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#58200 - 03/07/04 09:11 PM What I Want In a Relationship, etc.
wrangler Offline

Registered: 09/06/03
Posts: 84
Loc: Northern Virginia
I wrote this in my journal today and got to wondering what others (surviovors and partnets) experience with this sort of thing. I admit up front that this is almost coldly intelectual, but that is only because there is so much emotion (mostly anger) behind it that I have to write this way to get any productive thinking out of it. Otherwise it degenerates into a lot of cussing and cursing and I spend the rest of the day seething. Didn't want that today!

I wonder sometimes what exactly I am looking for in a partner. The spontaneous answer is all the good things (naturally): a companion, a confidant, someone to share my triumphs and ease my defeats. Now if I were really answering this question I am sure I would tack on to the end of the list that I also want to do all those for my partner. Now here we come to the first possible deception. When I spontaneously think of what I want out of a relationship, it is a list of things for me. Even if partway through the list I remember that relationships are supposed to be about giving, I am not sure if I really *want* the giving parts, or if I regard them as a sort of obligatory tax I pay to receive the things I really do want.

It is also possible, however, that the whole list is a sham. Lately I have really been reflecting on the ways I treat the people around me, and something does not quite mesh with my list. I believe that most relationships (romantic, coworker, or otherwise) share a common list. That is to say if I want companionship out of a romantic relationship, I think I could expect to see that same desire in other relationships, though perhaps not of the same degree. And although I do see the desire on a very conscious level, I am not sure what is happening on some deeper level.

So I go back (again) to childhood to get a better understanding. Even before any sexual abuse, there were a couple of unfortunate situations developing. I was not learning some important lessons about healthy relationship. Certainly I had the most exposure to my motherís and stepfatherís relationship, and it is well established now that their relationship was an unhealthy one from the outset. And during the years when I would have been forming my own relationships (and perhaps learning these lessons from another source) I lived in isolation. More than that, my parents also lived in isolation, so it was not possible to form relationships with my own peers or with the children of my parentsí peers.

Coming back to the present, I think these things undermine my list of wants in two critical ways. First, I expect that my sense about relationships may still in its adolescence, and as we all know, that is (rightly) a very selfish period. So the fact that I tack reciprocation on to the end, almost as an afterthought, probably stems from the fact that I intellectually know this to be important, but have trouble really bringing it home to the emotions. Second, I suspect that the incredibly lousy parenting left me wanting for authority, and ultimately confused about it. The result of this might be some difficulty regarding any relationship as something other than a parent-child one. This is not to say that I am always the child. Instead, I subject myself to the limitations of that particular kind of relationship. It cannot trust completely and it has an unbalanced (even perverted) distribution of responsibility and authority that is not appropriate for any other kind of relationship. No romantic, or even platonic, relationship could thrive under these restrictions.

While this does not describe every aspect of every relationship I have had, it does shed light on a very common situation. It might even be safe to say that this is a *part* of every relationship. Abuse is never far from my mind when I am close to someoneÖ in particular, I do not want to abuse him or her. But abuse is only really possible when on or the other person has some authority or persuasion over another. In a really equal relationship one or the other person would just leave. So this incessant concern about abuse is directly tied to my belief that there is *something* unequal about the relationship. The more pronounced this something is, the more the relationship starts to fit the parent-child paradigm. I should note that I do not restrict the parent-child model to parents and children. I would say that Robert and I had that sort of relationship, and that I had the same thing with the boy that abused at military school. I would even say that my relationship with my therapist has several elements of that type of relationship. But I think there is something distinctly different about what I am describing and the (healthy) relationship between a boss and an employee. The parent-child relationship has a strong component of emotional authority.

I have been pretty intellectual about this today, but like all other things, that is where I must start. When I really think about what happened during my childhood the rage can overwhelm me. I can become fixated on the desire to go back and tell my mom to fuck off and my stepfather to grow up. And then I would leave them and never look back. Point is, I am not quite ready to explore all that sort of thing. I should add, since I am thinking about it, that I have considerably more anger about what happened to me before any sexual abuse that I have about all of the sexual abuse combined. But I have much more sadness about the abuse.

"Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself." -Mary Schmich

#58201 - 03/07/04 11:38 PM Re: What I Want In a Relationship, etc.
Tabor Offline

Registered: 02/18/04
Posts: 35
Loc: lost

I read your post a few times and Iím still not sure how I want to reply. Like you said, you were very intellectual in your expression and my head is not clear enough right now to respond the way I feel I should.

I guess I just wanted to say for now that I truly appreciate you sharing this with us. Itís always a valuable learning experience to hear things from a Survivorís perspective, to hear how your mind and your heart works. This is what I come to this board for, to learn directly from you all that I can.

Iím not sure if you want to know what Iím looking for in a partner but itís pretty much what you said: a companion, confidant, someone to share your experiences - good or bad. I want someone who makes me feel good about myself, who makes me want to be a better person for them. Is that being selfish? I donít think so. And yes, relationships are all about giving AND receiving, it canít be just one sided. This is the balance that I strive for, this is what I want: to give what I have to offer, but also to accept what my partner has to offer. In my opinion, a relationship cannot survive being one sided - that will only leave the giver feeling unimportant and totally spent, having given everything they possibly could but not getting anything in return.

Take care,

#58202 - 03/08/04 12:08 AM Re: What I Want In a Relationship, etc.
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire

The spontaneous answer is all the good things (naturally): a companion, a confidant, someone to share my triumphs and ease my defeats.
Is it possible to 'have' these things in a one way
relationship ?

I'm not sure that you could, all these things are two way deals based on trust, respect and love, and if someone is willing to give them then I also think they must be receiving them ?

And if you recognise that these are the things you want then surely you're in a position to be able to give them as well ?

The easy wish is "blonde, long legs and nice butt" - but you've moved a long way past that, and it shows in all your posts. You have 'thinking' that will make a relationship the one you wish for, because you've figured out what's gone wrong in the past maybe ?


Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

#58203 - 03/08/04 02:19 AM Re: What I Want In a Relationship, etc.
kolisha54 Offline

Registered: 12/02/03
Posts: 475
Loc: Brooklyn, NY

I wonder if you have heard of a type of model known as "transactional analysis?" I think our sister PAS has a better understanding of it, but in her absence tonight, I'll try to fill you in...

From what I remember, according to this theory, relationships can be described as being characterized by the following dynamics:

Parent to child
Adult to adult

And there may be another set, but I can't remember it.

At any rate, the theory explains that people enter into a relationship with certain expectations of which role they will play. So - if you are looking for a "parent," you will act like a child. Conversely, (partners, beware of this one...) if you behave like a "parent," your partner will begin to act like a "child..."

*Cognitive Dissonance* sets in when we WANT our partner to fill a certain role & they can't/won't oblige: for example, if I want my partner to "pat me on the head" every time I feel I have achieved some incredible accomplishment but instead he starts to worry why HE hasn't done something equivalent... not only am I going to resent the lack of patting, but I am also going to feel abandoned by a Bad Daddy. That disappointment will most likely, in turn, cause me to act like an even bigger baby than I was in the first place. And on & on it goes....

Supposedly, the ultimate in non-crazy-making-behavior would be in an adult-adult relationship. However - does that REALLY sound like all that much fun??? Come on, y'all, exactly WHO is an "adult" all the time????

You know what I think? I think the best arrangement would be constantly shifting - when one partner feels the need to be a "child" & be comforted with no need to respond in kind, the other partner would step in & act like a "parent," to soothe, calm, give hugs, cookies & milk...

But... I suppose I am dreaming.

Once in a while, we can all get this right....

PAS - where are you????

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now... when? --Hillel

#58204 - 03/08/04 04:43 AM Re: What I Want In a Relationship, etc.
wrangler Offline

Registered: 09/06/03
Posts: 84
Loc: Northern Virginia
It might not be possible to *have* those things in a one-way relationship, but it is certainly possible to expect them, even demand them. But your point is valid Ė I am not asking for long legs and blonde hair. My thinking is pretty good, but I have to be careful and not let myself stop there, which I could easily do. I am in the double bind of having been abused and having the personality of an engineer. So it is very easy to spin my wheels thinking a thing to death. Lately however I have gotten much better about some sort of emotional follow through. And Lloydy, thanks for the compliment about something good showing though in all my posts. Sometimes I just feel like I babble.

PAS and I have talked before about transactional analysis, although I cannot say whether I was quite ready for such deep things. In the first place, it requires me to admit that I played the role of child in my marriage. When I was writing about parent-child relationships earlier I was thinking mainly about how it feels to be subjected to anotherís authority, but kolisha, you bring up a good point: there are things that you expect to get out of that sort of relationship. And when those expectations are not met, the situation could get quite ugly, especially if you were stuck in the child ego state. I agree with you that it is best to move between the various states and I think real problems can develop if one partner gets stuck in one or is unable to enter one. In my case, I think I have a hard time with the adult state, both in entering it myself, and recognizing it in my partner.

"Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself." -Mary Schmich

#58205 - 03/09/04 03:59 AM Re: What I Want In a Relationship, etc.
SAR Offline
Administrator Emeritus

Registered: 12/07/03
Posts: 3310
Loc: USA

I see myself in a lot of what you say--the isolation, the lack of real role modeling... and also in the "coldly intellectual" approach (which is effective for me as well, and I don't think particularly cold or dispassionate, if it helps you put a pressure valve on your thoughts... just a way for feeling persons to regulate feeling. You seem deeply emotional even when your words are controlled this way.)

I also have a kind of "common list" and I'm starting to think that it's a problem for me. I work with a lot of people and I can't hold all of them to the same standard I hold myself, I've been driving myself crazy trying to do so. I can be selective about the people I allow close to me, and I can be clear with them about the standards of compassion, honesty, etc. that I expect, and I can speak up when the behavior of others affects me, but past that I have to learn to live and let live, I think. The biggest part of that for me means shortening the list of who is close to me. But that's not really the problem.

In terms of not being exposed to a healthy relationship... I think it does something else to us as well. I know that I never got to see the way people in healthy relationships got through the bad times, or even had bad times at all. For me, a healthy relationship meant the opposite of the "adult" relationships around me. Therefore, healthy adult relationships had: no fighting, no secrets, no hard feelings, no sore points, no money troubles, no inequalities, no substance abuse, no mess in the house, no authority/discipline issues with the kids, etc etc. It took me a while to see how these things did occur in every relationship, and even longer to figure out how to make them a small part of relationship "housekeeping" and not the whole relationship (which to me makes all the difference).

I think that people who see more functioning groups of adults can get into fights, or keep secrets about the past, or have sore spots, in their relationships, without freaking out about whether or not this means that their relationship is over/doomed/dysfunctional. And it helps that those people have probably learned along the way how to keep their fights/problems/etc. from becoming dysfunctional.

maybe it's best to expect the issues--if you know that for you they are about equality, authority, etc, then be prepared, and come at them with your game face on, but know that they will exist, and instead of trying to eliminate them all together, try to figure out how to scale them down and make them managable? maybe the relationship that you can make "thrive" is the relationship that allows you to incorporate your unhealthy beliefs and concerns into a healthy pattern of dealing with them, until you are strong enough to let them go on your own time.


#58206 - 03/09/04 06:50 PM Re: What I Want In a Relationship, etc.
PAS Offline

Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
Aah.. transactional analysis...

Stems from the three "ego states"


When in one's parent ego state, one exhibits parental thinking and communicating... parent-like behaviour towards another is authoritarian, cold, critical, controlling...

Child like behaviour is well, selfish, immature and childlike

adult behaviour is adult like - giving and receiving, listening, compassionate, loving, independent, balanced, open, respectful...

We should strive to interact with others when we are in our adult state. When in a child state we can often push others into a parent state, a parent state can often push others into a child like state.....

If encountering someone in their childlike or parent state, try to avoid serious or complicated discussions until they can be back in their adult.

And as far as demanding someone be there for you, and listen, give you all you need without receiving.. a "one way" relationship.. those dont last very long unless you're with someone who has no problem being a martyr or a slave - and someone who has no problem being a martyr or a slave generally are those with pretty poor self esteem, and you cant form a healthy relationship in that environment.

A one way relationship with someone healthy and strong, someone who will always give and never need to receive?

Nobody like that exists.


#58207 - 03/09/04 07:10 PM Re: What I Want In a Relationship, etc.
kolisha54 Offline

Registered: 12/02/03
Posts: 475
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
Don't be "sorry."


Since we are ALL adults here, we will take your information in stride....

I'm OK. You're OK. We're OK...

Yeah, right.


If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now... when? --Hillel


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