Sex and the shitty

I’ve been watching a lot of Sex and the City this year, and I have to bluntly admit that my attention to this iconic American show has less to do with it’s entertainment value and more to do with my fascination for cultural institutions which earn their keep by preying on women. Let me put even more bluntly if you go into this show thinking you’ll get good advice on how to have a ridiculous amount of sex, you’ll probably not be disappointed until you realize that most people don’t have that much sex with that many people. If you go looking for good insight on healthy relationships, you’ll do so to your detriment. Finally, if you go looking for an answer as to why we end up in emotionally abusive relationships, then you’ll be rewarded 5 seasons and two marginal movies over.

While this franchise covers a multitude of relationship sins, it shamefully neglects its own fuzzy pink elephant: the emotional manipulation and abuse rampant in our perception of twenty-first century relationships. Indeed, the majority of the actual relationships featured in this show could be called emotionally manipulative. Emotional manipulation occurs when someone you are close to utilizes the intimacy they share with you in an unhealthy way which creates a power differential between you and them. Chronic manipulation which becomes coercive to the extent that a person changes themself for the manipulator is emotional abuse. Hollywood’s formula for films and television series targeted toward women feature, at their very core, an emotionally manipulative relationship (bordering on abuse) which is resolved through hard work, determination, and persistent love (on behalf of the woman) in less than 120 minutes. We are force-fed this maudlin lie over and over again, and then we wonder why women stay in abusive relationships. I, for one, am tired of this worn out and sexist trope and feel the best way to break free is to recognize emotional manipulation and abuse when we see it.

I’ve been in enough toxic relationships to recognize an emotional abuser from a mile away. Here is how they work: They play upon the weaknesses in your emotions, they find the most efficient way to control you, and then they string you along on a leash of their own creation. Here’s how it works in a pseudo-romantic relationship. You fall for someone who is handsome/beautiful and charming. They get close to you, allow you to open up to them emotionally very quickly in a inappropriately intimate way. As you self-disclose they appear interested and sympathetic on the outside, while on the inside they are cataloging everything they hear. Then, they will use their knowledge of your weaknesses to make you depend upon them and eventually fall for them. Their manipulation may also include sexual aspects as well, further strengthening the hold they have over you and your erroneous belief that they feel as deeply for you as you do for them.

A cycle then develops where you are literally at their beck and call, and they will manipulate you for their own devices. And they will use you for everything from sex to money to free tutoring. When it comes to them opening up, they will shy from disclosing even close to the level you’ve disclosed to them if at all because they don’t want to be intimate with you because intimacy is weakness and they do not wish to be weak, they wish to be in power over you. And when you finally cannot handle the uncertainty of your relationship, you will tell them exactly how you feel, and their answer will be: “yeah, I know” or “well I’ve thought as much” or the classic feigned surprise. They also will not tell you exactly how they feel, either deflecting or making some kind of excuse for why right now is not a good time for them to be in a relationship. Whatever they say, whatever their response you can bank on two things: it will be ambiguous and it will not be honest.

You will then be left in a state of emotional chaos. You’ve literally been in a relationship with this person for weeks or months or years. You’ve done everything a couple does: you’ve been intimate, you’ve been there for them when they needed you, you’ve had sex, you’ve spent hours upon hours together. The keyword here is you’ve. You’ve been in a relationship and they’ve been stringing you along. And if you even try to question it they’ll turn in back on you and make you look like a crazy and clingy person. They will completely invalidate your feelings, or worse, act like they have no idea what is going on, and they will still want to be friends. Of course they want to be friends! They want free homework help, emotional energy, sex, companionship, etc. without having to invest that much because they know you are in love with them and will do it without their effort.

If you are in this situation, my advice for you is to run away as fast as you can. I have survived enough toxic relationships to know this for certain: if someone does hold your feelings or needs or dreams at the same regard as you, then you do not need them in your life because they do not respect you. They do not deserve to be in the same room as you. If you find yourself having to guess at their motives or what is going on in their mind, then run for your life because the communication which is going on is not at a healthy intimate level. If you have to wonder if they like your or feel the same way as you, then they probably don’t. If they only call you or talk to you when it’s convenient for them then they aren’t interested in having a relationship with you. They want to use you like a 7/11…quick, convenient, and low-cost. You are worth more than that.

It’s too hard. Of course it’s hard, and no, it won’t be remotely easy. It will be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do. But I love him or her! Of course you do! They’ve manipulated you into loving them because they want to control you. But if I just wait it out… NOPE. Stop lying to yourself, he or she is not going to change. Your happiness is not contingent upon someone else realizing your worth. Maybe we just met at the wrong time. This is a load of shit contrived by a sappy writer of romcoms. When you find your person, the person you are supposed to be with, you will know. It will be effortless and easy. You won’t have to second-guess. You won’t have to wonder how they feel. You won’t feel like you care more than they do. Things will click, and you will know. Because you deserve to be recognized and valued as the unique and valuable work in progress that you are. Because you deserve to be respected and honored for the person you are. And this recognition and valuing and respect and honor is not something you have to earn through give and take. It comes with time and intimacy and mutual and equal effort as your make your journey together.

– Darcy

If you find yourself in an abusive relationship and need crisis help, please click here.

 

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