I was sitting and working at a cafe over the weekend and a couple sat down at the table next to me. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. Their voices overpowered my thoughts and focus. They had not spoken in four months and the man reached out to the woman to get together and explain his disappearance from her life.
He explained how after their first meeting they both dove into the relationship head first. He wanted to get to know her and she wanted to tell him who she was. He also had recently started talk therapy at the time and was learning a whole lot more about himself than he expected.
He had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and he did not know what that meant. He wanted to understand himself and he saw how the relationship with her was taking away from that. She told him everything about herself…deep secrets he was sure she told no one else. He wanted to let her in, but he also wanted to know what he, himself was dealing with.
It was clear to me he is a sensitive human, an empath for sure. Taking on the emotions of others and not being able to decipher his own is a common trait rarely identified or discussed in mental health arenas. This is often diagnosed as a disorder of some kind and a dysfunction. The heightened sense of your environment is not a disorder, it is a reality.
I listened to him continue explaining himself. How he didn’t call her back and then let it go. How he wanted to create space for himself, but didn’t know how to ask for it.
Yet the relationship followed him. He knew he enjoyed his time with her but he was unsure how to maintain balance for both of them in the relationship.
“When I start to feel overwhelmed, I begin to shut down. I have my shit…I’m different. And if I start talking about myself, I feel like a drag. I had to learn to buckle down and see myself and how to manage my emotions. Everyone does.”
I was in awe listening to the conversation and questioning why I was there, privy to all this. I was enamored with the beautiful love story and became sucked in.
“I was on a date a few weeks ago, and you know I can make the most out of anything. But I was there and thinking in the back of my mind the whole time- I wish I was on a date with you.”
He continued, “The separation between us was necessary. We were feeding off each other’s negative shit. But you guard yourself better than I do. We were having arguments with people from our past, but with each other. They were not even about us.
I wasn’t upset with you, but I was treating you like you were the one who hurt me. And you just wanted to make it okay for me. You wanted to take care of it. It’s not your responsibility to make sure I’m okay.”
Damn, he nailed it. And he expressed it beautifully, boldly and with honesty. This is the kind of communication that amazing relationships are built on. The kind where fear of vulnerability takes a backseat to fear of not having what you really want.
I felt honored to be the awkward eavesdropper and soaking in the connection between them. I knew it was teaching me too.
What this man described is the biggest wedge between us. The lack of honesty, of straightforward communication, of owning our shit- and then doing something different.
He was feeling insecure to start the conversation but he was courageous enough to continue it. It is not always easy asking for what we want or the way we want it. There are still old voices that hold us back saying we can’t or we shouldn’t or we’re not worth it.
What if you challenged those voices? What would your life look like? What if this whole time you could have what you wanted and more?
I left the cafe feeling much lighter than when I arrived. Their exchange touched me, serendipitously, and reminded me of the areas I continue to work on in my own life. I know I needed the reminder. How about you?