Dater X: Me Time

This week’s trip to The Bartender’s city has been a little more fraught than most.

As we work on settling into “normal” life, despite one of us more or less always being “on vacation” in the other’s city when we see each other, we’ve both started trying to build some personal time into our weekend-long date marathons. This weekend, that meant him playing video games in the evenings and visiting a bartender buddy of his on Saturday night. For me, that meant booking a barre class and inviting my best friend over to our apartment to hang out over a glass of wine while The Bartender was at work. And yes, we both refer to his place as “our apartment,” because we both think of it as shared space at this point (my visits to his city, lengthened as they are by my job there, being significantly longer than his visits to mine). He gave me keys several weeks ago (something that I apparently did not mention and which prompted me giving him a set of mine last week, for those who asked).

But it is in fact a bit more complicated: I feel at home in our apartment, but it is not my home.

And that fact proved a bit sticky one night when, after cooking dinner together, he wanted to play video games by himself and I wanted to watch a movie together. He was doing what we’d both asked each other to do, which was acknowledging that he wanted some alone time, and I was doing something else we’d both asked each other to do, and trying to maximize our time together, since we spend the rest of the week apart.

I told him it was fine, and was frankly a little surprised to find that, when I sat down by myself to watch TV in the other room, it wasn’t. I felt lonely, lying in a bed that is ours but not mine, and even when I told myself I was being silly, I had to admit how I felt to myself, which was: cast aside, a bit. Frustrated with myself, both for how I was feeling and for not speaking up, I got dressed and went out for a walk.

When I got back, The Bartender asked me what was wrong, and I shocked myself by starting to cry. I explained that I wanted him to have time to himself, but also that I’ve tried to make my own time to myself happen when I am, in fact, by myself, rather than when he is in town. My frustration was compounded by the feeling that while I’m happy to be in his city, and I know it well, it’s not my home, and so while he was relaxing and recharging, I was feeling a bit unmoored.

And as always, we talked about it. He acknowledged that it was starting to feel hard for him to be in a relationship, unaccustomed as he was to long-term companionship, and I agreed that I often felt the same way. I also said something that has always been hard for me to say, which is: I’m almost always afraid, when I’m with someone, that they’re going to leave me. Credit a dating history that has yet to yield a proverbial happy ending, factor in a fierce independent streak, and I’m as likely to start packing things up and folding myself shut – and I did when I preemptively returned all of The Big Easy’s things – as I am to speak up and try to make things work. It’s a part of myself that I don’t much like, but it’s possible that it has also protected me, in the past. The problem is, now that I’m with someone I’d like to stay with, it’s a nasty thing to do to him, especially when I’m simultaneously asking him to open himself up to me.

At the end of the conversation, we chided each other for not speaking up sooner, since clearly he’d been needing some space and I’d been needing some reassurance, and as soon as we both got those things, we seemed to feel much better. The next day, he took my hand as we walked to work and told me he was glad that we’d talked, and that he might feel strange being in a relationship, but he didn’t feel strange at all being with me. I told him that I liked having him on my team. And he agreed that that’s what we are: a team, figuring out together something that neither of us has managed in the past: how to have someone wonderful in the otherwise rather solitary lives that we’ve built for ourselves.

I’d like to tie this up neatly, but I can’t – partly because I still feel conflicted about it. And admitting that makes me even more anxious. But so far, I’m taking a shot at not closing up and turning off and keeping myself open to a person who I feel lucky to have on my side. And giving him space, and taking some myself, and trusting that we’ll both still end up in the same place at the end. And we are. So far.

Until next week,
Dater X 3.0