Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Whip out the octagon - a married couple is fighting

Not that this reality show could top Toddlers and Tiaras on the "will cause me nightmares for months to come" scale, but it deserves an honorable mention. 

A few months ago, we started watching The Marriage Ref. Apparently, it got some lukewarm reviews but we stumbled upon it one evening and the celebrity panel of "advisers" on that particular episode convinced us to stick with it.

Imagine, if you will, Larry David, Madonna and Ricky Gervais doling out advice on marital issues to Tom Papa, the hilariously entertaining marriage ref. My boyfriend and I are convinced we saw Tom open for Jerry Seinfeld, but we can't be sure. We were either sitting too far from the stage to distinguish facial features or we were very drunk at the time. But I digress.

For the most part, The Mariage Ref is entertaining. The celebrity panel and ref watch videos sent in from married couples detailing their "problem du jour", mostly trivial domestic spats, the panel discusses it, advises the ref on it, the ref makes a final decision and informs the married couple who "won". 

This is all good and dandy except that my boyfriend and I started noticing a disturbing trend. Most of the women in these couples were nagging bitches while the men seemed generally accommodating and sweet. Of course, there were one or two exceptions where the guy was a douchebag but it was rare. 

What we were witnessing were not relationships but power struggles. This got me thinking... Is this what most relationships/marriages are like? One of the two people involved basically bosses the other one around, treating them like a family pet while the other tries to fulfill his/her partner's needs until he/she is pushed to the point of utter exasperation?

Dude, that is harsh. The very word "relationship" implies a balance of give and take. We are living "in relation" with another being. A relationship shouldn't be a space where you act out your childhood issues - that's what therapy is for.

I suspect there's also a common misconception among women that to express their "girl power", they need to outwardly display their dominion over the relationship. That is a fallacy. This type of sophomoric "do what I say or I'll withhold sex" (for example) is using force which is not the same thing as personal power, meaning your sense of control over your own life and decisions. 

Exerting force in a relationship may get you what you want in the short term. However, in the long term, it will succeed in pushing people you care about out of your life. Cultivating a sense of personal power has nothing to do with controlling others - it has everything to do with getting to know yourself and deciding what is best in any given situation, for you and, here's the kicker, for OTHERS as well. 

Personal power is about finding out what your "buttons" are and disabling them so others can't easily "push your buttons", it's about working on your shit and becoming a better person. It's about not blaming everyone else, namely your partner, and looking inward instead. 

Unfortunately, it seems women have placed men in one of two categories: doormat or misogynist. In our post-feminist world, I fear the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Yes, women were horribly oppressed for a bazillion years but now, ladies, it looks like we're doing the oppressing. 

We need to find that middle ground again. Man is not the enemy, and trying to control anyone besides ourselves is a useless endeavour, one that usually leads to deep-seated resentment and alienation of affection by the very people we claim to love.

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