Husband #2 and I have this dynamic in our relationship. We both wanted to be heard which meant we turned into Conversational Narcissists. This snippet sums up our interactions:
The social support system in America is relatively weak, and this leads people to compete mightily for attention. In social situations, they tend to steer the conversation away from others and toward themselves.
~ Conversational Narcissism on PhilosophicalSociety.com
I’m not looking to point fingers, find fault or assign blame. I know we both came out of marriages that had us in the position of second-class citizen. We wanted to assert our right to be heard. And we did!
Our conversations followed the line of one-upsmanship. If he hurt, I hurt more. If I succeeded, he succeeded more. If a client loved me, they loved him better. If he was ignored by me, I was ignored by him on a grander scale. And on and on. Another one of those Circles of Hell that we were stuck in.
We would talk and talk without ever listening.
As one of my goals for developing the new and improved Me, I’ve decided to avoid being a Conversational Narcissist. I’m learning to be a good conversationalist. Obviously I’m not alone in my endeavor. A quick web search produced pages and pages of results. Surprisingly, I found the best How To Plan on a site called The Art of Manliness.
I realize that I’m only changing my own perceptions and behavior. When Husband #2 returns from out of state for his short farewell visit to pick up the last of his things, I know full well that our “conversations” may still be one-sided and that is a risk I’ll take. At least I’ll know I’m trying to break the destructive cycle, not for him, but to improve my future chances of having a meaningful conversation with another human.