Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Matrix and Intimacy: What Coming Out Has Taught Me

One of the reasons I like to blog is so that I can benefit from the wisdom and feedback and outlook of others who read my blog posts and occasionally provide comments.

I received one such comment regarding yesterday's post. Not for the first time, this commenter - who helped me steadfastly in the process of my initial coming out, for which I will always be grateful - plainly and simply articulated what I was grappling with expressing on my blog.  He wrote, in part, the following:
"Mormon families use the formal patterns of interaction (family prayer, church activity, "worthiness" in all its forms, etc.) substitute for intimacy. I think this is pervasive."
Bingo! This is what I was trying to express. This is the Matrix: formal patterns of interaction that are mistakenly and unconsciously substituted for emotional intimacy. I would never accuse Mormon parents of being unloving to their children. Quite the contrary. I loved and do love my children with all the capacity and capability I can bring to those relationships. But! I now realize that I relied on "formal patterns of interaction" as a substitute for intimacy.

I daresay, as well, that many in the Matrix do not think of their interactions with their children - or with their spouses for that matter - as "Relationships" (with a capital "R" - i.e., how those outside the Matrix conceive and perceive relationships). This is a systemic issue, a system which breeds, among other things, the belief that couples should get married young, then have children, even if they are not in a financial position to assume that responsibility; a system that propagates the belief that one or two children are not sufficient and that such a limitation is unrighteous at best, evil at worst; a system which fosters a mindset in which children are treated as members of a herd, rather than individuals; a system that substitutes form over substance in a myriad of ways.

It is also a system that often precludes true intimacy in relationships with spouses and children because, among other things, there are countless demands and expectations placed on these relationships from outside the relationship, i.e., from the Matrix. These "formal patterns of interaction (or "forms") lull those enmeshed in the Matrix into believing that their connections to their children and spouses are the way they are "supposed" to be and that there is and can be no "real" relationship outside the Matrix.

What I have discovered upon leaving the Matrix is that that Relationships require an emotional landscape, not "formal patterns of interaction." Relationships must be nurtured, not dictated. Relationships must be based on mutual love, honor and respect (whether with spouses/partners or with children), not on mutual expectations and demands. Relationships are strengthened from within, not buttressed from without.

All this being said, the Matrix allows those who are incapable of emotional intimacy - for whatever reason - to function in prescribed roles. I was in such a position, I now see, primarily with my wife but also with my older children. I relied on the forms to provide substance, instead of the other way around.  

Now, I am working on building true emotional intimacy, true Relationships, with my children. I repeat, I always loved them with all the capacity and capability I could bring to my relationships with them; what I am doing now is working on increasing that capacity and capability, to know - intimately - the substance of love, rather than relying on its form. My coming out started me on this journey, and my ongoing coming out gently pushes me on.

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