Something of a rant, or: Love is not the same as cookies

Love is not the same as cookies. If you give someone else some affection, it doesn't mean you have less affection leftover for other people. Time and attention are finite, energy is, and sometimes opportunities are. But love is not.

Nowhere does this interfere with my life more than in dating. I don't even have to be the one doing the thing people call "dating" for this to fuck things up right quick. I have run afoul of a lot of girlfriends over the years who think that my desire to develop an attachment to their (monogamous) boyfriend -- a platonic one, as I am not an idiot and not interested in hanging around anyone who would even let someone be a homewrecker -- must mean that I have a vested interest in shattering his attachment to her. This makes my head hurt something awful. Why the hell would I do that? He's my friend, he likes you, I want him to be happy. This is a non-problem from my point of view, only people keep making it my problem, and then blaming me for it.

The entire concept of "emotional infidelity" baffles me. I completely get why people get livid over a lot of the behavior that automatically goes with anything that's classified as cheating; the lying, the sneaking, the promise-breaking, the general badness of doing things that you know would make your partner highly upset, etc., are horrible things to do to another person, and I absolutely understand why this results in crying and screaming and broken crockery and expensive divorces. It's the part where this is automatically hurtful because developing an intimate attachment with someone else automatically means you must not love your partner anymore that does not compute. It's small-child-and-schizophrenic reasoning. Yes, if the CIA had installed radio tracers in your fillings so they could find and assassinate you at a moment's notice, then it would make perfect sense to remove all of your teeth with a pair of vice-grips and a fifth of scotch, but if I don't accept the initial premise, I am quite understandably going to feel that you are goddamn loco.

It's like being taught in geometry that the internal angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees iff the triangle is drawn on the plane, and having your question of, "Okay, but what do they add up to if I've drawn my triangle on the surface of a sphere?" get the answer, "You drew what on the what now? BLASPHEMY. STOP DISRUPTING CLASS." And then your triangle starts crying and wails, "What's wrong with meeeeeee? Why am I not enoooooooooough?" before breaking up with you very loudly in the middle of the student union, and moving out with all the expensive textbooks to binge on daiquiris and ice cream with your graphic calculator the night before the final exam.

I don't want to be the center of anyone's universe. It's happened before, and my response is to dump him immediately, because the very idea scares the bejeezus out of me and strikes me as fanatical and insane. I cannot be all things to anyone, and no one person is all things to me -- aside from being one of those dangerous egg-basket equivalency situations, I am just not wired to be able to spend enough time with any other human being to give them that kind of attention and support. My record for amount of time spent with another person without wanting to strangle one of us to end the stalemate is about three days, and that only worked because I was with Moggie, and we were at Disneyland. I could move in with the love of my life, and after about two weeks of sharing a bed with someone who wanted to sleep twined around me like an amorous octopus every single night, there would be CSIs picking chips of his cranial vault out of my garbage disposal. I cannot handle what my culture considers to be a "real" romantic relationship, so I don't.

I have lost a lot of friends over this, to be honest. I can get attached to people very quickly and very deeply, especially if I'm not expecting it. I go way the hell out of my way to try not to be threatening to any of their other relationships, but it doesn't always work -- some people are just really jealous in a way that I am not. It's not a thing in my brain, so I don't have any visceral instinctive understanding what triggers it, other than having a grip on the general idea that people react badly to a perception that they've been devalued or left behind. I don't play the "PICK ONE" ultimatum game, but other people do; as soon as I find out what's going on, I forfeit and fuck off. I already know that my friend is going to end up in emotional agony no matter what happens from that point on -- actually forcing someone to make that sort of choice is salt in the wound, and I really cannot do that to someone else.

Up until my mid-twenties or so, most of my good friends were guys for exactly this reason. Typical acculturated middle-school girl-crazy involves a lot of politicking; being "more friends" with someone in your social circle was often perceived as being "less friends" with someone else. It is a goddamn stupid notion, and if you get sucked into it, you can spend almost literally all of your waking hours explaining to people how their timecard looked and why that didn't mean they were about to be best-friend-fired. They kept fucking score, like it was some kind of bizarro tennis tournament. Hanging out with the guys introduced some other problems , mainly of the "no, I will not inadvertently fall in twoo wuv with you if you keep trailing me around being 'helpful' and chasing other males off" sort, but those are easier for me to handle -- passing you a note that reads DO YOU LIKE ME? Y/N implies that they expect a short and definitive answer to the question, after all.

Comments

  1. This seems to be a complete misunderstanding of what a romantic relationship actually is- I would assume you have never had a long term romantic relationship because you do not understand "emotional cheating" therefore you have probably made this trespass several times yourself. No judgement, just an observation. When you are truly connected and emotionally in love with someone you share everything with them first and fully not because you feel you HAVE to or that you can't ever share with a firend but because you truly WANT to. For one person to be going elsewhere for this isn't a crime, it just starts to make a relationship feel a little lopsided. When pointed out and an argument ensues or they do not change their behavior-- well then it becomes apparent they are not truly invested in one another on the same level. Sordid loud arguments and breakups are of course not necessary but the human is an emotional animal and when such a discovery is made, well they act like the emotionally driven animal they are. Sorry you feel it fucks up your life, but if this problem is created by a friendship, it's inevitable and not entirely the fault of the one who feels betrayed. It takes two to tango- and the fault lies with the one you try to befriend as well. As well as a friend that does not know proper boundaries, since they have never set their own with their own friends.

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    1. I've been in long-term relationships before -- I'm not old enough to have had anything multi-decade, but I have had relationships that were measured in years. None of them ended because of any kind of infidelity, emotional or otherwise. I've never been in a position of having to choose between two romantic partners, but I've been put in the position of being forced to choose between two friends before, particularly when I was younger, and it's pretty much the same.

      I understand why the behavior makes people angry. If you've promised not to do something like that, and you do it anyway, it is absolutely betrayal, and a ruinous thing. What I do not have any instinctive grasp of is why people assume that bonding with someone else means less bonding with them. If this is how you work, then the "emotional cheating" thing makes perfect logical sense. It is not how I work, and I try to spell this out as clearly as I can, but so far to no avail. I feel it's deeply unfair of me to date people who assume they will be my only important person and I will be theirs, so I don't. Since this is widespread, it means I don't date much.

      I don't have this argument, because if someone says something I'm doing is disruptive, I quit doing it. My side of things never gets to a fight -- if someone says "my girlfriend doesn't like it when I go to the movies with you guys" then I quit asking. Ditto if one of my female friends says this about her boyfriend; this is only not labeled as "emotional infidelity," I suspect, because I don't dig the ladies. My boundaries with my friends are no worse than other people's, and in some cases probably better, as I'm very blunt about drawing lines and request that other people do the same for me.

      My overall observation is that being in what my culture considers to be a standard romantic relationship makes me very unhappy. What you describe seems to be quite normal, but for me is a nasty catch-22. I'm not just supposed to behave the way you outline, I'm supposed to, and assumed to, want to behave that way, and I don't. No amount of trying to conform to this makes any difference in the way I feel. I cannot laser-focus myself like that, particularly over the long term, any more than I could wake up one morning and decide to be a lesbian. Having someone else laser-focus on me makes me feel really claustrophobic. I'm good with being important to someone, but being automatically granted the title of Most Important Person just because I like him and sometimes we don't wear pants is not something I feel comfortable with.

      I can't give other people what they want in this regard, so I don't try. I have an excellent idea of the kind of relationship I do want, but so far I have not found it romantically. I've got plenty of friends who are also the sort that don't keep score. I dunno what else you want me to do about it. I can't force myself to experience that particular kind of jealousy any more than I can force myself to experience religious faith.

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