Tuesday, August 23, 2016

On Exactly The Wrong Person For You

I've been pondering an email from Pamela Madsen, author of Shameless: How I Ditched the Diet, Got Naked, and Found True Pleasure

I'm not sure if it's kinda genius or the Worst Advice Ever. What do you think?

I think the search is for that perfect wrong person. The one whose scars you want to lick and kiss and love. This person who is wrong in all the right ways. That person who has horns on his or her head that fit into the holes in your head. You want to know that they are a problem that you want to have in your life. That wrong person should inspire you to gaze at them with love. To make your body yearn to touch them. And yes, you will shake your head at it all. This wild wrong person! You know, that person who is wrong for you in all the right ways.

The advice sounded a little screwy, not at all sensible or wise, but then she threw me this line: 

You have got to be willing to not only dance with your demons you have to be willing to fuck them.

So. Fucking your demons. What could be more alluring, really?

And yet.

Is succumbing to what (or who) you actually want to do--damn the wisdom or lack thereof--the key to living life fully and passionately? Or is it a complete rationalization for being in a screwed-up relationship?

Anjelica Huston, who dredged up memories of her turbulent years with Jack Nicholson in  Watch Me: A Memoir describes the relationship as having "that kind of faint uncertainty" of being with someone who is never truly yours: "But that doesn't stop one from loving somebody; it just makes it a different kind of negotiation. You can have a hard time with somebody and say, 'That's it,' but you have to be able to leave the room, and I was never able to do that."

Was she wrong to spend 17 non-consecutive, non-monogamous years in a semi-compromised position? Or was that exactly what she was into, and on a very basic level, what she wanted/needed? Is it possible--or even advisable--to avoid someone when they offer compelling mental fuckery, personalized to your exact flavor of vulnerability?

You can make a decent argument for either side, I think. On the one hand, viva life, jump into the fire, go where the passion is. On the other, well, the tension/wrongness aspect can easily veer into much, much darker territory.  A reader once wrote me to say her (ex-, thankfully) husband constantly told her how "ugly" her vagina was so she was looking into surgery so as not to subject some future beau to the supposed horror between her legs.*

I usually think of Wanting the Wrong Person as a gender issue but it's probably a universal condition for any slightly-harmed human. That is, pretty much everyone. Consider this exchange between Marc Maron and Dr. Drew on WTF, on falling for people who put you in a position of repeating traumatic patterns from childhood.
Dr. Drew: "You can't really ever cure this--you're going to be attracted to people that put you in that position. And you just love them. That's just how you're wired. It's your love map. The way to mitigate it is to go after people you're not that excited about--but then you're sort of withholding something from yourself.

Marc Maron: But you can't do that because it's sort of like a phantom limb.

Drew: It's hard. You can also go for people who are very exciting but realize it's going to be traumatic.

Maron: My therapist said that that's they way it's gonna be and the best you can hope for is that [the other person is] willing to do the work.

Drew: Yes. I absolutely agree with that. Because that's life. We're not perfect. We're not healthy all the time. It makes life interesting.

Maron: You can't be with someone that you're not going to connect with on that level.

Drew: You can, but...

Maron: You've got to be very disciplined not to go out and fuck the lunatic!  
Drew: Correct. A lot of people do not understand this and it's where a lot of the craziness comes from. The things that were traumatic in our childhood are the sources of attraction.

Maron: Not only the sources of attraction, but you want to recreate it.

Drew: Well, that's the conscious experience of it. But I think there's something far more profound. When people start talking about it in therapy, they always go, "I guess I want to master it. I guess I want to make it right this time." No, that's your brain trying to make sense of bullshit motivation.

Maron: It's comfortable. It's what you grew up with.

Drew: It's your map. It's love. It's where you find love.

Maron: Is it love?  
Drew: Yes. That's your version of love. It's not the healthiest version. But I've got the same one [he's been with his wife 23 years] so it's all good. I have found in the craziness, passion and renewal.
"I have found in the craziness, passion and renewal." Who knew? Square ol' Dr. Drew embroiled in a crazy passion-based relationship? And advising, basically, "fuck the lunatic"(!)

What do you make of all this? It is wise to seek health and balance (with accompanying possible tepidness) in relationships? Or do you go for the great passion/great trauma combo? And how has that worked out for you?


*Obviously there's a continuum between the delightful frisson of senseless ardor and someone truly hurting you physically and/or mentally and you want to be way way more toward the "delightful" end of it. (If you're not and you're ready, The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233.)


cegluna said...

I think we naturally gravitate to the familiar even if it may not be the best/easiest/wisest choice.
There's a better explanation of it here
I suppose the ideal is a relationship where despite mutually complementing eachother's fuckedupness, both are willing to work on making positive strides towards resolving whatever issues you both brought to the party.

in bed with married women said...

Cegluna--thanks for the link, will check it out at once. after that i am going to write a love song containing the phrase "Mutually complementing each other's fuckedupness"

in bed with married women said...

ps cegluna, was so interesting. will post the link of fb as well.

Midge said...

I can very well relate to this! I spend approximately 3 years after my marriage ended doing just this. A 3 month fuck only relastionship, a 2 `1/2 year "trying to make it work" with someone who took me to the highest and longest fucking orgasms I have ever had and some majorly kinkery fucking I have ever had.

And somehwere inbetween there was another man who found me so incredibly sexy that it made him horny to look at me. Three or four sucks on his dick and he came. I moaned, he came.

Now that I am in one of the best relationships I have EVER had in my entire life, this man has tried to come back into my life. But get this, he is ALSO in a relationship, not only that, he is engaged to this woman.

Is the temptation there for me? Oh hell yes it is. I have definitely pondered having that "secret relationship" with this man who turns me on as well. But also, everytime he tried to get something to happen and I start thinking about it, I feel such tremendous guilt for even thinking of it, my life turns topsy turvy and my moods are a force to be reckoned with.

So I see the pattern. And I have chosen to not engage. It's not worth it for me. I don't want to go through my life in emotional turmoil over something that I am contributing too.

in bed with married women said...

Midge, well, if it makes you feel less tormented, your situation is not that unusual. according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, a common recurring female mating habit (yes I know i just wrote "mating habit")is to be with a safe reliable dude while sneaking off with mr. sexy. can't remember the biological explanation behind it though...

also some interesting comments from FB:

JG I have so much to say on this topic and no time to say it. Basically I couldn't disagree more. Yes, if you can find a "nice" lunatic who is willing to do the work and respect your boundaries and not consistently re-traumatize you and you can build a healthy, loving relationship, then great. But that's really like playing the lottery.
There is so much to be said about working on yourself to become attracted to healthier people. Long and interesting conversation here.

and JB Lol - 'it's complicated,' as my son has often said of most things, because, well, it is and they are. My first serious relationship/marriage seemed 'crazy', but the first night we got together, it felt absolutely comfortable. In a lot of ways, that's problematic (looking back) but it also moved me away from the kind of home I was raised in. No regrets. The second one did not feel right ever, but he said (and in a way he was right) that I didn't know what a good relationship was. It was way too fast, but I also got pregnant early (I hadn't in four years in the first one), so absolutely no regrets there, either. Going ahead, I try to trust my gut, even if my head says it doesn't make sense. We'll see how that goes. (Not sure I believe in a 'right person for me', tbh.)

in bed with married women said...

ps I am so damn happy that this is a place where people are just sort of thoughtfully considering these ideas instead of just yelling at anyone else who is thinking down a different line. this sort of civility and thoughtful is rare on the web, my friends. good for us!

Chaffyn said...

More elegantly stated by he who said it:

We're all seeking that special person who is right for us. But if you've been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there's no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. And it isn't until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems ~ the ones that make you truly who you are ~ that we're ready to find a lifelong mate. Only then do you finally know what you're looking for. You're looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person ~ someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.”

~ Galway Kinnell . Pulitzer Prize for Poetry 1982

When I found this it knocked my socks down around my ankles. Layering it back across my life I understood how perfectly it illuminated every relationship in my experience. I have met my Shadow. It is deep and it is sharp and it is dark. Formidable. Not quite as bad as me, thank goodness. For it is the master of hell. Now that my demons are met and caged, now that I acknowledge and accept the conflicts I thought I could untangle ...

The only possible answer I find to this miracle of awareness, the fact we are the crown of creation in a world filled with fear, is unremitting love. Like it or not, everyone of us who knows this is called to shine that light in every direction. This is the problem I want to have.

My morning meditations close with a simple mantra. Be Good. Get Better.

Anonymous said...

Great column!
I recently read somewhere that when we date we are secretly seeking to find someone who is JUST LIKE US. This bothered me, as my complaint is that my spouse was/is very different than me but when we met we were so attracted to each other and had great sex. She said she wanted to do different things, & was very interested in whatever I was into.
Now I see that we are indeed very different, (and no she is NOT interested in the things I am into)only now... the sex thing is gone for her. I am still very into her.
I have never told anyone this but when I must "do it myself" I am fantasizing about some of the hot sex we used to have as married folks.
My latest plan is to attempt to get back down to dating weight. I assume that she finds a 200 lb man repulsive. She says that is not it, but it is all I have to go on right now, and everyone else here at work is working on weight loss so it seems like the time to try.

The Bun said...

My brother went through a really traumatic relationship when he was in college - he wants to help people and take care of them when they need it and he got taken advantage of big time by someone with their own damage, is the short version - and I said to him as he was trying to start dating again after he recovered, "Dude, you like the crazy. The crazy feels exciting. But you have to remember, even when we're trying to help you, no one is going to take the crazy away from you. You are the one that gets to decide when you're ready to let the crazy go." He said it helped him in letting the counseling actually sink in to remember that he's the one who gets to choose, that no one is going to make the decision for him and force him.

He ended up marrying a sweet woman, who's a bit of the crazy - kind of needs to be taken care of as she's kind of flaky and willing to let others carry her - but her crazy is benign. She loves him with her whole heart, and once you get through to her that something she's doing isn't good for him, she will make every effort to turn things around and take her turn at taking care of him. She has a bit of the crazy, but she cares enough to make it work. And I know he would never have gotten to this point with her if he hadn't been able to let some of the excitement of the crazy go.

Oddly enough, though he and I grew up together, I got the complete opposite approach - I avoid the passionate falling in love butterflies in favor of someone I feel like I've skipped ahead to that old married couple feeling with. I miss out on some of the passion and intensity, but I'm mostly OK with that.

After almost 11 years with my man-person, I would still rather be with him in what a lot of people see as a passionless relationship, with his default setting of laid-back determination (and the fact that we've been long-term long-distance for a few years with no plans to change soon, that really bugs people), than go through screaming arguments no matter how good the makeup sex is...

Sometimes I wish for raging desire rather than his peaceful smile in bed, but knowing that the smile is connected to the way he helps me with my anxiety, the way he sings to our cats, the way he can cut someone to the bone with his sarcasm and yet never shows me anything but love, kindness, and respect without putting me on a pedestal - all of that makes it worthwhile. As he said to me once before we started dating: you can only spend so much of your time fucking - eventually you've got to be able to have a conversation afterwards.

in bed with married women said...

Anonymous, well, good luck, man.

And The Bun, that was so beautifully said and written. Thank you!

The Bun said...

Took me this long to come back - thank you!

Anonymous said...

During the course of my 15 year marriage I have had a few very strong attractions to unavailable people. And they all seem to be addicts of some sort, so they're not only unavailable but they're struggling with their own issues. I think this is what I love about them. And yes, I grew up with an addict parent so maybe I'm trying to resolve those issues. I am sure this will be my life long struggle. I have actually wondered if this is my addiction -- falling in love, or falling in love with unhealthy/unavailable people. It's incredibly challenging, and even more challenging to explain to my husband, who adores me, and wants to understand, but really doesn't. The more I try to explore the topic with him the further apart we feel, or the crazier I sound. Like, as if talking about gives it more energy than necessary and makes him concerned. He's an amazing person and we have a wonderful marriage and life together but I will always feel this gap I'm afraid.

Here's another article on this topic and some of my favorite parts from it (http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-22596/why-we-date-people-who-make-us-feel-like-sht.html)

"According to psychologist Stan Tatkin, who developed PACT (the Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy), this “intoxicated” sensation is largely due to biology. Or, as he explains, “It’s as if nature just wants us to fuck and procreate — nature is unconcerned with long-term relationships."

At the same time, Tatkin adds, we can’t reduce everything to biology. In his view, the whole phenomenon of finding a partner is a “huge psychobiological system with many moving parts.” And in this moving system, he clarifies, “We may have opposing psychobiological agendas … . The person with whom you’re infatuated may look terrible on paper but you can’t say no. Another person looks great on paper, but you’re just not that into them.”

The article ends with this:

If you’re going through a relationship that makes you feel like shit, don’t make it worse by punishing yourself for having let someone treat you poorly. Accept it with radical honesty. Investigate it. Let it show you what you don’t want, and get some data about that for future reference.

And if you’re willing to take a piece of advice from a stranger, take it from me: Get out of that shitstorm as soon as you can."

Jill Hamilton said...

Oh Anonymous that is such an incredible comment, all of it. If you weren't so sane and lovely I would fall in love with you at once. xo

Anonymous said...

a common recurring female mating habit (yes I know i just wrote "mating habit")is to be with a safe reliable dude while sneaking off with mr. sexy. can't remember the biological explanation behind it though...

This is a real thing?!?!?! Because I've done exactly that - twice! Two good marriages, while sneaking off with mr. Sexy. And it was the same mr. Say both times.

I'm off to do one research.

Thank you Jill!

Jill Hamilton said...

oh come on Anonymous--I LOVE that you wrote "mating habit." ps sounds like you need to write a "true sex story" for us.

Anonymous said...

Curious as to why you've decided you can only get either/or. Either fucking or conversation. Or are you perhaps rationalizing your compromise with his passionless approach, putting the best spin on this out of a fear of being physically AND sexually alone entirely rather than mostly?

The Bun said...

I don't at all feel like it's an either or thing - our sex is great. I just went poetic instead of blunt. The blunt description is, I wish he were more inclined to make noise! That's really about it, and it's not going to change because I don't want him to do it if it doesn't come naturally. Just because other people think our relationship is passionless doesn't mean it is to us. I'm just used to people finding us baffling. He's an eager and enthusiastic lover who makes me see stars. I just, in fantasy land, dig a bit more of a soundtrack.