You know those people who always seems to have horrible living situations? They have endless stories about their bad luck: disrespectful roommates, annoying roommates, judgmental roommates, roommates who leave jello all over the bathtub somehow. These people tell their stories of bad luck, stressing how they wish they could live alone but damn rent is expensive. They dread the move in with the next roommate who will inevitably be horrible. If this describes you, I have some bad news for you:
You are the bad roommate.
This is pretty simple extrapolation. After the third bad roommate, unless you’re advertising on Craigslist by writing Seeking Crazed Weirdo for Short-Term Lease, you are the unifying thread. Most people are too boring to be terrible roommates. That’s why most people just have okay roommates.
I like my roommate. Mark is very accepting of my bike taking up space in the kitchen and the fact that I sometimes forget he’s here and storm into his room fully nude on an iPad-seeking mission. In exchange, I sometimes wake him up on a Sunday after a night out, hand him an enormous green smoothie, and tell him to drink it before going back to sleep so he feels better when he wakes up. Roommate-wise, I’ve always been A-OK. I think you might be able to see where I’m going with here, though.
Maybe I’m the bad girlfriend.
This isn’t an attempt at justifying my pathologically low self-esteem, it’s recognizing a pattern. I can point to a constellation of messed-up relationships and say, “this guy was cruel. This one was emotionally absent. This one was secretly dating three other women. This one screamed at me and berated me in public. This one withheld.” If this was a pattern, why wasn’t I changing my behavior to try to fix it? As winter started to turn into spring, it occurred to me that I hadn’t had a significant romantic relationship in almost a year and a half. Perhaps worse: I hadn’t had sex in over seven months. What the absolute hell, Jessica. You write for a frickin’ dating blog.
So I joined OpenPathways, a $50-to-join network of therapists practicing under market value as their contribution to society. Since I’m a lazy shit, I started seeing the first therapist I found: a woman at a location between my work and my theater. It’s been about four months since I started seeing Amelia. This is, coincidentally, the length of most of my romantic relationships.
Like many of my dates, I get the impression that Amelia isn’t fully listening to the things I’m telling her sometimes. She believes that I’m emotionally very flat. She thinks I don’t feel things (other than the anger and sadness that brought me to her?) as strongly as would be healthy. She thinks I conflate over-sharing with emotional openness. She thinks I need to thicken my prefrontal cortext through sensory exercises and meditation. She thinks I am not as open to people as I should be. It’s a little hard sometimes to feel like I’m supposed to like myself more when so much needs to change.
I don’t 100% buy the stuff Amelia says. I’m a skeptic about psychology just like I am about religion and human nature. I do believe that there is some good that has come of this so far, though. I needed to deal with something traumatic that happened to me in my early 20’s and analyze and break it down rather than building an unexamined wall of hate around it, taking up way too much emotional room. Who knows if the way Amelia and I are doing this is the right way, but I know that it is there and I can actively deal with it, finally. I also needed to be more thoughtful about dating and more mindful and honest about my needs. Oh and hey! This month I’ve had a few casual (careful, sensible) hookups. Hooray for me. There’s something hilarious and awesome about my therapist congratulating me for these and contributing them to my self-care.
After some analytical work, I don’t think I’m the bad girlfriend. I think I need to form stronger “ego skills,” as Amelia says, to deal with the self-esteem issues that keep me answering the equivalent of Craigslist girlfriend adds reading Needed: Short-term Girlfriend who will Compromise Everything she Wants in Exchange for Minimal Affection. There’s a part of me that thought I’d go into a therapist’s office to hear, “why, you’re a quick fixer-upper! There’s nearly nothing wrong with you at all! Men are mean and life is cruel!” That didn’t happen. I do have stuff that needs to be worked on. I bet you do, too, reader, or everyone would be nice to each other all the time and nobody would ever cry at work.
Again, like many of my romantic relationships, I’m not sure if Amelia is going to work out. She was kinda nasty at me one time when I was late and she doesn’t seem to like how often I have to use the restroom. She reminds me sometimes that I’m her charity case, though $50 in cash for 50 minutes’ work still feels awfully high to me. I’m going to stick with her, though. I display anxious attachment and my commitment to her process could be because of how much I need her to like me.
I’m going to have to keep going to therapy to understand.