Friday, May 22, 2009

Does pain=value?


Common wisdom would have us believe that the best things in life are hard to get. There is value placed on pain within our culture. "No pain, no gain!" is flip, but often perceived as truth. In relationships, we see people struggle, fight with themselves and their partners, and push against the predominant culture. Poly can be seen as something that has pain intrinsically tied to the value of growth and having so much love available to it's adherents. The price of playing poker.

Have we really bought into this load of crap? Where is the value in being stuck in a place of pain? To prove we can take it? Is it the idea that the greater rewards that are on the line mean greater sacrifices? That sounds like some seriously flawed programming.

Speaking for myself, healthy, low-drama relationships are infinitely more rewarding than the ones that require huge amounts of emotional effort to "get to the good stuff", or the ones that see conflict as necessary to reach towards growth. I'd rather enjoy an amicable conversation with intimacy building moments, and skip the anxiety-provoking "does this person really care about me?" passive-aggressive crap. I don't want to have Make Up Sex, I want to have I Am Really Into You Sex.

In my real job, I'm a massage therapist. I LOVE working with complex issues and all sort of body types. There is one exception to that. I don't like working on body-builders. I'm not talking about people that are physically fit, I'm referring to the people that are in the gym lifting weights 2-4 hours a day most days of the week.

Why, you ask? Well, here we have people that are pushing past their limits, through the pain, actually damaging their own musculature to achieve a specific aesthetic, a look, a feel. Worse yet, they are addicted to their own endorphins, unable/unwilling to back off and rest injuries. Working with body builders in the past, I've noticed that their muscles, although they appear to be most impressive, are full of scar tissue and damage, inflexible and prone to injury.

In the same way, it has been my experience that people in relationships that are built on pain, extremely intensive in effort, and highly consuming of resources, might be able to produce something that looks pretty good, but underneath the surface, there is so much damage that was involved in the creation of the relationship that the product is flawed from the inside out. It lacks flexibility, and readily falls apart under strain.

The people within these relationships might even be able to recognize that they are participating in something that isn't terribly healthy, but are so addicted to the relationship endorphins produced by that pain, that moving on doesn't feel do-able.

The question that remains is: Do you want your relationships to be easy, flexible, pleasurable entities that help you grow stronger by lifting you up? Or do you buy into the idea that pain=value in your personal life? Being able to do emotional heavy lifting can seem pretty impressive, but it comes at a cost.
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