Robin de Voh
there's never enough stories

Nanoprep 2021 Day 6 Alternate: Communication Breakdown

By Robin de Voh on 2021-12-12

I wrote this and the felt it was too different from my regular style it didn't fit nanoprep. So I posted Not Picky Enough instead. Posting this afterwards is more because I need to get this out of my brain than for any writing reasons.

It had been a good evening, he thought. They had cooked dinner together, and though it wasn't perfect, it was fun and tasty. They had laughed, joked, talked about all kinds of things, mocked each others' music styles and had eventually settled on a playlist that both thought was okay. All in all, it had seemed like a good Saturday date night. Both seemed to be having a good time.

But then something was off, and it had happened very suddenly. He wasn't sure what had happened, but her mood had turned sour, and she had gotten very quiet, silently seething with some anger he couldn't place or explain.

She did this sometimes, and he never really managed to figured out how it happened. A trigger somewhere, something that made her go inside her head, find that negative space, and then just kinda stay there? His mind worked differently, when something bothered him he'd very quickly want to talk about it, to prevent it from becoming a bigger thing, but with her it was different. She'd take it, feed it, and go through the whole 'what if' cycle over and over.

"Are you okay?" he asked against his better judgment. She hated that question. But it was also relevant.
"I'm fine," she said. A hint of annoyance could be heard.

Oh shit, he thought.

She was never fine when she said she was. If she had followed it up with "why?" she might have been fine, he might have interpreted the situation too negatively. But there was no follow-up. She didn't look at him, she just kept staring in front of her, and he got nervous. The last 2 times this had happened it had ended in fights.

He immediately thought it was his fault. He realized it was a problem of his, that he took the responsibility of whatever this was upon himself, but it was also such a natural response that he found it difficult to stay quiet. What had he done to cause this? Was there something he could apologize for, something he could learn not to do again? How was this his fault, and how could he do something to fix it? So he considered what he was supposed to do. Sit quietly as she seemed to be so very, very angry? Just do nothing?

He knew that when someone is stuck in their head, it can feel very intrusive for someone to try and force answers from you. He got that, he understood. That at the point where you're working through emotions, thoughts, having to at the same time explain them to someone else can be complicated and frustrating.

But on the other hand, he himself had been like that, so he recognized it, and a part of him was screaming inside his head that it was the wrong way to go. That keeping it all in was unhealthy, unfair to those around you. It placed all the figuring out and trying to fix it upon the shoulders of the other person. But he'd never been able to word it in such a way she understood it as well. She was just like this, she said. When she got stuck in her head, when things didn't go the way she expected them to go, she could get mean and unresponsive. It was just how she was, everyone who knew her knew her to be, and would remain. She knew it was a problem, but she didn't know what to do about it. The idea of therapy was floated, but never as a significant option. He'd just agreed it might be an interesting route to take, but didn't try to force her either. Eventually it would always be her choice.

And yet, here they were. Even after admitting it was something she knew she did, it would simply happen again, exactly as before, like nothing had changed. Realizing it was a thing didn't seem to change much. And so he stood there, unsure of what to say -- it'd all make it worse -- or what to do -- it'd all make it worse -- or even what not to do -- it'd all make it worse.

So he sat down. Quietly. As she seemed to be so very, very angry. And do nothing. He stared in front of himself as well, and kept going over everything that had happened that night and tried to figure out what he'd said wrong, done wrong, anything. But he couldn't find it. It wasn't there to him. He must be missing it, so he turned to her, and after some initial hesitation, he asked her.

"Was it something I said?"
"I'm fine," she repeated, the annoyance now no longer a hint.

A sense of deserving an answer -- any answer, however vague -- came over him, and he ignored the alarm bells he'd taught himself to hear.

"You've been sitting there not saying anything for the past hour, I think we both know you're not actually fine, sweetie," he said, as non-attacking as he possibly could.
"I said I'm fine," she said, looking at him for a split second, angrily, before turning away again, staring at the same spot on the table she'd been staring at for that past hour.

He sighed and fell back into the couch.

"Do you want some time alone?" he said, as he got up. "I can go onto the balcony and give you some space, if you want."
"Do what you want," she said, as she grabbed her phone.
"Then I'll give you some space," he said, thinking that's what she might need, given that she was obviously going through things in her head. He assumed she'd come to him to talk if she reached that point, and otherwise he'd go back in after a while and see what was up by then.

It would take him another few days before he'd realized that wasn't the right choice. Her grabbing her phone was a hint. But, with someone who just 'doesn't wanna', it's difficult to in the moment know what's right or wrong, and to pick up on the subtle things.

She decided to leave not long after.

He was left not understanding what had happened, at all. But a realization was starting to grow in his mind. However much he loved her, sometimes it just can't work.

Maybe the timing is wrong, maybe the match just isn't there on a personality level.

Or maybe it was all wrong from the start.

It would take him another few months to fully realize just how unhealthy that relationship had been. Months worth of doubting himself, wondering what he'd done this time. And then realizing that no matter what he did -- right or wrong -- it always ended up going like this. Always his fault.

He didn't want to give up -- it wasn't like him -- but holding on to something that's broken can be worse than letting it go. He'd learned that somewhat in previous relationships, but this situation really brought the point home.

So he let it go. Knowing full well that once he reached that level of being done with it, it was forever.

Maybe with the lessons learned, he'll not doubt himself so much next time. And maybe he'll recognize the signs sooner.