Despite the impression that one might have, based on the fact that I write a blog about my depression, open relationship, parenting, and travels, I am deeply inclined toward hiding. I don’t like for people to know that I feel inadequate in so many parts of my life. I don’t look forward to people asking questions about the nature of my relationship. I really don’t want to be told how to raise my kid. I have a secret fear that sharing my travel plans will lead to stalkers finding me (the fact that I don’t have stalkers is irrelevant to my worry).
But here’s the thing: all of these are realities of my existence. The fact that I live with depression doesn’t make me in any way a lesser person. It doesn’t mean that I have failed. It doesn’t mean that my parents, or my partner, or my doctor, or my peers have failed. One thing that I have learned over and over is that I am not alone in experiencing depression. Depression is a liar; it whispers in our ears, telling us that we’re not like other people, that we should just stay in bed, no one wants us around. It robs us of perspective. As I’ve said before, I think it’s important to talk about it, because being open creates an environment that enables others to open up.
The same idea rings just as true for me when I think about my relationships. I entered the dating world having literally no idea how to proceed. I saw my parents’ marriage; I saw the dating relationships of my peers in high school; I knew that I wasn’t headed for marriage with any of the boys around me. I started out with poor social skills (oh, hey, severe introvert growing up in an unsupportive social environment!), and no one taught me any skills for interacting with intimate partners. This statement isn’t meant as an indictment of anyone; it’s just a fact. Every person has to learn how to have relationships as they go. That being said, I do believe it’s possible to help create a travel guide, if not actually a roadmap, for getting to a place you want to be your relationships. But I don’t think that any one (or two) of us can do it alone.
Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself. – Eleanor Roosevelt
Remember that survey about dating we wrote? And the one about family? The purpose behind them, and really, the purpose behind this whole endeavor, is to find the pieces of knowledge that people have that we ourselves don’t. When I started on the road of relationships, I didn’t have a map, and I didn’t know what all the signs meant. I didn’t even really know where I was trying to go. At this point, I know that there are lots of signs out there, and plenty of people who have deciphered them, at least in part. I have no interest in telling anyone how to run their relationships, or saying that one way is better than any other. I’m just trying to get my bearings, and understand the landscape around me. I know that, like my depression, I’m not the only one in this position. The way that I am approaching this problem might be unique, but the fact that I want to do better in my relationships is not.
I don’t think there’s any reason for us to be stumbling around in the dark when there are people around us with lights. I don’t think that there should be shame in talking about the things that do and do not work within the world around us. Romantic and familial relationships make up a huge portion of many people’s lives, and I believe that we as people can do better for ourselves and each other if we acknowledge that they take work, and that we all have things to learn about them. I want to be open about my process for the same reasons that I want to be open in my relationship: There is more, and it is better, when we say yes, instead of no.