A couple of years ago, driving off from a waiting-to-exhale session where a bunch of women had been bitching about their men, I realised that relationships are like Celebrity Deathmatch. Only one is left standing, and even then the winner doesn’t look much better than the loser. I admitted to myself that day that I cannot truthfully claim that I have ever loved anyone, other than family and friends. I have said I love you to several romantic partners, and meant it, but if I had known better I would have been more accurate and said I TRADE you, I TRADE you very much.
Let me tell you a story about a guy called Jack, who went to a party where he met a drug dealer, called Jill. Jill introduced him to the best drug ever, a super wonder drug. It made him feel horny, warm and fuzzy in ways that no E tablet could compete. It had all the ‘leading man’ effects of Coke and absolutely nothing could faze him, like he was hooked to a Valium IV. He was on top of the world. Naturally, he asked for Jill’s number. A couple of days later he called Jill and they hooked up. After another dose of Jill’s wonder drug, once again, he felt confident, attractive, virile, interesting, and funny. He felt whole. All his insecurities and fears had vanished, almost magically. The wonder drug seemed to turn him into the man he always wanted to be.
Jack and Jill started seeing more and more of each other. One day when Jack needed his regular dose, Jill’s phone was off. He felt a bit vulnerable, and hated it. So when he eventually got hold of Jill, he lay down the first rule of engagement. Jill was to be available at all times or have a bloody good reason for not being accessible. Instead of rebelling at this attempt at control the dealer was secretly pleased because it proved that Jack needed her. She liked feeling needed.
One day Jill arrived without the drug, something about having a hectic day. Jack introduced more rules; she was not allowed to have any other client or engage in any activity that would affect his wonder drug supply. It might sound unreasonable but heck; he really needed the drug. Jill was not happy with the rules, but she agreed. Jack was her best client. He made her feel important and needed, besides she didn’t need to follow the rules, all she needed to do was to make Jack think that she was. Plus, this new arrangement gave her an opportunity to hike the price she charged Jack for the drug.
Then it happened. Jack’s highs just weren’t that high anymore, no matter how much of the drug he took AND he was paying more for it now than ever before! He was back to feeling like the old Jack again. He blamed Jill and accused her of all sorts of things. He started considering looking for a new dealer. Jill was also considering looking for a new client, one who appreciated her product the way Jack used to.
To me there isn’t much difference between being hooked on a drug and hooked on a person. In many ways a chemical dependency is better. It is preferable for your drug of choice not to have free will. If you are hooked on the “love” of another, to control your supply you have to control the supplier; according to society and the media that is called a relationship.
Let’s be honest, when you beg your partner not to take up motorcycling because you are worried about his safety that is not the whole story, your primary concern, whether overt or covert, is how his dangerous activity will affect you.
I’ve promised myself that I will never again say to someone I love you when what I mean is that I TRADE you. I trade you some things that will make you feel better about yourself for some things that will make me feel better about myself and as long as the arrangement works for us we will happily continue trading. I believe that you cannot control anyone other than yourself, not without destroying their spirit.
Until I love someone enough not to expect of them anything I cannot, or will not provide for myself – be it love, security, esteem, comfort, acceptance, status or purpose – I want to keep it honest and tell them that I trade them very much.
Let me tell you, I trade you very much doesn’t go down as well as I love you. But at least it’s honest.