I said to a friend of mine about half a year ago that boys are really all the same. She was itching for some sexy time with a local and was having difficulty reading the Japanese. I had just bedded the most ostentatious man in the entire gym and had discovered, much to my dismay, that he is terribly broken. He was a free spirit and a romantic, of sorts, and had suffered a breakup of the worst kind. He confessed to me on our first night together that he had tried to kill himself. In a matter of moments the image that I had of this man as strong and self confident, if a little obnoxious, crumbled into the reality that he is, like all of us, just a human suffering through a world that never taught him how to find his own happy.
At first things seemed to go incredibly well. Now in hindsight I can see that this honeymoon period was due entirely to the honeymoon effect*: when you are on your honeymoon you don’t have to work or take care of children or attend to other responsibilities, it’s just you, and so you are able to experience a period of uninterrupted, artificial bliss. Certainly there were differences in the way we preferred to live our lives, but he verbally acknowledged my boundaries at the same time as I was emotionally willing to try doing things his way, so it seemed like it was working. Everything came crashing down the day he was forced to acknowledge that my polyamory was not just a theoretical personality quirk, but a reality that involved at least one other man besides himself. It was at that point that he and I were called to employ our respective Relationship Skills to either forge on ahead, or die in the fire.
Well, it would not be much of an essay if the story ended with us just talking through our feelings and renewing our intimacy through shared understanding. The man folded in on himself, exploding at me while imploding emotionally. I used every trick in my box. I tried to listen to his perspective and to ask him what his needs were, but he refused to tell me on principle. I tried taking his words at face value, but he repeatedly failed to be honest with me. I tried talking to his friends. I tried getting his friends to talk to him. I tried getting him to talk to his friends. In the end I tried just avoiding him and cauterizing the emotional wound. This seems to be the only sort of relief I can get.
In my frustration I talked to my friend who had, months prior, looked to me as a role model in her own struggles. Why, I asked. Why is he so stubbornly unwilling to do any of the standard activities necessary for relationship maintenance? How is it that he can be content to turn his back into the storm of my frustration, waiting for it to blow over, and then just say “sorry” without actually listening or attempting to fix any of the problems that caused the blowout in the first place? My friend said to me simply, “he likes it that way.” Immediately I knew what she said was truth.
We humans are in many ways all one being, and in as many ways we are all unique. At a most fundamental level we all desire to be loved and to feel safe and secure in our lives and our community. We need to eat and we need to play and we need to feel respected as the individuals that we are. This is true. Life, however, does not put all of us in the same starting position. Some of us learn to ignore our own needs to take care of others first. Some of us learn that the world does not care for us and so we must protect ourselves from it emotionally and physically. Some of us learn how to appreciate each other as individuals and some of us learn that looking with clear eyes at our own reflection is petrifying.
So in the end, I have to accept that while it is beautiful to believe that we humans are all alike, on a practical level it is not as useful a paradigm as I had hoped. Some of us want to be open to ourselves and to others, and some of us want to plow through life just the way we are, never updating and never truly seeing the world around us. I suppose we can find commonality in that we all make this fundamental choice, and perhaps that commonality makes it more palatable when our choices clash with each other. But I think it is also important to remember that some people really are different and that smashing your head against a wall trying to get them to see the light is a futile endeavor. They choose not to change and in a way, you choose not to change, too. At this level I suspect the choice becomes one of who do you want to surround yourself with more than how do you make it work with who you are surrounded by.
And, I suppose, knowing that this is the choice I have to make does provide me with some peace.
*I coined that term just now ^^