Friday, September 23, 2011

Malleable Deal Breakers

I assume that we all have a mental list of Lines That Shall Not Be Crossed, though I suspect some people don’t realize what or where those lines are until they are, in fact, violated. If you don’t know you’re your deal breakers are, give it time. You’ll find out. The strength of your rage will tip you off that someone just waltzed right across the line and into your own personal ‘death is too good for that crime’ territory.

I have a few things on my deal breaker list: violence (physical, verbal and emotional), dishonesty (hey, lie to yourself if you want, but don’t blow sunshine at me), but one that rises to the tippy top of the list is control.

Ah, control issues. What this boils down to is someone you know trying to get you to stop being you. When I was a kid doing well in school and my peers tried to bully me into not doing well, it was easy to get pissed off and try even harder. When people you only kind of know want to manipulate you into justifying their failings (my school peers’ less than stellar academic performance), it’s relatively easy to put up your shields and deflect the crap.
It’s much, much harder and far more insidious when someone you love asks you to be less of who you are in an effort to make their lives easier. Make no mistake. That’s what control issues are about. You are being asked to blunt your personality and your drive for the comfort and convenience of someone who is supposed to love you for who you are. This is the piece that sends me right over the top. Wait. You knew I was like this when we got together. *Now* it’s not okay? WTF?
Control issues stem from fear. Understand that the person with control issues is attempting to assuage his or her fear by getting you to tow a particular line (do things *my* way!). The problem is that even if you do cave, the core problem – your loved one’s fears – aren’t resolved. If you’re in a relationship with someone who has control issues, you cannot possibly change enough or in any of the right ways to make that person okay. Not possible. The fear has to be recognized and addressed from within by the person with the control issues.
How do I know all of this? Every single one of my deal breakers has been hit at least once – save the physical violence deal breaker - you only get one shot with physical violence. BTW – I expect that standard to apply to me as well – if I hit someone who doesn’t want to be hit (your kink is your own, man) then I deserve to be prosecuted and left. So with all those deal breakers getting stepped on, why haven’t I bailed on my relationships?
For me, two things mitigate my deal breakers: Remorse and the honest desire to change (again, physical violence gets no pass. Use it and you’re going down – verbal and emotional violence? Three strike rule. Your personal limits on that may be different). A third factor enters into the equation as well: I’ve made mistakes and violated other’s deal breaker lists.
The difference is intention. I’m lucky. Most of my relationships are pretty healthy. No one *wants* to hurt anyone, much less cross those deal breaker lines. The important part is calling one another on the transgressions and talking through preventative ‘how do we never do this again’ measures. 100% success rate? Hell, no. But so long as honest effort is put forth, and progress is made, it changes everything. Remorse without reform is nothing more than lying. See deal breaker list, above.

I want this slightly malleable sense of limits to enter into the relationships I write, too. It lets me play around with pairing up people who wouldn’t normally stand a chance with one another. Maybe I’m an idealist along the same lines as Jeffe. I believe very strongly that we have endless capacity for change. The interesting bit is what drives us and our characters to want to change? If art imitates life, my answer in almost all cases will be love.


  1. Wow. Between my typos and Blogger's schizophrenic rendering of the font, this is kind of a surreal post. Sorry.

  2. Great post! I struggle with the idea of people, changing, though. I guess it's because I haven't really seen it IRL, so I wrestle with translating that onto the page.

  3. "Malleable" deal-breakers. Those are interesting to consider, especially the unique circumstances under which crossing a "oh hellllll no" boundary is acceptable.

  4. Marcella - it's a great post! You are not to blame for Blogger's um - issues.

    This sentence really hit me hard:

    "You are being asked to blunt your personality and your drive for the comfort and convenience of someone who is supposed to love you for who you are."

    I've battled with this one all my life. Took me years to feel that I had a right to my own strong personality, my own driving goals. And I still feel guilt over this at times. Thanks for writing this.

  5. You know, Laura, change is possible. Hard, but possible. The real issue, as far as I can see, is being with someone who *wants* to work on a relationship, who *wants* to make sure his or her behavior isn't hurting you. From what I understand, one of the issues about growing up in an alcoholic family is that the person with the addiction cannot participate in relationship at all - the addict essentially abandons the rest of the family, even while being in the same room. Apparently, there are people out there in the world who are like this even though they aren't addicted - narassistic maybe? Not sure. The point is - there's great value in hanging with someone who knows he isn't perfect, but who wants to you to be happy.

  6. Idealists Unite! And lead perfect, happy lives in Utopia!!

    Okay, yeah - I know most people don't change. But I do believe they can. And exploring those dynamics, you're right, is the fascinating piece.