I wonder if your parents were able to pass their learning on to you, so you didn’t have to go…
Dr Duncan Riach
32

My short answer is, some.

And one thing I have to tell you, that is probably also less than portable to anyone else’s experience is that it is different as a woman to get married in 2006 than it was to get married in 1967. Or whenever it was, I’m not sure of the year of my mother’s first marriage.

And that informed her experience of being married and also of raising children: in part, because growing up as a woman in the South in the 40s and 50s was to be steeped in toxic, gender-based inequality. And she was pretty upfront about the fact that she got married so early, in part, to escape her family. I think her experiences there made her much more aware of how controlling and intrusive family experiences can drive children to flee into unhealthy relationships.

So the answer to what you asked is that yes, I definitely didn’t have to go through the experience of feeling trapped by my family and anxious to escape. And one thing that they did very intentionally was to encourage me to trust my emotions and foster self-reliance. That’s why I think it’s so interesting that you dedicate a whole paragraph to, in my opinion, encouraging people not to trust their feelings. The part about limerence, that I note that you see differently than I. This one:

“Beware of limerence. Have lots of relationships so that you can learn that we’re all just humans, sacks of blood and bones and guts. We’re all saddled with endless psychological tics and insecurities. Inside, we’re all ugly as fuck, and yet super-lovable at the same time.

One of the main things I have learned from starting and ending many relationships is this fundamental truth: this one is not “the one” (there is no “the one”). No matter how special they might seem, no matter how much I put them on a pedestal, sooner or later I’m going to learn the truth that they’re just another human.”

You even repeat this in the conclusion:

“At the same time, get lots of experience by starting and ending many relationships.”

And I want to state that the implication I get here is that those relationships are not supposed to be undertaken with the idea that they will be permanent or even particularly long-lived. I highlighted it in my earlier response to you because it is similiar to something I heard a lot as my own relationship went on and on without ending: I heard it as, “but in college you’re supposed to play the field!”

I heard that so many times as I started dating my husband, continued dating my husband, went to college and kept dating my husband, graduated and … you get the idea. You know who I never heard it from?

My parents. Now that I’m an adult with kids of my own, my relationship with my parents feels very different. We talk a lot more about the experience of raising kids and filtering our knowledge and experiences for them in healthy and constructive ways. And when I spoke to them about my own relationship, they made a confession: they fully expected my relationship to end at many points. They talked to each other about whether or not to start laying groundwork for an eventual, spectacular break up that never actually came. And it was hard for them to resist trying to prepare me for that.

In other words, they intentionally protected me from the baggage of their experience about relationships in an effort not to fuck up mine.

And one thing I am curious about is, as you encourage people to have lots of relationships that essentially begun as learning experiences, what duty to they have to their partners? Are they supposed to be honest about the fact that they are just practicing? Doesn’t that substantially change the nature of the experience, if you embark on the relationship with no intention of committing to it other than as a way to discover things about yourself? Or am I misunderstanding how you intend that instruction?

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