?

Log in

Taking Stock, Taking Responsibility - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

[ Website | Edifice Rex Online ]
[ Info | livejournal userinfo ]
[ Archive | journal archive ]

Links
[Links:| EdificeRex Online ]

Taking Stock, Taking Responsibility [Oct. 9th, 2006|04:17 pm]
Young Geoffrey
[Tags|, , ]

I've been contemplating this post - or rather, a less confused variant of it - for a few days now.

Outside of work (where I've been feeling somewhat overwhelmed), last week was a very good one, particularly towards the end of it. I had a lovely (and surprisingly late) evening with one of you, and then on Friday received a surprise call from my ex, asking if I wanted to get together. (No, not that ex - this one, Siya!

Siya and I talked and laughed and got nicely caught-up with one another for the first time since last winter. (That she opened the evening by repeatedly exclaiming, "You look so good!" of course helped things get off on the right foot as far as I was concerned. Nothing like a smart blazer and dropping 25 pounds.)

It really is good to get out into the world again, although I would prefer to start meeting women who don't currently have a boyfriend. But I digress.

* * *


Despite - or, perhaps, because of - my increasing sense of well-being over the past few weeks, I believe I have developed a deeper perspective on What Went Wrong between Laura and I.

I have come to believe my earlier, "Laura-bad/Geoffrey poor-victim", interpretation was, not so much wrong, as very imcomplete. Outside of a surprise attack or a concerted campaign, victims are seldom if ever wholly innocent. Rather - like the stereotycal battered woman forever making excuses for his curses and slaps - the victim plows the soil from which his (or her) victimization will bloom.

In my case, from the day Laura moved in, I never took a stand (or, when I did, I did not follow through with consequences). And from the day she moved in, she pushed the limits of what we had agreed would be our living arrangements.

I think one example will suffice to illustrate my point.

Come June, we agreed she would take a summer-school course and that she would look for a part-time job. Until she found work, she was to be the house-keeper - cleaning and laundry and picking up after the cats, along with some cooking was the deal as I recall it.

She didn't look for work to speak of and she also never lifted a finger around the house. I complained, but I did nothing about it. I laid down no ultimatums, nor did I insist she do the laundry on Saturday morning; instead, I told myself, "She's young, she'll come around," and did it myself. Instead of telling her to fucking do the dishes (as she had agreed!), mostly ... I did them myself. In the moment, I told myself it was easier to spend 20 minutes acquiring a new case of dishpan hands than "creating" conflict. Instead of coming home from work and smelling the reek coming from the cat-box ... (yeah, you know what's coming next) I did it myself.

This made me angry, yes, but impotently so.

As things were falling apart this past spring and summer, as I was actually begining to confront her about this, that and the other thing, I told her more than once, "You don't treat me with respect!"

And it's true, she didn't.

But from her point of view, why should she have? I had drawn one line in the sand after the other and, when she crossed each one, there were no (obvious) consequences. At worst, I bitched and moaned, then took her word for it that she would "try to do better", and we would retreat to our room for make-up sex.

I told her what I wanted and what I wanted from her, but I didn't act as if I really cared. Why wouldn't she start going out without me? Why wouldn't she start staying out until dawn? Why wouldn't she screw around on me? Every time I told her "No" about something, and she did it anyway, my actions told her it didn't matter, that I loved her anyway.

From her perspective, I was a wimp; not a nice guy, but a wimp, someone she could walk all over. In retrospect, it's not surprise that she lost respect for me - by the end, I think she respected my abilities in the bedroom and my intellect (sort of - I didn't exactly write a lot while we were together), but little else. Certainly not my needs, desires or wants.

Some people will use a push-over, but no one respects him. And Laura actually said as much (if not quite in such clear terms) on more than one occasion. She wanted me to tell her to clearn up, to come home; she wanted me to make her respect her by being a man she could respect. And I wasn't that man for her. Instead, I let everything go by, forgave every transgression if only she would promise to "try" better next time.

Practically - by my actions - my message was simply that she could do what she wanted, when she wanted, and that I would still love her.

Craziness.

If something is important to you, you do something about it, or no outside observer will believe it really is important to you.

For a smart boy, I seem to really need to be beat over the head with some basic human psychology. Well, I suppose I'm better-prepared for next time.
linkReply

Comments:
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-10-10 10:08 am (UTC)

Battered Anology

Yes, but I would never blamed a battered woman for being abused. It's always the abuser's fault.

No, the batterer is to blame. At the same time, the recipient of abuse is responsible for not walking out the door. We can look at the situation and find reasons why she/he did not - he loved her, he thought this time she really meant it when she said she would change, he was afraid, etc - but the door is always there, asking, "Why don't you just leave?"

(Mind you, I realize drawing analogies is always risky. There is a non-trivial difference between psychological and physical abuse.)

As for jeans, anytime after Friday. Just name the day.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-10-10 11:30 pm (UTC)

Re: Battered Anology

You got mixed up with a manipulator. That is all.

Of maybe - and this is possibility I am exploring - I got involved with someone who had manipulative tendencies that I encouraged, but my consistent willingness to "let" her do what was easy for her in the moment. In other words, no matter what I said, my actions rewarded her (in)actions.

Would you rather be a rigid, unforgiving bastard and slam the iron fist down on your girlfriend's every transgression? I don't think that's very conducive to a happy relationship, either.

No, it's not. But I am hypothesizing that I doomed the relationship by pretty much never taking a stand (mere bitching and moaning isn't a stand if you don't do something if the b&m doesn't in itself do the trick).

...but, really, what consequences could you have enforced? "Do the dishes or I'll dump you!" It even sounds petty.

That's an excellent question, and one that occurred to me more than once. What it took me a very long time to see, was that there was a whole pattern of disrespect; because most of the individual examples seemed petty, I did nothing about them. If I had presented a pattern, I might have had a case on which to put my foot.

Okay, so maybe I'm showing my youth and naivete here, but I still believe that it's better to be a good person and forgive easily than to be, well, a rigid and unforgiving bastard (Richard Dawkins agrees with me on that one).

I agree entirely. If may be that Laura needs/wants an "unforgiving bastard", in which case our relationship would also have been doomed; that isn't the kind of role I want to play in any relationship.

I guess the hard part is to find someone who's equally good and forgiving to spend your life with.

So far, finding someone to spend my life with has been the Impossible Dream. Maybe what I should be looking for is something polyamorous. Or maybe I shouldn't be "looking" at all.

Maybe, maybe, maybe ...

(Thursday isn't good. Nothing's good 'till Friday, really. Are you busy Sunday? Or else it'll have to be next week.)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-10-10 11:31 pm (UTC)

Re: Battered Anology

Jesus, I can babble on.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-10-11 12:29 am (UTC)

Re: Battered Anology

You're quite right about the majority of 19 year-olds of course; I did think that Laura was one of the exceptions. I think she may well have associated me with her father - who, from what she told me, was the parent who spoiled her; her mom was the disciplinarian.

Anyway, don't be sorry for being psychoanalitic; not only am I an egotist, but you have interesting things to say. Maybe I should try again in a few years - but I suspect we'll both have moved on by that point (in my case at my age, I sure as hell hope so!).

In any case, next Thursday should be fine; I've added you to my calendar and will give you fair warning if my mother's impending visit (on Wednesday) looks to extend longer than expected.

Now, stop procrastinating!

And don't expect much in the way of (good) advice regarding the concert. I'll tell you what I think but take it with a grain of salt; I've never dressed for a show, and my tastes lately (for the ladies) tend toward the inordinately slutty-looking.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-10-11 02:11 am (UTC)

Re: Battered Anology

Well, reaching back to my youth, I always had a soft spot</i> hard on for those might-be dykes, who wore Doc Marten, faded jeans and men's button-up shirts. (I was in heaven when they'd eschew a bra.)

Possibly, in 9 days, I will be able to offer you something useful, especially if you divulge such small details as: what kind of concert, who will be there with you, why you haven't invited me, what band/musican/symphony will headline, and what will you be doing afterwards? Tea with your dad? A speak-easy ("blind-pig"; see "booze-can") with your fella?

Details matter. Without, when a beautiful woman asks my sartorial advice, "slutty" is the default response.

(I also procrastinate, in case you're wondering.)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-10-11 02:11 am (UTC)

Re: Battered Anology

Gah! Curse those un-closed HTML tags. Well, I suppose it's legible.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-10-11 08:53 pm (UTC)

Re: Battered Anology

200 smackers is a bit much to pay for a band whose work I don't know. Pity, though; my Inner Pervert likes the idea of being an escort to 5 young women, even if they are too conservative to accept my idiocyncrasies.

That said, if you plan on dancing, I would recommend something solid - preferably steel-toed - in the shoe department. Other than that, I'll do my best in the esthetic department next Thursday.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sooguy
2006-10-10 05:24 am (UTC)
Glad you learned some sort of lesson from that as painful as it was.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-10-10 10:09 am (UTC)

Learning Lessons

I hope I've really learned them. This isn't the first time I've made excuses for someone when I shouldn't have (though in both the other cases, the situations - and the excuses - were very different).
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: thefuriouscynic
2006-10-10 12:15 pm (UTC)
We should drink beer while I'm in town. Email me!

evanschr AT interchange DOT ubc DOT ca
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-10-10 12:45 pm (UTC)

Consider Yourself Emailed

That's a superb suggestion. I hope we'll even drink beer together.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: colinmarshall
2006-10-10 02:39 pm (UTC)
Reminds me of one of the most golden pieces of wisdom I've ever received: according to a friend of a friend, "Sometimes a woman just has to be told."
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-10-10 10:37 pm (UTC)

Not Just "a woman"

Coincidentally, someone recently sent me a book by a self-help guru of whom I had previously been ignorant.

I have read only about a third of the book over the last couple of days, and it seems - to be largely ignorant eyes - to be a pretty standard example of the Men-are-from-Mars, Women-from-Venus school of thought: men retional, women emotional, etc.

What struck me was how much what he has so far discussed could (I won't yet say it does) apply to my relationship with Laura.

That said, I am of the (shaken, but still standing) opinion that the differences between individual men and women (or individual men and men, etc) are far greater than such generalizations can possibly address.

On the other hand, I know that most people seem to agree with your friend. It may be that I just don't want to believe that women are so much different than I am. I don't want to partner myself with someone whose thought and emotional processes are so different from mine that I might as well be mating with an alien.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: miyyu
2006-10-11 12:44 am (UTC)
You are a very, very wise man. You realize how few people ever figure this kind of shit out? One of the wisest people I've ever met told me that in every situation, everyone who is involved is culpable, good or bad, in some way. It's always a question of degree. Once you own and know what your own culpability is -- well, then you have power over the situation. This same person also told me that whenever people are together, even disfunctionally, it's because they get something out of it, and on some level whatever that is has value (companionship, familiarity, sex, not-being-alone, whatever). It's only when they feel that what they are getting loses value that the disfuction becomes illuminated. I've never EVER forgotten that, and frankly it's changed my entire outlook on every kind of relationship I've had, romantic or otherwise.

So yes, you are are very wise man. Good for you.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-10-11 08:58 pm (UTC)

All I Know, Is that I Know Nothing

Thanks, I hope you're right (that I've figured this out, not that other people can't manage it).

One of the wisest people I've ever met told me that in every situation, everyone who is involved is culpable, good or bad, in some way.

If he or she was referring to everyday life, than I'll agree. However, such statements don't apply to situations where children are being blown up by bombers flying overhead, etc.

...whenever people are together, even disfunctionally, it's because they get something out of it, and on some level whatever that is has value...

Or, I would add, that they hope to get something out of it. Not to say that I didn't get some wonderful things from being with Laura (remember when I wanted to "shout my love from the rooftops"?), but I put up with the bad for so long in part because I hoped/believed that she would change - quite probably another lesson to take to heart.

Anyway, thanks for the kind words. I won't call myself wise, but I'll accept that I am a little less ignorant than I was.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: 10021
2006-10-14 09:18 pm (UTC)
It's good to see you thinking through it. However, this kind of thing you're resolving to do next time is all easier said than done. It was a Catch-22. For obvious reasons, it was better to view both parties as being adults. It seems harder to believe that, though, looking in hindsight and seeing the pattern of behaviour of an adult head of household and a stereotypically lazy and rebellious teen. I think she may have been less of an adult than you both thought.

That being said, not many people want to behave as adults. I'm 41 and still struggling. It's so much easier to be the spoiled brat, if I'm allowed to do so. It's not like I volunteer to do the dishes, either.

If you're into the self-help kind of thing, one book that made me think was "Passionate Marriage" by David Schnarch. I didn't always agree with the author, but it did make me think. I recommend it to you.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-10-16 11:14 pm (UTC)

Catch-22? Maybe Not

...It seems harder to believe that, though, looking in hindsight and seeing the pattern of behaviour of an adult head of household and a stereotypically lazy and rebellious teen. I think she may have been less of an adult than you both thought.

Quite possible. Although, I made a very conscious effort to not play the role of the "head of household". Whatever my faults and mistakes when it comes to women, I don't want to be the boss, but a give-and-take relationship between equals.

As for self-help books, I don't normally look to them. The last one I read, The Road Less Travelled (I forget the author's name), seemed fairly insightful at first, but at some point the author - a medical doctor, as I recall - made he clear he didn't understand the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and so completely destroyed his credibility with me.

Deida's book was mailed to me by a cousin, so I am reading it largely because of that fact. But I'll keep Schnarch's book in mind.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: rose_amethyst
2006-10-15 10:20 pm (UTC)
just letting you know you have a new friend.

hi!
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-10-16 11:15 pm (UTC)

Hello!

Welcome aboard; I've added you back.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: carnivalnights
2006-10-17 02:24 am (UTC)
I do not mean any offense by this, but those sound very much like the dynamics of a parent-child relationship. In fact, those are the dynamics of a parent-child relationship at some point or another. The parent justifies keeping quiet instead of confronting the child to avoid conflict. The parent allows the child to make promises they know will not be taken seriously. The child continues to cross lines and get away with everything, and eventually believes they entitled to get away with everything.

And I am sure this had a lot to do with her age. (In fact, I think she is even more immature than she should be at that age.) That is the thing about dating someone so much your junior. I think you need to date someone your age who is past all of that nonsense and knows what a real relationship requires and deserves. You should not need to tell someone to clean up, to come home, etc.

As for you... these are all things you can improve over time. Standing up for yourself is not always an easy thing to do. But at least you know what you do deserve, and you can work with that and try to remain conscious of your past mistakes in this area in order to avoid making them again.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-10-17 02:44 am (UTC)

Parent-Child or User-Sucker?

No offense taken.

In retrospect, the dynamics do resemple a parent-child relationship - but I don't think that's quite it.

Also in retrospect, I saw her use a couple of other people, then toss them aside when they were no longer useful to her.

Nevertheless, I hope (for her sake; I'm no longer in the equation, and am not likely to ever be again - once burned, twice shy, etc) you're right and that it had to do with her age more than anything else.

And I do hesitate to blame everything on the age-gap. I've dated younger women before (and older, as well), and the only other one who was as dishonest with me as Laura was a full-blown (secretive) alcoholic who subsequently threw herself off a bridge. (Can I pick 'em or can't I?)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)