Page views 4350

Relationships • Conflicts

Secret Grudges We May Have Against the Other Gender

Misogyny and misandry are such obvious vices, no right thinking person would identify with them for a second. But this is not, sadly, the end of the story – and for one reason in particular. In every generation, a section of the population can be guaranteed to have had close-up, years-long experience of severe letdown at the hands of their primary care givers of the opposite gender. There will be fathers and mothers who are alcoholic or manic depressive, violent or absent, cold or seductive – and parents of both genders who will pass away long before their offspring are grown up, with no less severe after effects.

None of this has to lead to grudges of the more overt, political sort, the kind where one gender denies another dignity or equal rights. Nevertheless, there can emerge what we might term psychological grudges which can manifest in highly subtle ways solely in the context of heterosexual relationships.

 Albrecht Dürer, Adam and Eve, 1507

There are for example men and women who – having been let down early on – feel compelled to seduce a flow of members of the opposite gender and then, just as their affections have been secured, have to disappoint them and suddenly leave.

Or there are men and women who – after a let down – will ensure that they never put themselves in a position of needing to rely on a partner, and therefore seek out people who are obviously their intellectual, financial or practical subordinates.

Or there are men and women who – following a let down – outwardly engage with a partner of the opposite gender but are always assiduous in maintaining emotional distance; remaining subtly absent even when ostensibly present.

Or there are men and women who – in the wake of a let down – maintain a very hard to discern but nevertheless active suspicion of the opposite gender which affects how they end up treating their own children, undermining and sidelining a little boy or girl in ways the offspring may feel but never quite understand.

Animating all of this is a largely unconscious imperative: ‘never again! Never again will I put myself at the mercy of the gender that hurt me so badly. Never again will I allow a man or woman to disappoint me.’ All the diverse strategies that follow – the careful ways in which partners are picked, the power dynamics within relationships, the routines and manners established – have as their common goal a desire to prevent anything like the previous catastrophic letdown from re-emerging. 

On the outside, these people may be the greatest friends of the opposite gender. They might stick up for them vigorously at the office or the voting booth; they may support their causes in all public arena. It’s just that inside, they carry with them a wound which they are compelled to defend themselves against in highly complex and unfortunate ways.

The always elusive goal of sanity involves trying – as best one can – to repatriate one’s grudges, to locate them in the relationship with the person who caused them, not to project them outwards and refind them in more innocent characters in the here and now. What one needed to defend oneself against lies in our history – and it won’t help our cause to arrive in love with weapons that would only have been handy thirty years before. We don’t need a perfect past to have a good future; we just need to understand the unfair temptations that might arise from it and then – with all one’s might and mind – resist them.

Full Article Index


Get all of The School of Life in your pocket on the web and in the app with your The School of Life Subscription