Saturday, December 25, 2004

What They Say

i am bothered by what a close friend recently told me, that i have a tendency to make him feel disapproved of by my brutal honesty and defensive by my probing questions whenever he tries to share something with me. yet i am also confused because he says his self esteem has shot up a lot ever since he started talking with me.

feedback like these i remember, but it never bothered me before. i've always just dismissed it as the occasional whinings of the fragile male ego whenever they start feeling threatened by my just being who i am, possibly having been used to females who pander to them like fawning sycophants and/or females who are just plain quiet and submissive, OR females who are otherwise obviously castrating bitches (hence it's easier to shoot them down).

but this bothers me now, because i think i have seriously hurt my friend and i honestly never meant to. it also bothers me because i think that this might be a clue to my own contribution as to why my marriage did not work out in the first place.

as with all descents into one's own darkness, i would not want to face my own ugliness stark naked.

still, i know that the descent is necessary, if i were to heal further and grow.

so i will begin by trying to recall similar feedback ive heard from men friends in the past two and a half years:

- "talking with you is like playing chess"
- "talking with you makes me tired; i have to be up on my mental toes all the time"
- "you clean out the cobwebs from my mind"
- "you are my personal mental laundromat"
- "Ms. Independent! opinionated and stubborn and willful -- but meeting you in the flesh is a surprise: you are actually sweet and caring and wonderful and all woman!" (this sings in my memories)
- "you attack men" : ) (this screams in my memories)
- "you have the courage to call things by their true name"
- "my, you're a feisty one, aren't you?"
- "you irritate me sometimes when you pick on me"

and this one from my ex, as i read in his Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage, after i left him and refused to get back together with him after five attempts on his part over a period of six months: "she makes me feel less of a man." :(

only one close friend i can recall enjoys and celebrates this part of me, but then he is by nature polite and courteous and upfront honest and caring, so maybe this feisty side does not come out more often with him.

on hindsight now, i can also recall that this side of me comes out whenever i sense them doing either of two things with me: playing me for a fool or telling me what to do when i haven't asked for advice.

but what confuses me, though, is these same friends who uttered the quotes above have also become my closest and most steadfast friends who keep coming back. one friend (the same friend who says i attack men) actually says that after talking to other women and taking their BS for 2-3 months, he feels he needs to come back and talk with me just for mental laundry. : )

so it never really bothered me before. i stuck to my original idea that if a man is threatened by who i am, then he is not much of a man, and i'd be better off without his company if i were just to be another ego prop.

but this friend whom i have hurt lately, he is more specific as to what it is i do that makes him feel that way-- when i question him and when i restate what he's saying using different words.
i have tried to explain to him that when i question for details, it is in my effort to understand what he is sharing, to have a better appreciation of context, so i can listen more fully not just with my ears but with my mind and heart too. the using different words, which he interprets as my correcting his choice of words, is a new one for me. i thought i was just being a good feedbacking friend, as what i have learned in Psych 101 : )... but apparently, he feels corrected when i do that. the only other option i see is for me to keep quiet as he talks. yet, he also says he doesn't want that because he wants me to ask him questions from time to time and to let him know i am hearing what he is saying...

hmmm. this will entail some delicate balancing act i guess, being who i am, being there for him as a good friend, and being more sensitive to my timing, choice and tone of words. it's okay. i am up to this challenge for my further growth, and for the sake of a valued friendship. : )

which brings me to the only other reason why it bothers me -- how this apparently annoying/exasperating yet also endearing habit of mine might have seriously caused the deterioration and death of my own marriage of ten years.

which brings me to another confusing thing: because as far back as i can remember, for 9 of those 10 years, i was mostly quiet and submissive and easily acquiescent; i even turned over my paycheck to him and let him make most of the decisions in the household, except with childcare. how could i have made my ex-husband feel less of a man?

i have a suspicion that it might have been my tone and attitude with him, even when i didn't say so in so many words.

well, frankly, the more i lived with him and knew him, i did begin to respect and trust him less. but i held on, for 8 more years, without saying much in the form of complaint, much less "attack". that was why i caught him and everybody else by surprise when i finally upped and left one june morning two weeks after our tenth wedding anniversary.

still, this is important feedback for me, because i think it holds the key to unlocking certain issues i have whenever i have tried to form significant relationships with men. i single out men because so far, in most other areas of my life-- my family, my work, my students, my children, my friends, i have no serious challenges at all. people take to me instantly and can't help but love me. : )

the questions running through my mind now are: in order to have a significantly meaningful and happy relationship with a man, do i --

1. hide my self again and become quiet, passive and submissive? ( !!!)
2. continue just being my self and let the chips fall where they may? or
3. continue being my self but learn refinement, tact and diplomacy (blush, blush... at my age, haven't i learned this yet?)

at this point, my own answers to my self are--

1. for those who try their BS on me, continue doing number 2; but
2. for those i care about and are sincerely avoiding BS, do number 3. : )


this all seems pat, so easy to solve. but then again, too, i know from experience it is not. i amuse my self talking to my self and figuring things out, but it seems the more i speak/write, the more i hurt my friend.

maybe i'll do the quiet part in number 1 for now. that seems best.

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