I’ve never been a fan of those “get to know you” type of conversations. They tend to seem very rehearsed and canned. The typical, “have you been married?” “do you have kids?” questions get old after a while. Then inevitably a question that is a part of the impromptu compatibility interview is, “what are some of your pet peeves?” Like a traditional interview, I typically have my answer already ready and I know what I want to say. I say something about the fact that my pet peeves are long dirty fingernails and bad grammar/writing skills. But, curtesy of my most recent romantic relationship debacle I’ve discovered that my absolute number one pet peeve is being ignored. Previously I knew that it bothered me but it was lower on the hierarchy. But nope, that’s not true. I don’t think there’s anything as frustrating and annoying for me. I’m not the kind of person who wants constant communication (although it would be nice) but I do want my text messages and phone calls returned in a timely manner. It’s not rocket science, it’s common curtesy. Looking back, there’s been some friendships I’ve actually ended because of this. I’m someone who likes to talk things out and process. I know how to work through conflict but you have to give me something to work with and not ignore me. I know that I can’t make someone change their ways and I understand that everyone has something going on in their lives. Stuff happens. However, it’s an indication to me that the relationship/friendship/whatever is not important to you and thus I have to act accordingly. So yeah, new number one pet peeve.
I ran across an article that was in response to a tweet that went viral. You can read the article here. Basically the author talks another the fact that most marital relationships aren’t truly 50-50. Women complete the bulk of household duties. This is absolutely true. I did a dissertation on it. However, women who want men who are providers or more specially black women who want men who are providers are labeled as gold diggers. The interesting thing that the author points out is that black women tend to out earn black men in many instances so then they also carry the financial responsibility of the household. From this aspect, a 50-50 split is an upgrade. I’ve met a lot of guys who aren’t comfortable with solely providing financially for a household while their wife works part time jobs or stays at home with the kids. Their mindset is if they have to go to work 40 hours a week, their wife should too. I’ll admit that I’m a bit old fashioned when it comes to this but I’m also trying to be realistic. I would love to have a husband who considers it his primary responsibility to provide for the household. But I also don’t want to be in a situation where he exerts all control over finances because he earns it. I just hate the idea of being in a relationship where I have to keep tabs on whose turn it is to pay. I don’t want to worry about that because there’s the understanding that he will. Not to say that I’ll never do it, but I want it to be an option instead of an obligatory split. Is this even possible these days? I’m doubtful.
I’m very late, but I finally watched the movie Acrimony today. I’ll admit that I didn’t have very high expectations but it was a decent movie. There were so many mental health and social psychology applications within the movie. The main character Melinda went above and beyond in trying to ensure that her husband Robert was successful. But throughout the movie it became clear that he was using her. Being the only spouse supporting the family financially for 18 years took its toll on Melinda and she snapped. She had lost herself in the marriage and in its subsequent downfall. She invested heavily in a dream that she saw her husband’s fiance getting and it was too much. The money that she had been given didn’t hold a candle in her mind to spending the rest of her life in luxury with the man that she held down for years. While ten million is nothing to sneeze at, she could never get the time back that she had spent in the relationship. The entire movie was an example of why doing the right things for the wrong person can be detrimental. Melinda’s family was supportive and tried to warn her from the very beginning but she chose her own path. It wasn’t pretty and it was full of frustration and in the end, loss. Yes, she was young when she first met Robert but she put up with working two jobs and leaving him at home sleeping every day for well over a decade. It’s good to believe in people but there has to be a limit. Yes, there were definitely some mental health implications but Melinda was incredibly hurt and she absolutely did not have the coping skills in place to adequately deal with a loss of that magnitude without losing her mind. She just couldn’t walk away and in the end she paid the cost.
Religion is one of those things that you aren’t supposed to mention in small talk. You don’t ask someone about their religious affiliation after you’ve introduced yourself because it is a hot topic. In the last few years the gap between myself and religious affiliation has widened significantly. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at an international conference the focused on cultic organizations. Very interesting stuff. As one of the few people of color in attendance, I shared a bit of my personal experience with a branch of a religion that had a leader who dictated what to wear, what to eat, and where to go and expected to be obeyed. While the peacefulness of country living was present, it was overshadowed by oppressive rules that kept the leader in charge. During the duration of the conference I had the chance to attend seminars and meet other attendees who had once been in cults but left at some point. Many were born into various organizations that their parents had joined years ago. After the conference I wanted to read more about the experiences of individuals who had become caught up in cults and religiously abusive organizations. After meeting a few of the contributor’s at the conference, I read a book called Whispering in the Daylight and the author wrote about the cult led by Tony Alamo. It was fascinating and bone numbingly sad at the same time. One thing that was particularly sad was the fact that parents surrendered their children to be beat mercilessly and starved. They also allowed their girls as young as age 9 to be the “brides” of the leader. All in the name of religion and doing what they felt to be right. The question that always seems to be asked is how do people end up in these type of situations? The truth is that people tend to want a sense of purpose. Having a charismatic leader who seems to have found the meaning of life or claims to have some exclusive relationship to a deity can appear to be a good thing. It’s fairly easy to forsake all when one believes that not doing so would lead to eternal condemnation. By the same token, believing that your actions can earn you eternal bliss is an attractive idea. I think that it’s even different for children who grow up in that type of environment and have never known anything different. Reading the book about some of their experiences and how hard it has been and continues to be to adjust to “regular” life was eye opening. One thing that I believe is important to remember is that wanting to believe in something or someone isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. But it can become problematic when one consciously decides to yield their free will without reservation to another individual. It’s a strange dynamic that I find intriguing.
Lately I’ve started to watch a new show that has both intrigued me while simultaneously horrifying me. Usually I try to watch light hearted tv shows because my empath sense is very strong and I work in a helping field. The show that I’ve been watching is called Handmaids and it’s on Hulu. One thing I will say is that it’s definitely not a comedy but if you want a thought provoking and extreme view of what might be the future then it’s a must see. But that’s not what this post is about. One of the main characters said, “you like because, you love despite.” And honestly that’s the truth. I work with couples who have lost so much of their original passion and excitement for each other because things have become so mundane. They’ve taken each other for granted and it has taken a terrible toll on the relationship. The emotional connection is very strained or sometimes nonexistent. I think many times people think that therapy fixes everything but it doesn’t. The truth is that therapy can give you the tools that you need to be successful in your relationship. It takes a lot of effort and intentionality to change the trajectory of a relationship but it definitely can be done if both people want it and are willing to work on it. One person cannot sustainably carry the whole relationship on their back. It can happen for a while but there are always consequences. One thing I really enjoy doing with the couples I work with is doing exercises that help them remember why they fell in like with each other and what made them love the other person. It’s always eye opening and helps to start the process of reconnecting with each other.
One of my goals since moving to the east coast a few months ago has been to be more social. I decided that I was going to make an effort and go on some dates. I set a personal goal of going out with someone at least once a week. So far it’s been going pretty well with the exception of that one time I caught feelings too fast and ended up rather heartbroken. But that’s another story for another time. This one is about a date that I had last week. I’m on a rather popular site for dating that will remain nameless and there was a guy who had been messaging me for a while. He would write the occasional greeting and ask for a chance to get to know me. Regular stuff. So night I was bored and decided to respond (bad idea). He wrote me back almost immediately and asked for my number. I sent him the one that I give to people that I don’t know. Yes, I have one. Too many years of working in mental health and medical settings will have you protecting any little bit of privacy you can have. But I digress. John (definitely not his real name) called me right after I sent my number. He asked me what I wanted in a relationship and I gave my usual response of getting to know someone and seeing how it goes. He told me a bit about himself. He was from Nicaragua and worked in a blue collar trade job. He was in his early 30s and had never been married and didn’t have any children. He enthusiastically told me that he had just gotten his drivers license back after having it taken away for unpaid tickets and that he didn’t have his own place and was crashing at his own place. “But that’s ok baby, we’ll just hang out at your place,” he said. First of all, I don’t appreciate the assumption that I’m going to invite you over at any point. That’s a privilege reserved for a select few. John said that he wanted to spoil me and prove that he was the best man for me. He asked me out for dinner the next night to a Peruvian restaurant that was fairly close to my house. I could tell that he was hoping even at this early stage that he would get an invite over to my place after dinner. So I promptly crushed his hopes and dreams (very nicely of course) and let him know that I don’t get down like that. Because you know, standards and everything. So we agree to meet up the next day. Tomorrow comes and I get the generic “good morning beautiful” text message which never ceases to annoy me unless it comes from someone I think is beautiful and then it’s ok. He sent me a picture of his face as well and then asked for feedback. I don’t think I responded because sometimes the best answer is no answer. So the evening came and I arrived at the restaurant on time and parked. No John. He called me to say that he was running late. No biggie. So in order to make the best use of my time I checked in via text message with one of my other friends and caught up on what was going on in their life. John arrived about 20 minutes late and blamed traffic. Whatever. We are immediately seated by the waiter and we sit. John starts conversing with the waiter in Spanish asking about the drink options. I order water and politely decline his offer of alcohol. I try not to drink with people I don’t know plus I know I’ll have to drive home and it’s a weekday so I have work in the morning. Then the interrogation begins. He asks me multiple times if I like what I see. In the true spirit of avoidance I reply that he looks just like his picture. He shows me the obnoxiously big cross that’s hanging from a chain on his neck and declares (somewhat loudly) that he is a follower of Jesus Christ and a die hard Catholic. Instant turn off. I’m not particularly religious but I can appreciate the value that religion brings to the lives of millions. He then follows up his profession of faith with an extremely graphic description of the things that he would do if we were behind closed doors. He talks at length about how happy I’d be if I would just give him a chance and take him home. He promises that once I’ve had a “real man” aka him I’ll never go back. Now granted I haven’t been in the game that long but I do know that the more someone talks about their abilities and skills in that particular department, the worst they are at actually following through. It’s like their insecurities do all the talking and when push comes to shove their actions can’t cash the check their mouth made. Small pet peeve of mine. While the waiter at the table was semi-attentive, the food took a while (40 minutes) to get to our table. So John amused himself by talking to the couple at the table next to ours. One of which was a doctor. John immediately proceeded to ask a diagnosis question about some radiating pain in his neck that he had been having for a while. I wanted to crawl underneath the table. This is why I rarely introduce myself as a therapist because then people stay asking questions and sometimes I just want to be off the clock. But I digress. Finally the food came and John proceeded to eat his food loudly and messily. He chewed with his mouth open as he talked about his childhood and told me how much money had made last year. Then he started to ask me if he would see me again and I gave the most noncommittal answer known to man. “We’ll see.” However, technically it’s just a nice way to say no. The meal is finally over and he decides he wants to walk me to my car. Once we’re there he proceeds to try to put his hand down my pants in broad daylight and kiss me. I quickly extricate myself and get into my car and drive away. Date over. Never to happen again. He texted me the next morning and messaged me on the site. John also took the time to include a picture of a certain part of his body telling me that I didn’t know what I was missing out on. I could clearly see that I’m wasn’t missing anything whatsoever. I was actually winning because once again my theory about big talkers had been proven true. So after a few other pictures and messages about all the things that he had planned for me, I blocked him (thanks google voice). Case closed.
Today I was reminded that exactly 6 years ago today I received my masters degree in social work. I was so excited to finally be done with the intensive yearlong program and the multiple papers and assignments. It was a bittersweet moment because I still had a year to go in my post-graduate program. I remember waiting in line to march and getting a phone call from a potential job telling me that they were going with another candidate. While I had small part time job, I was worried about how I would support myself. I was excited about being able to make a difference in the world and I was determined to be an excellent social worker. I didn’t know what was going to happen next and it was scary. In the years since I heard my name and walked across the stage I’ve had the opportunity to accomplish some other goals. I’m clinically licensed in 4 states, I have a post-graduate certificate, and I finished my PhD. I’ve also traveled to over 13 countries and moved multiple times to three different states. It’s funny how fast time flies and how much can happen. I had no idea what was ahead when I walked across the state. It was such a good feelings but I was also nervous about getting a job. As I prepare to attend my next graduation–once again without the support of a significant other, I recognize the fact that I’ve had some growth as a person. I am looking forward to the next six years……who knows what life will be like then?