This sentence, said aloud to my husband probably around midnight last night, was a revelation to me. We’ve been together now for just about a full decade and it took me this long to recognize and understand this very fundamental difference between us.
I could turn this into a post about borderline personality disorder (BPD); I’ve read multiple studies about how people with borderline are much more likely to interpret a neutral expression as a negative one compared to people without borderline. But the truth is that my brain is too soggy to really wrangle up a nice, article-esque post for the BPD Trait Series. Last night was spent in winding conversation with Nicholas, unpacking so many emotional things that I found myself checking recent astrology to see if there was a planetary position that would explain the seemingly rampant emotional connections happening among my friend circle currently.
For about three hours, we discussed past, present, future. I cried more than I have in a good six months. I am a Biannual Sobbing Ugly Crier, featuring Gentle Tears on an at least every other day basis, and Proper Crying probably about once a month. We’ll talk about Highly Sensitive People some other time.
Among the topics of discussion, we obviously talked about emotional expression. Nicholas and I’s personalities are very different and generally, this works really well for us. We balance one another out and gently tug each other more towards the center on most things when we start to stray too far to our prefered side. The one area that seems to be a recurring tug of war is that of emotional expression. There’s many, many layers to this that I’m not going to get into because See: Three Hour Conversation but perhaps the most striking personal revelation I had was the title of this post.
“I have trouble interpreting neutral emotions because I don’t experience neutral emotions.”
It’s worth writing again. And reading again. And remembering again. Because it informs one of the greatest chasms in between my worldview and his worldview. Nicholas, so practiced at observing his emotions from a distance, is seldom perturbed by the majority of things that would bother me. Meanwhile, my emotional skin is so thin I react to the slightest brush against it. This difference is one of the few things that causes rifts between us because we have to constantly remind ourselves of what the other person is thinking. When Nicholas says, “Fine,” and doesn’t smile, he’s not necessarily mad. When I go silent and have a blank expression, I’m not necessarily okay. As the old advice goes, communication is key and in addition to years of learning one another’s true natures, we also have gotten progressively better at expressing our thoughts to ensure that the other person knows what’s happening in our noggins. Neither of us, after all, are mind readers.
I think there’s an important caveat to the “communication is key” thing that no one really discusses, however. Expressing your true emotions, despite all the defense mechanisms inside of your brain screaming at you not to, requires you to be extremely vulnerable. And as good as I like to think I am at being transparent about my feelings (hi, have you seen my blog?), just last night I witnessed a moment of personal growth.
As I explained it to Nicholas, in my mind I stood at a fork in the road. No, this isn’t a Robert Frost poem. But the first path is well-worn, familiar, quiet, but long. The second I’ve tread a few times but I don’t remember it extremely well. It could be more dangerous. I’m uncertain.
The first path is shutting down emotionally, rolling over, and pretending everything is fine. Engage in my phone, swallow my emotions, business as usual. The second path is opening my mouth and admitting, “I require emotional reassurance.”
You’d think after seven years of marriage this would be easy to do but it’s complicated. More complicated than I care to get into here. Maybe I will on Patreon, but that remains to be seen.
As usual, though today I’m so emotionally exhausted and raw, I’m glad that I decided to take the more challenging path. I’m not even sure that I have more to say about the whole thing. This is what is currently on my mind and in my heart. Even though I have many, many ideas for blog posts, I haven’t had the time to create a backlog so you’re getting the writing of a woman whose emotions are still warm from being freshly baked last night.
I would encourage you to do the same thing if you’re facing a similar dilemma in your life. It may not work out as well as my emotional baking but I will forever be a supporter of the philosophy that if you can’t be emotionally transparent with someone, you shouldn’t be with them. It only seems to get harder as you spend more time together because you become more and more resistant to potentially hurting them with your words, willfully ignoring how your silence is more harmful over the long term.
As always, take care of yourself. Be gentle with yourself. And know that I love you.