This morning, I was cleaning the kitchen, and popped some music on to keep myself entertained. Smash The Offspring's song, "Self Esteem" came on, and I found myself blithely humming along, right up to this line, "The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care.". At that point, I paused, because even though the song is about someone with poor self esteem that feels trapped by their own feelings in a relationship with someone who is a user on many levels, there is still an element of that sentiment that pervades our society in general. It's something that I've been catching edges of from various people around me as PG and I have continued to shift out of the relationship that was. It boils down to this: If you haven't suffered sufficiently (however THAT is defined!), you don't deserve to leave a relationship, you haven't earned your way out in blood, sweat and tears.
Even using that particular yardstick, I'm in the clear, but what I'm noticing is there is an inappropriate level of interest in verifying somehow that I've suffered enough to move on. Is this because people are sold on the idea that no one would leave a relationship that isn't "Bad"? That it has to get bad to push someone to moving on? That, particularly when children are involved, you owe everyone a high level of pain, effort and work to justify moving out of a relationship?
I dislike this, particularly within poly relationships. The model of "Suffering=Caring" is destructive. It builds an element of demonizing at least one person, and creating a schism within a family/community that is larger than necessity would call for within a relationship change. During active relationships, it can lead to all kinds of justifications for staying connected to someone who may lack skills that are vital to a healthy relationship with you. It doesn't mean their skills and needs wouldn't match up well with another partner. It isn't righteous to bang one's head up against a wall trying to make the pieces fit in the slots available, but most of us have tried that approach at least once. Anyone get that square peg to fit in the round hole yet? No? Yet many of us are sold on that model. If we just try hard enough, love each other enough, sacrifice pieces of ourselves to the relationship, things will magically become compatible.
Let's allow for the possibility that suffering and caring don't belong in the same sentence. The reasons for people choosing to be in relationship with each other, or for opting out, shouldn't (yep, used the "s" word!) include martyrdom of self, or of the relationship they have shared.
As a note of interest, here is the poem that was attached to the photo above:
"Love is reckless; not reason. Reason seeks a profit. Love comes on strong, consuming herself unabashed. Yet in the midst of suffering love proceeds like a millstone, hard surfaced and straight forward. Having died to self interest, she risks everything and asks for nothing. Love gambles away every gift God bestows. Without cause God gave us Being; without cause give it back again. Gambling yourself away is beyond any religion. Religion seeks grace and favor, but those who gamble these away are Gods favorites, for they neither put God to the test nor knock at the door of gain and loss"