I confessed my slip to the girlfriend. It was in the midst of other deep conversation. Other talk of where we are with our relationship and where we might or might not be heading. We’ve been dating around a year. These talks seem to be a quarterly housecleaning of sorts. It becomes an accounting of hurts and wrongs and feelings. It allows us to know where each other is at and provide opportunity for adjustments and feedback. I have been feeling distant lately and that brought about the talk.

Frankly, I suck at starting conversations. It’s kind of like me playing football where I hit, or “shuck” my “opponent” to get to a good defensive position. A place where I know I’ve caused a reaction and am ready for the return volley. I need to work on it, but often the conversations originate from anxiety. Once the interaction occurs it can usually steer to better avenues.

There are a few areas that are raised each time we have these talks. First is making her a priority, especially compared to my kids. In fact, these conversations seem to come at the times when the schedule adjusts. From, school to summer, at the start of activities, etc. Β It’s a tough spot for her and I. I want to give her more time, but my kids are at a pretty awesome age. They’re in the mode of adolescence where they are mostly agreeable and like being active. It’s a time I love and a time I would regret missing too much of. My girlfriend thinks I have the kids in too many activities. Deep down, being a sort of Renaissance man at heart, I don’t believe in “too many” at their age. Experience opens their minds and grows their brains. So I’m willing to have the grueling schedule for the time being until they really settle into the teen years where they may focus and try to excel in just a couple areas.

In terms of making her a priority, it’s something that can be done. She’s not so selfish that she expects me to pick her or the kids. It becomes a matter of finding and making time. My kids are, to an extent, always in need. Thus, plans are continually made and refreshed. Doldrums occur more often in the relationship as we are both capable people and so making plans can be forgotten.

Beyond the kids, I’m realizing that my girlfriend does not let go of harms or wrongs as I do. She is still not talking to her mom after an insult over a month ago. Such was with this conversation, I made the musing, probably six months ago as to why she hasn’t had a relationship last longer than two years. To me it was a discussion point, never intended to hurt, but one man’s muse can be that man’s proverbial foot in his mouth. That point never comes up without tears and I was amazed at the realization that I have not yet been forgiven for it. I feel genuine remorse for the question, but forgiveness in this instance isn’t mine to give.

We talked about that enough for me to realize that it wasn’t simply about relationships, but it was about overall acceptance. She doesn’t often feel accepted, she feels an outsider and one who really wants to belong.

I see myself in this realization, too. I always feel I’ve threaded between groups. It is hard for me to feel a true part of most groups. The realization in recovery for me is that that doesn’t matter. Connections come from my willingness to interact, and even assert myself. Groups come and go. Most friends come and go and that’s ok. Now, I don’t feel I need to belong, instead I opt to partake. What other people might or might not think about my belonging is both none of my business, nor does it matter much. What matters is my integrity in my interactions and coming about relationships honestly.

Still, I worry about the prolonged hurts as it pertains to my recent and potential future slips. Will they contribute to a continually built case, such that if the relationship progresses will result in unhealable disconnection? Writing this it sounds silly. “Just stay sober, dummy.” Many of us know that can often be easier said than done.

Again this comes to my taking care of “my side of the street”. I’m human, at least last I checked. I can screw up. I can REALLY screw up. It’s important to maintain my connections by being honest. If I do this and want to remain in the relationship it could even give me energy to stay sober. If the relationship can’t handle it, at least I maintain who I am as a person. A singular personality and not my split Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde has enough freedom to really cause trouble.

I’d like to make it work though. There is a part of me that feels I could handle perpetual bachelorhood, but it’d eventually be a lonely road. This relationship has a lot of benefits (not of the physical kind). Having someone who has an adequate sense of self (even if it’s not as overly confident as it first appeared) is a great thing. I can tell her when I slip. I can have “me” time when I need it. I can have my life and someone to share in some of it.

So we agreed it was worth continuing to work on. We both gained some understanding and are willing to make the small adjustments to keep things going. One small good thing to come from the discussion was some understanding about a trip we took a few months ago to California. Afterwards, I was curious if we had been (physically) intimate enough on the trip. This was another stated hurt by her that she wasn’t adequate enough for me. My musing was really just the opposite, it was my expression of vulnerability as if I was attractive enough for her. She got this as an epiphany of sorts. In a lot of ways we are similar souls, struggling for acceptance. Moving forward that is one of the things I need to remember, she’s wayfaring traveler in life with a lot of the uncertainties and needs I have.

I am grateful to get to walk with her for a time.