitchy woman did, because of a man. We can do better.