One of the best things about a good partner: they’ll always build you up. They’ll help you traverse rivers, climb mountains, explore the depths, hold your hand when you’re sick, and know your deepest fears. Unfortunately, the wrong partner can ignore the first part, and use the last bit there against you.
If you haven’t already, be sure to head over and read part 1 of this series of posts (this is part 4), in particular the Introduction section that puts this into a bit of a larger context, and gives a couple of disclaimers (like, for instance, assuming that I’m talking about a specific person or persons in these posts.) Even if you don’t read the rest of that post, read the Introduction. This isn’t just about a single person in my life, and it’s not about men or women. While it happened to a guy, and it’s being told by a guy, you can change “he” and “she” to any gender you like, and it still fits.
A Word on Bad People
From the first paragraph I typed of this series, I expected there to be some sort of fallout. Women who write about their abuse are pointed at as “making it up”. Men who write about their abuse are “pussies”. Honestly, I could care less about that. Call me names online? Oh, woe is me, what shall I ever do?
But, I expect a little more personal as time goes on. Today, I got a message from a friend which, when distilled, said “You called me an abuser.” In this case she apparently slept with someone besides her husband at some point, then blamed it on him. I don’t know the whole story, just a snippet.
Ends up, that’s a great spot to point something out: when it is human making a mistake, and when it is an abuser? Great question. I have no great answer. To me, intent to hurt another person is abuse. Does a single example of a person intending hurting another person make them an abuser? Pretty grey area of me. Humans are dumb, and we do dumb things. Humans are also smart, and we learn from doing dumb things. Heck, as kids, we have to be told not to stick our fingers in other people’s noses. And, we have to be taught that some things hurt, and don’t do that to others. Guess what? In adulthood, we don’t know everything, and even if we did, we’d have dumb moments. Does a dumb moment make us bad? If one moment is enough, I’ve never met a good person in my life.
When I started all of this, about 8,000 words ago, I also decided I was going to show my warts, too. I’m no angel: I’ve had my dumb moments, too, and you’ll get to see one of those shining moments here shortly.
Building You Up
Your significant other should be your best friend, greatest ally in battle, and they should share in your deepest dreams or secrets. That’s my opinion anyways. I’ve seen people who’ve had lukewarm relationships do so quite successfully. It’s just not for me. Part of it is because that’s how I treat my significant others: I want to be right along side them through both the good and the bad, and I want to sincerely help them achieve their goals. I can’t say I’ve always been great at it – it’s a learned thing.
And, of course, there is some reality involved. If your significant other says “I want to stick my hand in that fire” then it’s probably best not to support the idea of sticking his or her hand in the fire, but instead find out why they wanna stick their hand in the fire.
I’m all about supporting my partner the best I can. In one relationship, I worked from home, she didn’t. She didn’t care to cook, so, I cooked her breakfast, cooked a meal for her to take to lunch, and cooked supper. It might sound rather simple, but it actually served multiple purposes. Sure, it was financially responsible. That one is easy. But, there she was going out to work at a job she didn’t care for: why should she have to eat microwave meals? Why not something healthy, and something that I put a little love into doing everyday. Sure, it wasn’t making her dreams happen, but it was improving her day. See, it doesn’t have to be a big thing to help build up your partner: lots of little things help a lot, too. Or, well, that’s my belief. Not that doing big things is a bad idea, either.
The “romantic whims” also factor into those little things. The better I knew my partner, the cooler stuff I could do for them to help make the day a little easier, destress her, or just remind them they are loved.
I could go on and on about this – heck, in a way, I sort of want to. I’d love to be able to focus on the positives right now. But, this isn’t an advertisement: this is a warning.
I’m sarcastic and fun loving. I poke fun, and I have no problem with someone – particularly a significant other – poking me back. There is a such thing as taboos, and spots you don’t poke or joke about, and it takes some time to find those points between any two people. I mention this because this isn’t about poking fun at each other. I’ve seen some people where their relationships go WELL beyond what I think would be OK for poking fun, but they’re perfectly content with it.
One aspect of tearing down I’m talking about is when a disagreement breaks out. I used to have someone in my life that would basically pull every fear, wrong, or desire I had, and use it. She’s sharpen her verbal knives well, too. Back in my bit about Infidelity, I talked about the idea of partners (to me, at least) being better at sex in a long term relationship. You get to know it all – what works, what doesn’t, what turns them on, what gets them off, everything over time.
It’s no different when someone starts pulling out the verbal knives. They know where to strike. They know how to set up for it, and dodge your mental defenses. They know where you’re still sore from the last time.
When that sort of behavior started, I would bite pretty easily: either it would hurt me, or it would draw me out of a logical discussion and into an irrational fight. But, it really didn’t take that long for me to figure out the game, and start to understand what was happening. Most of the time, I’d just sit there and take it, let her blow off steam. She’d try and verbally cut me the whole time, but more often than not I was unaffected. It’s like knowing how a magic trick works: it’s no longer impressive, and no longer draws you in.
But, even if you’re ignoring it, the wounds still happen. It’s slow, over time. It’s like getting a papercut. Sure, it’s no big deal – it doesn’t do any real damage. Now, papercut that exact same spot hundreds of times. Eventually, there’s going to be scaring.
That’s just in fights though. Let’s face it, that’s heated words. You sort of expect the worst to come out of someone when they’re screaming at you at the top of their lungs. No logical discussion is going to happen at that volume. Yes, it can be damaging when you’re talking about dealing with it for years. The really nasty ones don’t come at full volume. They’re the little jabs. If those fights visualized as bar room brawls, these were more like passing someone in the hallway, and discovering you suddenly had a knife in your kidney. You know the other person did it, but you didn’t see it coming, and you’re not even sure why they did it.
That started happening. It seemed to happen after verbally attacking me became less and less effective. It would just seem to come out of the blue, often delivered with a smile like it was a joke. Same thing that was used in a fight days before, now was being used as part of a joke.
I don’t know why I was so less immune to those jabs, those little kidney punctures. Some of it might have been that it was new. Some of it might have been that it wasn’t being yelled at me. And, some of it might have been that it was done so casually. Whatever it was, it definitely had more of an effect. Thing is, by that point I had developed a bit of a mask for that sort of thing. I wouldn’t react to it. I wouldn’t get angry and lash out – which often seemed her goal. I just let it go. But, that whole paper cut thing… these weren’t small cuts anymore, but I let them just stack up, scar on top of scar.
Hang on a Second
Now, I mentioned that sometimes, humans are dumb. If someone says something that hurts: say something about it. I actually quit doing that. If someone says something that hurts me, the likelihood I’m going to tell them is pretty low. Someone started griefing me about my tattoo – something that is extremely important to me, as it represents so many different things. He didn’t know he hurt me – I didn’t say a damned thing.
Though, I’m trying to improve upon that. Someone started to do “wahh wahh wahh” about the fact I won’t take caffeine pills. I’ve got issues with taking pill – I had a chronically ill mother, and I grew up watching her taking pills, yet still getting sicker. Eventually, she took her life in my early 20’s, but from about 10 years old and up, I watched this happen. Simply put: I’ve got problems with taking a pill everyday. That’s why I endure coffee. It’s cheap, and it’s not a fucking pill. I’ve managed to go my whole life without being dependent upon a pill on a daily basis. I won’t even take vitamins on a completely consistent basis. This is… well, this is an actual issue for me. So, when someone started making fun of it, I stopped it dead in it’s tracks, and explained. Probably a little less coherently than I should have, but I tried. If I’ve been injured by a friend, it’s also on me to let the friend know there’s a line there that shouldn’t be crossed.
There’s also a second there here: sometimes, humans are dumb, and I am far from being an exception to that rule. I’m going to give you the worst, most thoughtless thing I ever said in jest, and it ended up being one hell of a dagger. Back in the Infidelity post, I mentioned a partner that I had an open relationship with who ended up pregnant. We put the relationship on hold, though I spent a lot of time with her, made sure she ate, etc. We had discussed NOT having the marriage discussion (OK – I’ll amend that a bit; I had the discussion. I believe my exact words were “I promise I won’t do something stupid like ask you to marry me.” If we were going to do something like that, it needed to be because we wanted to be with each other, not because there was a baby. She just agreed.) Anyway, one night we’re having supper, and I said something, and she joked “Oh, I’ll make your life a living hell!” Without thinking, I popped off “What, you’ll marry me?”
She went dead silent. I remember that look – she looked down at the plate in front of her, and it was quiet for a moment. This time, I was the asshole that had shanked her in the kidney.
I bring this up, because it brings up a question: was I being abusive? I doubt it falls under the definition of abusive. We were horsing around, like we always did, and I stumbled across a line that I never knew existed. (Though, it could be said I SHOULD have known that line existed – there was a discussion we hadn’t had, apparently, that we should have.)
To me, it’s abusive if it’s done in anger, and if it’s done over and over with the intention of hurting someone. Being thoughtless? Well, that’s humans being dumb. Being hurtful intentionally? Completely different territory, in my opinion.