Sunday, August 25, 2019

Relationship Troubles

When it rains, it pours. Today’s Carolyn Hax column contains another compelling slice of contemporary life. In truth, as with the prior post, it dates to many years ago. So, you might have seen it already. I had not.

So, I will quote the letter, and then we will examine the situation:

I've been dating my boyfriend for about six months, and it's been fantastic. Around the same time — pure coincidence — I started talking to an ex whom I hadn't spoken to in years. (It ended badly). I have no desire to be part of his life again, but I like the idea of being on peaceful terms with somebody. My boyfriend is not pleased and has all but flat-out asked me to stop talking to him. If I let him make this call for me, will it continue to escalate from there?

— Detroit

Let’s stipulate that this woman is not a child. If she had a previous boyfriend and has not spoken to him in years, because the relationship ended badly, she is a fully fledged adult. 

We will report the Hax response, which is, that she should never allow her boyfriend to have any influence on who she is and is not talking to:

You have an admirable, credible motive for keeping in touch. If he doesn’t believe it’s admirable, then his values don’t line up with yours. If he doesn’t believe you, then why is he even with you? The only response from him that passes the fantastic-relationship test is to trust you. Ask for it. Tell him it’s nonnegotiable — as is your being worthy of it.

This was not one of Hax’s better days.

First, Detroit does not have an admirable, credible motive for keeping in touch. She had been out of touch for many years, so there is no need for her to do so now. Let’s imagine that the man abused her. It happens all the time. What admirable and credible motive can she have for maintaining contact with a man who mistreated her. She is playing with fire....

Second, why would we assume that Hax knows the entire story. The letter is merely a sketch. For all I know, the boyfriend might sense that the man’s motives are not quite that innocent. Why do you imagine that he has gotten back in touch... if not to seduce her again? Do you really believe that he wants to show her how he has become an upstanding citizen? Only the most naive among us will think good thoughts about the man's motives.

The woman does not see it. Or she does not want to see it. Or she is being manipulated by someone who presumably manipulated her before. But, the boyfriend sees something that he does not like. However obtuse the average man is, the boyfriend might sense that his girlfriend is intrigued by her old boyfriend, that she still feels something for him.

Hax does not know whether this is true. She does not know what the boyfriend is seeing, and does not even care to know. 

The woman should voluntarily cease to have contact with her ex. She has no business wallowing in past passions. Or, as the French call it, nostalgie de la boue. Nothing good can come of it. If she follows Hax’s ill-considered advice, she will blow up her current relationship and find herself back in the arms of someone who mistreated her. 

If she were a decent and honorable individual her boyfriend would not need to tell her to walk away from her past bad relationship. Hax seems to believe that the woman should conduct herself as though she were perfectly independent and autonomous. If she does, if she fails to respect her boyfriend’s feelings, she will soon lose her current boyfriend. Independent and autonomous are euphemisms for: alone.

It's what happens when you take bad advice.

No comments: