He’s my rock, the young woman said.
“When I’m all over the place, he’s the one I go to. He’s always calm, chilled out, I can totally count on him.”
“How does the rock feel about this arrangement?” I asked. “I mean does he know he’s a rock? And does he like being a rock?
She wasn’t sure how to answer this. She believed she’d given her partner a massive compliment; that his emotional steadiness was the crème de la crème of relationship qualities.
The flaw in her praise was that it was less about him and more about what he offered her; that his chill was the counter to her chaos. When I asked how she saw herself, she grinned. “I’m the rolling stone — and he loves me for it.”
I couldn’t help smiling back. While you won’t find Rocks and Rolling Stones dissected in any relationship manuals, all the people I know — or couples I have worked with — lean one way or the other.
For a bit of fun, check out where you sit. Remember it relates to your emotional style within a relationship, rather than your behavior.
Rock or Rolling Stone?
In the different types of relationships, rocks tend to be quieter, emotionally stable, and predictable in a range of situations. Rolling Stones have more ups and downs, and are emotionally labile, meaning they are more changeable, with a bigger “swing” in their moods and feelings.
Rocks and rolling stones can complement each other: rolling stones can be drawn to calm partners who offer a safe port in an emotional storm. Rocks can be attracted to the spark and “fun” the emotional person brings to the mundane, and so to the relationship.
There’s a warning, though. At their most extreme, rocks and rolling stones can spell trouble for their partners — people who are emotionally chaotic, or shut down altogether, can be extremely difficult to navigate. And when it goes too far, too often, it can be abusive.
Here are some (unofficial) guidelines:
- You’re generally calm, not easily riled or provoked.
- Have a small emotional range — tend to do the same thing when upset (usually go quiet or remove yourself from the situation).
- Tend to think (or do nothing) before reacting emotionally.
- Enjoy being with others who are more emotionally “out there” (unless it goes too far).
- Provide the chill factor in a relationship; come up with rational solutions to counter your partner’s heated reactions.
- Mainly express anxiety by going quiet (or into your emotional “cave”).
- Have trouble expressing emotions or saying how you feel.
- Don’t like being asked to talk about feelings ( and detest pressure to do so).
- Have a wide emotional range
- Get easily and frequently upset by little things.
- (Secretly) enjoy a bit of drama because it brings excitement.
- Wear your heart on your sleeve; often take things a little too personally
- Know you sometimes react more strongly than the situation requires.
- Need or want a chilled-out, steady partner.
- Emotionally unpredictable (even to yourself).
- Finds it easy to express emotion and can be great fun.
- Expresses anxiety in a range of external ways.
Either emotional style is fine, and can be compatible, unless — as we’ve said, it’s too extreme. We all have different emotional ranges and good and bad days, but mostly we should be able to manage our own moods and emotions.
These are the questions to ask: are you happy with your emotional style within a relationship? Is your partner?
If you’re not with anyone currently how would you identify your style? Is there a pattern in the way you express yourself, helpful or otherwise? Has anyone commented (that you’re too emotional or you can’t express feelings)?
Either way, don’t get too caught up in either of the “r” words. We should each have a little rock and rolling stone in us — ultimately, being able to spark yourself up or calm yourself down is an inside job.
Karen Nimmo is a clinical psychologist, sports fiend, she is the author of Busy as F*ck and My Bum Looks Brilliant in This: The One True Secret of Lasting Weight Loss. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.