Bruiser or Bleeder?

Early in our relationship, my husband and I had a big fight.

During the resolution period he told me, “Don’t worry too much. I bleed a lot at first, but I heal quick.”

That got me thinking about the metaphor of emotional conflict as receiving physical wounds. I realized that I am not a bleeder, I’m a bruiser.

I can take a lot, but you might not see the swelling purple and yellowish green under the skin that takes a very, very long time to go away. Add this to a conversation I had with my cousin last night where we were joking about middle age and he said very matter of factly, “I notice I just don’t heal anymore.” He meant his twisted ankle, but it pinged in me a deeper concern.

Physically of course the young heal quickly and well because of their biology. But they also often heal quickly and well because they haven’t learned the hard way that some things never change and may not be worth healing for. As cynical as this sounds, I simply am considering this as an unfortunate but apparently very real course of events across the lifespan. At some point, we look at the increasing effort it takes to recover from conflict, and have to decide if we will willingly go back in the ring.

It is romantic and popular to propose that love means going back in the ring no matter what. I don’t know that this concept is in anyone’s best interest. I think each relationship and each situation has to be evaluated for what it is, and each person has to consider the personal cost for continuing to engage people who cause them suffering. I know my limitations, and I am usually a very good judge of character. I can see that someone I love is fundamentally good, but also incapable of change. Juxtapose that with friends who, though I may have struggles with them, I know in my gut that they are walking the same path I am and we will converge at some point. The love (agape love) is there and I can count on them not to bruise me in their own best interest.

Then there are those I love who I can’t really count on.

This is tough stuff, and I know it is hardly unique to me. For anyone out there seeking resolution, I am sending you my very deepest prayer for peace.

Blue Glasses, Annoying Radio Preacher Men, and the Occasional “A-ha”

I just rolled back into town yesterday after 4 glorious days in North Carolina studying various topics in ethics. The trip down and back is a simple one when the weather is nice, but traveling alone I usually need at least some radio to pass the time.

Enter the Annoying Radio Preacher Men.

Without satellite radio, there are extensive swaths of road in the South where you just can’t find anything but guys on the air telling you what God wants, expressing their great confidence in my “nature” as a woman, and inevitably trying to sell something for actual cash money.  I try to just get a station where the voices are semi-calm and not screeching about fornication and the sulfuric fires of hell.

I don’t know who these men were, but one of them seemed to be the show’s host who was interviewing another guy who had a book about marriage he wanted to promote.  I lingered on the station when I heard the promoter say, “Men, we get on the crazy cycle because we don’t accept our wives for their true nature.  She sees the world through pink glasses.  We see the world through blue glasses.  She can’t see what you see.”

This was just weird enough that I had to stick with it.  Plus, I LOVE it when radio preacher men who clearly are misogynistic share their extensive wisdom about “the nature” of women.  I cracked my neck, took a deep drink of Diet Dr. Pepper, and settled back to be enlightened.

True to tradition, there was a tremendous amount of clueless stereotyped garbage about men, women, and marriage that I despise.  I can tolerate it because I see the increasing desperation of these voices to gain an audience and to justify their belief systems to themselves.  It’s on the way out for sure, but that is why it can be so entertaining.  It’s like listening to old tapes of Abbott and Costello.  And yet it was not all completely without value for me.  There was one bit in this routine that grabbed my attention and will hold it for some time.

According to the promoter, there is a sizable study out there in which hundreds of men were asked this question:  If you had to choose, would you rather a) be considered inept and inadequate by everyone, or b) be alone and unloved?

Over 80% of the men questioned chose option B.  When I did my own informal research on this, I got the same results.  I also noted that the men I asked answered with absolutely no hesitation and utter confidence.  Better to be alone and unloved than to be considered incompetent.

The promoter used this point to talk about conflict in a marriage, and how the deep commitment to and need for respect can influence a man’s behavior.  Though there was no corresponding study there was an assumption that the reverse of these priorities is true for women and I unscientifically have to agree.  I see it all the time and have my whole life.  Not every woman reflects this of course (thus my dislike for these kinds of pronouncements), but I can see evidence that many women will suffer disrespect and allegations of incompetence rather than risk the threat of being alone and unloved.

Again, all of this is quite sweeping and in no way takes into account that each person is unique, each person is not married or even interested in that, each person is not carved out of some imaginary heterosexual blue or pink stone that God grabs from his quarry and chisels into humanity in his spare time.  I rebuke all of that as untrue and quite ridiculous. But it’s difficult to dismiss the information that may be relevant here to many people negotiating long-term relationships where these gender-specific hierarchies of need may be playing out.

I clicked off the program after hearing my “a-ha” take away point.  Men struggle to show love when they feel disrespected.  Women struggle to show respect when they feel unloved.

Whoopi Goldberg used to wear purple glasses.  I say we all get our hands on some of those.  (Whoopi would have a field day with my radio preacher men……..)

Image credit:  U2 Station