I once had an ex who never once laid a hand on me because he was taught that a gentleman would never do such a thing, and as such, he considered himself a gentleman. He did, however, emotionally abuse me. He had never learned not to emotionally abuse someone and although this was ultimately his failing and not his parents, it persisted in our relationship because I was also never taught to reject emotional abuse and recognize it for what it was. For me, I was always fiercely vocal about my opinions and let him know when he did something wrong like punch a hole in the wall or yell at me in front of strangers like I was a child. Because I thought I addressed the situation, I didn’t see myself as being emotionally abused and he had no idea that is what he was doing.
Emotional abuse can take many forms, and in my case, he was very verbal in telling me how I did things wrong, how I needed to conform to his liking, and isolated me from others who may have told me differently. I wanted the relationship to work so badly that I ignored all these signs and stayed, but advocated for myself as well. I developed a small gambling habit because it took my mind off my troubles and I realize now that if it starts up again, there is something else in my life that I’m avoiding. He was always unhappy with me, but I know now that it was because he was very unhappy with who he was and instead, projected it unto me and that he wanted to make me as miserable as he was so he could feel better about himself. The abuse is never about the victim. It’s about what is happening to the abuser, but they make the victim feel as if it is their fault.
I now have a son and know that this something I must teach him. First off, emotional abuse is abuse and just because you don’t hit a woman does not mean you’re a good man if you’re still berating them. Secondly, I think we need to teach our boys how to handle rejection, what self-reflection is, and most importantly, build their self-worth. The truth is, many boys may have a high self-esteem in that they see themselves worthy of more, but some of them feel as if they don’t deserve it and this causes them to lash out. They may be able to get the job or the girl because they see they are worthy of, but deep down, they may feel as if they don’t really deserve it, so they sabotage themselves by losing what they got. Of course, not all boys are like this, but I guarantee you that the ones who are abusive are and if we don’t address this issue when they are young, it will only grow larger as they do.
We hear that question a lot. How do you have a successful marriage? In the midst of any marriage, no two people can answer that question because a successful marriage only occurs when they are both dead and still married to each other. A successful marriage means that you remain together through thick and thin and never part, but that shouldn’t be what we should focus on. Instead of focusing on an enduring marriage, we should focus on if we are happy in the moment in our relationships. Oftentimes, we may even think we are successful and there are celebrities who write books about how well their marriages are going only for the relationship to disintegrate right after the book is published.
We then ask what happened? What happened is that relationships are organic and people and circumstances change. We should not judge a relationship by it’s longevity, but instead what is happening in the moment with the couple. Are you both happy? Content? Respectful? If you are in that moment, that is all that matters. For the thing is, that could all change overnight due to no fault of your own. Does that mean that you should stay in a bad relationship for the rest of your life because that is the picture of perfection we’ve been told all our lives? The truth is, it is better to be divorced and happy than it is to be married until you die and miserable.
People change and so do relationships and that is okay. What isn’t okay is staying together because society tells you that is what you’re supposed to do. A successful relationship is organic and ever changing. If it means you separate because that is the healthy thing to do, you have completed the transition into a successful non-romantic relationship. It’s time we start thinking about what success means to us and how it can ultimately ruin our lives if we let it consume us. If success is vindication that you out-lived the nay-sayers, your relationship may not be as stable as you’d imagine. However, if your definition of success depends on how you treat each other and how you value each other’s opinions and happiness, you may see that your definition is all that matters.
There is a scene in the recent movie Prometheus, where a human being asks why their creator created them and they seem to go on a unnecessary and unneeded journey to answer those burning questions. Although this scene may appear innocuous and superfluous at first, it really resonates with me relating to a deep-seated desire that is embedded in the human psyche. I believe we all have a God-Complex. We adore our maker, want to please them, and desire to know our purpose. We are always asking why we are here and exactly why we are the special one. However, the God-Complex becomes something far more convoluted when we see our parents as our creators.
When we see our parents as our creators, we imbue them with god-like qualities that they may or may not deserve. We spend our whole lives, in essence, worshiping and trying to appease them. For some of us, we scorn our parents with a passion and try to disappoint them. Those are two sides of the same coin, for we are acting in a way that we can get a reaction from them. We crave their love and acceptance, and when we don’t get it, we feel empty and lost. If we don’t get their unconditional love, we seek it out from our partners, who can only love us conditionally as any healthy, romantic relationship can. We make our parents into these omnipotent beings who have so much power over us, when in fact, they are but mere mortals with faults such as our own.
There is a danger in seeing our parents as gods, for we seek acceptance from them that they may not be able to provide. There is no way to reverse this God-Complex as it is ingrained in our DNA, but we may be better able to overcome our childhood traumas by recognizing this idea instead of placing our parents on a pedestal. Some of our parents do deserve to be on a pedestal, some deserve no contact with us, but most of them are guilty of at least one foible and we must learn to not hold them to the same standards of gods. When we do that, we will always be disappointed by them. Although we can’t change our God-Complex, we can come to understand it and how it affects us growing up.
Perhaps then, we do not need to make unnecessary and unneeded journeys to ask what our purpose is and why we were created. You may be planned, an accident, or an act of rape, but the circumstances of your conception and birth do not explain who you are. Whether you were loved or unwanted affects you greatly, but it does not explain who you are either. Who you are is dependent on how you view and understand yourself. Once you see that your self-identity is not contingent on your birth, you may free yourself from the chains that hold you back.
In many relationships, we find ourselves at stagnant points and we secretly dream about what it would be like to be with an ex or another person whom we could’ve been with. I recently read something that if you have had many partners, this may hinder your ability to be happy with your current relationship. This came as a shock to me because I’ve always felt that it helps to have multiple partners, for it can show you what you really want in a mate and help you appreciate what you do have. However, there are many who do not feel this way. Those who think often about ‘the other woman’ do so because of inadequacies in their personal lives, their relationship, or themselves. When this happens, they tend to dream about a different life and a different path that may have played out.
What this does is that it causes a larger rift in your current relationship. You will slowly disengage from your partner because you feel as if you are missing out. You will constantly think about this other person and build them into someone they never really were in real life. They are but a shadow of someone you knew, and yet, the dream is ever so enticing. It’s easy to blame your current situation and romanticize the past as a form of escapism, but it does not help anyone. The truth is, there is no knowing what would’ve happened if you had actually continued on in that path, but the fact that you keep obsessing over it prevents you from enjoying and appreciating what you currently have. If you don’t let these obsessions go, they will consume you and your future. You will always feel cheated and angry that life did not deliver what you thought it promised.
The truth is: life has never promised you anything. It never promised you a soul mate. If you keep holding on to the idea that you are owed these things, you will always feel resentful towards yourself, your life, and your current partner. If you are able to accept life for what it is, you will be able to enjoy it for what it is. Oftentimes, we are secretive people who live in our own thoughts, rarely sharing them with our partner. We dream of another time and place where our life could be instead of admitting that we are not happy with where we are. If you are not happy with your partner, confront those feelings. If you are not happy with your life, ask why. If you are not happy with yourself, change how you view yourself. Change what you can, and what you can’t change, change how you view it. Oftentimes, that is the only change we really need.
I’m nearing that age where the talk of marriage looms indefinitely in the air. My friends and family ask if this is a thing that will ever come to fruition. I tell them no, that marriage is not in the future for me; not because I don’t want it, but because my relationship does not warrant it. My partner does not desire to be married and we’ve had long talks about it, but it is not something he would like to do. I’ve pestered him to the point where he has said, “if you really want to get married, I guess I’ll marry you.” And that was when I realized that I don’t want to marry someone just for the idea of getting married. I had to re-evaluate what my needs were and gauge it against the needs of my partner.
I asked myself what was really in a marriage. Some people think a marriage will tie a neat bow on a present and that is the end of it. I get it. They want me to be ‘settled’ and happy, but even those who are married are not guaranteed happiness. No one is. As a child, I’ve always had plans of being married in a beautiful, white gown. Being proposed to. Taking engagement photos. Having a wedding song to dance to. I’ve had to acknowledge that it is incredibly sad to let those dreams go, but at the same time, I’ve seen that it was simply that: an idea. The idea of marriage is to bond two people romantically and legally, but it does not guarantee that that marriage will work out.
I know that he will not leave me. I know that he would not cheat on me to the best of his abilities. I know he would stay by my side if I got sick. I know he would stay by deathbed and hold my hand when I am old and fragile like the dreams I hold on to. These are tangible things that I know will happen. Being married does not necessarily grant that these things will happen, but we all like to hope that it does. In my case, I would not want to force someone to marry me just because I thought it was socially appropriate to do so. If marriage was important enough for me, I would simply leave, but I would never press that person into an entanglement they did not desire.
There are more and more people who are staying unmarried in committed relationships. Perhaps it is because of the economy. A telling sign of the times. Or the changing morals and values they carry. Or lastly, I want to believe it is because the notion of marriage is changing. When you are looking at a 50% divorce rate, do you blindly put on that ring, or do you search out if you truly have a solid foundation to stand on? It seems many people whose relationships are faltering are buying into the idea of marriage, but they have not investigated if they are truly ready for the commitment or even try to invest time in trying to build the relationship from the ground up. Often enough, they are broken individuals who are searching for something to make them whole, and finding it never does until they are whole themselves. For me, I have a solid base from which to build on, and if a marriage happens, I would be happy, but if it does not, I will be just fine. So you don’t have to ask anymore.
There are those of us who wonder why they keep choosing the wrong person every time. There could be a plethora of reasons why, but in most cases, it is because they themselves are also damaged in some way, so they seek out partners who are also damaged because picking a partner who isn’t damaged will point out their glaring faults and the fact that they actually need to work on themselves. When the other person is just as damaged, they do not need to look within themselves as to what they need to work on, but rather project all their problems onto their other half, and exclaim that if only this person shaped up, their lives would be much better, when in fact, the majority of these individuals will go on to choose the same type of partner if they never own up to what is in their past.
Sometimes, when someone who is more well-adjusted gets in a relationship with a person who is damaged, they will try to fix them. A damaged person will always let you know that you are too good for them. They do not say it with words, but with their actions. If they belittle you all the time, they are trying to lower your self-esteem and bring you down to their ‘perceived’ level. If they ever cheat on you, they are letting you know that you are too good for them and that they are giving you an opportunity to leave. You can never fix a damaged person unless the person in question wants to be fixed. Oftentimes, that person is in denial about who they are and will bring you down to make themselves feel better. The best thing you can do for them is to leave, which will cause them to become more introspective, but if you stay, they have no reason to change.
I hate when famous people break up and they show a clip from 2005 where the couple says they are very happy and content in their marriage. And inevitable, the commentary goes the way of ‘perhaps she was covering something up because now they are divorced,’ not taking into consideration that the initial clip was from 10 years ago. And those who view the relationship through their own eyes try to analyze the demise of a relationship they know little of. Perhaps they were never happy. Perhaps he cheated. Perhaps people like to make up stuff to fit narratives in their heads. People refuse to see that relationships are organic and change over time. Just because they were happy in that moment in time does not guarantee that it will stay like that forever. People change and situations change and in turn, the dynamics of the relationship change.
People want to know what led to the break up so they can feel satisfied in knowing what happened, but they seldom care about the individuals themselves. If we view success as never breaking up, how do we react to those who can’t leave a bad relationship? The demise of a relationship means the relationship ended, but it doesn’t mean the person lost. Oftentimes, we view break ups with a victor and a loser and love to assign blame, but in actuality, break ups can be one of the most healthy things to happen in a relationship. It is nothing to be ashamed of or looked down on. It is also none of anyone’s business what happened in that relationship except for the two who were in it. Just like relationships are organic, so are we as human beings. We are growing and learning all the time, and perhaps, we can learn to be a little more understanding.