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There are a lot of different types of relationships, and I am including those that might fall under the categories of friendships or family, however I’ll be thinking specifically about the different ways that our romantic relationships evolve: how they are developed, whether they mature consciously or automatically based on some latent, conditioned template buried somewhere in our psyche.
I believe, more often than not, that most of us don’t really think about how our relationships develop or whether we have a conscious role in creating the types of relationships that we actually want, I think we just inherently adopt fixed aspects and expectations of the relationships that we’ve witnessed around us as we mature and, kind of, let them shape us, abstractedly.
Think about your own relationships, those from your past as well as those that you might currently be associated with and try to recall how you came to be from where you were; the process of getting to know a person is exciting and fun, but was any of it intentional?
Did you communicate how you wanted the little things, you know, the details, the small stuff: how you talk to each other, intimacy, how you get angry, how you react, jealousy, how you recharge, etc., to develop?
Or is this the first time that you’ve ever actually considered the possibility that you could create your relationship to be whatever you and your partner wanted it to be, without the presupposed idea of the relationship template shading your expectations?
I’ve been married to a Mormon and a Muslim, and there were expectations that I foresaw and many, of course, that I didn’t, but in both cases her expectations were deeply-rooted and unconscious, and, believe it or not, that was the most unexpected thing of all, for me. Which is funny, because I only expected the unexpected, I could never have expected the expected—how unexpected!
I think about myself and how I have been in different relationships and how I have wanted relationships to develop. Now, of course, I wasn’t always aware that I could help to create whatever unique and personal relationship that we wanted when I was young, it took a few relationships and several years to come to that realization but I was always mindful of the necessity of communication in my relationships.
I feel like I have lived several lives throughout the course of my nearly 35 years, all of which were as different as they were similar to one another, however I classify myself, in terms of my active role in a relationship, in two distinct stages: Pre-Samayya and Post-Samayya.
I “married*” Samayya while living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Samayya has three children, her eldest, while Samayya and I were together, was in her early twenties and was living on her own in Albuquerque. Samayya, her two youngest, and myself we all lived together in Santa Fe (I typed Satan Fe, at first, and if you all really knew anything about that relationship you would know how Freudianly true that is).
The last night I was with Samayya and the children we watched Slumdog Millionaire, I had never seen it, and everyone for years had been telling me that I needed to see it, so we put it on our Netflix queue (do you remember that?) The DVD arrived the day before and we were excited to lay down and watch it. I had just put the kids to bed and I wheeled a TV into our bedroom to enjoy the movie. Nearing the end there is a scene where the main guy’s brother is watching the show in his living room, the million dollar question is being asked, while there are two girls dancing around in short skirts and low tops, Samayya was never to, uh, sprightly about me watching that sort of thing so I fast forwarded through the scene. As the credits rolled I muted the TV to talk about the movie, you know, as people do after having just watched a good movie, and Samayya was completely unresponsive, frigid even.
I asked her what was wrong knowing quite well that it involved the aforementioned scene. “Do you remember that scene? With the girls dancing?” Samayya asks. “The one that I fast forwarded through, yeah.” I responded. “Why did you not fast forward through it sooner?” She asks. “Wha? I just...I picked up the remote as soon as I register...oh geezus.” I say. Samayya then started raging out, that’s what I have always called it, raging; because she went from communicable to incommunicable almost immediately and, by then, I had become very familiar with it. She raged and yelled a lot, and I stood silently numb, as most of my days then were spent: numb; I grabbed my pillow, walked to the hall bathroom, because I could use the drawers to hold the door shut (she had previously removed the lock and handle), and I slept in the bathtub.
Every night, for a few years, played on a variation of that scene, not the movie, but what happened after the movie. However, that next morning I grabbed a bag, which I kept packed and hidden in a closet, and I walked away and I never looked back.
That relationship changed me. There is, as a result, a pre-, and post Samayya, me. One of the unique things that I’ve thought about, recently, is how I am, kind of, rebuilding a relationship with myself, knowing how I thought and would communicate with women before Samayya and how I did afterwards. Not only has it been more difficult, obviously. It has also been frustrating, and by that I mean, when you know yourself in a certain way, and you like that self watching a different version of yourself, one that might, at first glance, lack assurance and confidence and assertiveness in a way that I don’t feel but nevertheless portray, it’s frustrating. The relationship literally changed the way that I think, well, no...maybe; it did affect my thought process in the moment: how I might react to and communicate with a person—for the most part I wasn’t capable of thinking or communicating, I essentially went numb, in exactly the same way that I learned to with Samayya. Eventually I did relearn how to approach people—women. A longtime family friend and a cognitive therapist explained to me that I was practicing an approach/avoidance response to, uh, life, I guess.
And, of course, I wanted to relearn to develop and create my relationships with intention. After a few years of working on that, unsuccessfully, I realized that I was trying to hard to be the person that I was before and not allowing myself to become anybody, really; just some shadowy version of a reflection of myself. There are a lot of things that we hold on to, as people; both consciously and unconsciously, that make our lives considerably more difficult than they need to be. Surrendering is really our only way through those times that we’re holding on to something so tightly, unfortunately it’s not always so easy to know how or what to surrender to—I think that might explain why so many people surrender to religion, I don’t necessarily mean to Jesus or Muhammad or the Buddha but to religion, it’s a preexisting, guileless means of surrender, and we can return to it over and over again, and there honestly is nothing wrong with that (religion is only immoral when it plays God, or politics). When we allow fear to guide us then we’ve forgotten why we turned to our prophets in the first place, likewise when Christianity isn’t a means of surrender but a political affiliate.
I haven’t seriously considered being in a relationship in a long time, although I have had a small handful of “relationships” Post-Samayya; because I’m 34 I don’t see the point in dating for the sake only of dating, and I live in a small Hill Country town outside of San Antonio, Texas, my prospects are fairly limited, especially considering the way that I lived my life these last five years—relatively uneventful; unless I decide to consider online dating, but again I think that becomes a question of what I’m looking for exactly.
I did acknowledge somewhat recently that I do have feelings for someone that kind hit me unexpectedly, however, per usual, if I’m not lead astray by manipulative, controlling women then I’m captivated by the unavailable women. Regardless, I do know that any relationship that I get involved in we will need to strip down through all the expectations, the traditions, the ideals, and build something, mutually from scratch. As daunting as some people might find starting over, the routine of unconsciously living a banal life whether alone or conjointly is considerably more disheartening to me.
Relationships are important. It’s not a stretch at all to suggest that our relationships give life meaning, and that too may be part of the reason why it’s been so difficult for me to let go of some of the frustration for having gone through the mess with Samayya in the first place. It’s hard when you look back at nearly a decade of your life knowing that it would have been completely different had it not been for the influence of a single person, and knowing that that influence has in turn influenced how I have interacted with people every day since then, in a negative way, or a way that I’m not happy about. It’s not pleasant laying awake in the evening thinking about how differently you might have wanted interactions to go, not that they were bad, necessarily, however they just don’t feel like you. I wasn’t as conscious about building that relationship as I should have been; it’s important, but it’s also more pleasurable and much more fun to actively create something with someone that you care about.
Samayya* and I were never legally married but an Imam did perform a religious ceremony overlooking Abiquiu Lake in Abiquiu, New Mexico when I was 27 and she was 36.