How to Pick a Lover

Archive for the ‘Bad Relationship Choices’ Category

Ways to Screen Out Violent Lovers

This is an earlier post that I felt was worth re-posting in light the current press about Ray Rice and domestic violence.

 Deeds of violence in our society are performed largely by those trying to establish their self-esteem, to defend their self-image, and to demonstrate they too are significant.
—Rollo May, Power and Innocence

 One hazard of intimate relationships is that, because of the intensity of feeling which they engender, they may provide the stimulus for violence. Occasionally, that may involve women being violent with men; but when violence occurs, it’s most often men being abusive with women. Male strength is vastly superior to that of women. Even relatively small
and frail men have a disproportionate advantage, and when that edge is fueled by fury, then it’s a clear and present danger.

Conflict is inevitable in almost all intimate relationships, and some of that conflict is potentially violent. This fact of life, less pleasant than other facts of life, is something that should be taught to all young girls. It’s a reality that a woman of experience must learn to accept and to take into account. She cannot avoid it entirely, but she can learn to minimize the odds.

In our culture, as in many other cultures, there is, for many people, an implicit association between sex and violence. It’s apparent in some pornography, which equates eroticism with dominance and brutality. This sex-violence link is apparent in much of the old folk wisdom, which endorses wife beating as legitimate and even as necessary under some circumstances. Such attitudes are not restricted to the uneducated or to the unsophisticated. The philosopher Nietzsche offers the questionable advice: “When thou goest to a woman, take thy whip.” Noel Coward quips, “Certain women should be struck regularly like gongs.” If a man is not free to beat any woman, he’s often perceived to be free to beat his own, especially if he’s provoked.

Office on Violence Against Women logo

Office on Violence Against Women logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ordinarily, it’s not feasible to ask a man directly whether or not he will hit you. Even if you were to ask, his answer would not necessarily be very informative. You can, however, find many occasions where you can ask him how he feels about corporal punishment for kids. The man who feels that it’s all right to spank, beat, or whip a child “if he deserves it” may very well feel it is also all right to spank, beat, or whip a woman “if she deserves it.” Guess who gets to decide if the deserving child will be improved by abuse? Guess who gets to decide if the deserving woman needs to be corrected?

Some potentially violent men are easy to spot. They tell you outright that they believe that might is right and that their own judgment of the appropriateness of the use of force and pain is justification enough. Don’t be surprised if an argument with such a man eventually leads to him emphasizing his point with the back of his hand.

While you’re talking about life in the abstract, you can always ask a man about his own parents. If he reports that his old man used to knock Mom around, that’s not necessarily a danger signal. Listen to how he describes it. If there’s an undertone of pride in his old man, who really knew how to handle women, then don’t be surprised if eventually he attempts to handle you the same way. If, however, he’s full of sympathy for his mom’s plight and if the story ends as such stories often do, with the boy finally challenging his father successfully thereby being able to protect the mother, then he may be more sensitive to violence against women than are other men. He may, in fact, be the kind of man with whom you will be most safe.

Some philosophers would contend that there’s a potential for violence in all of us and that it only requires sufficient provocation for it to erupt. This may well be true, but it’s difficult to prove or to disprove. If all men are potentially violent, it doesn’t follow that all men are potentially violent in terms of women.

The code of chivalry asserts that although violence is often necessary, it’s not appropriate in those circumstances involving assaults on people who are relatively powerless and defenseless as, for example, women and children. With men living by a chivalrous code, the possibility of violence is virtually negligible. When you fight with them, they will fight back; when you offend them, they make you pay one way or another, but they will not take out their rage physically.

Other men, however, are prone to violence in varying degrees. Many women, at least one in ten, perhaps more, have experienced the violent laying on of hands by a boyfriend, husband, or lover. The violent lover is trouble and is to be avoided no matter what his other attractions may be.

 Related articles

 Ray Rice Is a Reminder Why Congress Passed the Violence Against Women Act

 

 

Advertisements

Rule Nine: Beware the Monster That Is Habit

The less of routine, the more of life.
—A. B. Alcott

In a love affair, or in any relationship which is valued intrinsically, one needs continually to guard against that monster that devours everything, the monster of habit.

A blonde and glamorous and much married movie star was once asked   why she had divorced her latest husband. Waving a bejeweled and lacquered hand, she exclaimed, “But, darling, he made love to me on Wednesdays.” “And what is wrong with Wednesdays?” inquired the reporter. “Nothing is wrong with Wednesdays,” she exclaimed. “But, darling, he made love to me only on Wednesdays and always on Wednesdays. It was all just too predictable.”

When life’s great moments become just too predictable, they cease to be great moments. When people have to face great adversity, from physical handicaps to prison camps, they console themselves with the cliché that you can get used to anything.

Alas, you can also get used to anything that is good. If every night you have caviar, lobster, and champagne, eventually you groan, “Oh god, caviar again!” The jet-setters have learned, if nothing else, that contrast is everything. That cold of the ski slopes is crisper if you are still tanned from lying on a beach, the luxury of a grand hotel is grander if you have just returned from safari, and wallowing in a hot Jacuzzi is more relaxing if you have just survived ten days of testing your limits with Outward Bound.

The joy of a love affair is often that it’s something different from your ordinary life. The death of a love affair often begins when the difference becomes a routine part of one’s daily life.

The most exciting kind of lover is one who is aware of the somnolent effects of routines. Whether he has this sensitivity or not, you should yourself make sure that the habituation effects in an affair are minimized. Make it a
point to vary the experience, not just in terms of how you make love but also with regard to what you eat, what you talk about, where you go, whom you see, and where and when you see each other.

Someone once observed that young people love to take a vacation because it is a break in the routine, and old people hate to take a vacation for the same reason. In a love affair, try to maintain the youthful attitude and punctuate your routine as often as you can.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Reciprocity: The Elixer of Mutuality

Watch out for men who have Mothers.
—Laura Shapiro, Ms.

The chauvinist is long accustomed to the idea that women will serve him and take care of him as in the personal service that used to be provided by servants. Indeed, in this expectation, he’s not far from wrong.

While the worlds of men and women have changed significantly over the past 50 years, men still routinely encounter waitresses, secretaries, clerks, chambermaids, receptionists, and others in service occupations—the majority of whom continue to be women. Women fetch and carry, they tend and attend, and they take care of him often in much the same way that mothers take care of children. Certainly in the same way that mothers take care of favorite sons.

Emancipated women who are sensitive to chauvinism in many other areas may make exceptions for their sons. The more devoted the mother is—and the longer the son has been at home—the more pronounced the attitude becomes. Guess who later gets to play Mommy and take care of him? The traditional attitude in marriage is that the provider brings home the bacon and the little homemaker cooks and serves it . . . after she has gotten him a beer, found the TV guide, answered the phone, and quieted the children.

In traditional marriages, a man who would leap to his feet when a strange woman comes into the room is the same man who, at home, automatically takes the best chair in the room, asks his wife to bring him the paper, and does not move until dinner is served.

Providing personal services is a way of being considerate and of showing affection. No one would want to have lovers and friends give up such nice little touches as making dinners and drinks, helping someone on and off with a coat, and putting the coat in the closet, running a bath, lighting a fire in the fireplace, fetching the mail, answering the phone, charging the cell
phone, plumping up the pillows, arranging a footstool, getting a sweater, finding your glasses, and a thousand and one other ways of making someone comfortable. What’s important in a lover is that these touches are reciprocal, not one-sided. And that they are not expected or demanded.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid Pro Quo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unless you’re a commercial sex worker, you don’t have to continually give more than you receive, and you shouldn’t. If you are clear from the start about your expectations of quid pro quo and consistent in their application, most men will learn quite quickly how to scratch a back back.

Resisting Chauvinism In Everyday Life

The plain English of the politest address of a gentleman to a lady is, I am now, dear madam, the humblest of your servants. Be so good as to allow me to be your Lord and Master.
—Samuel Richardson

On the one hand, chauvinistic males are everywhere. On the other hand, you’re advised not to try to change a man with whom you are having an affair. How then are you to live with chauvinism? The answer is simple: change yourself, not him.

The secret to male domination, at one level or another, is that it’s domination by consent. If he says, “Be so good as to allow me to be your lord and master,” you don’t have to allow it. Women agree to being placed in a secondary role; they submit to being governed. If you don’t comply, he cannot make you obey.

To this generalization, there are two important exceptions. First, obviously, he can make you do anything he wants if you have to deal with physical domination and abuse. You can do nothing in that situation except to leave as soon as possible. Second, and less obviously, he can make you do many things if you are economically dependent upon him. If, however, you have your own resources inside or outside marriage, then most of the domination that is involved is a combination of traditional authority and psychological intimidation.

I'll take my chauvinism with a hint of barbari...

I’ll take my chauvinism with a hint of barbarism please! (Photo credit: jeremyclarke)

While each new relationship brings out in a personality something slightly different than any other relationship, the problems you encounter with one man often tend to reoccur in subsequent ones. A young woman friend of mine used to wail to me as she found herself in the midst of all-too-familiar hassles, “Why does my life keep repeating itself?” My less than sympathetic response to her, “Because, my dear friend, you keep making the same mistakes!” A new love affair gives you a chance to start over. A new love affair gives you a chance to stop making the same mistakes . . . as long as you remain self-aware of your own previous detrimental patterns.

Rule Five: Accept the Inevitability of Chauvinism

There are three choices: to be a celibate, be a lesbian, or love a chauvinist.
—Jayson VanVerten

It would be a pleasant change if one could select as lovers only men who were free of chauvinism. Alas, since it’s the culture as well as individuals who are androcentric (man centered), there are still relatively few such creatures around. Although they are becoming less rare with each passing generation.

The misogynist is a man who hates women. The chauvinist isn’t necessarily full of hate: he simply has a fundamental sense of man’s superiority to women and, therefore, a fundamental belief in the intrinsic rightness of existing traditional sex roles. He views the exchange relationship of man the provider versus woman the nurturer as a satisfactory one, perhaps even an exemplary one. If you disagree, spend some time chatting to a conservative who champions “family values.” Although he may mutter compliance when challenged about equal pay for equal work, he usually doesn’t believe that work done by women is equal to the work done by men.

Gender equality poster

Gender equality poster (Photo credit: leitza*)

What are the signs of chauvinism in everyday life? In the early days of consciousness-raising in the women’s movement, they used to talk about the click, which was a sudden aha insight into a daily event symbolic of the arrangement between the sexes. Once you start to think in these terms, the clicks are everywhere.

A chauvinist is likely to expect personal services which he doesn’t reciprocate. He tends to make unilateral decisions that should be made jointly; he controls the content of conversations by refusing to participate on topics which don’t concern him directly. He seeks emotional support without returning it, he gives unnecessary directions, he assumes that his opinion is more valid and more accurate than a woman’s regardless of his expertise or lack of it on a particular issue. Etcetera. The analogy is that a chauvinist tends to treat women in the same way as an adult treats a child: he may be affectionate and even benevolent, but he isn’t an egalitarian.

If your consciousness is sufficiently raised to be aware of the chauvinism around you, what are you to do about it? You can opt for celibacy and try as much as possible to avoid the company of men. You can opt for lesbianism and the “lavender culture.” (Alas, you will find that some lesbian women are sexist as well, but that is another story.) Or you can resign yourself to the fact that chauvinism is endemic and simply try to minimize its effects. If you decide to become an active feminist and dedicate yourself to reforming and revamping the social system, that’s a fine political decision. It is, however, frequently a precursor of disaster in one’s personal life. You can end up defining almost everything as a political issue, which isn’t only exhausting and inefficient but also chips away destructively at even the most affectionate bond.

If you decide to go with the traditional role and model yourself on “total womanhood,” you must deny a large part of your selfhood and your intelligence. Total women are the scabs of sisterhood. In the women’s movement, they are the equivalent of Uncle Toms in the black movement. We call them Doris Days. Playing this part, even if you were willing to do so, would make you feel most of the time like an actress and a rather miscast actress at that. You might do it but would resent it, and that resentment would eventually sour your love affair.

There is a third alternative. You can learn to live with chauvinism, at least mild-mannered chauvinism, without  sacrificing your independence and self-respect. You’ll not be viewed as acceptable by some chauvinistic men. But you will be increasingly acceptable to enlighten men whose own consciousness has been raised and who, if not exactly feminists themselves, are at least sympathetic to the feminist cause.

Beware of the Great Ghost Lover

There is sanctuary in reading, sanctuary in formal society, in the company of old friends, and in the giving of officious help to strangers, but there is no sanctuary in one bed from the memory of another.
—Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave

There’s nothing quite so wondrous, quite so awesome, quite so interesting as the first time you fall in love. It may not be with the first man whom you take as a lover . . . indeed, such emotional monogamy is more likely the exception than the rule. The intensity is partly due to ignoring or refusing to accept the possibility that such a feeling can end—not only on his part but also on yours.

If, in addition, the thrill of first love is combined with the thrill of first making love and if that initiation is a satisfactory experience, then it sets up the conditions for a powerful kind of imprinting. Newly hatched goslings will imprint on any moving object they happen to see—a moving wooden cube, the heel of their keeper, a ball of wool—and they will follow that object with all the persistence and devotion that nature intended them to bestow on the mother goose that hatched them. In the same way, a woman whose first love experience coincides with her first sexual experience, or at least her
first erotic and wonderful sexual experience, may for the rest of her days be imprinted upon a certain kind of man.

The man who was your first love may provide an idealized model for masculinity in general. If the first eyes that you loved loved you back, and said so, were let’s say, slate gray, then twenty years later, slate-gray eyes across a crowded room will still seem more riveting than they actually are. If the first kisses of great passion were enclosed in a full beard, then twenty years later, a full beard is still a special male plumage of particular appeal. Whether he was tall or short, handsome or gnome-like, muscular or slender, there’s a body type, a body image, which continues to hold for your extraordinary potential appeal.

English: Man with beard sleeping.

English: Man with beard sleeping. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If, by chance, you meet someone who seems almost the same as your first great ghost lover from the past, he’ll almost win your heart just by standing there and breathing in and out. Beware. Looking the same doesn’t at all mean that he’s the same. You pick him not for what he is but for the man he reminds you of, which isn’t very flattering to him when he figures it out. You will then project on to him the other traits of the great ghost lover and will be duly disappointed when, quite naturally, he doesn’t live up to these uncanny expectations.

If you find your first great love reincarnated, recognize the source of your attraction. Talk to him if you can’t resist the temptation to do so or if you should want to spoil your illusion with a little reality shock. Take his picture. But don’t take him to your bed in an attempt to go back in time. Even if he looks the same, he won’t be the same and you’ll both be disappointed—you, by his failure to mimic a vanished man he has never met, and he, by your failure to appreciate the fine and unique person that he, in fact, is.

And while you are thinking about your great ghost lover, remember the words of warning from the often-quoted author Bill Vaughan: “It’s never safe to be nostalgic about something until you’re absolutely certain there’s no chance of it coming back.”

The Rebound Effect

A Frenchwoman, when double crossed, will kill her rival; the Italian woman would rather kill her deceitful lover; the Englishwoman simply breaks off relations—but they all console themselves with another man.
—Charles Boyer

One would think that when suffering the pain of having been rejected in love, a rational woman might foreswear love forever and give up on the whole game. At least, one might expect her to walk around for some time muttering, “Never again, never again.”

In reality, it’s only when a woman has left her man because she’s bored with him or offended or outraged that she thinks seriously of giving up men in general. If the man leaves her, then it’s quite another matter—even if she didn’t much want him anyway. If he leaves her, it becomes a matter of pride. To prove that there’s nothing wrong with her, that although unloved she’s not unlovable, she needs a new love affair—or at least the option of one.

ON THE REBOUND

ON THE REBOUND (Photo credit: Neal.)

To paraphrase the nineteenth-century novelist Barbey d’Aurevilly, “Next to the wound, what men make best is the bandage.”

The rebound love affair involves not so much a quest for love as a quest for reassurance. If you’re acting on such a motive, it’s helpful to be aware of it and to take it into account. When a middle-aged man seduces a young girl in order to prove to himself that he’s still young enough to be a macho swordsman, we tend to think that he’s exploiting her. Although it often occurs that men use women and hurt them badly in the process, it’s necessary to remember that women may also use men and may also hurt them badly.

If your motive in an affair is mainly to seek consolation and reassurance after an unfortunate love affair to bind up your wounds, so to speak, then be sure you don’t exploit the lover you pick. He might well delude himself that you loved him for himself alone and not for the incidental fact of his propinquity.

Tag Cloud