Sunday, 5 December 2010

Somehow, understanding why someone behaves like a total ass helps you not hold a grudge against him or her

I once dated a guy who was very controlling, judgmental, and extraordinarily inflexible. He was constantly around me (my electric and grocery bills were sky-high when he and I started dating, since he'd stay at my place all the time). Perhaps as a result of his ivy league education, he was quite certain he knew everything- and as his girlfriend, well, I'd better just agree with him. Couldn't we just agree to defer to his superior knowledge? he wondered aloud and often. I went from thinking he was a fun, charming guy, to an insecure blowhard who wouldn't leave me alone for 10 minutes in the course of about 6 months.

It was a grueling time in my life. All I could focus on was how difficult he was, how hard it was to deal with him. That is what makes sense, after all; when you're in a situation where the house is on fire, you don't organize your recipe box- you put out the fire. There was always something new to come along and interfere with my peace of mind. I told myself that was the price of being in a serious relationship; that if I wanted peace, I'd be by myself (and let's just say that that was my #1 fantasy at the time- to be alone again). His deep insecurity was at the root of his behavior, and on some level I knew this; that, plus his controlling tendencies, made me reluctant to break up with him. After all, breaking up with a guy like that has to be presented to him in such a way that it's his idea.

With my meditation practice, which I do often, I am reminded of the core, basic goodness in others. It allows me to realize that there is a trigger for some pretty bad behavior, and sometimes I can get to the root of it. This doesn't mean that the things that were done are all of a sudden fine with me, and that I'm not (or wasn't) hurt after all. Not even close. People can do terrible things to others, things for which there are no excuses. Getting to the core of this, though, is good from the perspective of someone who needs to forgive and move on without a grudge. Sometimes, a light bulb will go on when I least expect it.

Jabberwocky (that is his name, don't wear it out) came from a family that looked pretty awesome on the outside. They were clean-cut, respectable, hard-working people; his parents were an American success story, and his siblings were all good-looking, healthy, and worked/ studied hard. At first glance, everyone seemed so well-adjusted, but it didn't take long to figure out that Jabby's tendency to drink too much but then insist he was perfectly capable of driving came directly from his dad. His dad was a hard-working man who'd worked his way up to a large salary in the finance industry and had that old white man baby-boomer air about him that, sorry boomers, made him seem like a giant blowhard. Everything's me me me, look at me I'm so successful, here I am throwing around money because I can, because I have it. Look at me, everyone! For I am the king!

This king invited us out to big, lavish meals, drank too much wine, and then drove his wife and daughters home. They didn't look thrilled about it, but they couldn't question it either. Jabby, who was only a sheet and a half to the wind, drove me home (where he'd stay too long, true to form...). He always drove.

Needless to say, I had to get away from this situation, and I had to trick him into thinking it was his idea. Maybe he needed to act on the fact that he put me down so often. Maybe I should convince him that, like he's been saying for a while, I'm "just not good enough" for some ivy league prince.

It's been 7 years since we broke up. It was a great time in my life afterward: I felt free, I turned 30, I had a lot of support from friends. After that, I went to school and changed careers. In a way, that experience made me work harder to become the person I wanted to be- because I knew what it was like to be so limited.

Jabberwocky is controlled by fear, perhaps not any more, but if that isn't so I'd be surprised. His parents were extremely controlling and judgmental and guess what? That got passed on to him. For all I know, he wanted to stay that charming, fun person who could laugh easily, make jokes, and roll with the punches that life pulls, but he couldn't do it. He was always so worried about how he would look or be judged. He always had to be the prince, heir to the throne, so that the king would look on him with favor- never mind how screwed up the king was.

I think about this in terms of the boys in my life and their fathers. I am proud to say that the young boys I know being raised right now have good male (and female) role models for the most part.

It also opened up a world of compassion in me, to think about this person and the hand he'd been dealt.

Life is all about choices. If you don't want to end up in a situation, don't take the bait. That's what it boils down to.

I could have had a cushy, rich life with a condescending and drunk husband. This is why I smile when people ask me why I'm not married. Some people feel sorry for me, but I don't think they understand what being married at a younger age would have been like for me. I too would have felt like a big fat phony, constantly scrutinized and never good enough, both within my marriage and his family; and with what I have to start with, I couldn't take that on. Nope.

I'm sure I said I wished him well years ago, but I finally mean it now. The light bulb went on and now I understand. We dated each other in the first place because we both knew what that negativity in our lives was like. The split had to happen, though, when we couldn't bond over it.

He's probably some bloated blowhard in the financial industry by now. I don't know, as he's not someone I would seek out, but it's what I suspect. I heard that he married a woman from a culture that is known for submissive women. That's got to be a better fit than Your Jane (sadly).

Somehow, understanding why someone behaves like a total ass helps you not hold a grudge against him or her. In Buddhism, they teach that you suffer when the person who caused the grudge is long gone, but you still have the grudge- and that's not healthy.

Be well, my amigas and amigos, and have a wonderful week.

Jane Q. Phoenix

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