“My dreams were limited, simple. All I wanted was to grow up not be hit or molested. I lived as a survivor. Happy every day not to be screamed at, ridiculed, beaten, terrorized, or thrown out. I did not care about a career. I did not think what kind of person might be right for me. It was all about what was not happening, all about the pain stopping, all about safety, security. I wanted a man or woman who would not hit me. This, as you can imagine, is not the greatest prerequisite for a relationship. Not a very high standard. And, it’s broad. And, to be honest, until you have gone back and purged and transformed that initial violation, it is impossible not to keep being attracted to what you were trying to escape”
While she says this in context of her affluent childhood and a physically violent father, it translates fairly easily to any abusive relationship that leaves deep scars in its wake. When men I date ask me what I am looking for in a relationship my most immediate and heartfelt response is “A decent, honest and normal man”.
The best compliment I can pay a man is “I like you as much as I do because you are decent and normal” The response I get to that most often is “And that is all ?” I understand their incredulity and disappointment in that I could not recognize anything else they may have had to offer, that I was reducing their multifaceted entity to such basics. This parallels Ensler’s idea that for a man or woman to not hit her once defined relationship nirvana – it is all about context.
Some have argued those are very broad categories and highly subjective qualities. To me there is nothing ambiguous about the three key things I seek – they are as fundamental as the air I need to breathe. It also reflects what I missed most in my marriage and the abortive pseudo-relationships since. When what most people would take for granted has been impossible to come by in your own life, you set yourself to an abnormally and alarmingly low standard, expect too little from a relationship.
It is so much sadder if you once hoped and desired for more and if you are still capable of offering to your partner a million times more than you want from them. If you do indeed get into an unequal relationship because the scars from the past had not healed to where you were able to articulate your real needs, somewhere down the road the inequity will start to hurt – maybe even more than the wounds that drove you there.