Selective Memory in Gay Relationships

David Parker
Authored by
David Parker

June 4, 2013
4:49 a.m.

Using your computer or smartphone, to find love, approval, instant sex or another partner is unwise before you begin to consider repairing past relationships, including the one with yourself.

That old adage ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result’ certainly rings true in relationships. Time for a check-in surely on past and present behaviour?  After all, when you drive a car without lessons it’s easy to end up in Accident & Emergency, what makes you think that driving a relationship without a manual is wise? Look at your track record.

When you scour over the past like an anthropologist scraping away with a trowel to find the jewel to make all the emotional pain worthwhile, memory can be selective. The most heard quote in relationship repair coaching is likely to be ‘the sex was really good’, followed by ‘after a row.’ Some partners need a row, to feel the fear of loss, before the sexual act brings bonding, capture, safety and security back to the fore. If a relationship lasts, it does not mean it’s functional, for without support, education and confrontation, all you get is what you think a relationship is: a laboratory of battle, let down and discontent. Resentments you thought you had drowned eventually learn to swim. Unconditional love defies battle but in order to achieve this level of bliss, battle needs to leave the heart.

9781439117699_p0_v2_s260x420When you are knee deep in self-help books, in recovery or therapy it takes a while to dig deep, to find the innocent perfection that occurred before life became scarred, disappointing or laden with guilt. One thing is sure – doing it alone is difficult – many read self help books or attend a group workshop but few do the exercises as a path to emotional progress. Sharing pain, fears and selective memories in the beginning of any therapeutic process is like having a romance with the mind. . . it’s light, new and inspiring. After a while the concentration wavers, remembrance becomes painful and ‘fight or flight’ turns up with a smirk to test your nerve. In her latest book ‘The New Codependency,’ the Queen Of Coda Recovery, Melody Beattie writes the following, in the chapter called, ‘Healing the Hurts’:

“As codependency hit the mainstream, people not in recovery talked about ideas such as self-care and limits. We recognised that if a problem or illness – from Alzheimer’s Disease to a spinal cord injury – affects one family member, it affects the whole family too. What effects one part affects the whole. Support groups for caregivers spread like wildfire. Caregivers need care too. Internet groups and chat rooms have been added to the list of resources now ( there wasn’t even a self-help section in bookshops when Codependent No More first came out in 1986 ). Groups therapists, treatment centres, support and information saturated society from OPRAH to the news-stands. Less self-help? There’s never been more! “

But having this level of support available does not mean it will be picked up and used. Most pick up support in a crisis. The first point of reference in self-care is to ask for help and stay the distance, so journey on and avoid selective memory. Recall it all. It’s easy to use selective memory to convince that it ‘wasn’t that bad’ looking back over past and present relationships in appraisal. Many photoshop over truth, romanticise the pain and people please, rather than re-experience or even ‘own’ the battle within. The easiest way to begin healing the hurts, in my experience, is to find another person in therapy, recovery or group work.  It’s harder to be in denial when you hear someone else telling your story. Then it’s more likely that the light bulbs will come on, when you realise and accept, the patterns of pain you can’t let go off.

sex-addictionHealthy relationships avoid babysitting, parenting and distorted truths. There is no point clearing the wreckage of the past, only to create another archaeological dig decades later. So it makes sense to tell the truth faster, to find your voice, emotional equality and create a union worthy of remembrance. Today’s ‘New Codependencies’ and attachments in the internet age are as plentiful as the self help groups available to help and heal, so it makes sense to combat one with the other. Many LGBT groups exist online if your locality offers no face to face support, as well as telephone Helplines, so reach out. In the early 80s I was Art Editor of a Computer Management magazine, way before home computers were de rigueur. At the interview I said  ‘but I know nothing about computers?’ Their reply was concise: ‘You don’t need to, be creative, all you need to know is that computers solve one problem and create another!’ How prophetic. Who would have thought back then, that smartphone, sexting, gaming and porn would become some of these problem areas in maintaining a gay relationship? Focusing on just the sexual element in a relationship spells disaster, for even this high will pass into memory, if unchecked.

Owning your own part in relationship breakdown is halfway to ending a destructive cycle. Blaming the partner rarely works, nor does blaming yourself, so eradicate blame – it only breeds resentment and we know where that leads. Living a healthy emotional life means letting go of negativity and working on those exercises you skimmed through at the back of self help books, in order to clean-up as you go along. Selective memory serves only a codependent mind, for truth precedes peace, clarity precedes serenity and unconditional love is the result. When this occurs, as many gay men have discovered, when relationships break up in an adult fashion, ex-lovers become very good and better friends.

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Anonymous User
BKen (Guest)
7 years, 8 months ago

I feel like a dork asking this but what’s a row?

Anonymous User
David Parker (Guest)
7 years, 8 months ago

We love dorks! . . and cultural differences around the globe on words & language. No worries BKen – a row is a UK word for an argument, a heated verbal flare-up or a fight. Camp as a *row* of tents is something, ( as Monty Python said ) . . . Completely Different. Same word, different sound. 🙂