Respect the One that Brung ya…

So, aside from the attrocious grammar and ignorance of verb tense, the phrase itself is an old one that you may or may not have heard before. It goes back to a bygone era, but the concept holds true today… in a sense. Let me preach on it…

The time was that when you chose to be with someone, whether that be for the evening or for a longer term, it meant something. It meant that you would take that opportunity to spend the time indicated to interact with them. Sometimes that might mean with social activity; sometimes mutually enjoying a form of entertainment. For those longer term endeavors it meant that there might be multiple opportunities to interact exclusively or mutually within social context. The point being that when an individual made a choice of their own volition to be with another, they had the consideration to attend to that person.

Over time, those old traditions or manners have faded. Many might consider that these antiquated expectations have no place in an independent, modern, emancipated world. I don’t agree. That may surprise a lot of readers, especially those who know me best and longest, but hear me out. I am a strong proponent of individual rights and standing up for what is right and honest. Believe it or not, these philosophies are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

I have observed a good deal of human behavior in the past… well, we’ll not disclose the precise amount of years, suffice to say it’s been more than a few decades. One of the things that I find repellant, if not truly repugnant is bullying. What I have found is that due to the advent of the modern romantic comedy, many people have a problem differentiating between playful banter and public degradation… by most interpretations, bullying blandishments. Due to the magic of film and television, we are made privy to interactions and conversations that would… and should… have been between two people instead of a public display.

Picture a meet cute between a couple of feisty, not unattractive people. Due to the circumstances of the sincronicity that brings them together, they are placed in antagonistic positions; be it vying for the same taxi or the same employment position. They verbally spar, and we love the witty repartee… because we are behind the camera. Ultimately, that antagonism provides energy and passion that will become angrily shouted affection, followed by professions of love… and scene!

Let’s try another. Spouse enters domicile and announces his/her presence. Their partner appears with look of chagrin and disheveled appearance. Dialog and interaction leading to discomfiture on one part, frustration on the other, and vague threats of sending said partner “to the moon” accompanied by a raised fist and followed by a laugh track…

How about this? Single, but involved individual in a live-in, long term committed relationship finds themselves consistently frustrated by their partner’s habits/lack of attention/too much attention to others… goes out with a trusted friend and spills their guts about every flaw and perceived injury. The friend is supportive. They spend hours of advice-giving and shot drinking. It is all very empowering. It shows the importance of a support network.

What is my point? These are all manufactured and artistically created situations.

I’m going to take the second scenario first. For anyone with a knowledge of classic television, The Honeymooners had very recognizable tableaux. The audiences of the day laughed at the implied spousal abuse threats. Why? Mostly because many of the viewers never believed Ralph would hit her, and at the end of every episode, Ralph kissed Alice. No one at that time thought about the “comedy” show as being a representative of abusive relationships. At the time the show was filmed, spousal abuse and the horror it can be were secret sufferings of untold numbers of people. What went on inside the home was private and nobody’s business… thankfully, that attitude has changed somewhat with the intervening years, though the real horror is still all too prevalent. See below for links and organizations that can help.

With the traditional romcom banter, we’ve all been programmed to see the end game of the situation with passionate acknowledgement of the attraction they fought from their first meeting. We’ve been taught to see it as cute and witty and passionate. But let’s take a look at those caustic remarks flung by opposing parties in front an audience. In the Hollywood version, it is funny. No one has their feelings hurt terribly. But we’re not talking about a live studio audience or the invisible observer of the silver screen. We are talking right out there in public with actual people that you might actually see again in other aspects of your life. Does that change the story? Does the embarrassment of having someone point out your flaws and shortcomings in the middle of a café or office feel different than what we imagine for the characters on the screen?

Last, but not least, is that coffee shop dish with friend or friends. Besties and supportive friends are awesome when you are getting your groove back, but once you’ve given them all the grimy details of the bad guy/gal in your life, it may be super hard for them to see that person in any other way. Intentionally or not, the protagonist/story teller has brought one or more other people into the intimacy of the relationship. Given the impact of technology in the lives of many people in society, that number can be multiplied exponentially when folks tend to vent on one or more of their social media venues… warning, that includes “vaguebooking” because most of your friends will know to whom you are referring. Do yourself and your relationship a favor and leave off the character assassinations if you aren’t ready or intending to walk.

I can feel the judgment boiling off of my people out there saying “You need support! You shouldn’t have to keep secrets! You shouldn’t project facades…” Yeah, all of it, but I’m decidedly not talking about abusive situations, for which the answer is to get to safety (and absolutely positively reach out for help in those situations, see the links below). I’m not talking about ignoring something that should change, for which the answer is to work in concert with your partner. I’m talking about respecting a person that you chose to spend time with, whether that time was a few hours or a few decades. I’m talking about not degrading them or humiliating them in a public venue and to your friends and family. I’m talking about setting an example in your own behavior for 1) how you might like to be treated and respected, and 2) how you feel others should consider and behave towards that individual. Whether we realize it or not, how we treat our significant other (and how we talk about them) cues our friends and others around us to act in kind, and displays outwardly how they will be permitted to treat that person. When you disrespect your partner vividly and hurtfully in public, it opens the door for everyone else to consider them with the same disregard and flagrant disrespect. It plays up like the mob mentality that says “Hey, her man (or woman) treats her like crap, she must be crap. We don’t have to be respectful.” It may seem like I’m blowing it out of proportion, but just observe sometime how behaviors change depending on how the S.O. of any individual treats them in a group or public setting.

So what does that mean? Does it mean that we all have to show devotion to anyone we decide to go out for coffee with? No, but respect is not devotion. On a date (be it first or perhaps even further along the line where things are still casual, and there is no serious risk of harm involved), perhaps the chemistry is just not there. End it as civilly as possible. No harm, no foul. If you truly just can’t stomach one more second, consider how to curtail the event without creating more drama than is absolutely necessary. If the guy (or gal) deserves a glass of chianti in the lap, so be it, but that should be the exception, not the rule. In a longer term relationship, recognize the difference between gentle ribbing and hurtful humiliation in front of other people. What looks cute on a movie or television screen might be pretty uncomfortable before the live and quite real audience of friends or acquaintances.

And… if you truly care about the person and the relationship and want it to work out, be careful how you “vent” to friends and family. Should you choose to stay together and work on things, it may be exceedingly difficult for those friends and family members to see the monster you painted so vividly in a more charitable light. The bottom line is that if you don’t want to be with the person in question, then don’t be. Do them the courtesy and show them the respect of letting them go so that they might be with someone who might have more, or different, feelings for them; and you can move on to someone to whom you might be better suited. And one last thing… if you do find that your better suited is someone other than the one you are with, close that former chapter before opening the new one. In the end, self-respect is a valuable commodity, and treating others with disrespect often leads to a lack of respect for self as well. So, in the end, the one that “brung ya” is you. Have some respect for yourself.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline – http://www.thehotline.org/

Crisis Textline – http://www.crisistextline.org/   Text “GO” to 741741

Advocates Against Family Violence – https://aafvhope.org/

Newsome, T. 7 Ways You’re Disrespecting your Partner Without Realizing It. (January, 2016). Bustle. https://www.bustle.com/articles/133567-7-ways-youre-disrespecting-your-partner-without-realizing

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