About Me and Men
After doing a lot of couples counseling lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with men. I write this in an attempt to get more clear about where I’ve been and where I’m going. Warning: contains very vulnerable content.
Dad: Dad and I had a rocky start. He wasn’t abusive, there was no hitting or spanking, there was just the knowledge I carried, even as a very young child, that one false move and I would be the recipient of his anger. Make that rage. And his rage was that white hot silent type, where I would go slinking off to my room and wonder why I wasn’t good enough to be loved.
Well, now that I’m 52 and he’s almost 83, we’ve both done a lot of changing and shifting in our relationship. Over the years I’ve really seen my Dad step up and be there for me. I get it that he loves me and that he is doing his very best as a parent.
I think my most powerful learning around him was this: “Today is a good day to decide you’re never going to have a better childhood.” Regardless of the truth of what did or didn’t happen as a child, I made up stories about myself and my relationship with my Dad. These stories have affected every relationship with every man since.
Pretend Men: Yes, I had significant relationships with Pretend Men. Davy Jones from the Monkees, John-boy Walton, Illya Kuryakin, etc. You see, when I was a child I wrote “stories”… little did I know that this is what people now call “fanfiction” (I believe I’ve mentioned this before) I lived in my imagination for many, many years creating these alternate realities for me. I mention it here, because even these had an impact on my relationships with future men. I mean, if you can create what they say and do, and how they react in every given situation, then you would naturally expect them to do that in real life.
The First Boyfriend: Thaddeus Watson. Ah, I was smitten. He played the flute (still does in Germany). He was my best friend’s older brother. He was beautiful. And he liked me, kinda. You know, he was my first kiss. Get this: we went to Disneyland for some orchestra thing, and we rose the “Monsanto” ride (do you oldies remember the Monsanto: Journey into the Cell ride?) and he kissed me on the ride. Our “relationship” was on again off again for about three years, mostly intertwined with the drama of my Junior High experiences. Eventually we became friends and then drifted apart.
My main observation about him was that I longed (read “looooonnnnnggggged”) for him to love me, to approve of me, to give me some kind of validation that I was beautiful, deserving, etc. And you know how well that works.. NOT.
The Drought: During the years when most girls are dating and having a great time socially, I went through a very serious drought of relationships. All through college I went boyfriendless. Oh, I had friends, but didn’t date at all. Part of this was due to joining the LDS church… I wasn’t sure how to go about being with a boy, and the pressure to marry. It kinda messed with my mind.
There was one person who showed up during this time. He was indeed forbidden fruit. I met him on my mission, an Elder, and by some turn of fate we ended up serving together for about 5 months. We were great friends, totally on the same wavelength, and I even heard rumors that he had told companions that he was sure we’d marry when we got home.
Well, something really strange happened… after he got home and he came out to visit me, all my pent up affection for him just vanished. I have one particular instance in my mind where we had gone somewhere and were about to get on an escalator and he reached for my hand, and I pushed it away. What the hell? What was that about! I have replayed that and replayed that in mind. I get that was an absolute turning point from what might have been to what absolutely couldn’t be. Idiot. Shortly after that he left, met and married a girl (to whom he is still married). But I remember him writing me right after I got married and saying, “I don’t think my wife likes me… did we make a mistake?” To quote Frank Sinatra, “Regrets… I’ve had a few…”
Marriages: Because of I don’t want to discuss the men I have married, I will only say that I see the patterns I was running with each of them. They played the roles I set them up to play, and I have to take responsibility for that. I know I was always anticipating when I would “get into trouble” (i.e. do something to make them mad, just like Dad) or to play out my personal beliefs that I wasn’t lovable, good enough, etc. Another one of my favorite patterns I run is, “Men never show up for me.” Yeah, they all played into that one beautifully, and I helped them all along the way. (So, thank you men-formerly-known-as-my-husbands for being my teachers.)
You know, I have to laugh. Back when I was writing my “stories” I could make the men do and say what I wanted. The truth is, people always show up for us just the way our patterns require them to. Man, that’s a bitch to realize that.
The other thing I realize about my marriages is that I was using the institution of marriage to somehow be “useful” for me. It made me acceptable in the LDS church, it enabled me to have children, it was a shield of some kind to protect me from me.
The problem, of course, was that marriage is the sum total of two people, not some entity in and of itself. So, when I started all this self-empowerment stuff, I found myself looking at the men I had brought into my life to run my patterns. Not only that, but a husband gave me an acceptable “cover” so I could mesh into the LDS church without looking too wonky. The problem was I am wonky in their eyes, and no amount of trying to look good could possible make up for that.
Men today: Well, there aren’t any. I jokingly say I’m on a “man fast”, but the truth is I’m in a period of regrouping. The last thing I want to do is to get into another relationship that runs the same stuff I’ve always run. I’m not looking to be completed, I’m not looking for someone to save me, or heaven help us, be some kind of “cover” for me.
I guess the bottom line is I am really enjoying where I am. I have good, close friends. I have great kids. At the moment, the thought of moving into a romantic relationship is about the farthest thing from my mind. That being said, I do think I will move out of this eventually.
So, to all the men who have come into my life and have blessed me with learnings about myself, I say “thank you.”