Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dealing with Favor Seeking People from Your Past

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I haven't been terribly good at keeping up this blog over the past several months. My attention has been mostly elsewhere, but I also haven't had too much to say recently. Not out of lack of interest. In fact, I did a great workshop last month with a visiting teacher at my Zen center that gave me a lot to chew on when it comes to relationships. So, instead of pounding out sloppy, ill conceived posts, I'm sitting on it.

For those of you who have enjoyed my comments over at Evan Marc Katz's blog over the past few years, it looks like that is finished. I can't say for certain, but it seems like he's blocked me. I have tried to leave a handful of comments there in recent weeks, but they simply vanish. This started before his website overhaul, and right after I left a fairly negative comment about a post I felt was condescending to single folks, or anyone struggling in dating. It was one of those "married people are much happier" posts that, in my view, offer next to nothing in the way of support for anyone who isn't happily married.

Anyway, it's totally possible that there's something else going on. However, the fact that this not being able to post thing started after I left that comment makes me think he decided he'd had it with my comments. Regardless, it's not a terribly big deal to me. There are plenty of other places I can comment if I choose to. Plus, it gives me more time to offer up my own writing here - or elsewhere.

Speaking of other relationship bloggers, I really liked this post by Natalie over at Baggage Reclaim about dealing with people who disappear from your life, and then reappear suddenly wanting something. This issues goes far beyond romantic relationships, and definitely taps into any unresolved guilt or people pleasing tendencies you might have.

Awhile back, I had a former colleague asking out of the blue for help ending a project I had already given several years to. The organization her and I and others had started had slowly gone into the ground, and she decided that she needed to step in and direct the final close out efforts. Which was totally fine and good of her to do. However, when she came to me asking for my help, I declined. Multiple times. In large part because I was in the middle of leading a major project for my Zen center community's board, but also because I felt like I had given enough to the other organization. As I noticed a bit of guilt arising over saying no the first time, I realized that if I chose to help out it would only be to release that guilt and "look good" in the eyes of my former colleagues. It had nothing to do with genuinely wanting to offer my energy to the work at hand.

For me, in these kinds of situations, it's become important ask "What's motivating this desire to do something?" And if it seems to me that the motivation is guilt or "looking good" or some other form of people pleasing, then I do my best to say no. Which isn't always easy, but has become easier over time.


  1. Hey Nathan, FWIW, I found the comment section on Evan's blog to be terribly buggy. I'd be puzzled as to why my nice and civil comment would have gotten moderated... then a day later, my comment appears out of nowhere. Then it disappears again. Or else the header would say a post has 12 comments, you click on it and only see six. Or your comment is on the site but isn't showing on the right sidebar... etc etc.

    Not terribly related to your story, but I have tried to reconnect with a good number of friends I'd lost contact with when I was in my two-year-relationship. With limited success, I must add. I hope they didn't view me as a person from the past coming back suddenly wanting something, but I am afraid it is a possibility :(

  2. Yes, I've noticed that the comments section over there seems to be buggy in general. If any of the 4 or 5 comments had shown up at all, I'd probably chalk it up to that. The other thing I didn't write above is that I did an experiment after a few "disappearing" comments where I left another comment under a different name using my other e-mail address. It went right through. Which is why I'm more inclined to think he blocked me.

    I hear you about trying to reconnect with old friends. I've been on both sides of that fence. When a few years pass, whatever the reasons for the gap, it's often hard to re-establish the relationship. Maybe a few of them thought you were one of those folks only coming back "looking for something," but I'd bet some of them simply have filled their lives with other activities and people. In my experience, it's depended upon how the gap happened. If one of us really disappeared, and deliberately ignored or pushed the other person away during that time, coming back together isn't likely. Whereas if it was just a gradual fade with no particular reasoning behind it, there's usually not a big story and emotional baggage to deal with.

    So, I suppose it might be helpful to consider how the gap came about. Specifically, if you pushed a friend away or ignored or repeatedly said no to their requests to spend time together. There might be some kind of amends needed in these cases. Even if it's just acknowledging that you weren't available for them, and can understand that they might have taken that personally in some way.

  3. Just as an addendum. I think EMK's response to you and Brigitte's concerns about men you don't know picking you up at your home speaks volumes about why I'm taking the opportunity to "move on" from comments on his posts. The guy doesn't see his own privilege and is, at times, absurdly defensive about anyone who's points call him out on it.

    Men telling women to ignore the potential safety issues involved in online dating is sexist, period. He's universalizing his positive experiences as a man, while at the same time suggesting your concern is mere "negativity" and "fear-mongering." The reality is much more complex. I think it's true that guys rarely turn into psycho-stalkers, but there are smaller level offenses that occur much more often. Things like obnoxious phone calls or texts after bad first dates. Or off the cuff spouting that sometimes includes threatening language. All of which can happen after you've put in time/energy to get to know each other before the first date.

    Hell, I've had a handful of weird post-date ordeals with women following poor first dates. And as such, I adapted accordingly, including opting for restricting access to certain info - like home address - until I had spent some time with the other person. Some people are a mess in real life, but come off fairly well behind screens and on the phone.

    The joke is that I actually agree with his message of doing what you can to approach first dates in a more open and positive manner. However, like so many other things in the world, dating in the 21st century - especially online - isn't the same as dating in the 20th century. Or any other time for that matter. I really do think his niche market is going to swerve older as time goes on, because younger folks - on the whole - don't think in such "traditional" ways.

  4. Aww thanks for the addendum.

    I was the one who disappeared into a relationship. I was either at his house 70 miles away and couldn't come when invited, or I'd have him over and we'd have made plans and again I couldn't come. I turned down a lot of invites during that time. Additionally, my bf believed in quality time together, and I am the kind of person that tends to go with the flow. So he didn't like me to do anything that wasn't related to us as a couple during our weekends, so as a result, I wasn't ever available to talk on the phone for most of my weekends. I'm sure that, if I'd explained to him that I needed a way to keep in touch with my girlfriends, that he would've understood, but it never occurred to me to ask. Anyway, 3.5 months after the breakup, after much groveling and apologizing on my side, my friends seem to have started coming back :) I met up with them this weekend, and this time made sure to follow up on the phone the next day.

    Next relationship though, I cannot disappear again. My friends won't be as forgiving if they see it as a pattern. They seem to be willing to let it slide this once.

  5. Glad to hear your friends are coming back into your life. Given the distance and other dynamics, it's understandable that you ended up disappearing.

    I suppose one thing to look for in the future is someone who is more comfortable with spending time with your friends occasionally. It's a lot to expect that each partner will be able to have time to build the relationship, and also maintain their friendships totally (or mostly) separately. I think the friendships tend to go because people think in all or nothing terms. Whereas, it seems more realistic and helpful to have a mixed approach. Some separate time with friends, some together time as a couple with friends, and some together time alone as a couple (or family).

    1. Yes I totally agree on your last paragraph.

      His friends, BTW, that I had invested two years of my life in, dropped me like a hot potato pretty much immediately after he broke up, even though he never told them the reason why. When I talked to him about it, he shrugged and said that they'd done the same thing to his ex-wife too. They had been married six years and she lived in the same town... after divorce, they all disappeared from her life. Pretty cool huh? Huge learning experience for me here.

      I'd brought him to a few parties with my work friends, and my personal friends, but wasn't available to meet with them on my own briefly or to talk on the phone. And that, I think, is what killed the friendships.

  6. Nope. Nope. Nope. I will ignore your criticism and simply point out that you've made up a story about me and are finding evidence to support it. That's your right. It's also my right to point out the truth - you have me all wrong.

    In fact, I emailed you this on 11/20. (You, too, Goldie)

    Hey, it's Evan - the guy with the blog.

    I wanted to reach out to you personally to thank you for being such an active member of my community over the years and for contributing so much to a healthy dialogue about dating and relationships. I know we don't agree on everything, but you've always been a thoughtful commenter, and I continue to look forward to your thoughts on my biweekly posts.

    The reason I'm reaching out is that I just relaunched the website and blog and wanted to solicit your feedback.

    What did we do right?
    What did we do wrong?
    What can we do to improve the user experience moving forward?

    If there's a common issue that a bunch of you bring up, I hope to have my web team fix it in coming weeks.

    Once again, I appreciate your time and attention, and want you to know - sincerely - that my blog would not be the same without you.

    Warmest wishes and many thanks,

    Your friend,


  7. Yep. I was wrong about the blocking. My bad. I let my cynicism get to me in the initial post. Can you at least see why I might have jumped to such a conclusion?

    As for the rest of my comments, I will just say this: You stood firm on the whole "women are being negative and fear based" in rejecting the idea that they should welcome a stranger picking them up, even in the face of numerous good points to the contrary. It isn't just about safety, it's about confort and having the power to end a date on your own terms, not someone elses. In my opinion, it's much more likely that folks will enter a dating situation in a positive frame of mind if they feel their basic needs of safety and personal autonomy are generally met. You, yourself, said you were coming from a place of "being old fashioned" or "tradtional" on this whole guy picks up woman thing. And really, had that particular element been downplayed, odds are many more folks would have supported the general call to let go of fearing the worst mindsets. But your dogged rejection of reasons women brought up against the ride issue - which I imagine you expected to some degree- is exactly why I brought up the point about sexism. The pattern of men outright rejecting women's ideas, especially when they are ideas about their own lives, is old, old hat. Now, I may be wrong about labeling what you are doing as such. But your insistence on being right and "proving" others wrong seems much more prevelant the past year or so, as opposed to when I first started reading your blog.

    Mostly, I say this so that whomever is reading this can understand my reasoning. Because odds are, it won't lead to much else.

    I will say that the new website design is attractive. I am sure it will support spreading the word about your work further. In addition, I am glad I was wrong about the banning issue. It didn't even come to mind until I had had four or five comments disappear. If this happens to me in the future, I will make an effort to reach out to the blogger in question before making any public statements.

  8. I reiterate that I think you have a valuable contribution to make to the dialogue. And I completely reject the intimation that I'm sexist. It's as silly as calling you sexist. Just as one isn't inherently anti-Semitic for criticizing Israel, one isn't sexist for telling women that they can be more effective in understanding and connecting with men. My whole life is spent helping women find love, so while you're entitled to your opinion, to me, it has so little basis in truth that all I can do is wish you the best of luck.

  9. Part of the value I have, as I see it, is speaking up about these patterns. My whole adult life has been spent studying the dynamics of systemic oppression in whatever forms it takes, and frankly it doesn't matter how good or caring or compassionate you, or I, or anyone else is. Any of us can fall pray to playing a role, however small, in maintaining these patterns. It's not about being inherently evil or wrong, either. It's far too easy to pin oppression on "bad" individuals, when the reality is that sexism (like the other isms) are built into the very social fabric and systems we live in. As a white man who sometimes offers advice about relationships, I'm acutely aware of my social standing based upon those two markers, and how that impacts the way others will read me and whatever message I offer. Which doesn't mean that I'm going to water down what I say; lord knows I'm plenty outspoken. But it does mean that I'm going to listen a hell of a lot closer, and be open to the fact that my experience or understanding isn't universal.

    At the of the day, people can choose to be always right, or to let go of that need, and be in relationship with each other. I choose the latter.

    1. Aww, I hate to see two of my favorite people argue... *sad*

      My two cents on this, in today's world, compared to the 50s or even the 80s, the variety of what men are and what makes them tick has gotten wider than ever before. Most of Evan's clients date CEO's, I date tech geeks, my x-bf was more feminine than all women in my family combined... the list goes on and on, and they are all men who want to be in relationships with women... but each group needs a different approach. It is not one size fits all anymore. Though I would offer that the basic concepts are still the same for all of them: even the most feminine man wants to feel strong and supportive in relation to the woman, and wants to feel nurtured by the woman. I would imagine I've been around enough men in my life to understand them in some capacity :) Though, I admit, the CEO types are a mystery to me.

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