“Forced Affection Day” (hat tip to Liz Devlin) is here. Nearly every woman in the western world is swooning, and nearly every man is groaning. For good reason. It is a “holiday” set up for failure.
It’s due to unrealistic expectations. The overpriced roses, candy, and teddy bears. It could be an Olympic sport seeing the men dashing to the store on their way home from work to pick up the needed “provisions” to stay out of the proverbial doghouse. But odds are, despite their good intentions, they will fall short of expectations. Allow me to illustrate…
Exhibit A: While at the Pub tonight, there was a group of three women and one said, “I just want the Romeo and Juliet romance experience for Valentine’s Day!”
I couldn’t contain myself.
“You want what?!?! Have you EVEN read the story?”
“Of course I have silly,” she quipped back. “It is beautiful and romantic and is every woman’s dream.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?!?! The relationship lasted less than a week, three people were murdered and Romeo and Juliet each committed suicide. Is that your idea of romance?!?!”
They each picked up their drink and moved to the other side of the bar.
Welcome to the South where the education system failed decades ago. More importantly, the idea of romance that has been implanted in the minds of people in the western world is as warped as the story of Romeo and Juliet. Those two were bat-shit crazy!!! But I digress…
Just stop celebrating this day already. Why do you succumb to the marketing machine that dictates when you have to be romantic and affectionate? If you have a significant other, they should already know that you think they are fucking awesome, because it is something that you do, on your terms, not based on a date on a calendar.
And before you think if you throw Valentine’s Day in the dumpster fire that your relationship will be hell, let me give you a gift. Fixing yourself and your current relationship.
“What?” you’re thinking. “Jerry, you’re twice-divorced, and you’re going to give relationship advice?”
Yeah. Hell, both my ex-wives hate my soul, so who better to give you advice than someone who has been to hell and back TWICE and not only lived to tell about it, but came out more awesome. ;)
The divorce rate is right around 50%, and that takes into account first, second, third, fourth, and what the hell, fifth marriages. It’s high. Higher than it should be. Why? Because half of the people in the western world fall into one of two categories: a saver or a victim. And I don’t mean a “saver” in a financial way, and both men and women can take on either role.
Savers are those who think of themselves as “white knights,” and their role in life is to “save” the other person (the Victim) from the “peril” they have fallen into. And by doing this, the Saver will receive (in their mind) love, appreciation, and/or sex from the Victim as their “reward.”
The Victims have their role too. They manufacture drama to get the attention of the Saver because they believe if they look like the helpless victim, someone will come along to solve their “problems” and give them the love, romance, and/or sex that they crave.
If this sounds at all familiar, keep reading, you CAN fix this.
Let me give you an example that you might be able to relate to. Many years ago when I was married, I was out-of-state closing an important business deal. As I normally did, I brought my wife and kids with me. They were at the hotel pool about 20 minutes away while I negotiated the deal.
About half-way through the talks, my phone starts blowing up from my wife. After the third call in a row, I excuse myself and take the call. She’s hysterical. She explained that there were these black people at the hotel and they made threats to damage her car and to her personally. I advised her to call the police immediately, but she refused stating it would just incite the situation and make it worse. She pled for me to return to the hotel.
I did. At 110 mph.
When I arrived, I was greeted with a sight I was not expecting. The “threatening black people” my wife warned me against, was a high school church choir group. I’m not kidding. They were the nicest kids I had ever run into!!
“What the actual fuck,” I said out loud.
To wrap up the dramatic story, there was no incident where threats were made. She made it up. She did it to get me to come back to her. She wanted to see where I mattered in her life. Would I leave an important business meeting to come to her rescue?
Now, before you go thinking my ex-wife was crazy, I had a big part in this too. We were both fucked up. Let me further explain, and it just might shed so much light on your current or past relationships that you say out loud, “Holy fuck, THAT’S it!!!” And a hat tip to Mark Mason, and his book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” on bringing to the forefront on how fucked up I truly was.
You see, the roles of Victim and Saver between my wife and I did not form while we were married. We had those roles BEFORE we met. In fact, that is the main reason why we were attracted to each other and felt instant chemistry on our first date. She was the one that started fires to make herself feel important, and I put out those fires because it made me feel important. Our dysfunction fed off each other and gave us emotional highs. Now, to be clear, that isn’t the definition of a bad relationship; it is the exact definition of a TOXIC relationship.
We were toxic but just couldn’t see it.
And the insanity of this is that even though we saw four different marriage counselors during our time together, not one saw this. And it is clear as day to me now.
We both used each other as a means of escape. We took no responsibility for our own problems, and instead, we took responsibility for each other’s problems. This means we had no boundaries. While you may think that was sweet and considerate of us to worry about each other, it was based on selfishness and insecurity.
This is what our relationship looked like:
“You used to come home immediately after conferences out-of-state, now you stay a few more days away from us. You should be home with your family.”
“I can give you a job as event coordinator if that will help you feel more important and involved in my business.”
“You never tell me the names of the people you meet at conferences. You used to, but now I never get names anymore.”
“My new staff is struggling. I am not going to be able to make it to your mom’s for dinner; I have to explain this process to them once again.”
Some of these may seem innocent enough, but they are wrought with Victim and Saver roles which leads to “traps” in the relationship. First, she expected me to take responsibility for her problems. I’d come home from work and would have consulting calls scheduled, “I wanted a nice relaxing night at home with you, you should have known that and not scheduled work.” Or, in my case, I would take on too much responsibility and take on her problems: “Her flower business is struggling, but it is probably my fault because I didn’t work hard enough on her website to get her better rankings and more leads. I’m going to push client work aside and work on her site all day tomorrow.”
Our problem is we didn’t outline our respective values. Instead, she either focused on making me happy, or I expected her to make me happy, and visa-versa.
That is what we call a self-defeating relationship and the reason our relationship burned to the ground as we were separated just two months after the incident aforementioned.
Newsflash: People can’t solve your problems for you because even if they did, you wouldn’t be happy. This is fact. You might think they would, but they don’t. Happiness comes from solving YOUR OWN problems. The same goes for you trying to solve other people’s problems because it won’t make them happy either.
If you are thinking, “So, I shouldn’t help my partner with their problems anymore?” No, you idiot. That isn’t what this is about. This is about your intentions. If your focus is to solve your partner’s problem because if you do you’ll feel important and even be rewarded with sex or other extra attention, THAT is the problem. You should do it because you CHOOSE to, not because there is something in it for you.
Get it now?
Back to my ex-wife and I. We failed in meeting each other’s needs, we both had shitty self-worth, and our communication was near non-existent. We would avoid each other. She would go to bed early, and I would stay up late playing video games or working. I’d spend more time than I needed to at the office, and I’d extend business trips to avoid time at home.
What happened was she created more and more problems to solve, not because these problems were real, but she just wanted attention from me. She craved affection. And instead of seeing her need, I was an idiot and I solved every problem I could, not because I actually cared about the problems – and since I’m being open about it, I was more interested in getting her to shut up and stop bitching about ridiculous things. And to showcase how much of a delusional asshole I was, I actually thought doing this would also get me sex.
Mark Mason sums up perfectly how we could have fixed our shit, and how you can fix your shit. If my wife would have said, “I have a problem, you don’t have to fix it for me, just support me while I fix it for me, and this is how you can best help me. Can you do that?” THAT would be a demonstration of love; taking full responsibility for your problems, not holding your partner responsible for them, and outlining how you want support.
For me, if I really wanted to save my wife from all the shit she was feeling, I should have said, “You’re blaming others for your own problems, but you need to deal with them yourself.” While that may seem like an asshole move, it really isn’t. It is showing love in that you are telling your partner clearly and distinctly to solve their own problems, and stop playing the Victim role while at the same time stopping the Saver role.
And this isn’t to say that if you currently fall in this cycle that the best choice is divorce. That would be stupid. Why? Because you will end up attracting the same type of person as before and you’ll just end up in the same shitty situation. You have to fix yourself. Break the cycle dammit!
If you have played the Victim role, the hardest thing for you is to start holding yourself accountable for your problems and stop making up drama to make yourself feel worthwhile. One of the best things you can do is stop posting anything personal on Facebook or talking to family or friends about your marriage. This is going to be terrifying for you, but it is the only way to have the relationship that you want and stop self-sabotaging it.
If you are in the Saver role, the hardest thing for you is going to stop trying to rescue everyone, including your significant other. I get it, you have spent your whole life feeling valued by saving other people, coming to the rescue, saving the day, etc. And those constant fantasies in your head that you miraculously are the hero is based on delusion.
Fact: Acts of love are only valid if they are done without conditions or expectations.
If you’re a Saver, how do you know the difference between acts of love done with conditions and expectations or without? Just ask yourself one question: “If I refused to help my significant other, would the relationship change? If so, how?” Now, if the answer is a major blowup and high drama, then you have a problem. A big problem. Your relationship is conditional and could be borderline toxic.
The solution is to first recognize which role each of you plays and see how it has fucked up your relationship. The clearest way to see this is to realize you aren’t getting out of the relationship what you expected, but you still love each other.
Next, is to come up with agreed values between you and your significant other. Then set boundaries. Strong boundaries. Doing so, put you in control of fixing your own problems while leaning on your partner for healthy support when you need it, instead of expecting them to fix things for you.
You see, it’s not about giving a fuck about everything your partner gives a fuck about; it’s about giving a fuck about your partner regardless of the fucks he or she gives. THAT is what unconditional love is.