Lives Hanging in the Balance
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Below.
When I was a little girl, I loved playing on the see-saw. It required a partner of some reasonable level of equality—one who wouldn’t get me near the top and bail on me, one who was content to alternate flying through the air, one who delighted just as much as I did in getting to that point where we were in perfect balance with our feet off the ground and hanging in the air at the same time and grinning at each other. “Balance” is such a big buzz word among counselors, therapists, and coaches. The only terminology I hear more often is when people talk about relationships being “equal” or “50-50.”
I never quite got the 50-50 thing. More explanation was always needed because I saw the 50% as the relationship being balanced by the near-equal giving of both, but sometimes I think it’s interpreted as each giving 50% rather than each giving 100%. And I always felt inclined to emphasize the giving rather than the receiving, codependent that I was.
I’ve noticed that people tend to talk more about relationships being equal and individuals being in balance. I’m now able to identify that many of my “equal” relationships were themselves out of balance, and that’s why many of them ended, whether I wanted them to or not.
At some point in each one, I realized I was no longer being heard. The relationship had tipped to a point of parent-child dynamic, with me in one role or the other— almost always the child role—but never switching and never near the middle of the dynamic. No see-sawing of the balance, just a thud of my ass hitting the ground or of someone leaving me suspended and refusing to let me go where I wanted. I’d let the weight of the other’s opinions become more important than my own and even when I realized it, I kept deferring to them.
Of all the symptoms of an out-of-balance relationship, that is the single factor that I can recall in the breaking of friendships, partnerships, and romantic relationships: not feeling heard.
I’m very aware of my weak fifth chakra and how I sometimes have to yell (literally) to be heard. My voice is thin and disappears into the more delicate frequencies that the first sign of hearing loss will nullify or a lack of attention to what’s important to me will miss or a misunderstanding of what someone else wants as what I truly want will allow to float away unnoticed.
I can recall now, in most of my relationships that fell out of balance—if they ever were in balance—certain things….
Like the times I said so often, “This is what I want more than anything,” and no one seemed to realize that I really meant it.
Like the times I said so often, “I don’t want to talk about this because it hurts,” but that’s what came up again and again.
Like the times I said, “I need support in this area,” and all I got was why it would never work or how I should just give up.
Like the times I said, “This is really important to me and it would mean the world to me if you’d be there,” and I was alone.
Like the times I said, “I really don’t want to do this,” but that’s what we did, and I deferred to the parent in the relationship, as always.
At the point of the relationship breaking or afterwards, almost in every case, I’ve heard the other person say, “You never told me this” or “Why didn’t you say something?” But I did. Again and again and again, but I wasn’t heard.
Bless my daughters. They’ve always heard me. There were times in my marriage where I’d said something four or five times, only to be told I’d never mentioned it, and my girls would point out calendar dates and events where I’d said it.
But for most instances, I haven’t had the girls nearby
to record my voice in relationships. And really, if I have to tell somebody three or four times how important their presence is at a special event, what does it matter if my announcements can be corroborated if the other person in the relationship, friendship, or partnership doesn’t show up when it counts?
I didn’t know when I was in the relationship that it
was out of balance. The scales had to tip all the way over and dump me out on my ass before I got it. It’s something I can see only from the outside, but at least I now have a better clue of what makes it unbalanced and I know what to look for to prevent a repeat.
I know what to look for so that my future relation-
ships will be in balance, whether they are “equal” or not. I’m being tested already on this discovery, telling both new and old friends, “You’re not listening to me. I’ve told you several times that this is important to me and you keep discounting my feelings.”
In one case, just last week, I’ve said it for the last time, which pains me, but she’s made it obvious that our friendship will never be in balance and she will always put me in the role of child even when I haven’t auditioned for it. I’ve had other opportunities, too, and I’ve kept my boundaries set.
Keeping with the see-saw analogy, I guess I don’t
mind the ups and downs of a relationship so much as long as things are still moving and every now and then we can just hover in the air in perfect balance.