I’ve wanted to write a little more personally again. My last Psychology Today article, “Consciously Creating Your Relationship” lends itself to the opportunity to speak more personally about that topic. After all, most of my writing is based on my experience. And I’ve been around relationships quite a bit.
When I was a young man, despite my anti-social behavior (antisocial in its true sense, against society) I still carried the idea of marriage and happily (or perhaps not so happily, but married nonetheless) ever after. This was obvious because as soon as I got my act together (or within a reasonable facsimile of together) I moved toward marriage, children, and a white picket fence.
This was the image I had been bombarded with since being a child. And even if I tried to live an alternative life, it was buried within my psyche, a socially accepted way of being. It seemed being any less meant something was wrong with me. Understand this is all predominately unconscious. But it showed in behavior.
I didn’t maintain that ideal, as I believed I should. I felt guilty, and as if something was wrong with me. This occurred despite the national average for divorce being near 50%. Those around me perpetuated the ideal, at least verbally, even if they were being hypocritical behind closed doors.
There was also another schema at work. I hate to throw men under the bus (though they’ll deny it and bounce back nicely), but for a good percentage there is an idea there are women you marry, and women you have fun with. This remains true after marriage for some, meaning there is your wife, and women you mess with. This is acceptable for some men (and a smaller percentage of women). Think Tony Soprano; but don’t think that it only happens on television.
Although I’m writing from the male perspective, there are similarities and schemas females buy into as well. An excellent article that demonstrates this is Dr. Brandy Engler’s article for Psychology Tomorrow, “Love’s Illusions I Recall”. I highly suggest everyone (not just females) read it.
I have been unfaithful. In fact, it’s been more of a norm for me than being faithful. At different times I sought therapy in order to remedy that “dysfunctional” part of me. When I saw the world’s worst therapist, he first suggested I get a motorcycle to substitute excitement, (as if that was all there was to it). But his final thought (final because I never went back) was his question: You don’t want to be alone at 50, do you?”. My response was “Don’t you think I’ll be able find someone else to be with by then?”. (Even this response demonstrates the idea I will need to be with someone…)
Now I’m 50. And I’m unmarried and not in a committed relationship. Neither do I want to be. I’m not afraid to die alone (we all do anyhow, but that’s a different topic). I’m not afraid no one will take care of me or comfort me as I age and die. Nor do I want someone to. In fact, when I picture my death I picture it alone.
This is not to say I am not loved, or that there aren’t women willing to be in a relationship with me. I see women, so it can be said I’m not completely alone. That’s true. And perhaps if no one cared for me romantically it would be a different story. I can’t honestly say without being there. But what I am saying is that with work your beliefs about what you need, what is “supposed to be” can change. You can change them. You can decide what your belief system will be. It takes more than just deciding though, because for most of your life you’ve been bombarded with “what should be”. It takes consistently challenging your beliefs and consciously considering what you will believe. It takes researching and having an open mind.
Dr. Engler discussed how despite her independence and conscious beliefs, she fell into old ingrained beliefs. Not too long ago I saw myself married and happy and creating a new family with a woman I love. It didn’t work out that way. Maybe it never would have, and I’d be chastising myself for believing again. Or maybe it would have and I’d be one of the few that successfully manages a relationship happily forever.
Regardless, what needs to be done is to consciously create my relationship. I have to decide what I believe in, and what has been given to me. The Eels wrote, “it’s getting hard to tell where?what I am ends?and what they’re making me begins.” Perhaps you should try to find out for yourself. You can start with is this quote by Oscar Wilde: “They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever.” What does it mean to you?