Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pleasure: The Primary Motivator (part 2)

I've heard for years and years that most men tend to seek out women partners rather like their mothers in unhealthy ways. It can happen for lots of reasons, and I'd like to share one aspect of how I saw this dynamic within me and how embracing pleasure helped me grow emotionally so that I no longer seek out partners in the same way I used to.

Growing up, I never decorated my living space. My mom, perhaps with help from my dad constructing the furniture, would always decorate the space for me. For example, when I first arrived at college my freshman year, my dad took me and my mom insisted he help make the bed and take pictures for her so she'd know I started off with a nicely-prepared room.

I never felt comfortable decorating my own space. I remember when I studied abroad in Germany the summer before my senior year of college in 2007, I did nothing to decorate my room for weeks, then I bought 2 paintings but didn't even have the energy to put them up - they just took up floor space awkwardly learning up against the wall until I left at the end of the summer. This has often meant that I don't feel very comfortable where I live, that I've found the space unattractive or cold visually or tactilely. I have never summoned the energy to actually imagine an alternative and implement it.

Another example: after buying a house in 2009, I put up a few pictures and promptly lost all energy for improving the space. A few very energetic and generous friends dragged me to a store to pick out paint colors, buy paints, and then we spent 5 full days together painting my living room and kitchen and mounting a projector on the ceiling in the basement. No way in hell that would have happened if they didn't have that initiative. [And I remain as grateful today as I did then ;) ]

I recognized this dynamic, and I also realized that some of my past girlfriends had had the energy to decorate my space, and so I got stuck in an anxious dynamic: I wanted to find a girlfriend in part to decorate my living space with her (I had the energy to decorate with someone, just not alone somehow), but I also suspected my living space was also off-putting to potential partners, perhaps making it harder to find a partner. Catch-22!

So you can see the 'man needs a partner like his mother' dynamic: I wanted someone to fill that decorating/home-making role my mother played for me growing up.

Pleasure to the Rescue
A few months ago, I began embracing pleasure as a way to motivate everything I did. As part of this, rather than numb or ignore anxiety about my living space as I'd always done, I embraced that anxiety and reflected on it. Why do I feel anxious? How could I imagine my living space redecorated so I don't have any anxiety? And could I imagine an attitude towards redecorating such that I enjoy it rather than feel repulsed?

\Well, I did all those things and successfully redecorated my space. I have pictures but they're not available as I write this post... I'll update it someday when I can add the pictures. But I cleared out lots of carpet space for moving and stretching, I covered all flat surfaces besides the bed with colorful yarn to make it visually and tactilely attractive, and made the best of not having a dresser nor much storage space. I organized things so I woke up facing the mountains where the dawn sun rose. I carefully cleaned the floor and washed my bedsheets more than once a [long time period].

I designed the space to need minimal maintenance. I've learned to like cleaning, but only when there's no unnecessary cleaning. I never like putting away my clothes when I take them off, and I always like dropping my pack as soon as I get inside without worrying where it belongs (you may suspect, correctly, these preferences go back a long ways ;) ). So I designed the room layout so I could continue these habits without adding clutter: I made space for my pack at the entry point, and I made space near my bed where I would feel comfortable just dropping clothes without further consideration (not a hamper though; when I live in the woods I where clothes a bunch before washing).

Rather than impose an arbitrary definition of cleanliness or order, I figured out what I needed, what would bring happiness, and made it happen. I didn't keep it perfectly tidy after that either, but kept it within bounds such that I never felt anxiety or discomfort about my living space.

Increased Emotional Maturity for Me and My Future Partner
One cool aspect of this particular transformation is that I no longer long for a woman partner to help make my space beautiful - I have the strength to do it. I no longer look for that mother-role in a potential partner, someone to take care of the needs I have which I don't take care of on my own.

Now, many women expect to play that mother-role to a male partner, and see it as natural and a way to be valuable to someone they care about. In that way, it can become an unhealthy codependency where the man needs the woman to fulfill needs he ought to be able to meet himself, and the woman needs the man to have those unmet needs so she can feel valued and loved. I don't claim every household with a female home-maker is like this, just that this emotional dynamic seems pretty common.

Now that I no longer depend on a woman partner for this way of caring for me, I expect I will seem more attractive to women - we can each relate to each other as independent peers rather than co-dependents with various anxieties or traumas motivating our behavior in unseen ways. Perhaps I'll attract women who want a man who doesn't need a woman to play that mother-role in unhealthy ways.

And sure enough, shortly after I cleaned my space this past winter, I got a surprise first visit from a lover  and showed her my living space with no chance to even prepare it - and she really liked it.

When seeking to grow emotionally, I don't often get concrete markers of progress. However, this was definitely such a marker, and it felt really good!