Thursday, June 21, 2012

Shame. And Control.

You may have noticed that I am pretty good at calling out the Not So Nice's. But what about me? What did I contribute to the breakdown in a relationship with a NSN ? As it turns out: plenty.
As I delve into the issues surrounding male/female relationships I am beginning to see much more how patriarchy plays into the disintegration of (or failure to build) intimacy. When I say "patriarchy" I do NOT mean "boys are big, bad dudes and women are victims"; rather, I mean that this whole Darwinian, capitalist win/lose system of relating to other human beings serves neither party to an intimate relationship. Also, I, as a woman, have participated energetically in promulgating patriarchy all the while wondering why I was so bloody miserable.

So, I am dating again, and if I am to avoid the same mistakes of the past, I have to conduct myself differently.

Hey, it would be easy to say "avoid sociopaths, alcoholics and men with psychotic tendencies" but that only takes care of one-half of the picture. What about me? What can I do to exist within a romantic relationship in a way that does not promote that fearful, out-of-control state of being that typified my relationships past?

The first thing I have to acknowledge about the relationships was how much "should-ing" there was going on. In each of my relationships (and with increasing intensity, naturally) there was shame in the foundation. I married Hee Haw very fact, we eloped. I had a serious case of proving myself to the world. That we weren't too young, that the elopement did not undermine our union, etc. etc. My subsequent two relationships also had significant shame. The dating relationship started (unbeknownst to me) while he was still married. I uncovered the truth and ended it, but we then "tried" again after his divorce, and I was always ashamed. And finally, Assmonkey and I got pregnant before we got serious. Shame.

But why did I feel shame? I think I felt it because of the way I was deviating from the patriarchy-proscribed feminine ideal. No white dress and violin quartet for me! Elopement, adultery, pregnant out of wedlock...I pretty much hit all the no-no's. But who says they are a no? Looked at differently, you could say "young love that won't be denied"; I was not a willing participant in infidelity; and, the pregnancy was very much desired, if not planned. So I internalized being less-than, and subsequently believed that I had something to make up for in the relationships. I tried to spin it. I tried to control it, because it seemed so out of control. And them.

The biggest lie I bought into was that I could and should make him happy.  With my appearance, with the way I kept a home, in how I conducted myself publicly and even in my profession. Because I believed I should make him happy, I believed I could. And because I believed I could I took responsibility for his happiness, which meant I was trying to control his experience. Meanwhile, NSN's like nothing more than to make a Nice Gal "wrong" and so these dudes were constantly moving the target. It's a pretty shitty way to live.

I can recall (now with laughter) the regular Tuesday night (our dine-out night) conversation I'd have with Hee Haw.

HH: Where do you want to go for dinner?

Embee: (thinking frantically...did HH drop any hints about where he wants to go? Does he seem like he's in a Chinese mood? Or Mexican? I have to get this right!) Let's get Chinese.

HH: No.

Embee: Ok, how about Mexican?

HH: No.

Embee: Well, what are you in the mood for?

HH: I don't care. Whatever you choose.

That's a minor event but it typified our dynamic: he, demanding, insatiable and uncommunicative, I: fearful, anxious and oblivious to the futility of trying to please him. The name of his game was "make Embee feel like shit" while mine was "make HeeHaw happy." He could thwart my objective unilaterally, whilst simultaneously achieving his. I was dependant upon him to achieve my objective.

So, in a good relationship, I know that I must not be making efforts towards keeping/making someone happy. I will have to resist the urge to morph into my perception of his desire, and proceed with the possibility of his being displeased. Importantly also, I must be aware of and attendant to my own needs and wants.

So that should be easy. Right?

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