Sunday, September 07, 2014

What is a real man, again.

Well, I have been divorced (or at least separated) for almost a decade now. Attempts at finding a meaningful adult relationship have been largely unsuccessful. Whilst I have not given up on it, it is at the very least on hold. Something I found a little useful lately was a reflection on what I didn't want in a man. Based loosely on the things I have encountered during and after my marriage;

(1) Irrational dictator (Simon: barking at me that "we are not doing this, we are not doing that" and then later (quite often) turning around and deciding to do it himself),
(2) Groundless opinions (Simon again: freely given baseless opinions on everything from Immigration to which colours go together),
(3) Passive aggression (Simon also: to accompany the above, shut down if people don't agree with you, and refuse to discuss - this includes big life decisions like buying a house, moving in together, having a baby),
(4) Outright bald aggression (Neil: If a person doesn't agree with you shut THEM down, physically if necessary)
(5) Unfaithfulness and the accompanied necessary lies and possible gaslighting (making me think it is all in my mind (Neil)),
(6) Meaningless posturing/assumptions about their role in my life - "I'm here to Protect and Provide!" whilst doing neither, and without being asked to anyway (Neil). "I can just see where this is going, you'll move in and get half of my assets" (John, and school dad)

(7) Distain and indifference (all of them ultimately),
(8) Objectification ie "I couldn't just sleep with anyone, I REALLY LIKE you" followed by a litany of my physical charms and nothing about me as a person (Seamus and Hamish (in actions if not in words)),
(9) Cherry picking - you would be perfect if it wasn't for your child (Seamus)
(10) Ineffectual posturing (Simon - earning a 5th of what I do then turning up at school in a business suit handing round his card, telling the teacher how to do her job...)

Then I got to thinking maybe many of these are the dark side  of what we consider attributes of a REAL MAN. We like our men to be strong, and admire us physically. We socialise them that way.  I may be in the minority of women really not liking to be objectified. Even more demanding, we want our men to bond with us for life, help us to raise our children, not look at other women..So if I was born a man, and couldn't rise to these expectations maybe I too would "fake it 'til I made it"

I see so many unhappily married parents of school aged kids.  The men who manage to be faithful to their wives, take an interest in their kids, bring home the bacon, and project an ideal of manhood are in the minority and their wives become tired, irritable, critical and unappreciative, and stop making an effort.

I set to wondering if maybe being faithful was, to men, the ultimate sacrifice they make for their women. It is not in their nature, they have to work at it every day relentlessly pushing down their urges and finding the best in themselves for the greater good of their families, and they actually want credit for this - from their wife and from society. It is analogous to women keeping young and beautiful - diet, exercise, a nip and a tuck, whatever it takes (subtext - to keep our man) it's not easy or natural for us we would rather eat donuts and wear a velour tracksuit. We actually want credit for that (from our husbands and from society). Both may be doomed to failure, but it doesn't stop us trying.

My mistake is that I have always wanted to get beyond this. I have wanted to be with someone who is actually my friend, is with me for who I am, rather than (as well as) my physical assets and has no trouble being faithful and keeping their end up financially, and tells the truth in small and large things and confronts problems head on.

There have been very few people with whom I have formed an easy, mutually rewarding, relationship of this kind. People who do all of the above and who make me laugh, give me just the right amount of space, compassionately observe my life, build me up where necessary, be honest about my flaws. Who treat me like a human as well as a body. People I really long to come home to... and in fact those people would be my mother and my son and a few close friends in my university days.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Other people's damaged kids

Oh My! people have I got an update for you? Well, I suppose I took a risk, I went away over Christmas for six weeks. I wasn't sure about Seamus's level of commitment. We had had very happy times together in 2013, but it still seemed to have "Hamish" overtones. Never the less I had heard those three little words a few times. I thought it would be a test, and that we would find out how we truly felt about each other.

Anyway over Christmas I had some trouble with my mobile phone and our communications were challenged. Then I got it sorted but things were still very quiet. I eventually queried how quiet he was and this was the reply:

Hi Fiona Yes UR right my absence is an indication that something has changed. I have been talking  with a woman friend from work this is totally unexpected but we have connected really well. Its not that I don't or haven't loved you, I really don't want young kids at this stage in my life I've known this for some time as I have mentioned to u. Anyway, I would like to pursue a relationship with her. I know you will be hurt, I don't know it you still wish to keep in touch or just write me off. Let me know your thoughts love Seamus Happy New yearI'm sorry for letting you down.

Hmm well it arrived on the morning of New Years day. I was at my parent's house. There was no place for middle aged grief over a middle aged dalliance, so, not to be crude I restricted my tears to the few minutes it took to visit the bathroom that morning.

Being in the protection of my family cushioned the blow, but now I have returned home and reality has hit. Worse still that "woman friend from work" also has kids ever so slightly  (2-5 years) older.

I do have a postscript on Seamus, but for the moment I will concentrate on Connor. We are in a SPOC relationship - Single parent only child.  It is almost impossible for me to judge his sociability or behaviour, but I always get good comments from friends who invite him on playdates, he was a dream to travel with over Christmas, and my (highly biased) family found him no trouble at all.

The only people who have mentioned / been honest enough to criticise his behaviour are my friend  Marcia, Seamus and Connor's own father Simon who said "he is painful". The horrible irony of this crap from Connor's own father is not lost on me. Years of infertility and IVF lead me to consider adoption. Well I recall his response "I don't want to raise someone else's damaged kids" and now the stupid git won't even raise his own kid.

I think the SPOC thing is relevant the single parent only child relationship is a particular pressure cooker environment.  Journalist Sue Carpenter in the Daily Mail describes her relationship with her daughter thus: 
 ..when Simi was just seven years old, and we were walking along our local strip of restaurants in South London, with Simi vetoing all the ones I liked while making a strong case for the one with the chocolate brownie and ice cream that she preferred, that I suddenly stopped. ‘Hang on, Simi,’ I said. ‘How come you’re making the decisions? I’m the mummy, you’re the child!’ Since then, I’ve become increasingly aware of the very particular relationship I have with Simi, that of Single Parent and Only Child.
 and ..
Simi would select the TV channel or DVD and set the table while I cooked supper. Then we’d cuddle up on the sofa and often end up going to bed at the same time. I had nobody to answer to, nobody to undermine or question my way of raising my child.

I recognise something of our relationship in this.
In my early days of my relationship with Seamus, Connor and having "young kids" in his life did come up, my close friend Marcia (who has three kids) recommended that, to alleviate his concerns I should do a parenting course, because in her opinion Connor had become entitled, and manipulative and I needed to learn some strategies to rein him in. So I went ahead, hired a babysitter and did the six week course and associated exercises.

He is nowhere near as difficult as some of the kids I encountered on the course there, but I know there are some particular things about our relationship that make it hard for others to be part of it, and that I am not as harsh in my discipline as I might be, not least for the lack of a moderating influence in the shape of another child.

Anyway,  it did not work out with the woman friend from work and Seamus would like us to take up where we left off. Doubtless there is still friendship and chemistry.

Which leaves me perplexed. Has the not wanting young kids thing gone away?  Am I just a back up plan? that just seems the obvious conclusion. I also conclude that this could happen again the next time some prospect comes along. Cheifly I ask if I am strong enough to handle it?