Coping Mechanisms

After you read this, head over to The Outlook and check out my commentary on Lincoln Heights.

Damon did a bit of a rant today on This May Concern You about Steve Phillips' jump off mistress and the attacks on her looks. An excerpt:
If your significant other were to ever cheat on you, wouldn’t you want that other person to look better than you? Wouldn’t that make you feel better?

When it comes down to it, I wouldn’t care what the other guy looked liked or what he did. I’ll admit that there was a time — long ago — when that type of stuff may have mattered some. But at this point in life, it’s inconsequential. I see stuff like cheating and adultry in black and white. That said, I don’t think we should be paying that much attention to Hundley’s looks and comparing them to his wife, either (But this is America. She looks terrible and this is what we do).

Here’s why: Comparing oneself — be it looks, education, earning potential or social status — to the competition is one of the most frivolous things we do as people. When you start trying to understand why someone decides to go outside of his/her relationship, the primary place you need to search is the guilty party within the relationship.

Too often people get caught up in that game of “How could he go there with her when I am/look 20 times better than her?” when the question mark in the query should come after the word “there.”
Before futher commentary, first a story.

I've already mentioned that after our relationship ended, J began dating a guy. Go back with me...

It was about 4am when I heard my phone buzzing on the table, near my head. I hadn't long been asleep and my first instinct was to ignore, but something (probably the fact that I'm unable to ignore my phone, all the time) made me grab it. It was from J, whom I'd spoken to earlier. We'd actually had a good conversation which, at that time, had become fewer and far between. I had gotten off the phone because I had a play date with some friends. J asked me to call him back when I got in, but I warned him it would be late. "I don't care. Just call me," he responded. I had no intentions of calling him back, though -- I was playing a game with him then, that I would never play with anyone now. I needed to prove that I was getting over him (we weren't officially together).

Confused and concerned about why he was texting me at 4am (but assuming he was upset I hadn't called him back) I opened the text. It was 4 pages that amounted to, "I'm gay..." I re-read the text message to make sure I was reading it correctly and then I sorta went numb. I had no idea how to feel or operate, but anger wasn't an emotion I considered. While I was extremely upset that he chose to text me something like that, the rational side of me (surprisingly) was the louder voice and it wanted me to try to be supportive.

A 2 hour phone call ensued and it did not go well, at all -- the details are for another post, but in the end he called me names, threatened to kill himself and hung up the phone. The next morning I found out that he'd gotten into a car accident and was in the hospital. Within a month, his parents had sent him to rehab out in California and that began a whole new chapter of issues for us, the details of which, again, are for another post.

In the meantime, I had to figure out what to make of the fact that J was gay. He attempted in the early portion of our phone call, and in subsequent conversations and e-mails to convince me that everything had been real and that he did love me. I wanted to believe him, but I quickly began realizing that everything had not been real. So much so that some things J wasn't even sure what had been a lie and what had been the truth. I needed some coping mechanisms.

At first, I attempted to just be the bigger person. I tried to be supportive of him all the while trying to make sure I wasn't going to crack. Eventually, I gave into the bitter side of me that wanted to make J hurt. A year later, though, I still wasn't over it and so I resorted to convincing myself that no matter what he was saying or doing, I still had been a better match for him than his then-current boyfriend. I sent a friend to his facebook profile (I had long removed him from my friend list) to scope out who she thought might be the new beau. The e-mail I received had a picture titled "yuck" and the new guy was not a looker. I was actually surprised as he was nothing like what I imagined J might be attracted to (but then again -- how would I have known?) and so began a host of conversations with friends that, at some point, included the phrase "Wow, the least he could've done was get somebody better looking than you..."

That was the way I was coping with things I hadn't yet figured out how to deal with. I had put up quite the front for my friends, pretending that J's revelation didn't really shake me to my core like it had and pretending that I'd moved on; I hadn't. I was still trying to wake up from the nightmare. Going to them to just talk about what I was feeling didn't seem like a viable option, but laughing along with them at J's new boyfriend did seem to work.

Our coping mechanisms don't always make much sense, but I don't think they're supposed to. If we understood how to truly deal with the issue at hand, we wouldn't need coping mechanisms. In the long run, I really had to be honest with myself that no matter what I said, I wasn't over J. Despite his sexuality, I still had feelings for him (compounded by his inability to decide if he was really "just gay") and I needed to figure out if I could live with that or if I couldn't. That wasn't an easy thing to do, but once I did, I found I no longer needed those ridiculous and silly coping mechanisms. There was nothing to cope with.

Sometimes we need to reassure ourselves that we are "worthy" and there's nothing wrong with us and we use other people's shortcomings to do so. For the most part, we'd frown on someone doing that, but when it comes to being cheated on or left, we seem to accept it. However you have to feel better about yourself is how you have to do it, we seem to think. We should want better for ourselves; we should want to deal with issues so that we can move on. Coping mechanisms are temporary fixes for our ego; we should be looking for permanent fixes.

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