Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Begging for Validation

I recently read a post on reddit's polyamory board about a woman who was upset that her long time boyfriend couldn't or wouldn't say "I love you". This bothered me though I couldn't pin down the reason right away. There's quite a bit to play with here, though I think the main rub is the way relationships are often used as self-validation.

Validation means to authenticate or prove. And self-validation is anything that authenticates the self or personal identity. There are any number of routes to self-validation. The usual line-up consisting of money, power, status, relationships, material possessions.

The dangerous side of using some "thing" for self-validation is the risk of losing the "thing" equates to losing the "self". This is how the ending of a job or a relationship can lead some individuals to total mental breakdown. It explains why others will remain in a crumbling or even abusive relationship long past the expiration date.

Since opening my life and relationships to polyamory, I have notice a drastic change in the way I relate to everyone, but especially my intimate partners. In the past, including when I got married ten years ago, I used my relationships as a means of proving to the world and to myself that I was worthwhile. Maybe even something special. (Fighting off the middle school demons who told me I was too weird, tomboyish, and ugly to have a boyfriend.)

I don't credit polyamory entirely for my change in perspective. Zen meditation and the practice of non-attachment were a big part of it as well. Attachment is the Buddhist principle of binding oneself to objects or concepts. Non-attachment is the release of that binding, including the attachment to one's own identity or ego.

Without the need for validation, I approach my intimate relationships without actually needing anything from them. I can appreciate my partners and what they offer without wanting more (or less). Each partner's unique form of love is beautiful in it's own way. And it's more than I could ask for. It makes no difference at all if our relationship or their method of loving matches some outside measuring stick of relationships, including when to say those three little words. 

Religion too is a form of validation. (I do not think of Zen as a religion, but a philosophy.) Being raised (and entrenched) in Christianity, it felt as though I was always looking outward at events and people for confirmation, or "signs". God was the source of my identity. This is why it can be so impossible for religious people to break away even when faced with solid evidence. The loss of religion is a loss of self. 

Religion, relationships and everything else will always prove inadequate as self-validators. It is my own "self" that I must confront and accept ... and validate. Not in a superior way, but in a compassionate way that doesn't hide or ignore what others might shun. 
And that is all that matters- your life, yourself, your pettiness, your shallowness, your brutality, your violence, your greed, your ambition, your daily agony and endless sorrow- that is what you have to understand and nobody on earth or in heaven is going to save you from it but yourself. -J. Krishnamurti