Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tone Deaf and Willfully Blind

I reread over some past posts and just hate the tone of some of them. I have to believe that I am not going to become bitter or jaded as a result of any past relationship. Perhaps that is inevitable in the short term, as you try to make sense of what went right and what went wrong, but at least in my case, any bitterness or anger I have is directed squarely in the mirror.

I don't think that anyone truly gets blindsided in relationships. Where the issue is one of an isolated mistake, well, shit just happens and people can and do fuck up and that is to be expected. Sometimes they fuck up routinely, but the cruel intent is not present and, again, people are fallible and make mistakes.

Where the issue is one of a more fundamental nature, however, I do not believe that the issue appears out of nowhere. As one example, I don't know anyone who suddenly discovered their husband was abusive - the red flags were always there, but not heeded because of perceived tradeoffs or, worse, a belief that the person will change. I realize that there is a tension between the idea of compromising ("no one is perfect") and holding out for what you really want in a relationship. Sometimes, it is just the belief that "he is so perfect in every way except...." that creates the willful blindness.

I take full responsibility for my past willful blindness. That part is easy and effortless. What is more challenging is figuring out why and learning not to do it again. What the hell is the point if you don't learn something from it, particularly how to avoid similar behavior in the future? Doesn't that completely waste the experience and render the former relationship meaningless? I find that to be disrespectful to both parties, and I put a very high premium on respect.

I had a friend in law school who betrayed me in one of the worst ways imaginable. I think about her a lot, as I truly cannot imagine how she can live with it. I had been a fiercely loyal friend to her and carried her in nearly every way you can carry a friend -- emotionally, academically, socially, financially -- but when there came a point where she had to have my back? Where she had to sack up and honor the friendship? She was completely self-serving and weak, thinking only of herself and who could best maximize her lot in life. I understand self-preservation, but not at the expense of a loyal friend who, as she damn well knew, would never have done the same to her. I am no martyr, but I would have fallen on the sword for her in light of what I believed to be our friendship. I would have healed from that wound and the friendship would have been strengthened.

I still respect certain of her achievements. She came from Nowhere, Nebraska, from a poverty-line, broken family, worked her ass off to get a partial scholarship to a somewhat respectable school, joined Teach for America and taught in Harlem, and finally ended up at a brand-name law school, drowning in debt but determined to get her permanent ticket out of Nowhere. Perhaps because I had a privileged upbringing, I tend to fall for the "by my own bootstraps" stories and have often assumed that such folks would have an even greater sense of loyalty and gratitude when it came to matters of friendship. I tend to gravitate towards them as a result. In my experience, however, the hard knock life has little correlation to a friend's loyalty.

Someday soon, I hope to discover the actual correlation. I think I am getting close, as I have friends here (and elsewhere)and family who would take up arms to protect me, and I would for them. I don't really understand the point of having a friendship or any relationship with someone who wasn't like-minded on this. I know that I have never thrown anyone under the bus or otherwise completely renounced or betrayed a friendship. I have certainly fucked up in friendships and relationships and have been cowardly in repairing the damage caused thereby, but I haven't betrayed a friendship or relationship.

Which, somehow, and probably not coherently, brings me back to my original thought. Whatever disappointments I have experienced with B or the MRE, I didn't betray them. I still have a hard time saying anything disparaging about B to anyone and I certainly don't want to slam the MRE. Both were good, if not great, men as I knew them and I am richer for the experience. That they didn't live up to my estimation of them is my problem, not theirs, as I disregarded plenty of warning signs. The same holds true for the law school friend. The key lesson to be learned (and what I am struggling with) is how to train yourself to acknowledge, heed and act upon the red flags so that you don't keep recycling the same relationships, over and over.

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