Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The “Ex” Factor (With An Affirmation Note)

I will never speak an ill word of my ex-boyfriends. I’ve only had two relatively short relationships, a few months each. Both times, the severing of the relationship didn’t happen well but neither was it hostile, as many sound like they were. I didn’t leave myself any reason to hate either of my former boyfriends. I’ll say “former” from now on because it doesn’t sound good to me to “ex” someone. “Ex” seems to have a sense of a negation taking place that I just don’t like, meaning that both relationships still mean something to me now in that they had a hand in whom I am today. They’re a part of my memory and should not be erased. “Former” has a sense of change in that I used to date him and now I don’t, but he’s still a valid person. Anyways…moving on…

This isn’t really about them so much as it’s about how I perceive things in ways that seem to be different from what I hear from my friends and acquaintances. The not-speaking-ill rule is more about what it says about me, as I see it [as well as goes along with my not wanting to say “ex”].

I thought about this after both relationships had long been over. I took a class at the university and befriended or was befriended by Kai [alias]. As we talked, I found out that she worked where my more recent former worked and indeed, she knew him. They both still worked together so she went back and, I guess, told my former that she’d met me. Kai comes back at the next class and says that my former told her to tell me that I can talk crap about him. Well, I said I couldn’t. Kai asked why not, ‘cuz she’d talk crap about her former all the time.

It seems to me like most people are like Kai when it comes to what they say about their former relationships; whether it’s true or not, I have no way of knowing. I gave her a flippant answer that my former said he would spoil me and so he did, how can I complain about that? But I thought about it for myself; why is it that it’s so easy for others to disparage their formers while I find it so difficult to do the same? I’m not saying that what Kai does is mean or bad and Kai’s not the only person I know to say stuff; some of my friends won’t even talk about their formers out of hostility towards them. I think most people do it without thinking about the meaning behind what they’re saying, or by refusing to say anything.

The reason why I don’t speak badly about formers isn’t to say that I’m too nice either. As I recall, my former told Kai he didn’t think I could talk crap about him ‘cuz he thought I was too nice but that’s not it. Hint: I’m not that nice. I have good intentions, they don’t always come across as good, I like a good fight, etc. It isn’t because my formers were perfect; they weren’t. I can think of ways in which my former could have treated me better, but then there are ways in which I could have better shown him how much I respected and admired him; I’m not perfect.

So then what is it? Why do I stick to this rule? Well, for one, it goes to the Golden Rule a bit as I would hope that they aren’t speaking ill of me. In that hope, I’m not gonna spread their faults around. Unless one was abusive in some way, then I would feel an obligation to make it known that one’s a danger to others. I haven’t been in that kind of situation. And if the way that my former talked about his formers before me is any indication of how he’s talking to others about me now, I REALLY hope that he isn’t talking about me at all.

Secondly, I don’t know what gets accomplished by my telling people gee, he was such a jerk, he did this and he didn’t do that. Does it matter? What would I be saying, that I should be pitied because I suffered so? Is it to dissuade anyone I know from dating him? Again, unless he was abusive, I see no reason to dissuade people from him. Otherwise, I would expect my friends to not want to date my former on principle so saying bad things about him doesn’t matter. Again, I maintain that neither of my formers were jerks, generally.

Maybe more importantly, I believe that with whom I enter into a relationship reflects on who I am. A Japanese proverb says, “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” I would extend the proverb to include the man I date. I chose to date him. I had a friend who would say yes to pretty much every guy that’s asked her out without real thought as to how she felt about him. Regarding her long term relationships, she’s told me that she stays because he cares about her a lot and so she felt obligated to return the affection. I think otherwise and so both relationships were sort of born out of mutual interest and attraction; he asked me out and I was hoping that he would and since we didn’t get married, I felt no obligation to stay with him if it wasn’t working.

So I’m a little selective in who I date. I’ve turned down a few. I could write a whole other thing about that because I’ve been scolded a couple times for being selective, and then rebuked for not caring that I was being scolded. Anyways, I chose to date my former and the reasons why I chose to date him was that I wanted to get to know him better, I perceived him to be a good man, I deemed him to be someone worthy of my time and affection. I don’t choose I guy because I want to marry him right at that moment, but in a way, I choose him because of the potential of the lifelong commitment of marriage. I don’t start out believing this is the guy I’m gonna marry but I’d like to find out ‘cuz I see some possibility of a good husband in him and I see in myself the possibility of being a good wife for him.

To illustrate the Japanese proverb in another way, now, I have this uncanny ability to wake up with a bruise somewhere on my legs, so far, with no apparent explanation for the bruise. To my knowledge, there is no evidence of my being a sleepwalker and I’m sure my cats aren’t beating me up in the middle of the night. Well, this started before I had cats and for sure my fish weren’t beating me up.

One day, I woke up with a huge bruise on the side of my thigh. Honestly, it was at least three inches in diameter, at least. It took weeks to clear completely. After awhile I didn’t feel it when I walked and so I forgot about it sometimes. I went to the gym with Shay and she saw the bruise. She asked me about it. I don’t think I’m funny and so I said that my imaginary boyfriend hit me. Shay laughed. She didn’t laugh because of the imaginary boyfriend part and so that… well, she laughed.

She said that she knew I was kidding because I wouldn’t be with a guy who hits me. What Shay was doing was correctly assessing my character to being that of someone who wouldn’t stand for someone abusing me. I don’t intend to hurt those who have been in an abusive relationship or are in one now; I’ve known people close to me in those situations and…it’s a terrible situation to be in. I don’t think that I’m completely exempt from being lured into a situation like that either, but there’s something about me that would make it more unlikely than not at this point.

And so, if I were to speak ill of my former, I view it as speaking ill of myself. I didn’t have to love him, I chose to and so to disparage him would be to disparage the choice I made in the kind of man I believe I deserve. To say anything bad of him is to say that I shouldn’t have trusted my decision. On some level, it would say to myself that I’m such an idiot for liking him, much more for loving him.

I just had the thought that someday this is gonna come back to kick me in the mouth. Someday, my future husband is gonna find this entry and say, “See, it’s right here, you said it. You can’t complain about me!” Um…well…I’ll deal with that if it ever happens I guess *wink*.

I think we say a lot of things without really thinking about the consequences; I’m guilty of it also. From this, I hope that we do take a second to think about what we’re about to say and the implications of it. I don’t know anyone who entered into a relationship saying, “gee, I hope this guy makes me miserable.” So when one reminisces, think on the good times, the former’s good qualities that one valued, remember that one is valuable. The main things is to be respectful of the past and present. If one’s in a new relationship now, be respectful of that relationship and work on building those good times with that person.

If one would like a Bible verse to base the rule off of, read Matthew 12:34 & 35.


Post-Note: I had written this entry sometime last week but there’s been a lot going on and so I had other things I felt I needed to post first. I didn’t have the time to go over what I had written and give it my final approval [I find it difficult to be my own editor]. Well, I’m listening to today’s Focus on the Family radio broadcast called “How to Raise Respectful Kids Part 2” and the guest speaker Jill Rigby just went over the time of her divorce and raising two young boys on her own. What she has just said exactly echoed what I had written here, that there’s a negation that happens when we “ex” someone and that it does reflect back on ourselves. Wow! So there is someone who thinks some of the things I do!

Also quickly, the link to Focus on the Family is to the left in "I Recommend" along with other links. Also to the left, I've added individual links to the "previous five entries" so it's a little easier to go by title to ones you might've missed and also links to entries I hope that you would not miss or to highlight the most recent "Goods" under "featured entries". You can still view all entries by going through the "archive" or read entries with "labels" for a certain topic that I cover periodically. As always, feel free to leave a comment or email me! Mahalo!