Posts tagged with "relationships"

it's complicated

At the very least, theirs was a friend­ship of unusu­al ardor.

Terms like “acquain­tance”, “friend”, and “lover” tend to denote defined roles. This makes for con­ve­nient social con­structs, where we have an idea of the nature of the rela­tion­ship, even when not direct­ly involved. Responsibilities of one group — care, affec­tion, respect, com­mit­ment, trust, will to coop­er­ate — don’t often over­lap with anoth­er. When they do, terms like “work wife” or “friend with ben­e­fits” might be used; re-char­ac­ter­i­za­tions of pre­vi­ous terms for a lack of bet­ter ones1.

It took me longer than I’d like to admit before I real­ized how rarely rela­tion­ships can be so neat­ly labelled. Not every “friend” con­sid­ers it an hon­our to be trust­ed with the spare set of house keys (and would I real­ly con­sid­er them a friend if they’re not to be relied on in an emer­gency?). Not every roman­tic part­ner is inter­est­ed in exclu­siv­i­ty or com­mit­ment. Not every sex­u­al encounter goes as far as pen­e­tra­tion, or even con­tact (which is why it’s pos­si­ble to have an affair of the heart).

Suffering the loss of many impor­tant peo­ple has also taught me that rela­tion­ships often evolve, as we grow and cir­cum­stances change. Whether it was due to some break­ing point or sim­ply the pas­sage of time, most of my sig­nif­i­cant rela­tion­ships have come and gone. Now I can’t help but tread care­ful­ly when I’m about to invest my emo­tions in some­one, whether that means pri­or­i­tiz­ing them in my life, open­ing up with my secrets, or let­ting myself like them; that’s when I’m as scared of being hurt as I am of los­ing them.

  1. I’ve seen “meta­mour” defined as a per­son who’s in an inti­mate (roman­tic or sex­u­al) rela­tion­ship with an inti­mate part­ner of yours, but I like to use it as a catchall for any­one who falls between cat­e­gories. Perhaps if English was a rich­er lan­guage, there’d be less ostra­ciza­tion of uncon­ven­tion­al arrange­ments or needs. []

Six Feet Deep

WARNING: Massive spoil­ers ahead.

An old girl­friend intro­duced me to Six Feet Under more than a decade ago, but it turned into such a grind that I man­aged to fin­ish the series only last week. There’s a lot of com­plex dra­ma with­out sta­bil­i­ty to bal­ance it out, a lot more ten­sion than res­o­lu­tion. One of the most com­mon themes is char­ac­ters seek­ing hap­pi­ness in all the wrong places, just to escape the depress­ing real­i­ty of their lives, and usu­al­ly end­ing up worse for it.

Ruth, George, and Maggie

For your infor­ma­tion, Miss High-and-Mighty, this is life. People have crises. They push each other’s but­tons. They inflict pain on one anoth­er. And once in a fuck­ing blue moon, they bring out the best in each oth­er. But most­ly, they bring out the worst.”

It was­n’t easy to get through five sea­sons of peo­ple mak­ing ter­ri­ble deci­sions in their rela­tion­ships, and watch­ing those deci­sions haunt them lat­er.

Continue read­ing “Six Feet Deep”…

can we speak in flowers?

Tiana recent­ly shared this great arti­cle with me. It’s writ­ten as a guide for per­son­al growth with­in one’s rela­tion­ships, but I find myself well famil­iar with the con­cepts it cov­ers; being account­able, empa­thet­ic, grate­ful, intro­spec­tive, and respon­si­ble are all things that tend to come nat­u­ral­ly to me. I’ve also been active­ly work­ing on (or strug­gling with) being more patient, for­giv­ing, resilient, autonomous, and opti­mistic in the last few years1.

Instead, I use this check­list as a reminder of the qual­i­ties I should be seek­ing in oth­ers. If I’m going to invest any of myself into some­one else — whether that’s time, ener­gy, or feel­ings — they should have a gen­er­al com­pre­hen­sion, if not a cer­tain lev­el of com­pe­ten­cy, in all these areas. I’m no longer in a place to teach some­one how to be hon­est about their emo­tions, take respon­si­bil­i­ty for their actions, or lis­ten with intent.

It’s dif­fi­cult to let go of this basic expec­ta­tion when I’ve already done a fair amount of work on myself to under­stand and prac­tice these ideas. Spending time with any­one who reminds me of the per­son I used to be makes me feel like I’m regress­ing, and it does­n’t take long before I lose inter­est in their com­pa­ny. At this point, I’m doing every­thing I can to move for­ward, and that means being involved with peo­ple who are already good at rela­tion­ships2. It’s so much eas­i­er for me to let down my guard and give myself whol­ly to some­one when I have a mutu­al foun­da­tion to work with.

  1. Others may have the abil­i­ty to devel­op such skills by them­selves, while I need the guid­ance of a ther­a­pist, as some of my trau­ma is too severe for me to view cer­tain sit­u­a­tions clear­ly. []
  2. Something that gen­er­al­ly requires a fair amount of intel­li­gence, insight, matu­ri­ty, depth, and ambi­tion. I used to won­der why I felt strong con­nec­tions with cer­tain peo­ple until I real­ized this. []

to drink all damage into love

My three-year anniver­sary with Heather came and went with­out fan­fare or cer­e­mo­ny (or even notice, on my part). Our time togeth­er went by in a blink; being chron­i­cal­ly sin­gle for me, and trapped in an abu­sive rela­tion­ship for her, made the three years pri­or to that feel like an eter­ni­ty by com­par­i­son for each of us. It was only halfway through that I real­ized part of me was keep­ing her at a sig­nif­i­cant dis­tance.

When we first start­ed spend­ing time togeth­er, I was drawn most to her inno­cence. The way she viewed the world with an open mind1 made me feel com­fort­able in a way I imme­di­ate­ly found attrac­tive. I could tell her calm demeanour belied a dark­ness though; she knew a tremen­dous amount of pain in her short life, and that made her the same kind of old soul as me. Still, I nev­er dared imag­ine things may work out between us, cause my pre­vi­ous lover was com­plete­ly unex­pect­ed in both the com­ing and going, and the expe­ri­ence left me raw. Somewhat con­verse­ly, I was also too numb to believe any­thing was real. It was only a cou­ple weeks after Heather entered my life that I tried to hang myself, and sur­viv­ing meant every­thing felt posthu­mous.

Continue read­ing “to drink all dam­age into love”…

  1. I relate it to the con­cept of an “uncar­ved block” or “pu” in Taoism: a state of recep­tive­ness, before the taint of expe­ri­ence, that gives one the poten­tial to see things with­out judg­ment or prej­u­dice. []

escape artist

Suzanne is forty years old and has nev­er had a close rela­tion­ship. She spends most of her spare time read­ing books and brows­ing the web. Suzanne is most com­fort­able with casu­al, friend­ly rela­tion­ships where noth­ing very per­son­al is dis­cussed.

Suzanne is mar­ried to a man who is out of touch with his feel­ings. He’s more inter­est­ed in being mar­ried than in being mar­ried to Suzanne par­tic­u­lar­ly. He has few friends, and does not expect close­ness from Suzanne. He wants a woman just so he can ful­fill the con­ven­tion­al role of hus­band. Their rela­tion­ship is based on tra­di­tion­al roles, not on real inti­ma­cy. They rarely con­fide in each oth­er.

Suzanne has smoked mar­i­jua­na her entire adult life. She insists that she is not addict­ed — she tells her­self she only does it for recre­ation, and that she has con­trol. Besides using drugs on a reg­u­lar basis, she tends to drink in set­tings when she does­n’t feel as social­ly capa­ble as oth­ers.

Suzanne became depressed, but was not in touch with her feel­ings of aban­don­ment and defec­tive­ness. She spent much of her life mak­ing sure she was not in touch, and try­ing to escape her feel­ings.

Continue read­ing “escape artist”…