Rose Coloured Friendships

In trying to bring the three faces of myself into one all encompassing kick ass being, I can see distinctions and traits that stand out as separate entities and need unity.  The one that has needed extra attention for quite sometime is the face of me that is still tied firmly in my past.  As I said in my last post, I have friendships that are maintained with rose coloured glasses.  Maybe a few of you have felt this, a friendship that you have had for so long, that as you grow and change through life, the rational for being friends is replaced by time, which I will call history.  You just have so much history together, that you don’t even think to analyze the friendship or see of it is really is worth keeping.  You accept that person through and through, and just stop trying to better each other.  The comfort is there, the time spent, and you could just as easily accept that you will be friends for life.  Or you could react, challenge each other and re-ignite the reason for being friends in the first place. 

If this were a marriage it would be headed for divorce or counseling.  But being a friendship, it seems different.  It seems to want to fall into the category of unconditional love.  And yet, if nothing is being gained and in fact is starting to play a detriment to one’s life, then why keep it?  Just because it is comfortable, does not mean it is a good thing.  A comfortable career is boring, the same holds true with a marriage, and with trying to bring symmetry to my personalities the same must hold true for friendships. 

I have grown lazy in my friendships.  Pretending that they did not need work, and that I was comfortable having people in my life who remind me of who I used to be.  I want more.  I want friends who want to hang out with the person who is working to master all three faces of herself.  Who want to laugh, drink, do silly things, and not accept any mediocrity.  This is who I am at work, with my colleagues and customers.  I challenge all my staff, along side myself to push through, think outside the box, and better themselves.  I am good at cheerleading when it comes to work.  I have been lousy when it comes to friendships.  And I think the common denominator is my lack of assertiveness.  I am not assertive with my friends.  I have wanted simplicity and a nice glass of wine.  Playing nice has left me with nice friends.  I want better, and I want to be a better friend.  I have broken all rose coloured glasses with my family, and colleagues, and now it is time to do the same with my friendships.  One amazing person for all aspects of my life.

Broken, But More than a Mere Statistic

One of the only topics that I have tiptoed around since this blogs conception are those of my family roots.  I have hinted, and written specific points but then tried to then add a layer of anonymity.  I have vented, and at other times just written plain statements of fact in such a boring and mundane way as to ensure no emotion could be misinterpreted.  I have been doing this for two main reasons; the first being, I did not want to hurt my family and then have to deal with the backlash of drama that would ensue.  And the second reason which I am battling with is that I did not want to come out and say I was from a broken home thereby re-enforcing any stereotypes that might exist for those of us in open relationships.  I have been up and down on this topic for quite some time, and it is part of the reason I have been unable to post with any regularity this year.  I almost had a mental block, as far as not being able to post the interesting topics I have cached away, and then it struck me that I actually had to deal with something that I feel is incredibly important to the conversation, no matter the consequences or conclusions that may be reached.  It is just never easy to admit that the people who are supposed to be your first real connections and set the relationship bar, were really quite poor at it.
I have been questioning relationship norms, for nearly 3 years and now that I have analyzed where I really came from, I can share.  It is not fair to pretend that my past does not affect my present, and will not affect my future.  I have dealt with some stressful times, and it has left a mark on me.  Although I have chosen not to allow my past to prevent me from achieving an amazing present and in turn a positive future, I needed to accept a few things that I was oblivious to.  A perfect example of this can be found here.
My biological parents divorced when I was around a year old.  I did not ever have regular visitation with my biological father.  Instead, I experienced an on and off again relationship with him that lasted until I was 22.  When we were together, the end result was emotional manipulation, and it always seemed that the attacks were aimed at my mom, using the only go between he had, and that was me.  Since my early 20’s I have had next to zero contact with him other than an e-mail every year or so at random times. 
His philosophy as I was growing up, was that he was in the way, and should go and follow his own dreams instead of being a dad to me.  This is the reality of his view point, and obviously took me years to accept.  His rejection of his fatherly obligation, is an action that played vicious mind games with me at various stages of my emotional development and self esteem.  The comfort of unconditional love from him is that I yearned for, for countless years.  Now I accept who he his, and have made peace that we will never have that relationship that I spent years wishing for.  My one comfort was that he never took the time to get to know me, so his rejection of me was based on an image and not who I am.  Perhaps that is sour grapes, or rationalization on my part, but it is what it is. 
My mom had me too young.  I write that still trying to soften the harshness of what I feel for a woman who must have tried her best.  I cannot seem to help trying to ease the hard dose of reality no matter how objective I try to be.  My childhood with her as a single mom, left a lot to be desired.  And it was a desire that wasn’t fully realized until I reached adulthood and my resentment for all that happened in the past snowballed.  I was on my own from the time I could stay safe without supervision.   I fended for myself when it came to homework, feeding myself breakfast and lunch, and keeping myself entertained.  I remember having to set my own alarm and make breakfast as early as 8, I had to fit in letting the dog out, figuring out if I had enough allowance for lunch and ensuring I could walk to school in time.  I left the house before my mom every morning, and was by myself after school until around 6:30 every night.  To say it was lonely would be an understatement.  A few nights a week we would have family game night, and that was where I built any and all relationships with my mom and whoever was in her life at the time.  On these nights I would pretend I had no homework so that I could hang out with my mom for a few extra minutes.  Some kids pretend they have no homework because they just do not want to do it, I meanwhile was desperate for attention from a woman I barely got to see. 
As I child I saw more fights, than I ever saw tenderness.  Not only between her and myself, but I watched the same with the men she dated, and with her friends and family.  People came in and out of our lives with so much regularity that I learnt not to ask about someone that I had not seen in a while.  When I got older and started to ask again about long lost people from my childhood, I was always rewarded with a story about how that person wronged my mom and thus she was in the right for cutting them out.   As I grew older, I opened my eyes to the reality of our life, and the issues between her and I got bad.  She was a single mom, who would boast that it was just her and me, and yet it felt as if I was raising myself, and had no parents to guide me.  We would fight and scream, she would kick and slap, and I would slam the door and vow that this would be the last time I would forgive her for her temper and immaturity.  Writing this, I am still irritated at how much guilt I have felt for thinking I had a bad childhood, when she has tried to tell me time and time again that I was just too sensitive and I should count myself lucky.  Honestly, if it were not for video games, I might well have traveled so far down the rabbit hole of imagination land that I may well have lost my grip on reality forever, and that is a tangent I will leave alone for now. 
My childhood was not healthy.  My primary relationship role models were non existent, and growing up as an only child without long term relationship norms, it is no wonder that I clung onto my first adult relationship for over 8 years.  There was zero stability in my early childhood.  Only one healthy relationship comes to mind in my extended family and that perfect image was shattered as soon as I was old enough to learn about the skeletons in their closet (in the interest of always being brutally honest even when not appropriate, of course). There was no stable father figure for me until I was 10, and even then, it took a long time for my step dad to become the incredible influence that he remains today. Having an open relationship without a stable image of one growing up, makes me wonder how in the world I could have initially thought this would be easy.  Instead I have had to learn the hard way, how to actually love, build stable healthy relationships with friends first, partner second and all the spice afterwards.  Without a model, this was a challenge. 
So maybe what I should be taking away from all this is that sometimes, things need to break before you try to fix them.  And then if you cannot fix them, as our astoundingly high divorce rate indicates, perhaps it is time to look to a new model.  A new way of looking at relationships in the long term, a way that allows us to no longer fight our instincts.  A relationship standard or outline, in which the male desire to be with multiple woman is accepted, and even embraced.  Where woman`s competitive desire to seek out the best possible mate after being allowed to choose without taboo and social stigma attached becomes the norm.  Men and woman are give up a lot to be monogamous.  The relationship norms I grew up with, were constantly being broken and re tried in the same manor expecting a different outcome.  It never came, and resulted in the relationship between parents and offspring being irreparably damaged.  Relationships should add to your life, not make is so difficult that you cannot properly take care of the needs of you family.

Coming from a broken home, in retrospect puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to having open relationships.  With no solid foundation to look towards as a model for how to treat a person in a long term, loving environment, it is easier to do things poorly.  My learning curve is drastically changed and I started this blog to really work towards finding the best possible way to explore my happiness.  With that being said, in terms of monogamy, if it isn’t broken why fix it?  To me the system appears broken, either as a result of my roots, or by all the staggering numbers of broken homes and divorces out there.  I share my story, because I accept where I came from.  I don’t want to be a broken home statistic, but if that’s what it boils down to, so be it.  I hope over the years, I have shared the human side of my relationships and the happiness I feel being open.  May that be worth more, may all the soul searching and introspective be more valuable than just being a child of divorce questioning relationship norms because I am angry at how I was raised.  I am not angry.  I cannot change the past, only the now.  

We Cannot Go Back

I have been in situations recently both orchestrated and unintentional that have resulted in the reuniting of exes.  My group of family friends seems littered with exes and new ones sadly seem to appear too frequently.  I like to imagine that with all my knowledge of divorce and breakups, that I can go from group to group seamlessly, or at the very least positive and emotion free.  This is one of those circumstances that I force in myself in hopes that one day it will be true.  The truth is, I sometimes wish people could go back in time, find that moment of pure happiness and just start over with each other.  It is a fantasy wish that I think any child of divorce understands on some, and unfortunately intangible level.
As an outsider to many relationships, I have been witness to that image of perfection or better yet, real happiness.  I can nostalgically look back upon the good times and with fond memories in mind wish to go back.  I rationally know that breakups are for a reason, but until this week, I am not sure that I truly understood.  I thought I had made peace with my mom and step dad divorcing, but until I saw them in the same room together, I personally did not have closure.  I had that nostalgic memory of better times, and that innocent hope that time permitting wounds would heal and things could move forward.  Not necessarily in a way that would have the two of them back together, more in a way that they could attend social functions together comfortably.  Although this is not for me to decide, I saw something in the two of them that was just peaceful.  Knowledge that the other person was well, was in fact enough, and that things are as they should be.  And more importantly, having them in the same room together is just not something that should occur with any regular frequency.  They are not friends, they simply have memories together, that are personal.
And as for my own experience that allowed me to fully appreciate the same, I have my ex to thank.  I had that fearful adrenaline induced nervousness of running into him at a bar a while ago.  Once that band aid was ripped off in a booze filled setting, I was curious about what would happen if we were sober in the same room.  I often have heard of exes being friends in the future.  I cannot say for certain what I thought would happen over a very casual coffee setting, with some specific questions for a book I am writing.  But I did not anticipate the entire absence of emotion, neither positive nor negative.  We are simply two people that shared memories, and were each other’s first love.  Simple, not poetic, just reality.
I also learned that we are in fact exes for very precise and specific reasons.  And those reason are mine.  I made a choice to live my life with happiness, adventure, and with confidence in all my actions, clearly I do not like my judgement being questioned at every turn.  I could never do that with him in my life.  Our ultimate core values and how we view the world are just different.  And what’s more, that is absolutely ok.  I often imagined that we could be friends in the future, and laugh about our time together with fondness.  I can now fully appreciate that is just not the case.  It was full closure, just as it was for me seeing my parents hug each other, with kindness and respect for the memories.  But with knowledge that they were memories, and would remain that way, we just cannot ever go back.

Faith: Children of Divorce

A study just came out that children of divorce have a weaker connection to God and religion than compared with children who grow up with a married family.  The first reaction I saw to this article was, “this is the first positive outcome to divorce”.  And yes I laughed, after all we are universally born atheists.  But there is a huge underlying problem in this.  Religion and family are so delicately balanced that at the onset of divorce, it is so easy to say goodbye to religion as well.  It makes me wonder just how many people out there are getting married for religions sake being the primary reason.  This raises all sorts of societal implications regarding the true importance of marriage.  Would it be so important in our society if not for religion.
I know in my own personal experience that within the month my ex and I got engaged he was offered a promotion and a raise.  Being engaged with plans to marry says something in the corporate world, something favorable about a man’s character.  I am not quite sure this is the case with woman, as the assumption is that once that lady walks down the aisle, the kids will start popping out.  But it also says something about faith and morality.  If a person is the marrying type, then it stands to reason that they have strong family values and a good moral compass.   They can plan, see their future, which is proof of this strong foundation.  These core values are rooted in many religions throughout the world.  So it is no wonder that religion prays so well with marriage. 
“You don’t need religion to have morals. If you can’t determine right from wrong then you lack empathy, not religion.” – Unknown (I am leaving this unknown, as some people have credited this to Morgan Freeman, however there are sources that look like it was said prior to him).  With more atheists having freedom to share their views with less backlash, it is no wonder that the breakdown of marriage directly affects a child’s ability to see the value in religion.  An organization that puts such strong focus on simple human behavior is bound to see a slide in their attendance and subscriptions when eyes are opened to the notion that empathetic human beings with strong morals can exists in the absence of religious guidance.
George Carlin said “don’t just teach your children to read, teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything”.  When we educate our children to their full capacity, we provide them the most valuable gift, critical thinking.  It is not just enough anymore to follow in the political, and religious footprints of our parents.  We are not raising little clones of ourselves, instead we are raising individuals who have the chance to make a difference in the world.  To have the freedom to think, and choose to be the people that they want to be, for themselves and not an invisible being.  I clearly remember when I realized that could be a good person without the fear that something or someone was watching me all the time.  I do not think there is any direct correlation between my mom getting divorced and my lack of religious belief.  But I do feel very strongly that because my parents were breaking their ties, I learnt the skills to think critically about their situation, and this for me lead to a natural questioning of religion.  

Step Parents, Obligations, and Assholes

If you tell a person who is lovingly taking on the major challenges of being a step parent that they are locked into this role for life you are an asshole.  Let me explain.  There are many people out there who live in a fantasy world of happily ever after and all that jazz. If these people find a single parent to be a part of their inner circle of friends, the goal seems to shift from praising that single parent for being a strong and amazing individual towards finding that single parent a partner.  That is all well and good if that is what the single parent really wants and needs, but then what pressures are being put on this proposed step parent should a partner be found?
Let me outline the following based on a lifetime of real world experience.  In actual fact, the step parent is one of the most difficult roles to play in a family. For anyone to put the added burden that they are now a parent for the rest of their lives, through thick, thin, divorce, etc is asinine.  They in no way made the decision to create life, and therefore do not have the implicit responsibilities of a child for the rest of their lives just because they are in a relationship with the biological parent.  I cannot stress this enough, you are an asshole if you think that the step parent needs the extra burden of being locked into a relationship with the child for the rest of his/her life.  It’s a crappy gig, and in no way shape or form is that extra pressure a requirement, or should be placed upon especially by an outsider. 
Many step parents are amazing individuals who have the ability to not only form a loving bond with their new found partner, but also agree to take on a surrogate role of parent to the children.  But the role is only under the implicit understanding that those two adults involved stay together.  There is no rational judge who would order the step parent to assume the rights and responsibilities of a child that is not legally theirs if the relationship failed.  I am horrified to hear that some single people think that remarrying is a way of sharing their offspring type burden.  It just is not the way.  Step parents do not pay child support when they divorce, they are under no legal obligation because they did not create the human being.  And I believe this is rational and just.
Now, if you know me, you may be asking yourself right now if I am being a hypocrite in that I maintain a relationship with my stepdad post divorce from my mom and have for a number of years.  And absolutely I do, and it is a relationship that I value much higher than most in my life.  But it was a not a relationship that existed because it had to.  When my parents divorced, my step dad and I both agreed that neither of us were going to allow the divorce to have any impact on our relationship.  Together we happily agreed that he was my dad and I was his daughter even if he was no longer with my mom.  This was not an expectation, or an obligation.  At the point of divorce we both could have walked away from each other, or just maintained a friendship.  Instead we mutually agreed to continue a father daughter relationship.  And there are thousands of examples out there of walking away, and or friendships and continued parent child dynamics.  It is a personal decision between the step parent and the child. 
So then let me repeat.  If you try to force a step parent to have the lifelong burden of your child as a price of admission for dating you, then you are an asshole.  If you are an outsider to a relationship and you suggest to your single friend that their new partner has to make a choice to have your child in their life for the rest of his/her life then, yes, you are an asshole.  Clearly this post touches a nerve with me, and I hope that I have changed a few of your preconceived notions regarding step parents if you had any.  I lucked out with one step parent that I will have for life, and others whom I will never see again.  And I do not judge these people for not keeping me in their lives.  It’s a two way street and sometimes being a step parent is just too tough a job to keep when a marriage ends.