Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Coercive Love

Now that things are a little better, I remember the good times. I'm less scared. I think about the relationship and I can't say that any of the development over the last six months is due to being out of it.

Improvement, save from the most glaringly obvious conditions, is unquantifiable to the point of being imaginary.

And yet, if the future (whatever that is) needs to be rational, then it is held to a standard unreached by any past and all present.

Anyway, I can miss my ex now. Now that it seems she's not going for my throat. Was she ever? Was it all just fog of war? I don't know.

I went from having to know what she was thinking--and I think she felt the same way, for whatever reason--to deciding that I must never try to predict her feelings and thoughts. That was what really led to the end-of-relationship shakes. That was what really pissed her off after the split. I didn't infer. I listened to what she said and that was it. I tried not to be painfully logical--men do that a lot, I hear, and boy, did she do it well too, self-hating masculinized arch-Anglo that her family raised her to be. Anyway.

Now I can see her well, and I hope she can see my positive traits. Even now, I'm desperate for her approval, and I have to give up on that. Ten years didn't get her to see me as I wanted to be seen. Ten years and she still saw me as someone either to tiptoe around or dismiss, the same way her mother treats her father, as bumpkin/dominator.

Okay, so there's still rage there. But what I wanted to say is that the old pack of once-mutual friends, with rare exception, had an interesting way of encouraging compliance with the relationship. Most peer groups don't want what's best. They want status quo. Bros will denounce a marriage or engagement; couples friends will need to see a break-up in terms of betrayal.

One friend who should have known better--they all should have known better, I think, which is to say that I thought them better than they turned out to be--told me that I'd lose the love of my children. I regarded and regard that as an utterly stupid thing to say. A father who loses the love of his children following a divorce probably never had that love to begin with, or suffered an especially vicious smear campaign--which may yet, in time, be undone. I never suspected my wife of being the type to commit the latter, though she has played a bit with actions of the sort. In any case, I wondered what kind of man I would be to present my children with a marriage of coercion. A marriage of fear.

Other "help" appeared in the form of other threats. A marriage counselor--no shit--threatened me with never seeing the kids, living in a tiny apartment, and paying my wife all my money. He was an ugly stereotype, I suppose, down to the assumptions about our relative income and involvement with the children. Then again, when I said I didn't know who I was, his first question was "Are you gay?" I'm still not sure if I forgive him for knowing the bulk of the market or if I'm derisive that I never really felt heard. I prefer female counselors anyway.

As I've said to a few people, I felt myself looking down a path of coercion. We all know or should know what lies down that path. It's monkeys in cages, alcoholism, chronic masturbation, deadening of impulses, resentment of partners, misery being taught to children. It's domestication in the ugliest sense.

I still can't imagine ever being in a long-term relationship again. I pine for some kind of affection, some kind of romantic attachment. But I prefer being alone to being miserable, to being beholden to the choices I made at 19 and 21.

And when I've been called a coward by people who once called me friend, I scoff. Yeah, I really chose the easy way out. I leapt from one branch without so much as holding another. I had no home, a new job, no girl waiting in the wings, nothing. I was honest the entire time, explaining in painful detail how I felt and where I was mentally. If bravery is what I've seen of other people's "relationships," then call me a coward. I loved my wife, but I couldn't anymore. And I didn't believe in the institution surviving the spirit that animated and founded it.


  1. In times of stress, we often find others expect us to serve as their mirrors and reinforce their choices through our actions. It provides large-scale frustration. They want their problems to become ours, and ignore our problems while trying to help us. Help maybe should be in quotation marks.

  2. Our situations are not dissimilar. I mean, I didn't have children and that--I have to assume--ultimately makes my situations easier to handle than yours. I don't hesitate to say that, either.

    It's interesting to see your use of "beholden"--a term I've been toying with a lot in the two months since D and I split up. I am, perhaps, still exploring some of the newness of my independence, my beholdenlessness, haha, and so I still find myself having to actively navigate the narrow hallways whose walls are "loneliness" and "solitude."

    I've become inordinately introspective and somehow more curious about myriad interpersonal interactions. Being a sociologist, it's not a stretch, I guess, to be so interested in the way people interact. But exploring literature on intimacy and affinity in psychology, once I was able to overcome the knee-jerk criticisms of the discipline as a whole (haha), has been useful and interesting.

    Between these two things, I've found that I'm not ready to "miss my ex" as you put it. I *can*, of course. It's possible, it's easy, and I'm free to do it (to the extent that agency exists, maybe). But it's not something I've found I should choose to do if I want to... move forward? Or whatever. I'm really fascinated by your wording, "I can miss my ex now." Did you find that you had a period where distractions were more/less useful? Did you have to mitigate your choice to miss your ex?

    Not really questions to respond to in comments on your blog, maybe, haha. Drop me an email or something.