I just started in the DBT aftercare group last week. The regular DBT group is mostly educational, not process, and is much stricter about "therapy interfering behaviors," so no one else can intentionally or unintentionally sabotage other people in the group. Aftercare is more process and allows people who have been through the educational course several times to discuss how to further use the skills in specific ways in their lives. Of course, I can't divulge anything about what happens in group or even who is in it, but I found myself talking a bit about how I have dealt with anger differently in my relationship with the Professor than I did in previous relationships. In fact, every time I talk about getting angry or upset in this relationship with Moneypenny, he asks me why I couldn't have done that with him. The short answer would just be that I grew up. This post is the longer answer.
My monkey gets busy sometimes
My monkey's got a lot of stuff he's gotta think about
My monkey gets tired sometimes
My monkey wishes he was something you could live without
Cause every monkey needs alone time
To eat bananas in the sunshine
It's feast or famine it's a fine line
It doesn't mean my monkey doesn't love you
This in part Moneypenny actually taught me while we were dating. I can't say that he actually said these words, but the general picture was "You need to learn how to be on your own. I have friends of my own and things I like to do that don't interest you and I'm going to continue to do them just like I did before we got together and you have to learn to deal with that." Sometimes I think I might have learned that lesson a bit too well because I think it can hinder me in dating but that is a post for another day.
I like my alone time. At least 25% of my decision to stop dating for the time being is so that I can spend time by myself. I like being able to do whatever it is that I want, at my own pace, or nothing at all. I like being able to choose the show or movie I watch, the food I eat, the music I listen to, or to read a book, without ever having to think about what someone else will want to do or what they will think of me.
This makes it easier to give other people alone time when they need it. When I was with Moneypenny and we would fight, I couldn't do that. At all. When he'd say that he needed time, I'd give him an hour and I had a difficult time even doing that. I distinctly remember one fight where i kept texting and calling him after he said that he needed time and he told me that "time" at least 24 hours. Oh my gods, that was a fucking eternity at the time. I know that I probably still do not give people as much time as they might need or I have to say "Ok, just so you know, the ball is in your court here" before I wait, but I'm not like I was with Moneypenny.
But it isn't just during fights that I know people need time and try to give it to them. Yes, when I'm visiting the Professor and I want attention, especially sex, or when I'm texting him to try to find out what is going on, I do bug him when he'd probably rather me not. On the other hand, I could, and still do, leave him to do his own thing. During the first bout of him falling in the hole last fall, he would apologize for not doing more with me and I would shrug it off. Yeah, I'd have been more than happy if he was jumping my bones that whole time or even just talking to me, but I was usually able to keep myself busy. I was an only child after all. I also knew that it had nothing to do with me, which I think is the real key. I knew that there were and are plenty of times when I'm happy to be by myself, which has nothing to do with how much I love the people I don't want to be around, so the same thing is probably at least partially true for the people I love who need alone time.
My monkey gets frazzled sometimes
My monkey has an ulcer and a stressful time at work
My monkey gets bitter sometimes
My monkey's not the only one who's acting like a jerk
And while he doesn't like to name names
And he's not trying to assign blame
It's hard to focus on his own game
It doesn't mean my monkey doesn't love you
From the first time I heard this song, it just stuck with me. This guy I went on a few dates told me to check out his nerdcore and nerd comedy spotify playlist and most of the music can help put me in a better mood at work, on days when my music is pissing my off for some reason. I kinda think that it could be from the Professor to Ginger and/or me, from Ginger to the Professor and/or to me, and from me to ...well, lots of people.
When I look back, I think that most of the moments in my life that really changed how I saw the world and how I thought involved it being pointed out how selfish I was being and had it demonstrated how different the other person in the situation experienced things. Couple this with my writer-ly desire to know what is going on in someone's head and I am often trying to see situations from the other viewpoint. It can get much harder when I am arguing with someone because my own anger can overpower my desire to give a shit about their view point or experience but sometimes I can still keep it in mind.
Two things that men have said stick out in my head. Now, I can't remember what exactly we were talking about, but I remember a conversation a few years ago where Moneypenny told me that he just lets go of about 90% of things in relationships that bother him because to him they aren't a big enough deal to bring up or to fight about. Of course, that means the things he does bring up are actually the most egregious 10% of the things that bother him, so it kinda sucks if the other person does nothing about them or won't budge on any of them. From being the one sitting on the other side and not budging on most of those things, I can say that when he brought up the 10%, I thought they were everything he had a problem with so I wasn't going to give in on everything. The bigger point though was that he didn't bring up every little thing that bothered him and he asserted that this is what most men do.
Recently, I was listening to the afternoon radio djs where I live, both married men, and they were discussing the recent study from Rutgers and University of Michigan that said that a husband's general happiness was directly related to how happy their wife was in the marriage. While researchers said this might be in part because a wife happy in the marriage might do more for a husband, the quoted researcher said "Men tend to be less vocal about their relationships and their level of marital unhappiness might not be translated to their wives." The older of the two djs definitely agreed with this, talking about how rarely he brought up things about the relationship that upset him, while his wife generally will and it feels like to him it is almost always what she thinks he is doing wrong. And here's what he said that stuck with me the most: "Who wants to hear nothing but what they are doing wrong all the time?" That was another one of those slap in the face moments for me. I'm pretty aware of a good deal of my shortcomings and I sure as hell don't want to hear it. That really got me thinking about how the things I say when bringing up problems either are what's wrong with the other person or could be perceived as such and how often that is the conversation instead of something positive about them.
When I was with Moneypenny, we had several arguments that lasted until dawn. I couldn't sleep on my anger. I couldn't keep my mouth shut. Hell, with him, I often still can't. Early on, probably from observation and trying to do things differently this time, and in large part just because Ginger allowed me to benefit from her years of experience, I learned that attacking the Professor head on just made him retreat. He wouldn't fight you back but he also wouldn't come back for quite awhile. Now, I won't even claim to fully understand why this is, though I can guess that some of it has to do with how he was raised, but I knew that what I had done before wouldn't work. At first, it was the roles that kept me in check. And sometimes the desire to be able to discuss things without being so angry I would cry, since somehow me crying means that people tend not to listen to my words. Through trial and error, I've learned that sometimes I need to do a "reasonable mind" activity, dishes worked well when I lived with the Professor, to bring me out of emotional mind, or to just sleep on it. What these things really give me is enough space to calm down, let my mind process everything and figure out what was justified, and then find a better time to bring things up. After all that, usually I can say it in a better way, hopefully one that is about the situation or about how I feel and not about him.
A few weeks ago, over text, the Professor and I got bitchy at each other about the weekend plans and how we were going to plan out things going forward. Finally, I said that I thought that at least one of us was cranky and needed a nap (he said probably both of us) so I was going to go and I would talk to him later. When we talked about it two or three days later, the discussion looked more like "I'm worried about how this is going to go. Knowing the things we know now, what can we do to make this work better for everyone going forward?"
My monkey gets angry sometimes
My monkey says a lot of things he doesn't really mean
My monkey gets lucky sometimes
My monkey thinks that you're the bestest girl he's ever seen
He says he'll stay with you for always
It doesn't matter what the job pays
Cause everybody has their bad days
It doesn't mean my monkey doesn't love you
One day I came home from a short morning shift and Ginger said, "You should be really glad you had to work this morning and you weren't home because I thought the Professor and I were going to have it out." Apparently, the Professor got up, all grumpy and cranky, like he is when he first wakes up. When he went into the kitchen to get himself a cup of coffee, she heard him yell, "Goddamn it, who the fuck left the bag of coffee open?" [There are a few things that drive the Professor crazy and Ginger doing forgetful things is one of them. Ginger thinks, and not wrongly IMO, that she ignores alot from him so he can just deal. I'm sure you can guess who left the coffee bag open when she kindly made me coffee before i left for work.] Ginger was cranky and tired after working all night and her, quite uncharacteristic, response was to yell back "It's just the coffee. If you're going to be a dick today, I'm just going in my room to read." When the Professor's unreasonable anger is met with anger, he tends to be taken aback and reevaluate the situation. This was no different. After her response, it was no longer such a big deal. Sometimes we say stupid shit in the heat of the moment, not always even big stupid shit, but just little stupid shit.
When sleeping on it doesn't work and I end up playing out all day in my head all the pieces of my mind I'm going to give the Professor when I see him next, I tend to have one final thing to help me not act like a complete bitch- seeing him. This probably sounds like sappy honeymoon phase shit, and maybe it is, but it still works. When I see him, it is much harder to be mad at him. Mostly because I'm trying to figure out how to maneuver things so that he'll be taking my clothes off and being a bitch can backfire spectacularly for getting me that goal. hehe. But seriously, it feels like the anger is a fog that is burned off by the appearance of the sun.
When they got together, the Professor needed a place to stay and Ginger made him promise to stick around for a year, though she was somehow surprised several months later when he called him her boyfriend. She told me that at first they'd have blow-outs every couple of months, but that those had gotten farther and farther apart, until it's more like once a year. It was a release valve on the relationship and in the end, they would both say that they cared more about the relationship than about not being vulnerable.
For both of them, being vulnerable is a much bigger deal that it is to me. Most days I still feel like I'm a walking open wound. Less than I used to, but more than most people, I think. While neither of them have said directly to me that our relationships, even the different ones we have now, are more important than being vulnerable, I think that they've shown it. Right about the time we started talking again, Ginger wrote a post on Fet about her shortcomings in relationships, that she wants a lot and thinks in the moment that it's possible but often has to retreat when it gets overwhelming, because she doesn't realize that things might not be working until it is already overwhelming. While she didn't write that post just for me, I know she laid bare things about herself that aren't pretty in a place where I would be sure to see, so that I might understand. She made herself vulnerable. Things with the Professor ended as a primary relationship when he flat out said "Yes, all the things you say you expect this to be are valid and justified and what I promised and what you deserve, but I can't give them to you." Just the fact that he said that outright was a big deal for him, given his history. That honestly could have been the end of it. But when I came to get my stuff, he cried with me, admitted that he didn't know what it would be possible for us to have but he didn't not want me in his life. Recently, as we tried to talk about what we wanted in this iteration of our relationship, we admitted that this 'breakup' was different because usually we kinda hate our partners by the time we decide to end it. Usually his relationships end with him being either mean or distant, "but I still have alot of love for you and I'm trying to do things differently this time." Once again, I can't judge things based on how vulnerable that would feel for me. Things work much better for me when I focus on what that feels like for them, where that comes from, how difficult that might be for them.
Now, of course, all this about how well I deal with conflict with my partners is in comparison to a me that was 15-12 yrs younger, differently medicated, and much more still an impulsive teenager. This is also mostly a Moneypenny vs the Professor comparison as I am still rather clueless about handling conflict with Ginger and, oh man, don't even get me started on how poorly I handle conflict with TyRoy. I largely attempt to avoid conflict with both of them, though I think that method would still be preferable to Moneypenny. Sometimes, I think that I'm just too tired to fight anymore, at least like I did with Moneypenny. I have a long list of things I'm supposed to do, half of which I don't get to, and nowhere on it does it say "fight with the Professor." When I walk out of rooms instead of fight, it's not so someone will run after me, though I have to say checking on me after awhile is appreciated. No, it's because I don't want to have the fight right then and I need to get my shit together. It's about me acting right. Generally, I think the biggest difference in the fights are about me acting right, instead of just acting on how I feel at the moment.
So here's the full song for Jonathan Coulton's "My Monkey"
Ok, and now for the funny geeky shit- For PAX, Jonathan Coulton changed "My Monkey" to "Wil Wheaton." This video has shots of Wil Wheaton cracking up too.