17 January 2011

Contented Slovenliness, Broken Love, Fatherhood Fears, and other not-entirely-related things

Casual observation of the day: I find it easier not to care about dating, to be contentedly single, and to refrain from checking out hotties frivolously when I am letting myself go and grooming less. It's weird. But somehow makes sense.


On a related note: I've realized I'm probably scared to "not have an excuse" for never having had a serious relationship. What if the understandable conflicts around processing my homosexuality and religious background are gone, but I'm still floundering without an excuse for floundering because it's all I know how to do by now? What if I still choose to pursue people who aren't right for me, and I endlessly and senselessly play the martyr? What if I actually am terrible at romantically intimate relationships, and nobody can (or should have to) put up with me beyond about three months? What if I really am a "one-man guy"? Easier to let go and stop hoping, then. Is that how I've been happily single lately, or is there something more fulfilled in it?


On a related note: I must resist the tendency to live in a way which "explains" in my mind why I'm single or keeps me from hoping to find someone (being a bit slovenly, neglecting fitness, delaying professional development), and instead work to become the kind of person to whom the kind of person I want to be with would be attracted. That may mean risking losing any 'excuses' for being single in defiance of the aforementioned fear. I didn't take marriage prep and dating courses more than once for nothing. And all that listening to Dr. Laura and attending communication workshops and courses in college. And taking painful steps to improve relationships I could have abandoned. And going to college to educate myself. I need to improve myself personally, emotionally, financially, professionally, mentally...I have a lot of work to do. I've never been much of a pleaser, but I'm realizing I do want to minimize legitimate concerns a potential mate might have. But I want to do it for me, too...to build a life of my own. Surely it will be worth it, even if I live out my days as a bachelor. Life will be meaningful. The alternative is emptiness. I will contribute something. The alternative is being a leech worthy of non-existence. If I'm to resist the temptation to end it or lay it all down when I feel like a complete and total leech ultimately worth nothing to the world except occasional fun and distraction from 'what matters most' (which I did feel intensely not long ago), I have to find ways to contribute and make more of my life. I have to continually learn to live more selflessly, to be more open, to love more freely, to seek truth more humbly and earnestly, to laugh more purely.


On a related note: I'm simultaneously pushing away the urgent sense that it's a shame to let what little is left of my youthful beauty, my energy, and my abundant affection go to waste, unshared. Tragic, right? ...Or shared with flings. Hopefully, it doesn't all wane and wither before I meet the person I hope to spend the rest of my life with and look back fondly on our relative youth together.


On a related note: I've always wondered, at times, if my love was broken. I tell myself I "should" feel strong "love" for people I actually trust, who have earned that trust, who say they love me and want me around. But I don't "miss" them when we're apart, in most cases, and I don't have urges to give them hugs or offer other affection gestures. I don't long to be close to them, even geographically. I do, however, feel affectionate urges for some people who I don't "appreciate" as much as others but who are just somehow "squeezable" in a "cute" or "vulnerable" way, and admittedly most often males of a not completely unattractive variety, even if I feel absolutely no sexual desire for them at all and even shudder at the thought. Is that normal? Do other people experience that? And I miss and long to be close to those to whom I'm attracted in a romantic or even sexual sense, if there's an emotional connection there, too, even before we have a history for them to really earn that trust and affection. I keep it measured and rein it in to not get carried away, but the fact that I have to rein my affection in with them while I've felt something vaguely like mild indifference to people who have invested and sacrificed for me and who I know "matter" to me has made me wonder if I've mistreated and neglected those family and friends in some incredibly selfish way, by not returning some affection they might feel, and it's bothered me. The fact that I've felt my general love and affection magnified by many times when I was in love and loved in return makes me wish I didn't need to be in love to feel that way and wonder if I'm broken for not feeling that way normally. Or was I only full of love when loved romantically or by someone I wanted or needed to love me. I wonder if that's one reason the "love of Christ" idea worked for me, because I wanted and needed to be loved by deity who fully knew me, and I felt secure in that belief. Secure. Is it all about security? Did belief in the love of Christ patch an insecurity? Am I insecure after all? The suggestions I've heard from reparative types or pop psychologists only superficially or initially seem to make some sense or even address the questions I'm voicing here, so it's unresolved so far. Whatever the malfunction, if any, I keep established friends close, regardless of whether their friendship or love makes me feel somehow joyous or sunny, because I trust them, and we understand each other in ways which can't be easily replaced, and I figure my stability and happiness may depend on having them close or accessible someday if not today, as may theirs.


On a related note: I wonder if the same vague sort of indifference of affection I feel for people closest to me will eventually occur with my spouse and children as well, and it worries me. Sometimes it makes me feel like I shouldn't try and risk the damage. I hope I'm capable of keeping it. I admittedly fear this much, much less in the context of marrying a man, as I've personally envisioned, with at least one man, an endless, enduring path with ups and downs supported by an abiding, pure, invested, sacrificial love underlying us the whole way. I hope that vision was a reflection of truth.


On a related note: I fear that very affection and sunny feeling I've felt for those I've fallen for is "supposed" to completely go away after a few years, based on statements by people who have been married a long time and insist the "infatuation" wears off, leaving a deeper, more abiding love that is essentially just another form of familial love, or the love of Christ, or whatever language they use. I do imagine it will wane, but I can't shake the notion that there's something about the love of spouses "in love", even if "in love" requires work to maintain, that is patently different from the love you feel for a best friend. I have faith that "in love", as uniquely distinct from other love, is possible and preferable in a mature marriage. Call me nutty.


On a related note: I have had a few moments in recent years in which I felt a notable 'spark' with females and actually thought, "Wow, just for this brief moment, I feel like I could totally kiss you right now." Then there's the less "charged" but comforting moment of, "There's something that feels very right about having her on my arm and keeping her safe right now, more so than I've felt with a guy so far." I think I'm attracted to many of the same things in women as I am in guys, but if it's ever going to work with a woman, I may have nailed down some requirements, the common thread between these women: really skinny, short, playfully sassy, and seductive. Oh, and "liberal" as far as Mormons go. Bring on the skinny, liberalish, forward Mormon/ex-Mormon women!


On a related note: I've realized I'm mildly terrified of being responsible for anyone else's financial stability or shelter as a husband or father. One thing I loved about the couple of people I've fallen for was that I knew that if I failed, they'd pick up the slack. I believe the reverse to be true in other aspects of life, that I would make up for their shortcomings or priorities in other areas. But I would like to not have to rely on that. I have a goal to become capable of supporting someone besides myself, to position myself to be a father and partner, however I can be, should that opportunity present itself. Maybe it won't present itself until I take the steps to be ready for it. I'm finally beginning to take those steps. I need to take them faster, though. I'm nervous. But through confronting the nervousness I find confidence.


Here's to self-improvement apparently without immediate romantic or eternal religious incentive.


On a related note: this doesn't necessarily mean I'm "back". Maybe not. Maybe.


Bravone said...

Glad your maybe back... maybe
Ha! the word verification is ridere, to laugh in Italian. No reflection on your post I'm sure.

BLB said...

On a related note, it's been a while O-Mo. So, a skinny, modern, liberal-ish, girl? Maybe Justin Bieber really is your type.

The Impossible K said...

I want to laugh and puke at BLB's comment all at the same time... I'm so confused...
Trying to constrain your hopes for a relationship to any period of time is a tricky, and quite possibly heartbreaking, business... Will a relationship later on in life be less fulfilling just because you're a little older? Will you really be mourning the memories that were never made, or enjoying the ones that you do make? Or perhaps, when you DO find that special someone, these trivial details won't matter so much? Hm.

Oh, and yes, welcome back.

Original Mohomie said...

Um, I may have a propensity towards somewhat twinkish guys in their twenties, but Justin Bieber is a whole other ballpark. No, no, no...

ImpK, I fully recognize I could feasibly meet someone with whom I can actually pursue something more. Likely even someone better for me than any previous relationships. I just try not to think about how the best thing I've found took 31 years to find and remember that I might one day say 32 years was worth the wait to find my lifelong love. :-) Besides, maybe part of why I haven't found the right person isn't because there are only one or two in existence but because it's taken me this long to learn how to identify them and to be open to it. And maybe there's more learning ahead in that regard...

One thing I know is that I can't afford to mourn memories never made, as you put it. I've mourned memories which I loved but which, for all I know, were thrown to the gutter by the only other person in the world who knew them firsthand. My impulse was to pick them up like abandoned orphans and protect them and reassure them that they still matter, they're still loved. Yes, I know how pathetic that sounds. :-) Now that I've done that, it's easier to let them be and look forward to new memories.

That's been really helpful, actually: remembering that each relationship brings me a step closer to the maturity and experience I'll need for the next one, that I have sweet, meaningful, and/or fun memories about each relationship and friendship along the way, and I will have more memories ahead as long as I engage in life and the things that matter to me.

jimf said...

> Life will be meaningful. . . I will contribute something.
> The alternative is being a leech worthy of non-existence.

I realize that "leech" is a metaphor here, but **are** leeches
(the real, annelid kind) "worthy of non-existence"?
Sez who?

In real human communities (or any communities of social animals,
for that matter), there are indeed real freeloaders, and
some of them aren't bothered by it in the slightest (we
call them "psychopaths"). But even there, who sez they're
"worthy of non-existence"? (And if they are, why do
they continue to exist)?

They exist because the cold mathematics of game theory
allow a certain percentage of "cheaters" to pop up in any
social population. They continue to exist because in
certain circumstances it can be selectively advantageous
to be one (so a certain continued percentage of them is an
"evolutionarily stable" state).

Your disgust with them is, of course, a symptom of the
defensive strategies that the majority of non-cheaters
must deploy to root out and punish (discourage) the minority of
cheaters -- otherwise, cheaters would increase and take
over and the advantages of social cooperation would
collapse (a net negative outcome, which is also selected

(I realize the tone of this comment is completely against the
grain of everything else posted here, but what the hey!
I still enjoy the blog.)

jimf said...

I've always wondered, at times, if my love was broken.
I tell myself I "should" feel strong "love" for people I
actually trust. . . Is that normal? Do other people experience that? . . .

I wonder if the same vague sort of indifference of affection I
feel for people closest to me will eventually occur with my
spouse and children as well. . .

I fear that very affection[ate] and sunny feeling I've felt for those
I've fallen for is "supposed" to completely go away after a few years,
based on statements by people who have been married a long time and
insist the "infatuation" wears off, leaving a deeper, more abiding
love. . .

You should definitely read this book:

_Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love_
Dorothy Tennov

Original Mohomie said...

jimf, I don't think the human metaphorical kind of leech serves any useful purpose. I understand it "works" for them individually, and it's only "wrong" if you give a hoot about society as a whole and reject strictly individualistic utilitarianism, but so I do, reasons of evolutionary biology and social psychology incidental. Tell me how society is negatively impacted by the removal of "leeches", and I might take more interest in that discussion. If my existence saps that of others or contributes nothing to the world I leave behind, what was the point of my being here other than selfish considerations I don't value? This was a personal exploration, not an abstract sociological essay, so I'm speaking for myself here. I care about a lasting, constructive legacy of meaningful, useful impact to others--regardless of whether everyone thinks it's useful--and don't want or expect that to change.

As for the book, I'm interested in the science and understanding of emotion (which I tend to believe is neurological). I want to read some of Robert Solomon's works on the subject for a start but don't read much, so I haven't gotten to it. I'll put this on the list of recommendations.

I'm not familiar with the term "limerence" but looked it up on Wikipedia (of course), and I have to say I don't identify with the anxiety and obsession aspects of it except maybe to a small degree with one or two early interests. It actually sounds somewhat unpleasant to experience and a bit convoluted as a concept. But key is the fact that I'm actually not troubled by my feelings of affection and infatuation (whether or not accompanied by selfless concern, trust, and friendship) and embrace and go through them. I've more been puzzled by the _lack_ of affection I think I "should" feel for people who have already proven themselves as dedicated and trustworthy friends and family, but I also am not terribly troubled by that but consider it a normal part of existence: a sort of emotional saturation point and lack of mystery and novelty. Regardless, I'll keep the book in mind for sure.

jimf said...

> Tell me how society is negatively impacted by the removal of "leeches",
> and I might take more interest in that discussion.

Oh, **society** isn't negatively impacted by the removal of "leeches",
but "society", as a unit of purely biological selection, can't
outweigh the impact of selection on individuals. (In fact, the
whole concept of "group selection", as it's called, is a
controversial one.)

Another book recommendation:

_The Selfish Gene_, by Richard Dawkins

I'm not arguing in favor of leeches, here -- human or otherwise.
But I suppose I am trying to suggest that the idea of some overriding --
and enforceable -- set of values according to which either leeches or
psychopaths can be assigned a place in some absolute hierarchy of good and evil,
vis a vis organisms or human personalities occupying other niches,
doesn't hold much water. **If**, that is, you don't believe in God
(I don't) or in any foundationalist theory of morality (I don't).

Granted, such an outlook can make the universe seem like a pretty
cold and scary place (it is), and I wouldn't want to have a leech
stuck on me (human or otherwise), any more than the next guy.

But on a more personal note -- worrying too much about whether **oneself**
is going to "contribute" in some sense can be counterproductive.
For one thing, it has a slightly narcissistic ring to it.
For another, utter and complete self-sacrifice isn't possible.
There has to be some "juice" in what you're doing, or you won't
be able to keep doing it.

Bertrand Russell had something to say about this in his 1950 Nobel Prize
(for Literature) acceptance speech:

"All human activity is prompted by desire. There is a
wholly fallacious theory advanced by some earnest
moralists to the effect that it is possible to resist
desire in the interests of duty and moral principle.
I say this is fallacious, not because no man ever
acts from a sense of duty, but because duty has no
hold on him unless he desires to be dutiful. If
you wish to know what men will do, you must know
not only, or principally, their material circumstances,
but rather the whole system of their desires with
their relative strengths."



Original Mohomie said...

Yeah, I didn't intend to ascribe value or validity to my underlying desires but just expound on them as they are. As for narcissism, it could be in some roundabout, evolutionary biology way, but so can throwing yourself in front of a car to save someone (a reciprocal and therefore "selfish" impulse to perpetuate the species or the selfish preservation of your child's life to ensure continuation of your genes, etc), and it doesn't much concern me. :-) As for carrying that desire to an extreme, I don't think mine is extreme, though it possibly used to be and led to a lot of unnecessary self-criticism. The opposite extreme, though, results in stagnation and unattained potential. I think it's all about finding the right balance.

jimf said...

> I'm not familiar with the term "limerence". . .
> I don't identify with the anxiety and obsession aspects of it. . .

Maybe you're immune to it (what Tennov called
a "lifelong non-limerent").

OTOH, your latest post, "Would You Take Him Back?"
certainly sounds like limerent suffering.

> It actually sounds somewhat unpleasant to experience. . .

Yes. Especially if it's unrequited.
(And it's **always**, to some degree, unrequited).

> . . .and a bit convoluted as a concept. But. . . I'm
> actually not troubled by my feelings of affection and infatuation. . .
> and embrace. . . them.

I assume you're put off by the neologism.
However, Tennov herself considered the word "love"
to itself be too convoluted a concept
to be a usefully unambiguous term for what she was studying --
the experience of "being in love" as described, say, in Stendahl's
_De L'Amour_ or in _Romeo & Juliet_
("Jesu Maria, what a deal of brine
Hath washed thy sallow cheeks for Rosaline!" ;-> )

> I've more been puzzled by the _lack_ of affection I think I "should"
> feel. . . but [I] consider it a normal part of existence: a sort
of emotional saturation point and lack of mystery and novelty.

Yeah. In fact, other folks have dubbed what Tennov termed
"limerence", "new relationship energy". So here you've answered your
own doubt ("I've always wondered, at times, if my love was broken.").

As far as "I wonder if the same. . . indifference of affection
I feel for people closest to me will eventually occur. . ." -- if
you mean in contrast with the emotional **intensity** characterized
a fortiorissimo by "limerence", then the answer is yes.
For what it's worth, I feel the same way.
It may be **taboo** to speak of frankly[*], but it isn't abnormal.

Also from Wikipedia:

"[B]ased on [Tennov's] research and interviews. . ., all
human bonded relationships can be divided into three varieties. . .

Affectional bonding characterize[s]. . . relationships
where neither partner is limerent; [such] couples. . . do not
report. . . unwanted intrusive thinking,. . . intense need
for exclusivity, or. . . [need for] reciprocity. These. . .
couples. . . emphasize compatibility of interests,
mutual preferences in leisure activities, ability to work together,
and. . . relative contentment.

The bulk of relationships. . . [involve] limerent-nonlimerent
bonding. These bonds are characterized by unequal reciprocation. . .

[R]elationship[s]. . . in which there exists mutual reciprocation
are. . . limerent-limerent bondings. . . [S]ince limerence
itself is an 'unstable state'. . . mutually limerent bonds would be. . .
short-lived. . . Some limerent-limerent relationships
evolve into affectional bondings over time as limerence declines. . .
such couples are described. . . as 'old marrieds' whose interactions
are typically both stable and mutually gratifying."

jimf said...

> It may be **taboo** to speak of frankly[*]


DONA ANA: . . .My dear, dear father!

DON JUAN: Would you like to see him?

DONA ANA: My father here!!!

DON JUAN: No -- he is in heaven. . . He condescends to look in
upon us here from time to time. Heaven bores him. . .
You would rather not meet him, probably.

DONA ANA: How dare you say that?

DON JUAN: Oh, that is the usual feeling here. You may remember that on
earth -- though of course we never confessed it -- the death of anyone
we knew, even those we liked best, was always mingled with a certain
satisfaction at being finally done with them.

ANA: Monster! Never, never.

DON JUAN: [placidly] I see you recognize the feeling. Yes -- a funeral was
always a festivity in black, especially the funeral of a relative.
At all events, family ties are rarely kept up here. Your father is
quite accustomed to this: he will not expect any devotion from you.

-- G. B. Shaw, "Don Juan in Hell"