Daily Archives: May 3, 2012

Naming Your Own Poison: Dependency Relationships

This is taken from a letter written in the year 2000:

Seems the modern world’s addicted to more afflictions than drugs.  Maybe it’s tied up in the unprecedented social experiment of the 20th Century attempting to yank the values and roles of 10,000 years of human history up, shake the dirt off, and clone them into something never before tried.  But without entirely losing what went before.

Personal boundaries became ambiguous, and while there was always the dependency inherent in shared family and social role assignments, removing it without replacement parts might have set things adrift further than anyone anticipated.

For instance, in my personal life with my ex-wife, there was a dependency thing, but it was a fairly mature relationship except in certain aspects of the dependencies.  Those grew and gradually became boa constrictors over the decades, became such a part of the rock and roll of marriage, I found I couldn’t breathe.  And I suspect the same almost had to be true for her, as well.

But after that marriage broke up, it really used to trouble me that my relationship with the next woman couldn’t have been an adult, happy, non-dependency, shared-joy kind of relationship. We were both people who had been through long marriages and half a century of life. It only missed it in enough crucial places to kill it.   In fact, there were places where it was there.  But it was woven into a fabric of unstated, unagreed-to expectations, manipulations and untuned boundaries directly tied to ownership.  Or a hunger for ownership and the powers and controls inherent with it.

It’s not easy to imagine how younger people find their way around inside that matrix of nebulous expectations.

You’ve got to learn from your mistakes, . . . I’m not saying that I’ve got the way, the truth, and the light here, but I will say, subtract raging hormones from your system. Raging hormones screw everything up. And if what you want is self-respect and growth, dependency relationships are the antithesis of it. I mean, there is a stage of your development where you can grow from that, but if you need that, it’s a statement of your level of growth. And once you get past that, the whole concept is repugnant.

And if you have learned everything you’re supposed to learn, you’re probably not going to have another relationship.  I’ve told you that after I knew I was breaking up with her I spent six weeks or so just listening and considering her catalog of complaints about me. Some were valid, some weren’t. But I listened and considered them all because that kind of input from someone who knows you well doesn’t come often and in a context where the ego allows you to distance yourself from it in a way where you might be able to actually learn something about yourself. Once I knew I was going to break with her, I no longer had any investment in defending my behavior. I learned a lot.

During the same time frame, and during all the preceding months she never listened to a damn thing–never learned anything about herself–remained stolid in her absolute innocence, victimization, purity of thought, and responsibility for any aspect of the failure of our relationship, which she desperately didn’t want to fail.

The part of this that’s most difficult to grasp is that she wanted and needed sex as much as I did. We were a matched set in that way, a couple of really uninhibited, highly-sexed people. But there was an assumption of quid pro quo in her whole approach to the problems–all her life men had been lusting after her because of her physical beauty.

She never came to the realization that all she had to do was relax a little in her “rightness”, compromise, understand, give a little, take a little, and she could save the relationship and grow some at the same time. Growth wasn’t her strong suit. She hadn’t changed much since we were kids.

Truthfully, in hindsight, I’m grateful for my own sake that she couldn’t bend,  couldn’t hear the things I’d said, and responded with shocking venom to every attempt I made for honest dialogue about our mutual problems. If she had, I’d have had to remain with her–it wouldn’t have taken much–I’d have been owned by her, and at her insistance, owned her.

Old Jules