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Seriously! Am I God?

Where does responsibility begin and end?

I’m thinking of a couple of friends of mine.

Friend A. Sleeps around. Women fall for him and he tells them he’s not into long term relationships.  But one in particular lingers on in hope. In between other lovers, Friend A still sees this woman, because he might get ‘lonely’.  Friend A’s dating life is littered with disappointed and bitter ex lovers.  Is that Friend A’s fault? As he says, ‘I was honest – and they CHOSE to be with me.  They’re big girls. They can look after themselves.’

Friend B. Her husband is a man without brains, looks, integrity or any distinguishable charm. But this man is completely dependent on her, although he likes to imagine that he’s not.  According to Friend B, her partner would be lost without her.  Friend B’s life is effectively signed over to this man, because she made a promise. Looking at the situation, I can see that although Friend B hasn’t done too well out of the arrangement, she’s certainly made a big and POSITIVE difference to a lot of people’s lives, by making this choice.

And now, to the case of Friend C. Friend C used to enter relationships on the assumption that, if she didn’t make any promises, she had no real responsibility for the feelings of others – beyond common politeness. If they developed ‘feelings’, that was up to them.  Then Friend C had an epiphany.  She got badly hurt by Friend A, and decided that ‘I didn’t make any promises’ just wasn’t good enough. Friend C then hooked up with a very beautiful man, and after some months found that she just couldn’t ‘love’ him (or, at this point, anyone).  So she set him free (and luckily, he wasn’t ‘in love’ either).  Sometimes when she remembers what a very beautiful and dear man he is, she regrets it, but then, she reminds herself, I have to be very CAREFUL.

So what are the limits of responsibility? I can’t control every ripple my actions might have, I can’t help being a source of hurt to someone, no matter how hard I try.  Sometimes, somebody will like me more than I like them. Sometimes, I have to desert a friend to save my own life.

This is MY LIFE and I don’t get another one, so I’m not going to give up the whole damn thing so that someone ELSE can be happy!  I’m not God and I can’t control human suffering, though in a small way maybe I can influence it.  Come to think of it, looks like God can’t control it either…

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18 responses »

  1. The only thing I think you can do is be scrupulously honest, in word AND deed (and this is where guys like “friend A” usually short sheet the honesty) but, even more important, you have to be honest with YOURSELF, and that’s the hardest thing!

    We humans are far more complicated than we’d like…and if “they” ever DO come up with manuals for each and every one of us, I want MINE in triplicate with a LARGE typeface!

  2. Ok here’s my 2 cents worth, everyone has to take responsibility for their own lives, fair enough, I can see that… But you know sometimes you have to have a bit of empathy for the other person, especially if they sincerely have feelings for you and you are just using them (so you might guess I have no sympathy for friend A).

    I think friend B is doing what mother of this bloke I know did, live her life for someone else’s benefit. And did he benefit from this arrangement? Yep he did, as he lived in what he thought was a stable and loving home. Well he did until he was old enough to understand what actually was going on. Did his mum every do anything to change her circumstances? No, not until the dad passed away many years ago, and by then it was too late, she was totally dependent on living her life through someone else and now he, the son, lives with her and the cycle of dependence continues.

    From my standpoint Friend A isn’t honest to the people he was involved with, although he claimed he was honest, and they CHOSE to be with him! I’m sure he actually had some understanding of what was actually going on. Friend B, well I don’t think she is being honest with herself, and you can’t live your life simply to benefit others. To be happy you not only have to love someone else but you have to love yourself as well (and I’m not talking about sick egomaniac stuff).

    Now there is the interesting case of friend C. I have some sympathy for friend C, in that I know how easy it is to be involved with someone whose feelings are often different than my own. So what’s the difference between friend A, B and C? It’s simply the level of honesty, either to the other party or themselves. So bravo to friend C, but by the same token I don’t think you can withdraw from people just because you may cause pain. Somehow I think that friend C probably has a collection of people who have remained in contact after breakup due to her honesty. I only wish some of my ex-lovers/girlfriends had been as honest with me, rather than choosing the other alternatives (i.e. dishonesty, rudeness, withdrawal, and even infidelity).

  3. NormalDeviations

    Here’s a question: does Friend A feel remorse about how he burns bridges with past relationships/hook-ups? (It sounds like he’s a commitmentphobe, probably among other things.)

    I agree with you about protecting yourself. I believe part of the conflict we have with that is different expectations from the two sides of a relationship; what’s acceptable to one isn’t right/enough/correct for the other. Then, it gets compounded because many/most relationships don’t come to an agreeable party, where both sides mutually decide it’s time to call it quits. Usually that’s unilateral, leaving the other side to be hurt.

    • Friend A doesn’t want to burn ANY bridges, he wants to keep all his women around him, past and present, like a sort of security blanket in case he might need one some time. For the same reason, he rarely lets go, he has to be prised off. And yeah, I agree with you about expectations. WE often don’t sort them out until it’s too late, we just assume things and then our assumptions turn out to be unfounded.

      • NormalDeviations

        About Friend A – that’s really interesting to me. I can relate to that in a small way, actually. For me, it’s that I have a hard time separating friendship from relationships. Somewhat on purpose because of my strong preference for wanting relationships also to be friendships. Then, when the relationship craps out… what happens to the friendship? I don’t want it to die or drift away. It blurs the lines when a friendship then kicks back into relationship status or FWB.

        But, I’ve never gone into ANY relationship with it predetermined that I’m not open to a long term relationship. What the hell would be the point? It seems like setting the clock as a short term relationship, before things really start, is a much-planned way of bailing out, knowing you’re gonna bail out. That I don’t like for anyone, at all.

      • For some people relationships are their way of getting friendship. I know, I’m one. That’s why most of my friends are men that I’ve slept with. Friend A is the same, all his friends are women who’ve at some stage had their eye on him. I guess telling them he doesn’t want a long term relationship is his way of trying to limit the potential damage and excuse himself from the responsibility of hurt feelings. He MIGHT want one, but if he doesn’t, he can always say, ‘I never told you I wanted a LTR..’. Ie a planned bail-out strategy, as you said. I think no matter how hard we try we can’t be totally pain-free to other people (at least, maybe you can if you’re in a long term monogamous or even maybe stable polyamorous relationship). But not while you’re still playing the dating game.

  4. PostModernSingle

    Balancing your responsibility to yourself and to others is tricky business. You should take responsibility for how your words and actions affect others, especially those close to you. Try to be as considerate as possible in the hurt you cause but sometimes hurt is necessary.

    There’s a difference between being honest about not being able to promise anything and just offloading responsibility and blaming the other person when YOU hurt them.

    • You’re right. I was thinking, if it’s hard for me to have an entirely beneficial effect on everyone I interact with, think how hard it must be for god! (if there was one) which gave me a new perspective on the problem of suffering.

  5. If you want relative peace in your life (and for me, that is not having to move home every year or two; regular companionship and sexual intimacy; enough food on the table; and time for creating stuff), then you have to commit, honestly, to someone, even if it’s just yourself. If it’s just you, then you’ll probably go mad with masturbation and talking to yourself for company, so it’s best done with another human being. Will this bring you total peace, forever? No way! But for me, it brings peace most of the time. Over 80% of the time I’d say. My secret? I commit to making myself happy, BUT I also commit to making my husband happy too. Happy hubbie = happy me. Let’s face it, you gotta make others happy some time if you expect to be made happy yourself.

    • Yep, that’s a really sensible way of thinking about it. I agree totally!

      • Yeah, but as soon as you think you’ve worked something out, life throws a spanner in the works! It’s a nice theory, but in practice it needs to be redefined constantly, sometimes on a daily basis. Me and my husband love your blog, by the way. Gave us a few chuckles.

  6. Here’s the thing that gets me, Michael: Gay people always have the best relationships! It’s we damnable heterosexuals who are stuck screwing those we just don’t understand!

    • You’d think it’d be easier, wouldn’t you. On the other hand, I personally don’t have a lot of women friends because I like ideas more than emotional stuff, and I feel comfortable with men but not so much with women. So…better for me maybe to be with a man. The other thing is, gay people have their troubles too – my ex had this female friend who used to live with a woman, for ages, and they split up because the woman was constantly unfaithful. Maybe a lot of us aren’t straightforward man or woman, we’re a kind of mix.

      • and, we as humans find it oh so easy to fool ourselves as well!

        I’ve always had as many or more male friends than female, I’m a bit of a tomboy and all that, but, despite how easy it is to deal with men as friends, for me that does NOT translate into being able to easily understand them as lovers!

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