Thursday, April 10, 2014

Keeping To The Shoreline

Employing the tools that I got from my Human Sexuality class on fighting, I took control of a situation yesterday with my ex that would have been a big dramatic explosion a year ago, or maybe even six months ago. 

The situation is that we have the last bit of court paperwork to file, and I haven't had the time to do so because of work and school.  He offered to come down to do it for me, and I happily took him up on this offer.  And so there was to be an exchange that was not child related.

I do not want to see David's face.

I don't want him to breathe my air.

These are of course sarcastic manifestations of "I really don't like you and I know that when we interact it goes south very quickly."  Sarcasm is part of my very slow to burn style of fighting.  Even though we were not fighting at this point, like the sailor said quote:  stormy weather.  Even if I am only using this sarcasm for to quell my internal churning of abhorrence and formulate a plan of action to resolve the issue.  

Identify the issue:  I have to give paperwork to my ex, which means I am vulnerable to being goaded into a fight I do not want to employ the labor to have.  (This assumption is based off of previous encounters we've had.)

--Note that I am using I statements.  I don't have any responsibility for his half of things, nor is it my job to plan how he needs to behave.   I am only responsible for me. 

I have decided that I do not want to give him access to my person.  We will communicate minimally via text messaging or email.  

I have a few choices for how to make this happen.   

  • I can have someone else make the exchange for me, but that is taking someone's time and there's already enough collected time in the world wasted on this individual.  
  •  I could overnight mail it to his mom's house, but then I'd be wasting money.  
  • Leaving it somewhere that he can retrieve it from, but there is risk involved in making sure that it gets to the right hands. 
The last solution seemed to have the easiest execution, because one place I know of that would be safe to leave something is my front doorstep.  If you saw the amount of garden gnomes, poppets, and tiny Easter Island head statues I have on my front porch, you'd understand that I have faith that if something is placed there, my neighbors and their guests generally tend to have the amount of boundary respect it takes to not touch my stuff. 

I've determined a place for this to happen.  As for time, I decided not to have it happen while I wasn't home.  No, I do not want to interact with the fella, but I also didn't want something to happen while I am away.  For example, him attempt to break in or if he gets into a fist fight with my neighbor or something random that probably won't happen but since I really don't know who I'm dealing with anymore, could possibly happen. 

I also didn't want it to happen abruptly after getting home or during a time when I would likely be eating or cooking, so I chose 7.  7 is a good number.  And, to boot, the good thing is that he asked me what time would work best for me.  I've been psychologically conditioning him to behave a certain way when dealing with me, and it has worked. 

I love school. 

Now, the outcome I wanted was to leave the papers tucked into my screen door, he shows up and gets them, and he leaves.  It pretty much went off without a hitch, except that I forgot to sign something.  He texted me, and then knocked on my door, and then attempted to call me. 

None of these things were unreasonable, they were just annoying.  I chose to respond via text message, because I wouldn't have to see his face or hear his voice.  And because I didn't want to see his face or hear his voice, I told him to leave the paper that needed to be signed, go back to his car, and I will tell him when he can come back. 

"Why don't you just come out here with a pen?" he asked. 

Welp, I don't want to.  He's come to my turf, he's going to have to do things the way I am comfortable doing them.  I insist that we do it my way. 

The word he always resorts to when he realizes that I am not budging is "Fine!"  Not "okay," or "all right," but FINE.  Well, he said Fine and went to his car, texted me from his car to say he was at his car, I got my taser and opened my door to get the paper, sign it, and put it back.  The taser was just in case he was standing there and I needed to give him a warning zap to respect my boundaries.  Okay, no it was really just in case in the unlikely event that he was getting me to open the door so he could get physical. 

Done. 

Except he had follow up questions.  I didn't know the answer to them and said so. 

And that was that. 

And you may be thinking to yourself "why does everything have to go your way?"  The answer to that was stated toward the beginning of this story:  I am only responsible for me.  I remember what happens when we interact in person.  I have the intelligence to make this easy on both of us.  Also, I am naturally in charge of everything.  Leadership skills for the win. 

I mean--why assume that he is going to take charge?  Why assume it will go well this time?  Why bother planning?  Why hope that he can change? 

He can't change, that's why the marriage ended, and it's not up to me to put that burden on him anyway.  Only you can prevent forest fires is the most absurd You Statement of the century.  It should be that only I can prevent forest fires, because only I can be responsible for my actions. 

Of course, the fact that there was slightly more interaction than I had planned on had me venting out my annoyance to friends.  One of my friends, Kevin, the widower of my friend Angie said that this story reminded him of a time that we drove down to San Diego to visit them.

When was it? Hmm... back when Ang and I were hanging in San Diego. You and David came down and spent a day (with yummy sausages). You and Ang chatted away and I ended up taking a boat ride with D. 

Yeah, said boat ride was fun in the sun, but I really got the impression that there wasn't much going on upstairs, or maybe he just wasn't boat-savvy. That led to me having a little "heart to heart Dad to Son" kind of talk with him on just what exactly his plans were, where he saw himself right now, step up or step off, etc... Didn't get any return on that, so I shrugged and let him do his thing. 

His thing consisted of keeping to the shoreline 'cuz he could see the bottom of the lake and any fish he was trying to catch and I guess it seemed to him easier to fish like that. I pointed out that we were in a boat designed to go into the lake where larger fish were and yes it requires more investment of time and patience but better returns in the long run. That analogy just glanced off his noggin like a skipping stone. After about 5 minutes of "in the lake", he headed back to shoreline fishing:  His Thing.

The first thing that came to mind after reading this was "this is the perfect metaphor to describe why my first husband did not work for me--how I like a certain amount of investment and risk and living up to potential, and how he displayed none of that."  

The second thing that came to mind after reading this was "He has a phobia of water."  

When I told Kevin about his water phobia, Kevin said "well he could have just mentioned that instead of going through all that worry, but he didn't." 

Speak up for yourself because You are responsible for You.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fighting

I'm going to share more notes from my favorite class, Psychology of Human Sexual Behavior.


We're going to look at Fighting.

We fight with people in pretty much every area of our life:  family, romantic partners, friends, Target managers, professors, co workers and bosses, random people on the internet.

So there's five things about fighting that we need to sit and identify.

Style
Issue
Time
Place
Outcome

If you're reading this you're either doing it because you normally read whatever is posted to this blog, or you want to get better about fixing the way that you fight so that you can have healthier relationships. 

The first question you must ask yourself is what style of fighting do you use?

Really, think about that for a moment.  Do you use positive fighting tactics?  Do you intend to hurt the other person worse than they can hurt you?  Are you slow to burn?  Do you insult?  Do you get all destructive?  Do you avoid confrontation all together? 

There are some websites that will help you identify your fighting style, like this test on Psychology Today

It is important to identify your fighting style so that you can understand how to adjust your behavior and use healthier tactics when engaged in an argument.  


I, for example, am slow to burn.  At first when the fuse is lit, I analyze.  I try to think of all the reasons why this person is saying these things--what they're REALLY saying, and how I can keep this fairly calm and analytical. And as that long fuse is smoldering, I become more and more sarcastic.  Sarcasm is a coping mechanism and defense tactic I've grown attached to.  Unfortunately, when the fuse runs out, after being goaded and harassed for some time, the bomb goes off.  I do or say something very hurtful that I will likely regret later.  But I own it.  And I will either stay to help clean up the mess if the relationship is worth saving, or I accept that those assholes got the best of me and it is what it is.

We're all friends here.  Except of course for those of us who are not.  Anymore.

This is called, for lack of a better term, "explosion mode."  In explosion mode, things have become personal.  Fights are not supposed to be personal.  And if you're fighting about something personal, you're with the wrong person.  Dump that friend, dump that boss, dump that bitch.  Nobody gets permission to attack your character.  

So, I've identified that I am a slow to burn sort of firecracker.

Next, when engaged in a fight, the two of you must decide and agree what the issue is.  

An example:  I'd forgotten to put my phone off of silent when I got home from school, and as a result I missed my ex asking me to have the children call him.  By the time I got to the phone, my messages had been blown up, one of which included the line "why don't you stop spending the child support on yourself and get them their own phone so I don't have to go through you anymore to speak to them."

What is the issue here really?  Is it as simple as the original subject that sparked the fight?  Or is that paved over with where the whole thing derails and goes into something unrelated?  


He didn't get to call his kids.  My mistake.  My phone was on silent and I'd not even remembered that he'd missed their attempt to call the day before, and that I said they'd try the next day since they had gone to bed before he was able to call back. 

But wait a minute--spending the child support on myself?

That certainly isn't true, and it also isn't fair.  Why is that even factored into the forgotten/missed phone call?

Okay, use child support to buy phone for children.  (Except that lately child support has been used to buy medicine, clothing, food, gas back and forth to school, field trips, etc.)

But why throw in that I'm spending it on myself?  Why is that the weapon?

What it must really be boiling down to is bitterness over money.  And if that's what the fight is really about, it gives me a chance to agree to discuss that particular issue (or not.)  If it had stayed strictly about the upset feelings about the phone call, that's where I can take responsibility for the mistake and the issue is resolved.

It is not fair to say "I'm mad at you for X but I'm throwing in Y since we're in fight mode."  Pick a thing.  Agree to hash it out.  If the other thing also needs to be hashed out, make it separate and agree to a time and a place to work on it.

"There's a time and a place" is a phrase we've heard our whole lives, but do we know what the time and a place for a fight is? 


Many of us don't.  I can tell you this much--it should not happen at blow up time.  Fuses are already burning and we're going to get to explosion mode very quickly.  This is why I prefer that my ex and I communicate via email.  It gives us both distance, and it gives us both time to react to the other one's words and maybe get some insight from our cheerleaders and mental health professionals.

I've had situations with Willie where we suddenly find ourselves in argument in the van with the kids in the back.  We're both cool enough to say "let's talk about this later" (time.)  Where we discuss it?  Maybe the living room, maybe Denny's depending on the subject matter.  We do not fight in the bedroom.

Do not fight in your place of rest, or your place that you consider to be tranquil.

We don't consider Denny's to be a romantic date kind of place, just a late night dinner place with a cheap menu.  If we choose to discuss something we disagree over at Denny's, it keeps us quiet, it gives us something to do, there's comfort milkshakes and cheese sticks, and all the negativity stays out of our home.

If it is something private, or more intense than what can be hashed out over hash browns, we keep it in the living room.  The living room is my workspace.  Yes it kind of sucks to be fighting where I do my work, but I've been a living room employee for so long that it doesn't even effect me anymore, especially since in my mind I consider Lisa's studio to be my actual place of business.

Maybe we'll go for a drive.  We don't get super emotional, and we don't have super intense fighting to do, so this works for us.  This might not work if there's anticipated crying or if your fighting style is more intense than mine.  Willie is actually very hot tempered (with the color comes the rage) but he has learned healthy fighting tactics along with me for the past few years since I have been focused on self improvement and better quality of life.

The point is that we don't do this in the bedroom.  Ever.  The bedroom is a place of rest and intimacy.

Once you've found the time and the place and identified the issue, it's time to identify what you want the outcome of the discussion to be.  


This is not I'm right and you're wrong, this is the resolution of the issue.  This is compromise.  This is how can we fix this?  Maybe we don't know the outcome, we only know the problem. 

Haul from a ice cream man in San Bernardino
Here's a story.  Willie has bad teeth, as do I, but I know that I have bad teeth and I do what I can to avoid pissing them off.  Willie, however, will eat peanut brittle and Mexican candy.  In fact, Willie has a problem.  A Mexican candy problem.  There will be times that I will stick my hand in the couch and find a cache of saladitos.  And one time I was coming home after dark and I thought someone had dropped a pipe in our driveway.  It was an empty tube of pelon.

Considering the guy quit smoking a few years ago, if this is his worst vice--that's fine.  Except that it puts him in super amounts of pain, he won't eat, he goes to bed early, he's digging in his mouth in public.  This annoys me for a few reasons.  One:  he's hurting himself.  Two:  it's diminishing our quality of time if we can't do things because he went on a tamarindo binge and now has a tooth ache.  Three:  that shit is full of lead and he's going to give himself worms.

One night we were on one of our late night visits to 7 Eleven--because if we aren't eating dinner at Denny's we're at the 7 Eleven.  I'm grabbing a cream soda and an egg salad sandwich, and he's filling up the front of his shirt with Lucas.  "Willie, what are you doing?  Don't you buy all that Lucas!"  "Mind your business," he tells me.  So I go and put my things on the counter and say to the man "Don't you let him buy all that damn Lucas!" and then Willie comes around the corner and empties his stomach pouch of like 15 of them.

"YOU'RE FUCKING RIDICULOUS," I yell as I storm out of the store.

"You're fucking ridiculous," he counters.  The man behind the counter laughs.  It turns out we're fucking ridiculous.

Just for the record, this was play fighting for the most part.  This isn't how we actually communicate with each other, it's more of a fun coping mechanism, because as I've explained there is a harsh reality at the base of Willie's love of lead filled chili snacks. 

So even with the fun we have with my nagging and his taunting, we've got a problem.

Let's stop and identify the issue again.  

He needs a dentist.  That is something we can give him now that we're covered.  But until he gets in he should find a new snack so he can stop disabling himself.  He agrees that he needs a dentist.  He disagrees that "a little tooth ache" is reason enough to give up his lead based treats.   It is my business because I see the results of the gorging and I am a person who cares about him, and also we have to cancel plans because he doesn't feel well.  It is none of my business because it's not my mouth.

We've had discussions about this.  At Denny's.  In the living room.  And when I walk into the bedroom and he's laid up and there are pelons in the trash, I just walk away.  The issue is resolved, because he will be going to the dentist.  In the mean time, I roll my eyes out of my head when we're at the 7 Eleven and he's filling his shirt up.

Tips for effective arguing

I'm going to share another personal story.  Yay for blogger overshare time!

The other day I get this phone call.  It's Jerry, my ex father in law.  He calls to ask me about some paperwork I haven't turned in to the court.  Just as I explained to my ex, I made a mistake and overbooked my schedule and I've tied myself up from being able to even schedule a doctor's appointment, let alone deal with court.  It is what it is, and it's out of my control.  This was, for whatever reason, not the answer he was expecting and so he tried to goad me into changing it to what reason he came up with in his own mind for the papers not being done. 

Here is how Jerry was lucky that I was in a calm mood and decided to simply cut the phone call rather than continue to argue until I got to my explosion mode. 
Whatever point you're trying to make should not be personal.  Stay OUT of the personal arena. 
 Two very big mistakes he made in his conversation with me were to mention that if I do not get the papers in before the deadline the result will be that he will have to pay my ex's court fees again, and that--never mind my clearly stated reason--the real reason must be because I want to cling on to the marriage as long as possible.

In regards to paying for my ex's court fees-- this is none of my business.  I do not need to know that anyone is having financial difficulties and someone else is paying the tab.  None of my business whatsoever.  Nor do I care considering that none of these people have minor children in the home that they need to keep the lights on and the fridge full for.  This is personal, this has nothing to do with me.  Finances that are not my own are none of my business.

And when it comes to "you're not busy you're just clingy," we've got a great little segue here into another point of effective arguing.

Use "I" statements as opposed to "You" statements.  I statements take responsibility, whereas You statements place blame. 

You don't knoooooooooooow me.  And furthermore, to insinuate that what I said isn't valid by substituting your own conclusion, it labels me as a fucking liar.  Furthermore, it's unfair because I've already taken responsibility for the thing that is true.  You can't force me to take responsibility for things that aren't true by goading me with more You statements.

"You just don't want to let go of him."

I am not going to allow you to call me names or make untrue statements about me.  It's not good for my self esteem. 

"That isn't true.  I said what the problem was."

"You know it's true."

"It isn't true, he and I already discussed the situation through email."  See, my ex and I have found a "time and a place" which for us is email.  There's no reason to involve a third party to discuss it.  I keep my friends in check, I don't have my mortician calling him, or even my fiance.  This phone call is abusive and asinine.

"You should have done it by now.  The only reason you haven't is because you don't want to let go for some reason."

"I already said," not that I needed to repeat myself but I was burning slow, "I don't have time.  I am in school and I work.  My schedule is tight.  I do what I can when I can."  

"You can take a day off of school to deal with this," he said matter of factly.  

"No.  I can't."

"Yes you can."

"No.  I can't do that."

"I've been to school.  I know you can miss class."

Again, you don't knoooooooooow me.  I am only responsible for me, and you are only responsible for you.  Now, I could make this about you.  About--when did you go to school?  80 years ago?  And now you're a bus driver complaining about paying your adult son's court fees?  I don't want to miss school because I don't want to end up like you.  He's goading me into a fight, and had my fuse blown he'd of got what he deserved. 

"I'm not missing school or work," is what I say.

"Well then you need to get your priorities straight."

What I could have said was "I am using I statements.  Could you please address me using I statements as well?"  

What I said was something along the lines of my job and my education being my priorities, and that whatever was upsetting him has nothing to do with me.

BECAUSE...see there's a because here...

He is upset that his son has to borrow money.  This isn't my problem.  I don't need to take the brunt of that annoyance.  I've identified it as misplaced butt hurt.  He's making the wrong phone call to the wrong person.

Re-identify that issue.

Don't exceed the boundaries of your responsibility.  You have the right to respect.  

Of course, he blathered on with his blaming You statements.

So I said "This conversation is over."  Had I found anything valid that he and I needed to discuss, I'd of said "I can't have this discussion right now."  (Observance of "time and place")

It is always okay to set boundaries.  Time and place are boundaries.  Even if the time and place seems appropriate for the other person, you both have to agree to it for it to be a healthy and fair discussion. 

I am not a fan of getting irrational phone calls while I'm trying to cook taco shells from people I don't want to speak to.  Had he called and been rational, just checking up, I'd of answered his question and said goodbye.  I can have civil conversations with stupid people.  I can have stupid conversations with civil people.  But this was not something we needed to discuss, ever.  This phone call should have never happened.  I don't know who his handlers are, but they need to up his dosage.

Hashtag not my problem.

Of course, saying "this conversation is over" didn't stop his blathering, and so I hung up.  He didn't call back.  He didn't need to call back.  No part of that conversation needed to take place between he and I.  He called to set me up.  He called to bully and goad.  I analyzed immediately when money was mentioned that this fight wasn't really about me, which made it easier to not be sucked in with personal attacks.  They're misdirected attacks.  I could feel sorry for him if I gave two shits and a fuck about him at all. 

Well, that happened. 

According to my professor, people with lower educations will only see it one way.

Welp.  We know who missed class.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Thank Heaven For Little Girls

I'm so busy with everything that I don't look at anything.

I'm sure I'll look when I am older.

I've talked to my Foster Noodles counselor Rabakah about slowing down on my schooling and taking fewer classes from now on, because even at my reduced course load of 10 units, that's still three classes, and I am not able to dedicate the type of time that I should to any of them because of other things in my life that I need to do.

The one semester I pulled straight A's and made the honors list I was concentrating only on school.  I have found that I can be an A student when I am not employed.  But when I am not employed, I am stressed about funds.  So then when I am employed, I do well at work and not as well at school.  And now I am in a place where I am balancing doing fairly well at work and fairly well at school but I haven't any time to get anything else done, let alone slow down to nurture my mental health.

And Rabakah is like "you have a learning disability, being unable to multi task goes hand and hand with this."

Oh.

So we sat and reworked my ed plan, and I told her that after a lot of thought about it (and continuing dreams where the conversations are completely in sign language) that I want to go ahead and take the last three ASL classes they offer.  Even at a slower pace, I will only be graduating a year later than before, I will actually graduate with three associates degrees:  Psychology, Social Sciences, and American Sign Language.

That's a nice trade off.  It's the snail's pace to higher education, is what I told her.

"Jessie you need to tattoo this to the inside of your eyelids.  Quality over quantity.  Okay?  Just keep repeating that, write it down, hang it on the wall, just get it into your brain."

I can't keep doing this five days a week thing, not with my job.  Not with how tired I've been.

I've started drinking more water, hoping that will cure some of it.  I know part of it is what happened a few weeks ago, and how I haven't seen Rupert because of our spring breaks.  The medicine helps tremendously, but I need it in combination with the therapy.  It truly hit me one night when I decided to have some moscato with Morticia.

Num num num, it tastes just like apple juice!  All gone!

Yeah well two glasses of wine for me is like the most alcohol I've ever drank in my life so it probably wasn't a good idea, especially with my medication.  What I didn't realize is that alcohol works on the same brain function as the medicine does, so they canceled each other out and bam, there's all the scary stuff at the bottom of the ocean that I normally sail safely on a boat over.  I go down, down, down into a glass pod where I can see everything that sank and is growing over with saltmud and sucker creatures.  Old, but still very much there, and still not eroded.

So I discovered that moscato is very drinkable and that my medicine is indeed working and keeping me afloat on my safe little boat.

And I still need therapy.

As much as I thought I could do without it and considered talking to Rupert about graduating out...yeah no.

I'm discovering some new vision problems, a result of Mr. Right working overtime to compensate for Mr. Left for 30 years.  It's age, it's overuse, it's painting tiny flowers on tiny little totems for hours, it's reading textbooks under yellowish 40 watt light.

I'll get it fixed when I have time.

But there's that thing--time.

When I'm not in school, I'm at the studio or doing all other duties assigned as Girl Friday.  Packing, painting, corresponding, organizing, listing, documenting, ad copying, promoting, representing, directing the outsourcing, churn the butter, toss the salt, the sprinkler, start the lawn mower, spin.

Filling out stupid international customs forms.

Because France orders poppets.  UK.  Australia.  Especially Australia.  Oh, and the Philippines.

There was one address in the Middle East that I swear to god read something like "23 Blorg Street, building 2, crosswalk AS, 29th floor, 5th hall, door 16, slot 7."  It was like "make a left at the tree, then go two houses in, and if you see a guy with a hook for a hand you've gone too far."

Not that there aren't amazing moments.  I work for my favorite artist, and I see the art happen.  This assemblage that she has been putting together since the day I first came to the studio has suddenly turned bright mossy green, and excitedly she tells me that she installed a music box on it one day.

She turns the key and I watch little raindrops dance and fall as the barrel turns and the tines flick the charming little notes.

"What is this song?" I ask.

"Thank Heaven for Little Girls," she says.  "Isn't that creepy?"

"It's nonsense," I say, knowing that it's exactly genius and works with what the piece is about in such a sad and infuriating way.  "It's completely fucking nonsense."

She works on amazing pieces while I am away, and when we are together I tell her about what I learned in school, and we discuss things like the man who wants to reincarnate himself as a maxi pad that I found on the internet (that she specifically forbade me from contacting in any way--not that I was gonna--because if he has access to me he has access to her) and why the name of my religion class changed from Primitive Religions to Ethnic and Tribal Religions.  She says "I'm tired of this PC bullshit," and I say "but also it's almost like before they were saying that anything that wasn't Christian is primitive."

And then the question is--what does "primitive" come from, root wise?  Primate?  We get off the subject and I show her a video of a tiny circus of well trained rats.  "Rats will inherit the earth," she says.  They are smart little creatures.

What I don't say is that someone has offered me a six figure salary somewhere else doing something I really have no interest in doing.  Someone who has been watching me, just how she had been watching me before she decided to finally approach me and snag me. 

Yes I said six figure.

Yes I said salary.

Yes I said me.

Really.

I am already stretched for time.  I am already dedicated to the things I am dedicated to.

I have no interest in that industry, though I have more knowledge about it than the average person, and the skill sets to navigate it.  Survive in it and become the boss lady in it.  But again, I have no interest in it.  It does nothing inside of my soul to be a stupid part of it.

Quality over quantity.  

Yes Peter, it is possible to keep your wife in a pumpkin shell, but be prepared to face the insults she carves into the orange walls.

Quality over quantity.  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Reflecting On Something That Was Big

Yes, Peter.  It is possible to keep your wife inside a pumpkin shell, but be prepared to face the insults she carves into the orange walls. 


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Love," I tell her

Today in my Psychology of Human Sexual Behavior class, we talked about Love.

Oh what a subject.

I'm going to share my notes because even though this information is available and out there in books and on the internet, you may never have looked into it.  Or you already know this, but Auntie Jessie is going to explain it again anyway.  Because what is We're All Friends Here about if not relationships? 

I personally found myself completely unable to answer the question "what is love?"

Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me no more.  

A few weeks ago I was sitting with a girl I met in college in her adorable little apartment who says that even though she has some good times, she wakes up lonely and yearning to be in love.

Psychologically speaking, Love is very very close to Insanity.

I told her that love isn't necessarily waking up with someone, all wrapped in arms.

"Love," I tell her, "is sleeping in the same bed with separate blankets because you know you tend to steal and he gets cold easily, and you'd rather have you both waking up warm."

"Love," I tell her, "is coming back from paying for gas with a surprise gift of Reece's Cups, and not buying anything for yourself."

"Love," I tell her, "is whatever you really end up finding it in, and it isn't the same for everyone."

But today I learned--or maybe it was reinforced because on some level I already knew--that Love has different levels, or phases.

In lay-terms, love is a feeling.  It is a bond and a connection.  It's a behavior of caring and concern, often coming out as affection.  Love is a chemical, hormonal, biological reaction that is most closely related to Insanity.

In my class of about, oh, 50-ish college students ranging from 18-40, most falling in the 21-ish range, only about seven people said they believe in love at first sight.

Is there love at first sight?  Or is it lust?

What are we most attracted to when we meet a person?  Their looks.

What hath looks to do with love?

Welp.

Now we're into the Color Of Love Theory developed by Sternberg.  Which has nothing to do with colors, unfortunately.  That's M&M's you're thinking of.  This is a list of phases of love, not all of which will be experienced in every relationship, and from what I have observed in my own relationships it is possible to be on one level while the other person is on something completely different.

So here we go.

--Eros:  Romantic, in the moment, physical attraction, and perfection

This is a fun one because if Eros is love, then there is such a thing as love at first sight.  Then again, this also covers that "honeymoon period" of relationships--which we've all experienced.  Can't stop talking about them, can't stop thinking about them, one day you're rational and then you meet someone and all bets are off.

Have I been here?  Yes.  Many times.  People have said to me "oh you've never written about your ex the way you do about Willie."  Oh I have, just not on the internet.  Remember that I was a teenager at some point in my life and the Eros Magic.  I know I had some of it for my first boyfriend in 9th grade, but I didn't experience it with Victor, who I went on to date for three years.  I experienced it with David, but far more intensely with Willie.

Why would that be?

Because with Willie I had to overlook a lot of things in order to achieve in my mind that he was perfect.  I believe in Eros at first sight.  And Eros is what causes that intensity that is so, so very close to insanity.

What attracted me to Willie first was his looks, followed by his personality, followed by his intelligence.  I didn't like that he drank, smoked, and had no heading in life.  Physically I enjoyed his warmth--I've never had a warmer hug or kiss--possibly because he just runs a few tenths of a degree hotter than most folks, I don't know.  Sexually we matched better than my two other partners in that he was more of what I wanted in that department.

But notice all of the nice things I said despite his drinking, smoking, and lack of life direction.  These three things are very important to me even if we're just friends here.  Eros will make a warm kiss full of ash tray taste the most exotic, erotic fruit in the world and there is not a god damn thing you can do about it.

Love is blind.  

--Ludus:  Players, jugglers, love is a game,  Usually had an avoidant attachment in childhood to their caregivers (this is where the caregivers give mixed messages of I love you, I don't love you, come here for a hug, no go away I don't want a hug, which teaches the child to form no attachments because there is never any payoff.)

This is a fun one.  I've never seen love as a game, I've seen it--well, as a means to an end.  I myself have shades of an avoidant personality.  This is something I work on in therapy.  And though I haven't serial dated, or "played the field," I haven't been single in 16 years, and all three relationships overlap each other.  There's a lot of deep shit there that I can't quite get in depth with because I'm still learning to process this myself.

But I can tell you that looking at the dating scene now a days?  I don't think I could date.  That shit freaks me out.  Having to trust a new person, having to get to know someone and their smells and sounds--it's not easy.  I have no desire to do such a thing.  I am not asexual, I am just freaked out by the idea of learning something new.

I have, however, met the Pussy Killer of Fullerton College and can tell you that what he does, this Pussy Killing, is not love.  Is it Ludus?  I don't think so, I think it's just banging.  Mindless, mindless banging. 

--Storge (stor-gay):  Quiet, companionship that builds.  Realistic.  Shared life.  Meaningful.  Would likely remain friends if broken up. 

If you pictured an old couple in your head having bok choy soup on a Sunday watching M*A*S*H* and trading foot rubs, you've probably joined Willie and I for lunch one weekend.  If thrift store sales and a $2.99 breakfast at a mediocre mint green and mauve hole in the wall family restaurant sounds like a hell of a time, your name is Katy and I definitely know you've come to visit. 

And it's not that a vacation somewhere with sand isn't exciting, it's just that a free slice of cherry pie to share because you're regulars and they like you at The Paradise can bring a smile to your faces just as easily.

Love is an Oil Can Henry's coupon so you can have your free slice of pie while you get the oil on your old green van changed.  Love is an old green van you can take long trips in that is more practical and reliable than pretty and fast.  (But my van is a Cadillac, you're just jealous is all.)

Storge is a chicken soup that's been simmering on the stove all day long, filling the house with smells, and the marriage of garlic and rosemary. 

Love, in the way I am most comfortable, is Storge. 

--Mania:  Insane, possessive, dependent, roller coaster of a relationship.  In childhood, the person likely experienced ambivalent attachment (sometimes attached, sometimes not.)

Boy have I been on the receiving end of this motherfucker.

Sorry god.  I know I said I wouldn't say motherfucker anymore.  It's a process.   

I had an episode of mania with my first boyfriend.  I was 14.  We've probably all experienced these things that young, and we are forgiven and should move on.  Which is also why I can't super fault Victor, who had a very intense mania-love for me, because he was 15-18 while I was with him.  These are stupid manic ages.  And the poor dude didn't get to live long enough to see his way out of that stage, really.  I believe he was intelligent enough to see his way out of that stage, but that the damage was done.  Damage = his nutball father person.  Having been that man's tenant, I can tell you how much proverbial crack the dude is on, and it's no wonder to me why Little Vic was so messed up. 

I won't get into it.  But I will get into David. 

I needed David for reasons of survival--or so I thought.  I did many stupid things, one of which was putting my education on hold to further his career goals only for him to not make them.  I did not think I could live without this person being my family, even if he was not my husband.  He was a very important piece to my puzzle--or that's how I reasoned it.

He was a wonky piece with too many inversions.  A factory reject if you will.

Still I thought my god I can be his friend forever.

It was shocking when we no longer called to talk about our days.  It was odd when he played pranks like having my electricity turned off.  It became annoying when he tried to boss me around via email.  At some point, my mania died down and his flared up.

Ambivalent attachment?   I don't know.  The guy seemed rather preoccupied with his dad not being there when he was a kid, making it a goal to never let his boys feel the way he did.  Where is he today?  Hundreds of miles away seeing his kids three times a year at best, not involved with anything to do with their rearing. 

Boy he beat those statistics, huh?  Stellar. 

But his psychosis isn't my problem. 

These last two "colors" on the list are things I haven't experienced, but maybe you surely have someone you can drum up in your mind that reminds you of them.

--Pragma:  A shopping list of qualities they must have in their partner- have planned out how many children are appropriate, when they will get married- all before they've even met the person.

The only person that comes to mind is that Chris-Chan kid on the internet who holds signs at malls and colleges saying that he is looking for "a boyfriend-free girl ages 18-23" or some shit, along with some characteristics (pretty sure she has to be white) to be his sweetheart.  He also goes into how he and the sweetheart will create his perfect daughter named "Crystal." 

This is a great example of Pragma. Do you know anyone with a list like this?  Well, not like Chris-Chan's, but the perfect qualities, no matter how absurd. 

--Agape (a-gah-pay)  Selfless- never jealous- always willing to reciprocate- never demanding- always patient.  

When I picture this I imagine a very beautiful woman in a very beautiful summer dress with a revolver.  I don't know why. 

Is this a real thing for anyone besides maybe your grandmother when you were four?  It kind of falls into that "Stepford wife" thing. 

However, jealousy is an inappropriate feeling of possession.  That feeling is never okay in my opinion.  Hear me out.

You walk into the bedroom to find your spouse on top of another person in a nakedy sort of way.  You feel hurt, betrayed, angry, sad, but this is not a jealous thing.  This person is their own human being making their own choices.  And it sucks.  And it is appropriate to feel the anger and want to end the relationship or handle this in some way or another, but no matter how married you are, no matter how long the soup has been simmering--you don't own this person.  You cannot say mine all mine, because they aren't.

When you have a relationship, you have a contract to be committed (or not.)  If a contract is broken, there are consequences (divorce, broken trust, etc) but it is not at all about forcing that person to be yours.  

Jealousy suggests possession. 

We don't own people. 

Jealousy is inappropriate. 

Therefore, I am never "jealous."  I have occasionally felt disrespected.  I am sometimes demanding.  I am not always patient.  I am not selfless, and I am very bad at reciprocating.  Very bad.  It's something that Willie has learned to overlook in that Eros stage in seeking the perfection he wants in me.  I'm not capable of some things.  He is also not capable of some things.  We work together to take care of each other with the pieces we have. 

Now what does all this color nonsense mean, anyway?  Well, this leads us to the Triangle Theory. 

The triangle has three points: 

Passion- sparked by physical attraction, self esteem, nurturing dominance, submission, and self actualization
Commitment- desire to have something "long term"
Intimacy- feeling of being connected and having an emotional investment

And this leads to the choices of relationships there are with these points: 

  • Non Love:  No part of the triangle
  • Liking- Intimacy only (friendship)
  • Infatuation- Passion (puppy love)
  • Empty love- Commitment (staying together for the kids)
  • Romantic love- Passion and Intimacy (elaborate dates and crazy erotic nights)
  • Companion love- Commitment (long term married couples-less passion)
  • Fatuous- Passion (hot mindless sex with someone you know you're not truly compatible with, silly/foolish)
  • Consummate love- Has all 3 points and balanced (takes lots and lots of work.)  
So that's what I learned about Love in a psychology class.  Is it the place to learn about Love?  Well, school is, for me, a place to explore thoughts and ideas in a safe environment.  Is this what I thought I would be learning about when I signed up for Human Sexuality?  Nope.  But maybe if there was a course taught on Love it would be all about sex.

Or would it?  
The world that you need is wrapped in gold silver sleeves left beneath Christmas trees in the snow.