I am absolutely terrified of losing the girlfriend I’ve been with for just shy of 2 years. Why am I, a charismatic, fairly handsome, intelligent and talented young man scared of losing this woman? Well, because I am also an insensitive, overly-logical, arrogant and stubborn man with bipolar disorder and an ongoing (if improving) issue with drowning my sorrows. These enormous, glaring flaws in my character have caused more than a few of my previous relationships to explode in dramatic fashions. And when I say ‘explode dramatically’ I mean really rather dramatically. I’ve lost friends I’ve had for years, turned large chunks of my social circle against me, tried to seriously harm myself, and generally cocked up in some really stupid, self-destructive ways.
So, you may find yourself asking what I’m doing with a stunning, compassionate, considerate, fantastically smart woman if I’m so awful? Well, apart from the charisma, above average looks, decent capacity for intellectual discussion and flare with almost any artistic medium that I’ve previously mentioned – I’m not entirely sure. Those things certainly explain why I can be initially attractive to others, but they don’t really explain why anyone would put up with all my catastrophic failings as a member of the human species.
I can’t actually speak for the woman who is the other side of the story that has spanned the entire of the second-longest relationship of my life to date (I’m really hoping we beat the one currently in first place). What I can do, is tell you why I haven’t ruined this relationship in the same way as so many of my previous ones: insecurity. My own insecurity.
Insecurity is quite often touted as the greatest cause of jealousy, irrationality, and general acts of mindless selfishness in relationships – all of which tend to be the causes of the end of a relationship, or at least great big chasms in them that require a lot of bridge building to repair. My low self esteem has certainly ruined a great many of my relationships because I was incapable of coping with the problem. But in the case of this relationship, I believe I somehow managed to turn what was once my greatest weakness into my greatest strength.
Pure, abject terror is one hell of a motivator. Several hells of motivation, actually. And though I still suffer from low self-esteem that I attempt to cover up with arrogance and stubbornness, I am rather better at catching myself in the act and apologising before the offending sentence is done with. I am still impressively insensitive to other people’s emotional wellbeing, but I am better at taking the time to figure out what I did wrong if I say or do something insensitive, in order to avoid it in future. I continue to analyse any problem with analytic precision and come to a rational conclusion, but now I have developed the ability to put that conclusion aside and try to just comfort people instead of produce a cure for all their issues. In short – I have learnt what ruined my past relationships and I am terrified of going through the pain of losing someone I love because of the same mistakes.
Yes, this whole thing is a little basic as far as motivations go; “this action caused pain for me in the past, I want to avoid that pain, so I will try my hardest not repeat that behaviour.” But anyone aware that I subscribe to the philosophy of attempting to eliminate self-deception wherever possible will not be surprised that I consider classically conditioning to definitely not be below me. Or any of the human race. We’re just dogs that need to learn to stop pissing in our own bedding. Most dogs pay attention when you whack them a couple of times with a rolled up newspaper.
So, in practice, the mental cycle goes a little like this: I am scared of losing my lover because I might do something wrong to seriously upset her, which makes me worry about doing something wrong frequently, which makes me upset. When I feel upset I try even harder to be the best person I can be, continuously trying my hardest to make the relationship work so that I won’t make the same mistakes again, which in turn makes me incredibly happy because we have a marvellous relationship.
There are, of course, always new mistakes that can be made, but I like to think that a person’s repertoire for mucking things up can’t be infinite. And even if it is, then at least if I can handle the mistakes I’ve already made then there’s a smaller infinity of mistakes for me to possibly make in the future.
The fact that worrying about something is making a positive impact on my life is what actually drove me to write this. I can be quoted on multiple occasions as saying “worrying has never helped anyone.” And here I now am, arguing how my worrying about something is helping me to become a better person both for myself and for my lovers.
I know my beautiful woman loves me, and that she has no intention of leaving me. I know that she has put up with the worst of my faults at the beginning of the relationship, and that I have gotten better. I know that the chances of her leaving because of something I do have now become pretty damn small. But I am still worried, in spite of all of these things. In spite even of her continuing support, reassurance and love, I am scared to death that I will ruin our relationship by doing something stupid.
My fear that someone who has put up with me at my worst already will leave if I do one small thing wrong is totally irrational. But I don’t think the entire thing is irrational, and that is what kinda surprises me – worrying about something you can’t change is almost always irrational. What I seem to have managed to do is turn it into worry about something I can change – my own behaviour.
And you know what? That worry and that fear are both good things. Without it I would be the same lazy, arrogant, selfish arsehole who hurt so many of the people I met before her. The trick is to recognise that your insecurities are not going to be solved by anything your loved ones can do – and certainly not to lay the blame with them for not helping you. The only person who can make your insecurities go away is you. Other people can be there to support and reassure you that you’re doing a good job; or to tell you off when you’re failing at it, but when the kitchen light goes out you’re either going to piss in your own bedding or not. It’s your choice.
I am an arse, and I always will be. But I choose to do my utmost best to be the best arse I can be. For her, for me, and for all the beautiful people she and I will introduce into our amazing relationship in the future.