Thursday, May 27, 2010

In rejection of a popular perception of love

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"


Dave said...

Pain is normally an indicator of a problem, whether it is physical or emotional. Suffering is the state of enduring pain. There are times when it might be reasonable to choose to stay in such a situation, despite the pain, and there are times to leave.

At no time is it somehow arbitrarily valuable to endure suffering. I don't get points for that. I believe that there are people in the world who behave as if suffering has some inherent virtue, but I have never seen evidence to support this position.

Suffering for a cause, to better myself (hard work leading to a better/stronger me), or to better humanity (true martyrdom) are potentially virtuous. It depends on the situation. There must be a likelihood of progress being made that is directly attributable to the actions that are generating the suffering, or the suffering itself.

In the case of relationships, supporting someone through a time of grief or loss is one example of behavior that generates suffering, but can well be worth it.

Remaining in a place where I am enduring pain, when I have no reasonable expectation of gaining value in the future from said pain, is simply not productive. It's just pain.

Fear can keep me there. Confusion can keep me there. Guilt can keep me there. Anger can keep me there. Desire can keep me there. I believe those are traps.

When I have identified that a situation is not working for me, that I am suffering with no perceived value attached (now or in the future), then it is reasonable for me to seek to modify the situation to alleviate the suffering.

Sometimes someone is acting out of malice, or disingenuously, but all of this is possible without someone being the "bad guy".

Okay, that's a lot of words. I will stop for now.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I never thought of it that way. I thought the normal model was for people to just lose interest and drift apart. Or at least, that is the healthy model. People may or may not feel pain from a break-up like that. It just depends on how evenly the feelings were balanced.

Whatever pain comes from conflicts within the relationship should be a separate matter, and that should be addressed through communication. Perhaps breaking up would occur from an inability to resolve those conflicts, in which case the parties involved should have discussed all the options before calling it quits. I think the idea is that people are considered heartless if they take the breakup option too quickly. That may be true for some people, but for others it is a sign of wisdom.

designergrl said...

and for me...I feel.well weird and a bit ashamed?Bad? because I still love the person I was in my last relationship with...who treated me the way he was taught from his background...and I Can empathize..and Still take care of me.I feel weird that I had More fun with him(hanging out, doing activities, discovering parts of life together) more than Any person I've ever known...yet he verbally and emotionally abused me.I know I participated a lot in staying.

I am still trying to come to terms with these feelings.I am happy to know that last time we spoke months agao...he was in counseling..finally!