Once upon a time I read a plethora of books on relationships. I never wanted to get divorced again so I deeply researched. No matter what religion grounded the agenda, I noticed the advice was the same: Love Unconditionally. I hoped all things I endured all things. Love wins? My second husband was a sober alcoholic. Howard self reported that he hadn’t drank in 15 years. AA suggests sobriety of ten years demonstrates a successful alteration. Unfortunately Howard remained an addict. AA playfully refers to this as “switching seats on the Titanic” when addicts replace one substance for another.
If you love an addict, you know what it is to love unconditionally. No one else understands. They’re amateurs. I dutifully, totally, single minded-ly, loved Howard unconditionally, even after the marriage dissolved.
Yup, my second marriage didn’t work out either. For years after I wondered how I could have loved more perfectly, how I could have removed all fear. For years I thought it was a shame that Howard and I were unable to move into a healthy honest relationship after his drug abuse was revealed. (While he was hiding such a secret there was NO chance for real intimacy.) Well duuuhhh, intimacy was blighted by the fact that Howard was too occluded to think straight in his using state. And for two, because he really doesn’t like me, lol. Howard remembers me as a real bitch. That person that wouldn’t give him his pain meds, that person that refused to understand.
From his perspective all was lost. Once the cat was out of the bag he would have preferred to stay and be supported as a using drug addict, ’cause you know, WTF about ’til death do us part? He remembers rehab as being some sort of detention center. In his occluded state what he perceives is real to him. He remembers needing love and support, encouragement and acceptance and getting none. ouch. He remembers asking for trust and feeling rebuffed. It is not the purpose of this blog to discuss or defend what actually happened. My point is, and I do have one, is that addicts feel alienated, alone, abandoned and hungry starving freakin’ devoid of love. That’s oddly what makes them so appealing. We want to reassure them, not realizing that they can’t be reassured.
A few years after Howard left I started to wonder, who then can be loved?
Is there always one person in the relationship who is the caretaker/co-dependent/chump and one person who is the adorable/addict/exploiter? ‘Cause that doesn’t sound good at all. Much as I abhorred being taken advantage of – – I equally shrink from the prospect of using someone else. I don’t want to be petted, worshipped, coddled or idolized. Both times when I married I was looking for a partner, (not a baby, not a parent) hoping for an open-eyed healthy, free-spirited dance of a relationship. I’ve been of the belief that “perfect” people don’t get married so much as marriage perfects. Where else but home can ya get feedback?
I got plenty o’feedback as a kid. My parents, bless their hearts, weren’t exploitive but they weren’t perfect. This is how we wander into the world hungry for acceptance. While my parents, bless their hearts, aren’t under any obligation to change, the ideal partner is supple, flexible, enthusiastic for growth. Let’s take a simple, simple example: “Slob.” Slob has heard all her life to “clean up her room!” So she feels slightly damaged, sort of unsure of herself. She knows on some level she let Mom down but Slob is a fully functioning adult. If Slob marries Neat, Slob starts to have a bit more incentive to clean up her act. And Neat? If Neat loved Slob enough to get married we can only imagine Neat’s learning how to let her hair down a little.
Voila! That kids, is how Kumari envisioned marriage was supposed to be: a mutually beneficial partnership between two equals both willing to improve. But what seems to happen in the real world is something more like both parties pointing fingers at each other in an ugly cosmic re-play of childhood dramas. ouch. The difference is so subtle. The difference is in lieu of Neat nagging, cajoling, and pulling her hair out – she says nothing. She goes about her life enjoying her partner, and because Slob softens under the melting heat of consistent love Slob cleans up on her own. And Slob, in lieu of putting Neat down for being uptight, rigid and controlling says nothing. Slob goes about her life enjoying her partner, and because Neat softens under the melting heat of consistent love, Neat starts to loosen up.
In the best of worlds, a transparent relationship is less drama, tears and recriminations – more gentle buffing, sanding, and polishing the mirror of ourselves. Is this loving unconditionally? I think not. Loving unconditionally harms both parties. LC trains the bully (the partner in the up position) to demand more love, more acceptance – this is a dangerous tack if the bully is a using addict, an abusive spouse, or a gambler. “LOVE THIS!” They demand as they drain the family bank account. LC also bad for the weaker partner. Each new level of outrageous behavior is swallowed, paving the way for higher levels of abuse.
Years of submission drain the life out of people. Is it any wonder they end up divorced? All it takes is a spark of recognition from some third party and Poof! The balloon, strained from years of hot air, bursts.
Call me a radical – but I suggest Love Should Be Conditional. The relationship that is disagreement free? Let’s call that a unicorn. A spiritual myth. My feminist friends might have called my first husband a heel, but that didn’t help my home life any. I was fat. He couldn’t love fat. Perhaps in some fucked up way I was trying to play the “up” position in the relationship, demanding he “love this!” And maybe I wasn’t. Maybe my dear marriage counselor, maybe my weight gain had nothing to do with him. I think one of the earmarks of an enlightened soul is realizing we’re not the center of the universe. We’re part of a whole. Perhaps if we go about our lives having lives, treating others with kindness and respect they will respond in kind, respond to respect.
But some people don’t. Even Gandhi, that one they called the Mahatma, admitted that non-violent protests worked only because the British had a respect for life. Ahimsa would have been a colossal fail in Nazi Germany. If you can learn the difference between people who respect you and people who don’t, jump to the head of the class. When I meet students, for example, who are suspicious of my pricing (don’t spiritual teachers give it away? ? ? ) I know they don’t respect me. Here’s the thing, if it’s so little money that I ought to forget about it, then why isn’t it so “little” money that students can’t pay? hmmm. Put it another way. If it’s sooo much money that it is hard to pay, than admit writing the teacher a bad check, skipping out on payment, or paying two weeks late is a burden to the teacher – even the “spiritual” teacher. Right? Am I right?
In transparent relationships we see right through stuff like that. We get to the crux of the matter. The other day I was mad. My old therapist might have said I was mad because of something that happened to me as a kid or in a previous relationship or a prior life. But I knew better than that. I was mad because I didn’t like the way credit card companies apply interest. In the past I might have been made to feel uncomfortable for being angry. Nice girls aren’t like that. We’re supposed to be passive and submissive, forgiving and gentle. And you know what? I picked up the phone, spoke to customer service and received useful information. Problem solved. Being mad kinda worked for me. Imagine that.
It’s gotta be the yoga. The stronger and more flexible I get the more myths I seem to bust.
1) Unconditional Love is bad for me
2) “Negative” feelings aren’t bad for me
3) “Spiritual” people never get angry – not
4) Detachment – well, there’s enough there for a whole ‘nother blog. . . I’m all for detachment if it means being objective not subjective. But in common parlance detachment has come to mean not having a judgement, not giving a fuck and that? That is a dangerous thing.
Now Y’all play nice!