Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Am I a 'Meredith'? (Not about Grey's Anatomy)

Hello gentle readers. Welcome to another post of your beloved author working out her issues through typing.

Regular readers are probably already well aware of my views on monogamy, but I'll repeat myself for those who don't. In my life, I've never been very good at staying faithful in relationships. It wasn't until a few years ago that I started to accept and explore the idea that, perhaps, not all Long-Term Romantic Relationships (hereafter referred to as LTRRs) have to also be monogamous as well. Sex and love advice columnist Dan Savage, who I've read faithfully for over a decade, often advises those that write to him about alternative relationship arrangements, including lately talking much about "monogamish" relationship arrangements. Several years ago I read Stephanie Koontz's Marriage, A History, which, among other things, asserts that the ideal of a monogamous marriage is a relatively recent development, historically speaking. And just this weekend, I read this interview on Huffington Post with the author of a book about men and fidelity in LTRRs. If you read to the end of the piece, the author manages to get past what seems like a 'boys will be boys' apologist attitude and includes the fact that, though it is not what this particular book is about, women also cheat for many of the same reasons as men, in many of the same ways, and he doesn't necessarily believe that their "extradyadic," (a [made up by the author?] word meaning outside [extra] the relationship of only two [dyadic] people) relationships should end their primary LTRR either.

So, of course, I found it interesting Monday when, listening to the afternoon program of an alternative station in a town I have lived in (not saying I currently live there now), the main DJ Lazlo, his sidekick Slimfast, and their board operator Meredith discussed a series of events that happened to/involved Meredith over the previous weekend. Here's a link to the audio of the full 15-minute conversation (it's the 3rd on down, labelled "Meredith is not the type you take home to Mom"), though I'll provide the background and the main story, I've transcribed the last five minutes or so, which is what I find most interesting.

Background: So Lazlo is in his 40s, married, been with the same woman for several years, used to be wild alcoholic and do drugs but is clean now, has one child from a previous relationship and one child in his current marriage. Slimfast is in his late 20s or early 30s, about the same age as I am, recently got married to his girlfriend of a few years, and the two men now often talk about life as married men. Meredith is their board operator who pops up in the show, is in her early 20s, still pretty wild, lives with her boyfriend of a few years who they call 'The Ewok.' The story they discuss in the first ten minutes or so of the segment is that, over the weekend, while her boyfriend was out, Meredith made out with a female friend of hers who was visiting, after a long, deep conversation about the value of their friendship. It happened unexpectedly and Meredith didn't believe it was a big deal because, early in their relationship, her boyfriend had said that he didn't care if she kissed other women, as well as the non-logic that, since he wanted a threesome, he shouldn't care if she kissed other women, whether he was there or not. Meredith told her boyfriend that this happened, it seems in a rather nonchalant way, when he came home, and he's been a bit unhappy ever since, though he hasn't shared any particular feeling with Meredith. The men assert that it is because he feels that she cheated on him by doing this, that he probably assumed that the relationship had progressed to a point where it was exclusive. Meredith does not exactly see it that way, though she does say that if he does think it was cheating, she will apologize and not do it again.

On a side note: I am not sure how Meredith identifies her sexuality. When the men say that if they were her boyfriend, they might be worried that all her kissing of other women and previous sexual experiences with other women might mean she was gay thus why would she need them, she asserts that she is not gay. I am not going to label her sexuality for her. I will just say that I never assert that my bisexuality means I think I am entitled to be romantically or sexually involved with men and women at the same time, and many bisexual find it offensive when others think they feel that way. When I express a desire for an open relationship, it is not because I am bisexual and I do not believe that my problems with monogamy are because I am bisexual. Now, plenty of couples in arranged non-monogamous relationships only allow their partner to be with other partners that are of the sex they are not in situations where one or both of the partners are bisexual, but that is not the only way that bisexuals have relationships.

After all my long-windedness, here is the section of the conversation that really interests me, which starts about ten minutes into it. In this mostly monologue, emphasis are mine, Lazlo asserts that the problem is really with the "kind of girl Meredith is":

Meredith is not the kind of girl you move in with. She's never gonna be the kind of girl you date seriously. She's never gonna be the kind of girl you marry. Meredith isn't that girl. Meredith is the girl you date when you smoke a little too much weed, drink a little too much, and you think you love her. You really think you love her. You really think she loves you. And then on a Thursday, she tells you that she's going to New York with a guy named Paul and she's going for the weekend and she'll be back Monday. And you go "Whoa! We have been dating for two and a half years." And she goes, "I don't really understand what you're freaking out about. I'm just going to New York with some friend of mine." And you go "Oh, I forgot. You're Meredith. You're Meredith. And I thought something changed in the last two years, but it didn't." She will always be the girl, when you come home, who went dancing with a guy friend, who made out with a girl friend, or did this or did that or did this. All of these things that stop you from having a real relationship with her, that's her. And that's you. Truth, truth, you are a good time and a broken heart, wrapped up into a little bundle, packaged and put underneath the tree, [Meredith giggles] that men will have to go through in order to get on the other side and find happiness with another woman. That's you. That's you. You realize that right? [Meredith: Yeah.] And you're the part of the life that men look back on and go "When I was with Meredith, it was a great time." [Slimfast: Yeah, she's a good time.] "She ended up breaking my heart. Unbelievable that I, I didn't see it beforehand, but she crushed my heart. But I'm happy now. I'm married. I have kids." And Meredith will still be out just breaking guys. [Meredith giggles some more.] You just break 'em. That's what you do. You get that right? [Meredith: I guess. Slimfast: And it is cheating.] [Both Lazlo & Slimfast: It's cheating.] And the fact that you don't even recognize it and you give up the look like, "Ugh, it's not cheating" just validates everything I just said. [Meredith: I..ok.] You see what I'm saying? [Meredith: Yes. I do.] Right, because I'm the guy who's in love with you. We've been hanging out for a year and a half. Yeah, it started out you were the crazy girl who made out with other chicks but all the sudden we're living together and everything's cool. Wow, I had no idea I could pull this into a relationship and then one day you come home and go "I made out with these chicks over the weekend." And I go, hmph, "Of course you did. Of course you did." [Slimfast: You gonna stop making out with chicks, Meredith? Meredith: Yes.] The answer is no, Bambam. [Slimfast: I know. The relationships over. The relationship was over before it began. I agree.] He's just gotta figure out how far he wants to go. [Slimfast: Right, she's a good time. And, and, and, if he can make that good time last a little longer, she's not going to say --] Now he's at the point where-- And I've been in this relationship before, he's at the point where it's no longer a good time. [Slimfast: Probably] He's at the point now where, yeah, we have some good times, but it hurts. It stings. And now those stinging moments become more and more and more and more and more and more. And it's no longer just fun, it becomes painful. And he's at that point where he's starting to feel pain. And, therefore, he's gotta go. [Meredith growns.] Now, he'll probably let, let, if he's like every other guy, he'll probably ride this out until he can't take the pain anymore and he'll make you feel the pain too and it'll just end in a blood bath of horrible emotions on a Wednesday night, some night, and you sitting in that apartment by yourself and him packing up his stuff and moving back to Oklahoma. [Meredith: Oh god.] That's the way it ends. That's the way it always ends. Question is, is that six weeks from now or six months from now. It ain't six years from now. [Meredith laughs, kinda sadly though, not the giggle of before.] Fair enough, Bambam? [Slimfast: Fair enough.] Have fun Meredith. [Meredith laughs: Alright. Slimfast: Have a good time.] {End}

Though it probably goes without saying, I'll first interject that, unlike the guys, I think that Meredith could have great LTRRs, with men or with women, if she and her partners honestly embraced some sort of not exactly monogamous arrangement, though, since she asserts earlier in the segment that she would not be pleased with her boyfriend doing the same thing she did, it might be a bit harder to find a partner who is happy letting her play while he (or she) is not allowed to, though those people do exist.

I am intrigued by the apparent swap of gender stereotypes happening in this conversation, as the men seem to be attributing a level of desire for monogamous commitment to men that is usually reserved for women. While 'girls like Meredith' may be a good time, it seems that they are asserting that real happiness for these men that she dates, for any man, will be achieved once they have gotten over her, moved on, and settled down with a more stable (and monogamous) woman and had a child. (There's a whole different language and feminist discussion in the fact that they refer to Meredith as a girl but these men's future spouses as women, but I won't get into that.)

But something more personal stuck with me. I'm slightly dismayed by the thought that I may be a 'Meredith,' either in the eyes of the people I date or just by virtue of how the relationships shake out. Regular readers will probably know that the only LTRR I've been in which I didn't cheat was my open relationship with TyRoy. I somehow even managed to cheat in my open marriage. For me, many times, the risk is the reward, in all kinds of crazy situations. Despite a new found desire for a LTRR, rather than a just fuck-buddies situation (explained further in the next post), I am not sure how much my meds and DBT therapy will reduce my penchant for volatile LTRRs. I recently read, "One woman can break a man," in a compilation of six-word memoirs on love and heartbreak (fourth down.) Hell, I'm ruining relationships I'm not even in. Though Moneypenny and I are merely (barely?) friends at the moment and hundreds of miles away from each other, I appear to be ruining his romantic relationship. (Yes, and the fact that it is not me he is in that relationship with only advocates further for the idea that I am a 'Meredith.' I'm aware of that as well.)

But I don't know how to be anything other than I am. And I think I've changed drastically in the years Moneypenny and I's friendship was burned. But we still seem to be playing out the same roles we always have, which begs the question in my mind of how much people are able to change. Even in the radio segment, the men do not say that Meredith should change, merely asserting who she is. In recent emails, TyRoy asserts that there are men (and women) who would be more than happy with me as I am right now. His contention is that, while I have never been a perfect person in any relationship, it take two to tango and that many of the non-cheating issues I blame on myself have more to do with these men's Peter Pan-ing issues than with some wrong I have done them. My DBT therapy teaches skills, especially mindfulness practices, that are meant to help us behave in more effective ways, though not necessarily the same ways for each practitioner or for each situation. But does changing behavior change who we are? People in AA never stop calling themselves alcoholics, but instead call themselves recovering alcoholics, even if they haven't had a drink in years or decades. Many would assert though that current behavior, as the only thing demonstrable about ourselves, must count for a large part of who we are. I guess it begs the question of if who we are is what other people see about us or how we feel inside. Buddhist tradition says that there is no who we are: can you separate the waves from the ocean? is the flame on the candle the same flame that was on the candle a minute ago or is it a different flame? It's a dialectical dilemma I've struggled with for years and never really found an answer to, often just allowing all things to be true and work as best I can within all those frameworks.

But that isn't to say that thinking I'm a woman who breaks people isn't disturbing me right now.

NB: I'm using the Merriam Webster's second definition of DIALECTIC, concerned with or acting through opposing forces, which is the one I believe my DBT therapy is using in it's name, though my DBT instructors have always also asserted that it refers to two seemingly opposite things being true at the same time, which, when accepted, reduces the extreme and/or black and white thinking that often gets us into trouble.

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