April 8, 2011

The Abusive Boyfriend

gabriel aubry.jpg
not pictured

He doesn't hit you, he's not that kind of abusive.

And he's not mean, or controlling, not like that.  No, not really.

But he's careful to make sure you don't notice that a certain movie is on tonight, and he's deftly avoided ballroom dancing lessons with you.  And he walks you the other way if he spots one of your friends, or any billboard with Gabriel Aubry on it.
He's not jealous, he just doesn't want you... distracted.

He has no problem admitting that other men are attractive ("I'm no Tom Cruise"), but never the men that you yourself find attractive.

He's never mean or disrespectful to your friends when you're out together (he goes reluctantly, but for you), but later he reminds you of how you're better than they are, and when they do things "like that" it's silly/wrong/beneath you.  He never says you can't go out with them, but there's always a coincidental reason for you not to.  "Oh..... well..................... I had a special night planned for just the two of us..."

How sweet he is, once a month he buys you a new CD, classical music, with a flower, though now you don't really listen much to the music you used to like.

He is always with you, always in contact with you.  Even when he's not there you hear him in your head like a voice over.  You've even said to him, "sometimes I'm about to do something that I would have done before I met you, and then I hear your voice and I think, "well, Tom would say XYZ" and I realize that I shouldn't do it after all, and I feel so much happier having that part of you with me" and he nods knowingly, yes, he says silently, you're learning to be a better person.

No one else who knows you understands why you're with him.

But you're not unhappy.  When you're with him, alone, things are usually great.  And he loves you, there's no question.  Maybe you think he's worried you don't love him?  But you do, how can you express that to him, so he believes it, so he doesn't have to feel threatened by anyone else?

Save your breath, that's not what he's worried about.  He has a different class of dread, because he is, after all, really smart, and perceptive.  He has, deep down, that feeling that  you're not really compatible, and he may even know he's not good for you-- he may suspect he's actively clipping your wings so you don't get away.

He tells himself that he's keeping bad influences away from you, protecting you from "your old self."  But he doesn't completely believe that-- he is,after all, perceptive-- he secretly knows these "bad" things are better for you, they are more you.  He knows you'd be happier with them.  But then there'd be no room left for him.

What's he sure about is that this is the best there is.  Other things, different things,  may make you temporarily happier;  more money, a trip, more freedom, a bigger dick, laughs with friends, but in terms of your life, your soul, this is as far as you need to go.

He will help you pursue any goal, any happiness, as long as it does not compromise your relationship with him.  He will give you everything and allow you to do anything, as long as nothing makes you wonder if he isn't manipulating you, as long as nothing makes you wonder if another kind of life is possible.  Not a better life, just a different life.  He'll take a bullet for you on instinct, but if another man innocuously tells you he's also interested in art history or compliments your hair, then you'll relentlessly over months be presented with subtle reasons why art history is a fraud and you need a haircut.  Attacking the man would be too transparent.

But why so much energy controlling the world?  Why not just let things be and see what happens?  Is he so afraid things will get worse?

No.  He's afraid things will get worse or they will get better.  He is afraid of change, any change, not just because the relationship may change but because if it changes then he would have to change.  Into what?  How?  With what resources?  With what net?  Once change has happened, doesn't that mean other possibilities were obliterated?  It is his possibilities he is trying to beat down with your sclerosed dreams.

All that matters is keeping the relationship intact.  Even if you both end up miserable, better misery and stability with him than the tachycardia of something else, something unknown, something he can't control or defend against.

Do you know this guy?  You think you do.

This is what you need to know: the boyfriend I'm describing isn't Tom, the hipster who's number one on your speed dial.   And no, I'm not directing this at you, man-boy, I'm not saying you are doing this to your woman, though you may be.  At any moment there is only one person in the room no matter how many people are in the room, and that one person, you, is lugging around the same man you've lived with for years.  The abusive boyfriend I'm describing is your unconscious, and Tom has nothing on him, though Tom has, through the hypertrophied intuition of damaged men, figured out how it all works.

The unconscious doesn't care about happiness, or sadness, or gifts, or bullets.  It has one single goal, protect the ego, protect status quo.  Do not change and you will not die.  It will allow you to go to college across the country to escape your parents, but turn up the volume of their pre-recorded soundbites when you get there.  It will trick you into thinking you're making a huge life change, moving to this new city or marrying that great guy, even as everyone else around you can see what you can't, that Boulder is exactly like Oakland and he is just like the last guys.   And all the missed opportunities-- maybe I shouldn't, and isn't that high? and he probably already has a girlfriend, and I can't change careers at 44, and 3 months for the first 3/4 and going on ten years for the last fourth, and do I really deserve this?-- all of that is maintenance of the status quo, the ego.

You think you're with Tom by accident?  You were set up.

And when all else fails, it will beat you down with apathy.  Or the Monday night lineup.  Or pot.  Or-------------------

The men, or women, aren't lying to you, and you're not even lying to yourself.  You are being lied to, by yourself.