On Hair Pulling, Ass Grabbing & the Search for Healthy Relationship Models
One warm, breezy California Sunday afternoon, I was browsing the web belly down on my sprawling bed, as I usually do on Sundays, letting myself be guiltlessly swallowed up by the rabbit hole that is the mighty beast, our Internet.
A couple of hour-or so-long podcasts later, I was not satisfied with the information I’ve just gobbled up, so I kept on. (Amazing how much mind space opens up when we unplug and have a tiny break from over analyzing and over utilizing everything in sight.)
After a quickie from Leo from Actualized.org, an hour with Tom from Inside Quest, I stumbled across Lewis Howes. All of them, by the way, are brilliant, authentic men dishing out likewise brilliant content rooted in reality: BS-free chunks of hard earned truth braised with inspiration and cooked to perfection. Just how I like it.
But as cutting edge as these discussions were, citing brand new research supplemented by real life examples to reaffirm their validity, there was one subject that was only lightly touched upon, more in passing — the subject of thriving relationships. Sure, the speakers would broach the subject here and there, speaking of their own foibles and feats, lots of great advice, by the way. What was lacking though, was them bringing up models of people in the public domain, we can treat as models.
Down the Rabbit Hole
I whizzed through the content freeway made of all the books I’ve read and the podcasts I’ve listened to, looking for it. There wasn’t much. My Sunday evening became a research project with me hunting for role models of relationships that thrived more, and sucked less.
So I asked myself, fingers tapping furiously, where are those who ‘made it,’ or more accurately, ‘are making it each and every day,’ no matter how much crap happens to rain down on their business that very same day?
In our modern society, we lack functional relationship models. What’s worse, with uninterrupted cadence, the media serves up the most inferior versions of such, propagating the low-level, low-consciousness models — husbands swapping wives, wives pulling on other wives’ hair, divorce galore, and if that is not enough, public heartbreaks overdramatized on the Bachelorette. All that for the sake of entertainment, a way of packaging information propaganda style, so that it may quickly sink right into our subconscious, focaccia and olive oil style.
Seriously? No wonder we have inebriated guys reaching for girls’ asses at a bar with not even an afterthought. I’m not saying that in some cases this is not a consequence of a momentarily unclenched brain, otherwise lulled and dulled by debilitating stress, a way of acting on a deeply-rooted primordial instinct, if you will. Yes, that happens too. But my point remains, how the hell are we supposed to play in harmony after swallowing a twelve course feast of relationship barbarity?
Now you may disagree with me, and I secretly hope that you do. But if you do, please point me in the direction, please show me where I can find a healthy relationship model on which I could base my own, in an effort to avoid at least some of the most obvious the pitfalls that have been laid like mousetraps all over this place?
Like most of us, I’d presume, with enough mistakes and rants on the subject, I did end up figuring out a way to render the newest version of a relationship more amicable and cordial that the one I had in high school. Growth after all, is an upward trending line, especially when we invest in self-development. But still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that with some ‘modeling help’ I could’ve accomplished more and faster. By knowing which ingredients needed swapping, perhaps I would’ve been able turn a fatty, sugary ice cream sundae, into a nourishing dish that also happened to taste heavenly?
Follow the Breadcrumbs
I don’t know about you by the family that I grew up with was closer on the scale to the dis-functional, than the functional. Not to get too deeply into personal matters here, or bore you to death with my lamentations. But there is an important thread here that is probably more common than I used to think. By the time my age snapped into two digits, I’ve witnessed more violence of the physical and verbal kind at home than I had at any other place.
Then, when my heart for the first time experienced the lovely spring flutter that comes from rapid infatuation, I was both delighted and terrified. What does this mean? Add to that the raging hormones of teen-hood, and I was done in. A slew of awkward, purposeless, mini relationships ensued, mostly framed by downtown walks and wrangling my brain to keep filling the uncomfortable silences with mindless jabber. I had no idea where all this was headed, other than one day getting married and having kids. But there had to be more to it than that. Right? Was there? Anyone help shed some light?
Once officially kicked out from the nest, by my own desire for extra-continental scholastic adventure, I was purely on my own, save the desperate weekly calls home to ask mom, ‘I’m lost. What do I do now?’ that became less relatable with passing time. I was really on my own, with no mentors in sight, only a trail of breadcrumbs.
Fast forward two decades to the moment when the light bulb went off, and it was a moment of relief and excitement, though I admit it was tinged by bitterness of wondering how much better I would’ve done on the relationship front, had I an image, or a collage of images, to go to in moments of doubt? Christians have Jesus to ask for advice when the going gets tough. Who do we ask for help when our marriage is on the rocks? A friend who is also struggling? An attorney? We all know that by then, it is too late.
Big Waves and Glass Slippers
So that afternoon, the clouds parted and I got showered with a fresh Hawaiian drizzle. They actually exist! Enter the Hamiltons, the inner workings of their marriage made accessible thanks Lewis’ interview with Gabrielle Reece, the volleyball star who wed the big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton.
I watched the interview before bed, my head nodding and hands clapping each time she dropped a line that made so much sense. That night I had some good dreams. There was blue water, sunshine and a feeling of comradery and belonging without the pressure of having to please anyone.
I woke up and ordered her book, “My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper: A Guide to the Less Than Perfect Life,” impatient to be let into the inner circle of Gabby’s world and surround myself with perhaps something saner, more functional and even fun. That’s a novel idea — a fun relationship! Woo-hoo! Speaking of, what ever makes a red-hot romance fizzle out to become a grim exchange over plates of steak and pasta, hasty chewing interrupted by dismissing gazes and grumpy ‘can you pass the salt, honey?’ utterings? How does that happen?
So I got the book and just finished it, and will write about it soon. Let me just preface the upcoming post with saying how awesome it was to hang out with this less-than- perfect couple on the page for a bit, without feeling like I was trapped in a week long workshop. The information I became privy to was not polished silver. It included the ugly with the good, which made the book feel fresh and grounded in reality.
But that begs another post, which begs a question: would you be interested in me writing more on this subject? Do you also like the idea of finding, absorbing and distilling this information with the aim of making our romantic partnerships here in this chaotic, unpredictable, messy world, a little more, no a hell lot more pleasurable?
And please, for goodness sake, do let me know whether you know a couple, or at least of a couple, that has learned how to tango without crushing each other’s toes. I want to be let in on their (your) secrets and share them with the world.
Ewa Zwonarz is a Polish-American writer, researcher, marketer, self proclaimed health nut, traveler and hoop dancer. www.ewazwonarz.com