Before I rush off to style my hair and reapply my lipstick, and mix a cocktail and lay out slippers for the homecoming of hubby, I thought I’d share this with you…
I love this image, not just because it relates to a fundamental part of yoga but because it echoes my experience of life. I find that when I delve into books, new experiences, or so called good relationships, there is always much more below the surface. It is there for me to find in time or to watch unfold. Aside from all of that, I love the colours, coincidentally, the colours I am wearing today.
“I hope that two people can grow together, side by side, and bring joy to each other, without one having to be crushed so that the other may stay strong. Perhaps maturing is also to let others be. To allow myself to what I am.”
‘Changing,’ by Liv Ullmann
(For photo source, click here.)
“Freud would say it’s because we want to have intercourse with our sons. Less sexually fixated psychologists might suggest we fear being usurped. Whatever the reason, mothers of sons I’ve been invovled with have been a plague on my life. Their negative influence when threatened and ferocity in expression knows no equal. Let this serve as a cautionary tale.”
© S. Marian, Nov. 12, 2012
An excerpt from “Oedipus Was a Complex Guy,” to be found on “A View From Outside the Box,” url: adialogue. (Click here for full piece.)
(‘Bad Moon Rising,” Creedance Clearwater Revival, for image source, click here.)
Freud would say it’s because we want to have intercourse with our sons. Less sexually fixated psychologists might suggest we fear being usurped. Whatever the reason, mothers of sons I’ve been involved with have been a plague on my life. Their negative influence when threatened and ferocity in expression, knows no equal. Let this serve as a cautionary tale.
In my defense, I possess no traits that should set off motherly alarm bells. I value and respect family, and have never come between a mother and her child. I’m not addicted to any substance save tea, believe the demands of one man at a time substantial and seek not variety, and the style to which I’ve become accustomed is modest. Nothing prepared me for a mother scorned.
My first mother in law was lovely, welcoming and accepting. I spoke to her on the phone a number of times and our exchanges were pleasant. I met her once. Due to geographical distance and my abbreviated marriage to her son, it never went beyond that. There is an odd lesson in this, as it appears the key to getting on with mother’s in law is to have short relationships with their sons.
Prior to my next marriage, there were a couple of notable matriarchs. When Scott and I met, one part of my attraction to him was his age and relative maturity. He was a divorced father in his early 30’s with custody of his child. True, he lived with his parents, but in a self contained cottage. They ran the family business together and this seemed a logical arrangement.
After a month of dates, Scott felt it was time for me to meet his parents. I think he was more nervous than I was. It being a small place, some company staff warned me that his mother was formidably strict. I’d heard that a number of employees had done middle of the night flits to escape the wrath of this woman. The short, grey haired lady sitting behind the desk could not have been more of a surprise. Her office was feminine; a chintzy shaded standing lamp cast a warm glow.
The eyes though, the eyes were sharp and penetrating and the voice demanded submission, “What is the meaning of this?” A Royal Doulton cup clattered into the saucer.
It became apparent that she wasn’t expecting me, and that my new boyfriend was gone. In his place stood a 30 something child, discreetly clutching his crotch through his pockets, while rocking from foot to foot. “M-m-mother, may I present my f-f-friend, Stephanie,” he st-st-stuttered.
It was downhill from there. I could have been Queen Elizabeth and Mother Theresa in one and would not have impressed this harridan. Scott’s father, not surprisingly, was a mild and much cowed man. I was foolhardy enough to believe she didn’t matter and we continued to see each other. Most of the ‘seeing’ was done at my place as being at his required sneaking in under cover of darkness. A couple of weeks later my employer told me that Scott’s mother had interrogated him. The subject of the inquiry: me. This coincided with a car, identical to his mother’s, stalking my movements to and from work and such. I ended it after that.
One would think I would have learned my lesson. Similar to Scott, John also lived with his mother. His father had died years before and the two of them shared a big house together. He was nearly 40 when I met him, a mature man living with an elderly mother. I wasn’t living in the same area and after some months, John invited me to stay with them for a week. We had an idea that we wanted to live together and thought to try the arrangement for size. It was one long week of a nightmare, with a fierce and controlling little woman who sucked all joy from the air. My crime in her eyes was getting too close to her son.
By the time I met the mother of my second husband to be, I was determined to try harder, and bend myself into any shape to make the relationship work. It seemed to be going well at first, only pleasant words were exchanged and convivial times were had. It seemed. Mother in law number two did almost everything on the surface, except voice her displeasure and judgement. Her injuries were subtle and devastating, but invisible. Within a year, her son and I married and a few years later, I could hardly be in the same room with her. It was like fighting a ghost; impossible to name or exorcise. After he left, he eventually remarried a woman very much like his mother.
My third and final go at marriage, and relations with a new mother in law, was no better than the previous. Writing this, something came to me never considered before. Five men, and five mothers and all the men were either the youngest or only children. Without delving too deeply it’s clear this would only intensify feelings, fears of being displaced, protectiveness, etc.
Life has a brilliant way of keeping us humble though. I’m now a mother of a son myself, one with a girlfriend. According to my son, despite efforts on my part to be inclusive, supportive and non threatening – I’m actually quite terrifying. In his words, “Mum, when you look at someone it’s like you’re looking into their soul.” All I know is, it’s strange to be on the inside looking out for a change.
© S. Marian, Nov. 12, 2012
The Four Horsemen of Relationship Demise:
This is a bleak title but I confess, it’s compelling reading. As ever, while I was looking for something else I tripped over this article/post about the telltale signs of the end of a relationship. For the romantics, it’s not cheery reading and go and make a cup of tea. The curious minded, brutal realists and cynics just stay put and I’ll explain.
According to John Gottman, a psychologist at the University of Washington (at least he was when this was posted in Dec. of 2008), he identified four definite signs that indicate the end days of any relationship. The metaphor of the horsemen comes form the Bible, symbolising conquest, war, hunger and death. Gottman uses these as a metaphor to represent communication styles. Seemingly, in his study of over 2,000 married couples, he achieved a 94% accuracy. For the full post, just click here.
They are as follows:
Criticism: (Telling the other person his or her faults.) This includes attacking your partner’s character or personality as opposed to focusing on specific behaviour that bothers you. Apparently women are more likely to summon this horseman.
Contempt: (Making saracastic or cutting remarks.) This involves insulting your partner and is a step up from criticism. It’s an open sign of disrespect which could go with insults, rolling your eyes and perhaps using so called humour to do so.
Defensiveness: (Denying responsibility, refusing to engage with your spouse about something.) Denying responsibility, making excuses and avoiding your part in something are all examples of defensiveness.
Stonewalling: (Lack of reaction, withdrawl.) During conflict this can be destructive and passive aggressive. Based on the studies, men are more likely to do this.
Gottman indicates that all couples will show some or all of these behaviours at some time, but when the ‘horsemen’ come to stay permanently, the relationship has a high liklihood of failing. If attempts are made to repair the damage done by the horsemen and are then met with rejection, there is a 90% chance the relationship will end.
Clearly, it has a positive application too. If it’s not serving to highlight the end of days of a relationship, it can act as a blueprint of what not to do.
(Photo credit here)
“Men say what they mean. What women say can have many meanings, including that which is hidden. They cloak their meaning in part of what they want you to hear, but they’re really longing for you to undress them. Men continually bang on about not comprehending women, and this is true - they haven’t a clue. I would add that most of the time this suits them.”
© S. Marian, Sept. 25, 2012
An excerpt from “The Dressed Word,” a piece that dips its feet into the murky waters of male/female communication, the complete piece to be found on “A View From Outside the Box,” url: adialogue.
(“You Don’t Understand Me,” The Raconteurs)
“Women’s communication is like mille feuille, the French pastry of many layers - if you want more than surface meaning, you must first perceive the layers to discover what lies beneath.”
© S. Marian, Sept.25, 2012
Go on, pull back the layers and discover the truth of women’s communication with men - read, “The Dressed Word,” to be found on “A View From Outside the Box,” url: adialogue.
(For a different take on communication in relation to gender: www.womensviewsonnews.org/2010/11/gendered-communications/
Men say what they mean. What women say can have many meanings, including that which is hidden. They cloak their meaning in part of what they want you to hear, but they’re really longing for you to undress them. Men continually bang on about not comprehending women, and this is true – they haven’t a clue. I would add that most of the time this suits them. Women’s communication is like mille feuille, the French pastry of many layers – if you want more than surface meaning, you must first perceive the layers to discover what lies beneath.
I know someone who’s married to a decent and intelligent man. He loves his wife. On her last birthday, they both worked to treat themselves to a holiday. As it happened, the holiday would fall some time after her birthday. He’s sensitive enough to have asked whether there wasn’t anything else she would like, something she could open up on the day. She said, “No, the trip is a great present.” It was. As kind and sensitive as he is, he missed something. She didn’t want to be asked, nor to tell him, but if he’d surprised her with something small, she would have been touched and delighted.
My birthday is quite soon after Christmas. It isn’t unusual, following buying presents for family and friends to find the piggy bank is empty. At these times I’ve told my husband not to buy me a gift. That does not mean I wouldn’t appreciate a favourite meal cooked, something handmade or even a shell or stone that caught his eye. It’s not about money or presents, it’s the demonstration of thought and feeling. There are times when I think it suits men to not perceive nuance, as their lives are infinitely simpler that way.
I have tried to adjust my style to straightforward when communicating with my beloved. The truth is, I find it exhausting and pedantic to have to explain so much. From time to time, it’s good to have a listening ear. It’s not uncommon for women to want to talk about a situation, perhaps one that concerns them. This is not an invitation for men to jump in and take action, nor to offer solutions. In my case, if I wanted to avoid this scenario and other problematic responses, my hypothetical talk would need to begin something like this:
“I’m going to talk to you about an incident that occurred today. There are feelings involved in this story, particularly sadness, disappointment and frustration. It is not something that is best joked about; a quip will not lighten the atmosphere. I’m not sure how long I’ll take to get to the point, my route may be meandering as it helps me to speak in this way. At times you may wonder if I have a point and I may not. If you comply by listening, speaking may help me find my point. There is nothing you need to do other than hear me. I don’t want you to solve the problem; in fact there may not even be a solution. I just want you to listen and say sympathetic things if you feel them, or intelligent things if you can summon them. Due to the importance of this story, and possibly to me in your life, I would like you to make the time to hear it. I will not be just as happy to talk about the funny things the guys at work did today.” No doubt, such words should make communication easier.
To further this aim, there is a book to encourage deeper understanding in communication, “Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus.” Accepting that I am describing stereotypical behaviour, you would think that those of reading age after its publication in 1992 would have benefitted from this seminal work. Yet, listening to young men and women expressing their communication problems, I’m sure that nothing has changed. Women are still having to either spell it all out in tedious fashion, or cloaking their meaning in many layers, hoping for x-ray vision or a good undressing. Men are functioning on a different plane altogether, and that which is not referred to does not exist.
To be fair, sometimes ignorance suits women too. There are times when they don’t want to be understood. I know of a few women who have utilised the lack of clarity to best advantage. One woman of my acquaintance was prone to rambling narratives full of gossipy detail. Perhaps at heart she was seeking to elevate herself (speaking badly of others she might hope to look good). Doubtless there were other truths under the layers. No matter, her husband had learned to appear engaged whilst taking his mind elsewhere. She knew this and used it. After one of these conversations, not right away but maybe a day or two later, she’d drop her net. His previous abstraction allowed her to make plans that he would never have agreed to. Then, she’d remind him of the gossipy conversation and all the other things she’d actually said, before she told him he’d ‘agreed’ to the latest scheme. Mata Hari could not have been more convincing.
I do envy men their simpler communication occasionally. It is never more appealing than when you socialise. Arriving at the home of another couple, it’s unlikely you’ll hear a man say, “you’ll have to excuse the mess,” unless it really is a mess. Women continually say this and I can never figure out why? Are they being falsely modest about their beautiful, tidy homes? Is it a bizarre way of saying, “I am humble, please be nice to me?” Another thing, when men are given a gift, you won’t hear them saying, “Oh, you shouldn’t have.” I believe their thinking is - you did. A simple thank you suffices. They don’t revert to confusing double messages like women, ‘oh you shouldn’t have (but I’m glad you did),’ or ‘you needn’t have bothered (but if you hadn’t I would think ill of you).’
This is not my first exploration of this subject and no doubt, it will not be the last. As with my discussing situations that are of concern, it’s taken a circuitous route. Despite never saying my house is a mess when it isn’t, and being more direct than many women, I am essentially female. It just feels good to talk about it.
© S. Marian, Sept. 25, 2012