Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Emotional Torment--Who's Responsible?

See the You Tube Video of Dan Savage that I've posted below: I quote him from the letter he reads and then answers:
"I've been dating the same guy for two years and he still can't say that he loves me. It doesn't seem like a commitment issue it seems like something deeper than that. I seriously don't know what to do, is it me, him, do I continue to wait and hope or to leave him even though I love him.

Yes you leave him. Yes. Now. Tonight. Leave him. He is not giving you what you want. You clearly need to hear those words. He clearly isn't coming up with those words. And you need to listen to your long pathetic whiny question and you need to decide that you don't want to be this whiny pathetic person, that you want to be with someone who isn't tormenting you emotionally. Whether this is intentional sadism or not,it is withholding that he is doing. He is either in this relationship because he wants a romantic attachment and he wants love in his life or he's out. You gave him two years. He's out. I hate to use the name of that book. I'm not going to use the name of that book (He's Just Not That Into You) because it's not always that. He could be into you. But he could be into fucking with you. He could be into making you suffer. And keeping you on tenterhooks. This could be a power play. Are you really in love with somebody who is gonna play these kinds of head games and power trips with you? Really? You don't have to be.

How depressing that question was."

I've written about the book/concept of He's Just Not That Into You before. It makes a lot of sense a lot of the time. It's not rocket science. We know how we treat people who we are "into" and in return, we know how those people who are "into" us, treat us. This pretty much follows a general rule of how most humans behave when they are interested in being in relationship with another. When we are "into" a person, we pay attention to them in a variety of ways, we make time for them, do special things for/with them, etc.. As time goes on our affectionate behavior increases and deepens...we tell them that we love and miss them, we give them gifts, make ourselves even more available to spend time with them, increase the level/depth of our communication, increase physical intimacy, etc.. This is the basis character/nature of the direction of growth in intimate relationships.

Sometimes though, something seems to be missing, such as when this woman (or man) told Dan Savage that her lover of 2 years still didn't say "I love you." There could be a variety of reasons as to why a person doesn't meet our expectations/wants/needs in intimate relationship. Often, the reason is simple and you need to get the clue, He's Just Not That Into You. But sometimes, as Dan points out, he is into you but he is also into "fucking with you" and "making you suffer". Maybe he does love you,but he is also a messed up person who treats the people he loves in unloving ways. So Dan asks a reasonable question, "Are you really in love with someone who is gonna play these kinds of head trips and power games with you?" His advice is to get out of the relationship.

Maybe he is right. He probably is right for a lot of relationships. But, what about issues that can be resolved? I mean, I'd want to ask this person if they had communicated to their lover that it was important for them to hear the words "I love you". I mean, what if they hadn't done that and that all it took was a simple request? That may seem obvious but there are lots of relationships where the couple just don't communicate their needs/wants to their partner very well at all. Even though there is a general nature to most loving relationships and how people behave when they are "into" someone, there is also a great individual divergence in regards to how people give and receive love. And some people are fairly inexperienced at being in relationship and they still need to learn the ropes, so to speak. Maybe this person grew up with a mother and father who never said I love you to each other or maybe they were traumatized by a past lover when they told them that they loved them and now they feel extra vulnerable with that wounding. Each relationship has a different flavor and needs, so over time, each person will add the authenticity of who they are and what they have to give and what they want to receive to/from the relationship. If I'm not giving you what you want, maybe I can learn what it is that you want. Maybe I actually want to learn what it is that you want and then actually start giving you more of whatever that is. And maybe you can learn to do that for me too.

The thing is, this is a lot of heady stuff and it takes a lot of work and mindfulness, so I realize why Dan Savage just told the person to get out. It's simple and maybe some people don't want to put that much energy into making a relationship better. But I'm a complicated person and I'm into sustaining my love relationships. I'm always looking at myself and reflecting on my part in the relationship and what I can do differently when my needs/desires aren't being met. Sometimes what I want is in conflict with something else I want. For instance, I have an Aphrodite Complex--I want to be loved and worshiped, adorned and revered. I want to be wanted and wanted BIG time, lusted after, dreamed of, and fervently missed. I want to be pursued, taken, claimed. But another thing that I want just as much (or almost as much) is to love another just as they are, and to receive their love in the way they are most comfortable giving it. Humm. Not always sure what to do with that one. I'm assuming there is a middle ground, perhaps a happy compromise. And obviously I need to be getting enough of what I want, a hardy dose of the good stuff, or I won't stick around.

But I also have this tendency to humble myself, to just hang out with my feelings for awhile and breathe. I try to just feel my feelings without attachment and getting caught up in my stories. I contemplate. And I really, really desire to accept another just as they are. So I often allow my ego to be busted and then I revel in that busting--all the while I'm suffering from the emotional torment. It's part of my spiritual journey and my path to enlightenment. And I recognize the value in this. Some of this is fine. Some of this is really good stuff even though it feels shitty. And I'm OK with continuing on this path... to a point.

Another thing is that I take a lot of personal responsibility. I'm always looking at myself. Not that I don't miss things in my self reflection because sometimes, for sure I do. But sometimes I take on personal responsibility and self reflection to a fault and I think this can create imbalance in a relationship. There are different levels of emotional abuse, or as Dan Savage called it, emotional torture, in a relationship. When is a person just being themselves and it's a good thing to just love and accept them as they are and when would it better serve that person to call them on their shit and in so doing offer them a greater opportunity to step up to the relationship plate and stop power tripping or withholding? This can be a very difficult call to make. And like Dan said, "You need to listen to your long pathetic whiny question and you need to decide that you don't want to be this whiny pathetic person, that you want to be with someone who isn't tormenting you emotionally."

I don't get into the victim mode all that often. This is all relative of course. I'm rarely whiny and pathetic because I find that persona quite annoying. But I do have the tendency to be attracted to, and to fall in love with, men who torment me emotionally (perhaps I should be more responsible and say men who trigger the torment that resides inside of me!) with certain behaviors or off the cuff comments. And these men tend to be big sweethearts. Gentle men who are kind and compassionate with generous hearts and lots of love to share. WTF???!!!

Does all this stem from my father abandoning me? I think it might, a good portion of it anyway. Does it matter where it came from? Probably not. Have I healed? Lots. What matters is that I continue doing my work.

Tell Me What Another Is.

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