Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Broken, But More than a Mere Statistic

One of the only topics that I have tiptoed around since this blogs conception are those of my family roots.  I have hinted, and written specific points but then tried to then add a layer of anonymity.  I have vented, and at other times just written plain statements of fact in such a boring and mundane way as to ensure no emotion could be misinterpreted.  I have been doing this for two main reasons; the first being, I did not want to hurt my family and then have to deal with the backlash of drama that would ensue.  And the second reason which I am battling with is that I did not want to come out and say I was from a broken home thereby re-enforcing any stereotypes that might exist for those of us in open relationships.  I have been up and down on this topic for quite some time, and it is part of the reason I have been unable to post with any regularity this year.  I almost had a mental block, as far as not being able to post the interesting topics I have cached away, and then it struck me that I actually had to deal with something that I feel is incredibly important to the conversation, no matter the consequences or conclusions that may be reached.  It is just never easy to admit that the people who are supposed to be your first real connections and set the relationship bar, were really quite poor at it.

I have been questioning relationship norms, for nearly 3 years and now that I have analyzed where I really came from, I can share.  It is not fair to pretend that my past does not affect my present, and will not affect my future.  I have dealt with some stressful times, and it has left a mark on me.  Although I have chosen not to allow my past to prevent me from achieving an amazing present and in turn a positive future, I needed to accept a few things that I was oblivious to.  A perfect example of this can be found here.

My biological parents divorced when I was around a year old.  I did not ever have regular visitation with my biological father.  Instead, I experienced an on and off again relationship with him that lasted until I was 22.  When we were together, the end result was emotional manipulation, and it always seemed that the attacks were aimed at my mom, using the only go between he had, and that was me.  Since my early 20’s I have had next to zero contact with him other than an e-mail every year or so at random times. 

His philosophy as I was growing up, was that he was in the way, and should go and follow his own dreams instead of being a dad to me.  This is the reality of his view point, and obviously took me years to accept.  His rejection of his fatherly obligation, is an action that played vicious mind games with me at various stages of my emotional development and self esteem.  The comfort of unconditional love from him is that I yearned for, for countless years.  Now I accept who he his, and have made peace that we will never have that relationship that I spent years wishing for.  My one comfort was that he never took the time to get to know me, so his rejection of me was based on an image and not who I am.  Perhaps that is sour grapes, or rationalization on my part, but it is what it is. 

My mom had me too young.  I write that still trying to soften the harshness of what I feel for a woman who must have tried her best.  I cannot seem to help trying to ease the hard dose of reality no matter how objective I try to be.  My childhood with her as a single mom, left a lot to be desired.  And it was a desire that wasn’t fully realized until I reached adulthood and my resentment for all that happened in the past snowballed.  I was on my own from the time I could stay safe without supervision.   I fended for myself when it came to homework, feeding myself breakfast and lunch, and keeping myself entertained.  I remember having to set my own alarm and make breakfast as early as 8, I had to fit in letting the dog out, figuring out if I had enough allowance for lunch and ensuring I could walk to school in time.  I left the house before my mom every morning, and was by myself after school until around 6:30 every night.  To say it was lonely would be an understatement.  A few nights a week we would have family game night, and that was where I built any and all relationships with my mom and whoever was in her life at the time.  On these nights I would pretend I had no homework so that I could hang out with my mom for a few extra minutes.  Some kids pretend they have no homework because they just do not want to do it, I meanwhile was desperate for attention from a woman I barely got to see. 

As I child I saw more fights, than I ever saw tenderness.  Not only between her and myself, but I watched the same with the men she dated, and with her friends and family.  People came in and out of our lives with so much regularity that I learnt not to ask about someone that I had not seen in a while.  When I got older and started to ask again about long lost people from my childhood, I was always rewarded with a story about how that person wronged my mom and thus she was in the right for cutting them out.   As I grew older, I opened my eyes to the reality of our life, and the issues between her and I got bad.  She was a single mom, who would boast that it was just her and me, and yet it felt as if I was raising myself, and had no parents to guide me.  We would fight and scream, she would kick and slap, and I would slam the door and vow that this would be the last time I would forgive her for her temper and immaturity.  Writing this, I am still irritated at how much guilt I have felt for thinking I had a bad childhood, when she has tried to tell me time and time again that I was just too sensitive and I should count myself lucky.  Honestly, if it were not for video games, I might well have traveled so far down the rabbit hole of imagination land that I may well have lost my grip on reality forever, and that is a tangent I will leave alone for now. 

My childhood was not healthy.  My primary relationship role models were non existent, and growing up as an only child without long term relationship norms, it is no wonder that I clung onto my first adult relationship for over 8 years.  There was zero stability in my early childhood.  Only one healthy relationship comes to mind in my extended family and that perfect image was shattered as soon as I was old enough to learn about the skeletons in their closet (in the interest of always being brutally honest even when not appropriate, of course). There was no stable father figure for me until I was 10, and even then, it took a long time for my step dad to become the incredible influence that he remains today. Having an open relationship without a stable image of one growing up, makes me wonder how in the world I could have initially thought this would be easy.  Instead I have had to learn the hard way, how to actually love, build stable healthy relationships with friends first, partner second and all the spice afterwards.  Without a model, this was a challenge. 

So maybe what I should be taking away from all this is that sometimes, things need to break before you try to fix them.  And then if you cannot fix them, as our astoundingly high divorce rate indicates, perhaps it is time to look to a new model.  A new way of looking at relationships in the long term, a way that allows us to no longer fight our instincts.  A relationship standard or outline, in which the male desire to be with multiple woman is accepted, and even embraced.  Where woman`s competitive desire to seek out the best possible mate after being allowed to choose without taboo and social stigma attached becomes the norm.  Men and woman are give up a lot to be monogamous.  The relationship norms I grew up with, were constantly being broken and re tried in the same manor expecting a different outcome.  It never came, and resulted in the relationship between parents and offspring being irreparably damaged.  Relationships should add to your life, not make is so difficult that you cannot properly take care of the needs of you family.

Coming from a broken home, in retrospect puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to having open relationships.  With no solid foundation to look towards as a model for how to treat a person in a long term, loving environment, it is easier to do things poorly.  My learning curve is drastically changed and I started this blog to really work towards finding the best possible way to explore my happiness.  With that being said, in terms of monogamy, if it isn’t broken why fix it?  To me the system appears broken, either as a result of my roots, or by all the staggering numbers of broken homes and divorces out there.  I share my story, because I accept where I came from.  I don’t want to be a broken home statistic, but if that’s what it boils down to, so be it.  I hope over the years, I have shared the human side of my relationships and the happiness I feel being open.  May that be worth more, may all the soul searching and introspective be more valuable than just being a child of divorce questioning relationship norms because I am angry at how I was raised.  I am not angry.  I cannot change the past, only the now.  

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Online Dating Catch Phrases

In online dating, there seem to be a few catch phrases that are going around on peoples profiles.  More and more I am seeing two specifically; down to earth, and drama free.  Now I know the good intent with which these requirements are put online, or at least I understood when I first started to see them around.  Now though, I am confident that all meaning behind them has become lost, or muddled which is the way popularized words and phrases go in the English language.  So let me sum up my experience with these terms in hope that by working together we can find more clarity in what we want.

Down to earth, I have seen this on both male and female profiles.  My original thought whenever I see this one, is lament, as I am a skydiver so I spend a good deal of time getting farther and farther away from the earth.  Yes, it is a silly response, but so is this ever popularized phrase.  Are you really meaning that you do not want to date an airhead?  If so, say you are attracted by intelligence, a level of education, or more specifically a discipline of study.  Do you really want someone with solid roots?  Then specify that you want someone who owns their own home, has a solid foundation or close knit family, perhaps even that they are active in the community.  Maybe you do not want to date a dreamer or someone whose head is too far in outer space.  Again, there is probably a clearer way of stating this. Try and state your actual turn ons, those aspects about a person that would help you click, and escalate attraction.  Or maybe you just want to stop dating pilots and flight attendants, and if that is the case, I am pretty sure you can figure out how to be more direct in stating that all on your own.

Next up, is the drama free.  I am at the point now where I cringe upon reading this one.  Who knowingly seeks drama and stress in their lives?  Do you really mean that you seek a person free of any and all commitments?  Children, school, being a caregiver, are a few examples of committed persons, and each is very easy to spell out with real clarity.  Or perhaps you want someone who doesn't have any baggage, i.e. a violent ex, or an impending prison sentence.  Sure, this seems pretty reasonable, however, the term drama free is just too all encompassing.  It is a scapegoat that allows you to back out of any situation that you don’t like. “ Oh, you had a boyfriend in the past who you have joint custody of a pet with?  Well, that is just too much drama, and I like to live my life stress free.  Nothing to stand in the way of my happiness or impede me from doing what I want, when I want.”  This drama free thing always screams to me that the person had a really bad experience with crazy, and is now gun shy.  If you are that afraid of drama, you are going to have a real tough time building a real relationship, because shit happens to the best of us.

In all seriousness though, when I ask a person straight up to clarify what they mean by these two phrases, the answers are always different.  And that is the problem, there is too much vagueness.  Either the person writing is not clear on what they want, or the person reading is unaware of what traits might set the person off running.  So if you are seriously trying to make a connection, or spark interest with a stranger, please try and be clear with what you want.  And know what you don’t want.  Try and take the guess work out of that initial introduction.  It will save a lot of time and wasted effort by both parties.  The goal should be to stand out, seem confident by knowing who you are and what you want.  Avoiding catch phrases altogether may give you an advantage.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Badge of Honor and Cone of Shame

Some learned behavioural traits you wear like a badge of honor, or in other words you carry daily and have a real sense of pride.  And at other times you feel you have been forced into wearing nothing but a cone of shame, those loathsome traits that are the Hyde to your Jekyll.  I’m discussing those traits and emotions that I was raised with and carried into adulthood.  It seems that in most situations science states that environment plays a larger role in how we develop and grow emotionally than just genetics alone.  Environment presets the filters that allow us to see the world and interact with it.  And these presets come from friends, the education system and of course family. 

I like to think in a perfect world, your family is responsible for encouraging you to show off the best traits you have.  By shaping you, with healthy and high reaching goals, in preparedness for venturing into the big world as a contributing member of society.  In my family, this was not quite the case.  In fact, looking back, stubbornness, and childish behaviour were encouraged.  It was the ironic badge of honor, that thing that confirmed we were from the same blood line.  These childish and immature emotions, passed on from one generation to the next were what bonded us together as one family unit and thus encouraged.  My parents mirrored that of their parents, and of course I am writing this because I see it in myself at times of emotional stress, or have had it pointed out to me in frustration.  I see in myself the ability to lose control of my emotions, to act out in a childish manor when I don’t get my way, or worse just being plain stubborn for the sake of being stubborn.  As I said, growing up, I had two generations who would see these traits in me, and smile, knowing that this was the way our family was.  Never putting their foot down and then tell me that this behaviour was wrong, and highly unproductive.

I commend my grandparents for figuring out later in life that this behaviour needed to stop, and to make effort to end this negative cycle. With that said it may very well be too late for their children to ever understand the affects of the negative emotions that they encouraged in their offspring.  And now here, entering my 30’s I am just starting to understand and ensure that this emotional devolution is stopped before a new generation begins.  I envision a time where children are praised and supported for being happy, inquisitive and explorative.  Rather than showering us with encouragement when we show signs of being stubborn, single minded and emotionally volatile. 

I am breaking the chain of silence and acknowledging that I know where I want to repair the damage, and continue building a better and more emotionally stable me.  I wrote this post without blame, as I am responsible for the emotions that I posses.  However knowing where they come from assists me in ensuring that negative feedback loop is not replicated.  Change and growth only occur when a person recognizes a problem and makes a conscious effort to stop the behaviour, and once stopped, learns to build new habits.  Followed then by the task of replacing the changed behaviour with new and positive emotions.  I have outgrown my cone of shame, and am replacing that with my head held up high, in full control of my emotions whether I was raised that way or not.  Let the amazing relationships build up from here.