Friday, February 01, 2013

Reflections on Love and Hostage-Taking. (But Mostly Love)

It’s February.  And where February is, can Valentine’s Day be far behind?  I should say not. 

Maybe it’s because it’s February, or maybe it’s just the beginning of a new year.  I’ve been thinking much lately of love and partnering and loneliness and aloneness.  The latter two are not necessarily the same thing.  It is possible to fly solo without feeling lonely.  I know, because I’ve done it a fair amount of my life. 

I’ve been single more than I’ve been partnered, and it has become an easy place for me to live.  When I was young, I used to dream of having “someone”… someone who loved me, who told me daily how special I was, how needed I was, how vital I was to their happiness and joy.  And when I was young, I found any number of “someones” who were more than willing to tell me those things – not necessarily because they were true, but because I needed to hear them.  In time, though, you find that not only do most “someones” not need you to be special or to provide them with their happiness and joy, you’d prefer they were complete enough on their own to not require this of you. 

It’s a terrible burden, completing someone else. Especially if you’re not quite complete your own damn self. Solitude offers a relief from the heavy lifting of a relationship. 

The biggest relief of being on one’s own is that you’re not constantly disappointing someone. My relationships start as most people's do -- full of hope and promise and titillating excitement and anticipation.  My quirky humor is appreciated and deemed "unique" and "bold" and "intelligent".  My strengths are overemphasized (as are his), my weaknesses overlooked (as are his).

I suppose reality becomes an interloper in every idealized relationship.  But reality seems to hit mine harder, with more intense results.  I have reported in the past that I ended my longest relationship with someone because I was being actively “unloved”.  The unloving wasn’t accidental, or a by-product of interest or love lost.  It was calculated, and a way of trying to control my behavior.  This is, I believe, where my intense resistance to being controlled and manipulated comes from.  Of all the weapons a person can use in their emotional arsenal against a partner, I find the threat to withdraw love the most insidious and least forgiveable.

“Do it my way, or I will treat you every day as if I do not love you until you do it my way.”

This is the most frightening thing about agreeing to love someone again.  It’s that they can use your own heart as a hostage against you, holding it at knifepoint until you agree to their terms.  I think there should be a law.  Hell, there probably is one somewhere.  In Canada, or Scandanavia, where such goings-on are probably frowned upon.  But here, where I live, it’s an every day occurrence, so commonplace, most people don’t even see it when it’s happening to them.

It makes me shy of love, of intimacy.  Love used to be something I looked at as a safe haven.  If you loved someone, you were their soft place, their sanctuary.  You were the place they could come to feel tended and cared for and looked after.  Not in a mothering sense, but in the sense that you became someone they could go to and be themselves, without fear of judgement or reprisal. 

Now I see love as some place sharp and dark and a little scary.  I used to close my eyes and imagine love to be a place of light and hope. Now I close my eyes and see it as a place of risk of devastation.  I’ve been devastated. And I’ve come back from it. The question is, can I be devastated again and still recover?  How many more devastations do I have it in me to survive?

I have no idea. 

I do believe I am a difficult person to love.  I think my own family – the birth one – struggles regularly with loving me. I mean, if people you grew up with and/or gave birth to can't love you easily, then you have to be that difficult to love. I’m not sure why this is.  Maybe it’s because I’m guarded and withdrawn.  Maybe it’s just because I’m kind of a selfish bitch.  It’s not intentional. And these unlovable qualities about me I’m not sure I can change. 

So maybe, in the end, alone is better, if for no other reason than I can limit my exposure to the disappointment of others and limit their exposure to the qualities in me that make me so hard to love.  At least until I find out how to fix what remains so deeply broken inside of me.

Maybe the trick to love is finding someone who finds my unlovable qualities just the very thing he’s been looking for in a woman.  I estimate there are probably 47 men ever born in the entire history of the planet who find my innately annoying characteristics attractive.  With any luck, one of them… just one… is alive on the planet right now. Preferably somewhere in this hemisphere.

Hope springs eternal. 

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