Morning Ed: Relationships {2018.02.05.M}


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

68 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    R7: At the very least, people need to be honest with themselves. If you can have casual, shallow sex and think of it as just a really good back rub, then fine. But if you can’t, then you need to probably set limits and boundaries early on.

    And if you are not sure, then experiment with some one you trust.Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      I can have casual hookups with some people, but not others. The problem is, it’s not always clear which is which until it’s too late.

      Although, tbh, I’m kinda burned out on casual hookups (and kinky group sex and all of that). It’s fun. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it. I had a lot of wonderful moments (and shot some really nice video). But in the end, I think I’m just getting tired of all the drama that comes along with that scene. After all, even if I don’t “fall” for the wrong person (which actually I did), someone else in the room will. Someone’s feelings will get hurt. In fact, too often, someone’s feeling will be devastated.

      The simple fact is, sex is higher stakes than most other things.

      It’s worth trying out a few time, just for the experience. One might dabble from time to time, for passion and variety. But, at least for me, I don’t want it to be the core of my romantic life.

      (The fiance I broke up with a while back, I think we’re getting back together.)Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

        I’ve had casual hookups that I was just fine treating as enjoyable exercise, but those were uncommon enough that it was pretty obvious to myself that I was going to want more from a hookup than exercise, and thus I should not pretend otherwise (and thus, avoid the hookup).Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    R1: For most of human history relationships were about economics and political than mutual affection. For the non-elite, it was about finding a spouse that can help you survive economically in a sustenance level world. For the elite, an advantageous partner that would bring more wealth and greater social and political connections. Than industrialization and democratization made this unnecessary. Very few people need to marry for economic survival in a good chunk of the world and marriage as politics is irrelevant. Modern pop culture created something equally unobtainable though for most people, the soul mate. People are taught that a perfect partner exists for them somewhere and look and look but never find it.

    R4: Agreed.

    R5: I think one uncomfortable question that everybody is enjoying is whether men and women experience and enjoy sex differently. Regardless of their sexuality, men on average seem to enjoy sex as sex more than women do. Andrew Sullivan got in trouble for writing about how grabby the gay scene could be. Women seem to like more of an emotional connection and build up or as my therapist put it some women like to fish like men but most don’t. If this is true than we might have a bit of problem coming to a useful method of communication for heterosexual people.

    R6: My parents were living together for six years before they got married. They only got married because they decided it was time to have kids and they didn’t want to be that innovative in child rearing.Report

  3. Avatar pillsy says:

    [R8] That was surprisingly good. Based on the title and the subject matter, I was expecting the article to make me want to bang my head against my desk until the pain stopped, and instead I got something that is worth reading and passing along.Report

  4. Avatar veronica d says:

    [R4] — I broke up with one my partners this past week for these exact reasons. We both have different goals. I have needs she was bad at meeting, even when she tried to meet them. She has goals that take her away from me. Compromise was perhaps possible, but in the end not really. Plus, in a poly context, there were other partners with their capacities and needs. The interactions of all the parts just didn’t work.

    It’s all terrible tho. I love her profoundly. But it didn’t work.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to veronica d says:

      My wife and I view R4 as the reason we know so many people on happy, second marriages after short, unhappy, first ones.

      A lot of us got married too young, without really knowing what we wanted in a long-term relationship. So a lot of us got divorced real young, with a better idea of what we needed and a lot more flexible attitude on what we wanted.

      What you need, what you want, what you can compromise on, what’s a deal breaker — it takes some trial and error for most people to come to grips with that. Certainly did for me.Report

  5. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    [R3] MrsJay and I first met while the internet was still Usenet and Arpanet on a BBS run by the College of William and Mary (alma mater to both James Comey and Jon Stewart, though we just missed overlapping them). There was a religion discussion group that was the two of us and I think maybe one other regular.

    Which brings me to

    [R4] I don’t think I ever had much in preconditions like “left handed soccer player”. It was more about how I felt when I was with that person. I have needs of course, even though I spent decades pretending I didn’t. MrsJay gives me grief all the time because I don’t notice eye color. But I don’t. It doesn’t matter to me, compared to how I feel about some person. What sort of feelings they are having and I’m having is a lot more interesting than eye color or hair color. I truly have no preference between blonde, brunette, or redhead. And yet, you can’t tell someone you’re starting to date that, it will sound like a brushoff.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:


    I tried to come up with some snappy dialog to make a point (centered around how people always think that they’re looking for a blonde or someone with a particular body shape but, really, the thing they need most is an editor or someone who enjoys sorting) but I’ll just link to this old thing again.

    Did a better job, I reckon.Report

  7. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    Re: R1 and hookups.
    It seems interesting to me, that we are having this discussion, again.
    I was very young, but remember witnessing the handwringing articles from the early 70s about what These Kids Today were doing, and what it all meant.

    So what strikes me about people like Caitlan Flanagan referenced in R1, is they seem to have helicoptered in from 1972, like she herself wasn’t a teenager in the Saturday Night Fever disco era of casual sex and Qualuudes, as if this is all some new freakish phenomenon.

    But it really isn’t new, it wasn’t even new in the 1970s. And how could any of it be new? Our sexual and emotional desires are driven by DNA that hasn’t changed in a million years.

    I think part of our conflict is that we want to create a set of norms that are obeyed, yet, have a culture that values individual freedom to craft our own norms as we see fit.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      “I know you can’t have it both ways but both ways is the only way I want it” might as well be the human condition.

      As someone who was a bit of a late bloomer in the romantic department, one thing I’ve noticed is that adult life can make it hard to have time to have sex. Especially if you are both professionals with demanding jobs and by the time dinner and dishes are done, it is 9 PM or later, and you still have an early start tomorrow….

      Young people have an abundance of time and energy. I gotta say that I feel kind of sore about not getting to know what it was like to be a 20 year old who just wants to make out all the time.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I may have been the only guy in the disco era not to get laid, despite* being attired in hip huggers, platform shoes and a silk shirt.

        *”Despite” in this context could mean “because of”.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Maybe if we start punishing people who manage to have it both ways, we can rid humanity of this aspect. For some people to have their cake and eat it to, other people can’t have any cake at all.Report

        • Avatar veronica d in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Wait! Who are we punishing here? Who administers the punishment? What is happening?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

            I’m sure we can use social shaming rather than passing a law. Just have a norm and, when someone breaks it, talk about the person who broke the norm negatively.

            If something goes wrong, everybody can cluck their tongues and say “I knew this was going to happen” and, if someone happens to have said something negative before the fact, people can say “you said that this was going to happen” (whether or not they actually did or even whether or not there is a causal relationship between the behavior and the bad thing that happened).

            This will involve some amount of social coordination, but if we get the socially adept people on board, it should start to self-organize after a while. Eventually, we could tie social status to it. That would help people self-police!Report

            • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

              @jaybird — Oh I understand how social disapproval works. I’m just not clear on who precisely we’re doing this to, nor why we’re doing it.

              @leeesq says “people who manage to have it both ways.” Have what both ways?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

                I think “why?” has to do with theories of inequality.

                We’ve all seen the money cucumber/grape thing. Let’s watch it again:


                It’s like that. But for relationships.

                Yeah, that’s not how relationships work.

                But it’s how monkeys work.

                As for who, I’d say it’s for the monkeys getting the grapes.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird Dear. Quit mansplaining to the trans woman how social disapproval works. She had a specific question that Lee may or may not choose to answer in more detail. You’re not helping. I understand that you may on some level think you are helping, but you aren’t.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

              Constructing and enforcing a social norm against having one’s cake and eating it too seems… superfluous.

              Regardless of the precise way in which one is both having and eating one’s cake.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to pillsy says:

                I’m not sure what is the “cake” and what it means to “eat it.”

                No seriously. The genesis seems to be when @chip-daniels said,

                I think part of our conflict is that we want to create a set of norms that are obeyed, yet, have a culture that values individual freedom to craft our own norms as we see fit.

                That’s somewhat vague and doesn’t seem to match what @leeesq was talking about.

                It’s just, if we’re gonna be “punishing” people (as if!), I’d like some clarity.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to veronica d says:

                I was being flippant. Mainly I was referring to people who demand and get to taken as they are but also want to judge others for whatever reason they want to as strictly, fiercely, and harshly as they can. “If you criticize me for my past your an evil, no good this or that but I’m allowed to reject and mock you for whatever I want.” People who divide other people into groups like these are the people you have your wicked, wild fun with and these are the people you build your family with are also very annoying.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I’m pretty sure those are vague categories and you won’t have much luck “punishing” anyone who does them.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I mean, pretty much everybody in the world is much more comfortable judging others than they are being judged themselves.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to pillsy says:

                @pillsy There are large swathes of people who are very much the opposite of what you just said.

                But that’s a whole different topic.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Maribou says:

                On the one hand I’m interested in hearing more if it’s not taking things to far afield or whatever, but on the other hand what I just said was the sort of dumb generalization one should only make if one enjoys being wrong in public.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Maribou says:

                There are also people who manage to be non-critical of themselves and non-judgmental of others to.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to LeeEsq says:

                @leeesq Yeah. Although most of those people that I know (or have read) have said that’s only on the outside, and they have their own judgment struggles too.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Maribou says:

                Keeping your opinion to yourself is good enough for non-judgmental in my opinion.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to LeeEsq says:

                @leeesq Oh sure. But pillsy was talking about comfort levels, so I was tying it back to that. Very few people seem to be *comfortably* non-judgmental.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

                Positional goods get distributed inequitably by definition.

                I have no idea how to mitigate this sort of thing. (And it’s not like they can be redistributed using any mechanism we’ve got established in this culture, and, even if you could, I’m not sure that it’s possible to redistribute positional good equitably even in theory.)

                Maybe we could set up something like Shirley Jackson’s Lottery?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

                OK. But what’s the positional good?

                I’m genuinely lost here.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

                As far as I can tell? I guess? It’s romantic relationship success? I think?Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

                Something like that but a bit more complicated. Its the ability to have the type of relationship you want and need when you want and need it. When you need something light like a fling you get it. When you want something deeper and more committed you get it. Its also the ability not to be accepted as you are while not having to deal with anybody else’s issues.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Make more money, get abs.

                “But I shouldn’t have to do that!”

                Yeah, yeah.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

                In my case, grow five or six more inches.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

                What is it that you are most hoping for?

                A sympathetic ear that says “yeah, man… chicks.”?

                Advice that, if you follow it, will result in your life changing?

                If it’s the latter, buy elevators, work harder and make more money, change hobbies, and get abs.

                If it’s the former… yeah, man. Chicks.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m looking for an answer that doesn’t always boil down to “do more work, it doesn’t matter how much work you have done, do more work.” The amount of work a person needs to do is potentially infinite and the number of reasons you can be rejected is equally infinite. In the mean time, you get to hear people rattle-prattle about how awesome their love lives are. Maybe they are telling the truth, maybe they are lying but it makes you feel miserable either way. People seem to want you to be very happy for them while they are oblivious to your pain and frustration.

                “Do more work” is always the answer. “I don’t care if your so bitter and exhausted by the time you finally meet somebody you can’t enjoy it. I don’t care if you have to compromise on each and everything your looking for. FYIGM. Do more work.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Yeah, I want a low-carb, low-calorie dessert that tastes good and leaves me feeling full.

                But I don’t blame the people who tell me that there isn’t one.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I’m looking for an answer that doesn’t always boil down to “do more work, it doesn’t matter how much work you have done, do more work.”

                The reason you keep hearing that answer is because you’re the only person you have any control over in this situation.

                And my love live is a smoldering crater. Not sure why that would make me more of an authority here but still.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to pillsy says:

                I realize that I’m the only who has any control over my situation. There are people in my life who I like and consider dear friends but they tend to have a very new agey/just world theory approach to this stuff. They seem to believe that if you are an internally happy person who does the work without complaint than the universe will provide. They are very into self-help material and motivational seminars/programs. It seems to work for them at least.

                I’m a materialist and most likely a pessimist, so I fully believe a person can do everything in their control with all their might and full spirit and fail spectacularly. That’s why we have a welfare state, to protect people for the vagaries of life and at least ensure a bare minimal amount of justice exists. Justice is possible but it isn’t natural. Its something that humans have to really work for.

                Now, you can’t apply what works for healthcare and vacation time to romantic relationships or sex or even platonic friendships. What you can do is get rid of the just world theory when it comes to sex/romance. I’m pretty sure that many of the romanceless would at least be temporarily happy with an acknowledgment that they are doing the work rather than the assumption that if you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend than you haven’t done the work at all.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to LeeEsq says:


                ” an acknowledgment that they are doing the work rather than the assumption that if you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend than you haven’t done the work at all.”

                I would just note that this discussion came out of you expressing a desire to punish people (flippantly! i got that it was a joke, born out of frustration, which is why I never said anything until you asked for advice) – if you specifically want reassurance / appreciation type of things (even just bare acknowledgment levels), I have found it more useful to ask for that, than to make flip comments about what should happen to the people who don’t give it to me.

                I mean, in public fora like the website, at least. In the privacy of my own journal / therapist’s office / brain …. it’s exceedingly satisfying to do the latter, at least as part of letting the latter go.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Ah OK. Just World Theory is, indeed, generally not a very good thing at all. I don’t apply it to health care, or employment, or any of those other things, and I don’t apply it to matters of romance either. Not wanting to be judged, even implicitly, for not having found a partner, is absolutely reasonable.

                And as for the work, well, it can shift the odds but there’s no guarantees and some people seem to just have the loves of their lives drop into their laps by serendipity.

                It’s not in any sense fair, and unlike stuff like health care I can’t even begin to think of ways to make it fairer.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to pillsy says:

                There is evidence that Just World theory does help people get through life with a relatively high amount of optimism. It does seem to really work for some individuals psychologically. The problems occur when people assumes it works for everybody or people try to formulate policy on this.Report

              • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

                @leeesq, I bet that you never knew what a fan of Michel Houellebecq you are. From his novel Whatever:

                Just like unrestrained economic liberalism, and for similar reasons, sexual liberalism produces phenomena of absolute pauperization. Some men make love every day; others five or six times in their life, or never. It’s what’s known as the ‘law of the market.’ In an economic system where unfair dismissal is prohibited, every person more or less manages to find their place. In a sexual system where adultery is prohibited, every person more or less manages to find their bed mate. In a totally liberal economic system certain people accumulate considerable fortunes; others stagnate in unemployment. In a totally liberal sexual system certain people have a varied and exciting erotic life; others are reduced to masturbation and solitude.


              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

                I’ve referred to Monsieur. I have to look up his name every time I try to spell it, Houellebecq, on this blog before. He got into more than a little bit of trouble for comparing free love to the free market. I’m not sure he is exactly write historically speaking.

                Western countries always had a higher percentage of never married people than non-Western countries. Even Protestant countries that got rid of clerical celibacy and monasticism still had a decent percentage, as in more than a statistical beep, of men and women who never married I believe long before the Sexual Revolution occurred. All those bachelor uncles and maiden aunts. Part of this was that outside royalty, arranged marriages were dropped earlier in the West than elsewhere. Even when arranged marriages occurred, there was an attempt to at least make it appear voluntary. The illusion of courtship and voluntary mate choice was important. Since people in the West were generally freer to marry who they wanted, it created a greater possibility of never finding a mate.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

                I don’t think his observations are wrong either but they can be expanded to include women and LGBT people. Sexual attractiveness is really unevenly distributed and a lot of it depends on luck just as much as work.

                I’m not sure that the sexual system of the past was necessarily better than the one we have today though. The past equivalent still allowed a lot of bad faith actors, the hot a-hole men people complain about, to have a lot of pre-marital and extra-marital sex. Other men were forced to behave better or might have been allowed some dalliance with a commercial sex worker. Some women were assigned the role of prostitute and keeping other women restrained in the domestic role. It had no place for non-heterosexuals besides forcing them to be heterosexual.

                The free market sexual system might still benefit hot attractive a-holes of both genders and all sexualities more than it should and it might hurt people like me or my female and LGBT equivalents more than it should. However, it allows more people to participate. Women aren’t forced into narrow romantic or sexual roles anymore. LGBT people are allowed in rather than facing total elimination.

                To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “a totally liberal sexual system is not the best sexual system. Its the worst sexual system save all others tried.”Report

              • Avatar j r in reply to LeeEsq says:


                I’m a liberal, both economic and sexual (in the continental sense at least, not so much the contemporary American left-of-center sense), but I get the logic behind Houellebecq’s point. I also think that there is a larger context within his books that makes a lot of sense and that raises interesting questions. That said, I think it ultimately works much better in the case against reactionary thinking than it does against liberalism.

                As you point out, the nostalgia for the good old days when everybody got some is the result of putting on rose-colored glasses. The good old days were never that good. And they were downright awful for lots of people. Further, if we are going to think critically about the idea that anyone deserves the affection of another person, then perhaps we should think critically about the rest of the basket of things that people routinely assert that we all deserve. What’s the efficacy of “I deserve?”

                @veronica-d ,
                You seem to think that because I posted that quote, I’m endorsing the sentiment in it. Maybe you shouldn’t do that.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

                I don’t believe in continental sexuality but i do believe in a continental breakfast. ;).

                Mr. Houellebecq certainly has some pretty unique
                perspectives from the Marxists. He and his older, less Marxist American literary cousin Kurt Anderson are part of the Left that believe the Counter Culture was a giant mistake. They argue that hedonistic ethos of the Counter Culture directly led to the great inequality that started to rapidly grow in the 1980s. Any sort of vaguely leftist commonwealth idea requires an idea of we are all in this together and some sort of personal sacrifice is needed. The seeking of pleasure and individualistic self-exploration that the hippies wanted goes against this.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to j r says:

                @j-r — One thing I notice about that quote, he only mentions the travails of men. He appears to overlook women. Perhaps he discusses women elsewhere, but that is the quote you chose to post.

                Look at the language. Unpack it. See what he is saying.

                You do understand that women are people, right (duh!), and that romance is something shared between people. It is deep and intimate. It is unlike other things. After all, there is a reason we care so much about this.

                Yes indeed, some people get less than others when it comes to sex and romance. However, discussing that with a model developed to discuss impersonal commerce — well it reveals much about how (some) people (it seems mostly men) view their relationships with women.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to veronica d says:

                In a small defense, the passage is from a novel narrated by a male protagonist rather than from a non-fiction work of observation like an essay. That means it is more natural for the character to refer only to men.

                A bigger defense is so what if it only refers to men. Heterosexual men experience pain and frustration to. Nobody on the Political Left would bat an eye if the passage only referred to women or LGBT people. I think many people see cis-gender heterosexual male sexuality has something inherently problematic to deal with. They don’t really want to say so out right but they generally seem to find all but a minority of heterosexual men really unattractive and wish the frustrated ones would just shut up about their pain rather than express it in anyway.

                Part of this might be out of a sense of revenge. Cis-gender heterosexual men are identified as the bad guy in their cosmology and they want to strike back. Since its a lot easier to hit weaker people than stronger people, the more marginal and unattractive heterosexual men bare the burden regardless of their actions.

                Another part of the reason why people don’t like dealing with the sexual frustration of heterosexual men is coming up with a workable solution isn’t easy because you can’t create a right to a girlfriend or a right to sex. Therefore trying to trivialize or not deal with heterosexual male frustration is the task of least resistance.

                Regardless of the reasons, there seems to be something of undeclared war against heterosexual men experiencing romantic loneliness and sexual frustration. The entire idea is that these sort of men just need to “do more work”, not cry, and not complain until they succeed.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to LeeEsq says:

                @leeesq — But actually you do need to do more work, as do so many sexually frustrated men. The point is, our social and political analyses are correct. Men feel entitled to women. You yourself have expressed entitlement before (“it’s my turn”).

                You are not victims. The social criticisms of “lonely, entitled men” are correct. We are not “out to get you.” Instead, we are pointing out your toxicity.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to veronica d says:

                If men feel entitled to women than women feel an entitlement to have their cake and eat it to. To demand freedom from traditions you don’t like but to insist on traditions you do like with full force of society. You don’t want to be called out for any bad or hypocritical behavior. One man gets physical affection easily and another man experiences it as a method of control and extraction. You want the latter not to notice this at all. Men have to earn each and everything, each and everyday in each and everyway.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to LeeEsq says:

                @leeesq — Not the cake again.

                Look, women, as individuals, are attracted to some people and not others. In turn, we want to be sexualized by some people, but not others, and in some contexts, but not others. This seems entirely reasonable to me. How do you expect it to work?

                Not all women experience gratifying romantic and sexual lives. We also have to “work.” Right now I’m doing a shitton of work, on the inside, dealing with my own relationship bullshit. It ain’t easy.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to veronica d says:

                @veronica-d Could you stop pushing Lee away from more sensible opinions like
                “Now, you can’t apply what works for healthcare and vacation time to romantic relationships or sex or even platonic friendships. What you can do is get rid of the just world theory when it comes to sex/romance. I’m pretty sure that many of the romanceless would at least be temporarily happy with an acknowledgment that they are doing the work rather than the assumption that if you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend than you haven’t done the work at all.”
                and his earlier acknowledgement (before yours!) that Houllebecq’s quote leaves out people other than heterosexual men, and into the corner where he (seemingly) feels hounded and shamed?

                Like, you *know* that’s what you’re doing, you’ve discussed the mechanism *you* believe gets tripped when it happens to him, because you’ve struggled with it yourself, and you do those things anyway, regular as a hammer. Every time he says something awkward, you push until he lashes out. That’s pretty mean.

                I imagine you feel that you’re defending yourself and/or teaching him something, but he’s obviously not complaining about women like you when he complains, he’s complaining about women who are culturally pretty darn different from you (there really are women who really are screwed up about what they do and don’t want from a romantic partner, surely you *know* this as someone who dates women – and in some subcultures it is worse than others), and it seems to me that you are feeding his pain, not teaching him anything. You aren’t obliged to help him but you probably shouldn’t pick at him either. It feels to me like you are breathing down his neck, waiting for him to put a foot wrong so you can correct him. That’s not cool. He’s a person, not a symbol. (and @j-r was pointing out a resonance, with Lee and Houllebecq, one that might seem mildly ironic to consumers of his writings – and one which Lee found meaningful as a response to his request for advice – that’s a literary, interesting if somewhat flawed comment, not cishet obliviousness. Turn down the firehose of righteousness, please.)

                @lee-esq Is this the kind of work that actually helps you and gives you pleasure, these escalating arguments and letting yourself just open up the angry bitter vein on the page? I doubt it is. Can you *try* to notice when you’ve gone on tilt, take a deep breath, and maybe not post right then, or post pretty differently? Because when you go on tilt, you are, frankly, very unpleasant for most women (and some sympathetic men) to read. Not because we feel FYIGM (even for those who do G our O), but because you sound just like people who have treated us horribly. I don’t believe you are that person, but I wish you would stop letting yourself go to that place out loud here. I don’t think it’s helping you or anyone else.

                This is certainly not a place, generally, where we *don’t* discuss heterosexual men’s pain in relationships. There are feature posts which address it, usually from a personal perspective (there was one which was about that, among other things and not to be unnecessarily reductive about a mighty nuanced essay, two *days* ago.) It comes up regularly in discussion. Even the meta-level of whether or not it’s *unfair* to talk about women’s pain in relationships without equally addressing men’s pain in relationships every time comes up regularly. (though I will admit to personally wishing that would go away).

                Asking/telling you not to go into angry-bitter mode every time the topic of relationships comes up, as I have done and will continue to do unless it eventually takes, is not asking/telling you to not talk about your pain. It’s asking you to not make your pain the loudest thing in the room any time people start talking about heterosexual relationships. That is part of why you experience people metaphorically yelling at you on this subject, because they metaphorically can’t hear themselves otherwise. It doesn’t excuse the yelling. But it is avoidable pain, nonetheless. And as someone who does not yell at you, but does feel the need to keep things non-hostile around here, it’s very frustrating to watch.Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to LeeEsq says:


                You deserve love and you deserve it as you are, no strings attached, unconditionally. People aren’t actually very good at that, as far as I can tell – and even in my extraordinarily happy marriage, we both have that and don’t, you know? So to bring it down to a more grounded level, you deserve to be pretty happy most of the time with someone who mostly gets you, and lights up sometimes when they think about you or see you, and who cares about your needs and does their best to help meet them.

                It sucks that you don’t have that.

                The situations aren’t the same, but I can really relate to do-the-work fatigue.

                ““do more work, it doesn’t matter how much work you have done, do more work.” The amount of work a person needs to do is potentially infinite…”

                This is a complaint I have voiced many times when I feel trapped into a life I didn’t choose due to the actions of my abuser when I was very small. He’s the one who abused me, why should he be wandering around doing more damage, while I am stuck doing work, work, work endlessly more work to stay in relationship with other people? Even with all the blessings I have (and I am constantly aware of those blessings, I don’t take them for granted), every damn day something comes up and my choices are to let it build up repressed and ruin my health, or deal with my stupid feelings so I can be exhausted but on a path to getting better. And the estimated timeline for that situation, things being all the way better, is maybe after I’m dead. (Also that they already are, also that maybe after HE’s dead, also… it’s complicated but not super easy either way.) Many many times I ask myself, “And being a hermit is less good than this HOW?” (And all that is holy in the universe bless Jaybird, because he understands that when I feel that way, it isn’t a failing on his part.)

                The answer that comforts me, at least, is that the payoff for the work should be worth it, in the moment or at least in the short term. The work, whatever it is, has to feel good in a relatively short time line, at least SOME of the time, or it’s just self-torture.

                That’s why I suggested that history book club idea back whenever (yes, I get that it doesn’t actually solve your problem without you having to give up something you value)…. not as “do more work” but because it seemed like the kind of work you might actually enjoy. Turns out I was wrong? But there might be other such things. And they might be really small.

                I have no idea what those kinds of work are for you. For me many of them are kind of embarrassing to the point where I”m not all that comfortable sharing them. (OK, one example, I took a “Tolkien Dot-to-Dot” book with me to see a speaker last week, so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed by anxiety + triggers before he even showed up, but I could still come early and get a good seat. That isn’t advice, it’s just an example of how personalized the work is to what I actually like doing.) But, whatever these little embarassing things are, they all make me pretty happy at least once in a while. And they give me concrete gains to the things I want to be better, that I can *see* happening in front of my face. So my advice, if you want it:

                Do *less* work. Be pickier about what kind of work you are willing to take on. And tune out people who insist that their way of doing things is the way that works. Like literally if I listened to those people, I would be dead by now. Not even kidding a little.** Tuning out well-meaning but overwhelming advice is the very most effective anti-suicide coping strategy I’ve ever developed.

                Do what works for you, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. And if you aren’t sure what that is, give yourself more space to just have fun and figure it out. If giving yourself more space feels like work… yeah, I dunno. I’ve been there so I can relate, but I honestly don’t know how I get through those times, except to keep bulling my way through.

                **The only one who is ever useful in that regard is Jaybird and mostly because in the “WHY WOULD I DO THAT?” I aim at him I usually come across something I would rather do, that I could do, that I then start doing. Even then it’s more irritating than helpful, and if he wasn’t my partner, and thus intimately acquainted with me, it would basically never be helpful.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Layering on FYIGM is odd.

                What advice would you like? You’re trying to forge a relationship. If you aren’t able to do so, what choices do you have beyond “Work harder/different” and/or “Just wait”?

                What do you want the world to do?Report