October 30, 2014 § 1 Comment

Admit it; you would be lying if you said you’ve never experienced jealousy. Everyone has. As someone who has been on both ends of jealousy’s painful grip I thought it might be useful (and perhaps cathartic) to analyze jealousy. What drives it? What causes it?

I’m not going to pretend that this is a fully scientific analysis. Not only will my analysis focus solely on jealousy in relationships, but I’m not going to even consider the scientific explanations for jealousy that can be found with a quick google search. Instead I’m going to just barely scratch the surface and examine what type of psychological forces might be at work. Sure, human beings have evolutionary reasons for being overly protective. But I’m just going to examine things from the perspective of an everyday person trying to better understand their experience on this giant space rock we call earth as it flies through the cosmos toward likely oblivion (a heartwarming thought, I know).

So to start, I think jealousy can be most easily broken down into two groups: “rational” jealousy and “irrational” jealousy. The terms are somewhat arbitrary and I realize I’m taking some liberties with the language here, but just let me explain.

The first group is “rational” jealousy. Someone suffering from this form of jealousy has been previously lied to in their current relationship. These people at least have some justification for being skeptical of their significant other. Granted, this doesn’t make their jealousy literally “rational” but it’s certainly more rational than the second group.

“Irrational jealousy” is characterized by an inability to trust a partner despite them giving no reason for that to be the case. Often people suffering from this form of jealousy either been previously hurt or simply have trouble trusting others.

The first group’s behavior has a pretty clear explanation. They have had their trust broken and may need to consider the viability of their relationship in the first place. The second group is a bit more complex. What exactly causes people to fear being hurt when they have been provided with no reason?

I think there’s really only one explanation: fear of inadequacy. Those who can’t trust others can’t help themselves. They fear that their partner is going to find someone else to fill whatever void is left by their own perceived inadequacies.

Most importantly, unless the jealousy is leading to physical violence or nasty behavior, a serious partner should always do their best to stand by their jealous partner. There may come a point when it’s clear that the jealousy is simply too much and the relationship cannot be salvaged. However, otherwise healthy couples should do their best to work through their issues. Often these bouts of jealousy are merely phases. That’s just my advice anyway.


On Change and the Future

October 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’m at an interesting stage in my life mostly due to the fact that I’m in the midst of making (or I’ve already made) some big changes. Life is especially stressful at times because our decisions are final. Once you decide to make a serious change in your life there is no “reset” button. You can’t decide later that you made the wrong choice and start over.

Thankfully I don’t feel that way about any of the changes I’ve made. When you spend enough time living life a certain way there’s a certain amount of time you need to transition. But otherwise, things have gone as well as I could have ever hoped.

My professional life will likely (and hopefully) begin to reflect my personal life in this sense as well. I’m cautiously optimistic that some changes will be coming. I think that’s the final piece to my life puzzle right now. My personal life is fully transitioned and adjusted. I’m simply waiting for my professional life to “catch up” so to speak.

Granted these changes have not come without some backlash. I’ve been forced to sort of take a step back and actually look at all the aspects of my life that I’ve been shoving back and ignoring since childhood. Although that might sound healthy it’s incredibly painful in the short term. I’ve forced myself to come to grips with the reality that my life was a lot more screwed up than I was previously willing to admit. And perhaps people were right when they told me how dysfunctional my childhood. Perhaps instead of taking honest critiques personally it would have been smarter for me to address those issues. Instead I continued to ignore them and pretend as if I could run away from them.

Well, 600 miles and a 10 hour drive isn’t far enough, because here I am: hanging by a thread as I come to terms with the fact that my family is in shambles and I’m more or less on my own in this world.

Of course I’m with someone who treats me the way I always hoped to be treated. Who loves me not just because they find a life with me comfortable and safe but because they genuinely love me and feel like they were meant to spend their life with me. It’s the warmest feeling in the world knowing that you have someone who feels that way about you. Just the feeling you get while they lay their head on your shoulder is enough to make you forget about whatever problems life might have thrown at you that particular day.

But as I mentioned, the changes I’ve made forced me to crack open that vault deep in my psyche where my I hide my deepest regrets and darkest memories. And as I wrestle with the issues I’ve been blissfully ignoring for my entire adult life I’ve come to the sobering conclusion that I’m one mishap away from being completely alone in the world.

I’m with someone who loves me dearly. They love me with everything they have. Of that I’m positive. But all it takes is one mistake. One slip up on their part and poof — everything we have together is gone. And then I’m left with nothing but this den of mental demons I’ve unleashed. My family is dysfunctional to the core and hardly cares. My aunt is alcoholic who lives alone in a shoddy rental. My sister got pregnant and married and does everything she can to distance herself from the family. My dad lives bitter and alone in the middle of nowhere and has recently started dating the woman he previously cheated on my mother with. And my mom lives alone in my childhood home, unemployed, in debt up to her eyeballs, and lonelier than I think she’s ever been.

Unhappiness is the only common thread in my family. My brother overdosed on heroin two years ago. My grandfather hung himself due to depression. My grandmother essentially drank herself to death. My other grandparents are clinging to life as my grandmother feebly attempts to hold everything together (as she always has) while my grandfather, who can barely remember what he had for breakfast, still struggles with a bad case of alcoholism that not even Alzheimer’s could make him forget.

And here I am. Previously happily oblivious to all of this. And now, forced to face reality for the first time in my adult life, I realize that if Katie leaves me I’m truly alone in this world. And I’ll end up just like everyone else in my family. Alone and afraid.

I hope I can look back in ten years — sorrounded by a happy, loving family — and smile at how baseless my fears were. I hope I can walk away from reading this post, sit down next to my wife and kids in the living room and smile knowing that I’ve broken the chain of dysfunctionality that has cursed my family. I hope I will be happy.


On Darkness

October 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

All of my childhood memories — even the good ones — are enveloped in a dark, almost brooding, cloak of whatever form of dysfunctionality was coming to the surface at that particular stage of my life. I’ve never really given my past much thought until recently. I’ve had people in my past tell me that I force it down and ignore things about my childhood that I should find troubling. I don’t consider myself a very dramatic person. I’m not the type to dwell on incidents in my past. I’m not sure if this is just because I’m a naturally resilient person or if it’s because I have a very bad habit or suppressing my feelings. It wasn’t until recently that I began to consider the possibility that it’s the latter. Whatever the case, so long as I’m sober and in an otherwise healthy state of mind I have no problem going back into my internal “vault” and digging up some memories that bring me back to a happy place. Even if, as I mentioned earlier, these memories do have a sort of dark tinge to them. So let’s go for it.

If someone were to ask me to summarize my childhood with one mental image, I’d put it this way:

It’s a bitterly cold, gloomy, November day. I’m in my dad’s truck. We’re driving to the union hall downtown on Prospect Avenue to get a free ham for Christmas. The inside of the truck reeks like my dad’s cheap cigarettes. I secretly try to hold my breath every so often because my teacher at school said that our parents should never smoke around us. Apparently it causes cancer or something. The dirty truth was that I loved the smell of a freshly lit cigarette. I wasn’t old enough to legally hold a job but I had become so accustomed to second hand smoke that it held some sort of nostalgic pull that I can feel to this day. Well, that and the fact that I probably had a minor nicotine addiction. Anyway my dad has the AM radio on way too loud. Through the static I could hear Jim Donovan calling the Browns game. A commercial for Mike Trivisonno comes on and my dad starts swearing under his breath about “that fat dag”(an old Italian slur). The harsh winter winds were strong enough to give you chills even as you sat inside the confines of the heated truck. It just looked cold. And speaking of the heat, my dad had it jacked up way too high as usual. I was wearing a winter coat but he had nothing but an old work flannel on. Much like the carcinogenic fumes of his cigarette, the sweat inducing heat of my dad’s truck was oddly comforting. On the way home I wait in the car while my dad runs inside Giant Eagle to grab some groceries. He leaves the truck running so the truck stays hot. I could have easily turned down the heat, or rolled down the windows to let the smoke out. But I didn’t. I liked it.

My dad gets back to the truck and he drops me off at my mom’s house. I won’t see him again for a week. I watch the rest of the Browns game (they probably lose) and then I run to my neighbor’s house to play backyard football. We play a game of one-on-one football for about a half hour before we get into an argument about a penalty or some other petty thing and then I call him a stupid polack and we get into a fist fight. A few bruises later and likely with one of us crying I leave and go home as if nothing happened.

It starts to get dark but you can’t really tell the difference between night and day. Once October hits, the sun hides from Northeast Ohio for about 5 months. I rush around and half ass the homework I supposed to be working on all weekend. I fall asleep with a tinge of anxiety because I didn’t want to go to school in the morning. I sing to myself for an hour or two before I fall asleep. I look out my window and squint my eyes at the streetlight until it starts to take on more interesting shapes. I look up at the sky and I can see a small break in the clouds that fill the night sky. Within that break I can make out a single star. I start to pray that someone out there is looking at that star at that exact moment. I pray that they feel what I’m feeling and understand why I fear everything I’m supposed to love. I pray that one day I meet that person and fall in love. Then I fall asleep.


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