It’s taken grad school and all its wonderful myriad stressors to realize that I have chosen to spend my life with a person who is emotionally unresponsive. Who is invalidating not because he doesn’t love me, but because he’s incapable of validation. He simply doesn’t know how, and doesn’t believe he needs to. How sad.
I’m not sure if I’m feeling relatively hopeless because I’m afraid he can’t give me what I need or because I realize I took everything I disliked about my other relationships and rolled them into one big ball that is my current relationship. For example, Jay was systematic. His semi-LDR consisted of a phone call at the end of the day–his responsibility–and his obligation outside of that was minimal at best. If she contacted him, he would respond. He certainly wouldn’t have gone out of his way to let her know he was thinking of her or caring for her. (Same with me, incidentally.) Bobby was supportive, I admit. Probably just the right amount of supportive too. We likely would have worked out at a different time in our lives, I feel like I was just too immature for that relationship. Coincidentally, I don’t see any of Bobby’s traits in my current relationship. Topher, however, was, and is, a bit of an emotional robot. My work with trauma victims helps facilitate my understanding of this behavior, so I mostly forgive it, but my skewed memory recalls not feeling very emotionally supported. And we can’t forget the ultimate–the foundation–Joey. What Joey taught me was that people don’t get upset, they get even, and usually passive-aggressively. They turn all emotion or hurt into anger and they let that anger eat them alive. Mind you, it usually presents in some other form– for Joey, depression. For others, maybe anxiety or somatic distress, or substance abuse. But it would be unwise to say that we, as humans, are equipped to just “roll with the punches.” Because really, at the end of the day (and research has shown, for all you non-believers), we’re not. For such an “intelligent” species, we really are quite dumb. No one does well holing their emotions up inside, which includes believing that they simply don’t have any, no matter how well we want to believe we’re fucking superman. Emotional intelligence, by the way, is a protective factor (though it doesn’t particularly feel that way for me at present). Those with greater sense of understanding of emotion, their role, and what they are feeling typically produce greater levels of well-being and overall quality of life. Further, we need support systems, it’s in our evolution as a species. Sure, when we talk about it we think: man = baby-maker, hunter; woman = baby-raiser, gatherer, but that’s because that’s all we know. You think emotions are a new phenomenon? Think again! We just labeled it “hysteria” before, and assumed it was because there was some physiological imbalance. We were no more equipped to deal with emotions then than the typical man is today (apparently). But back to Joey. Joey was at an extreme disadvantage. Not only did he think he was capable of “being tough,” but he believed it was the right thing to do. Then he would come home at the end of a workday, drown himself in a few pints, take his anti-depressants and do it all again the next day. Maybe we’re designed as a species to survive, but no one said we were limited to it.
That said, I spent a number of years believing this to be true. And then I chose a mate who agrees right when I had finally begun to disagree. This has been, and continues to be, a huge challenge. I am repeatedly thinking, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” I’m not interested in needing to find strength from within all the time, because I should also be able to find it in the person I’ve chosen to share my life with (within reason; I’m not asking for anyone to carry me emotionally). Does that simply not exist, are all men “suck it up & deal with it” robots, or have I potentially actually made a huge mistake?