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"And, so often I have realized well into the relationships that these men don't really like me - in fact, they don't even really know me - they just really like the image I mirror back to them."

I don't get it. What image?

The woman who loves in order to be loved finds herself with an exhausted heart.
Well written post and well captured, Polly. This post speaks right to what many women wrestle with. It just cut right through the fluff and spelled it out with clarity. Many of us struggle with the contradictions. We weigh the admission of wanting love and acceptance with the admission that we also want the autonomy to be ourselves.
Peter asks "What image?'. I personally think it has to do with the way we are walking 'articulations' of what men aspire to love, in the sense that in our desire for love, we often make the mistake of becoming experts on the needs of the other to the extent that two things happen: First, we adapt our persona to not only echo the preferences of our mates but we allow our personalities to become ANTICIPATORY AND REACTIVE. Second, we use our own selves not toward self actualization but as ego vessels... to echo the images of those we want love from. We seek to show love by extracting that which is held in high esteem by our mates in themselves and in us and elevating its importance while also affirming its 'superiority'. This is at the expense of who we are wholly, as we often silence what remains. We silence what is within us, but cannot 'earn its keep', People-pleasing is a workhorse emotion that yields relationships. What do we gain from the rest> but in fact we gain alot, and we are worth fighting against its sublimation.
The lovesick woman strengthens her understanding of people-pleasing traits and reduces the volume of SELF pleasing traits-mistakenly believing that one process precludes the other. But it does not have to.
The key to love in my limited view is to give voice to it all and then find the person who responds to that and not a projection. Easier said than done!!! But we cannot reduce ourselves to objects-physically or emotionally, geared to provide in exchange for love. No bartering, I say! We cannot accept love on those terms, or risk losing ourselves even more.
Like a baby that develops brain neuropathways for the language she hears the most, (while other sound potential eventually subsides) this is what happens to the woman who loves from the need to be loved. She withers on the vine.


You always know exactly what I am saying, and elaborate and clarify it in amazing ways - "our personalities become anticipatory and reactive"!!! Thank you!

I am one of these lucky people who has so much love in my life already with amazing friends and family. Maybe, I can circumvent these difficulties with remaining autonomous in relationships with men by just supplementing my existence with lovers!

Well, hopefully you will stumble onto love not because you 'need' it but because it stirs you! We don't 'need' art but we can be moved by it. I don't need my poetry books or to freeze my ass off eagle watching...but I do it.Some of the best joys are in things we do not need, but find connection with. Don't worry about what you are fighting, as there are many things that are worthy of a woman's rage, and there are traps to be wary of. Not all fights are bad! Fighting can be stirred by fear, but fighting also frees the butterfly. Fighting is the way of birth, its a different kind of fighting- what you are doing. Let yourself do it.

Yes, I guess stumbling on it would be okay too...And, the fight is good. I am just reflecting on how it is hard to claim one's identity within relationships, academia, family, ...

Also, it is interesting because my classes are predominantly women and I think some emerge as particularly then it is unusual to think that they are not necessarily dominant in all spheres of their lives.

So, I guess my original post wasn't really about love, or men, but identity in general...But, I'll think about the other too.

I'd love to hear what poets you like.

I posted on this essay at Refugees, but I wanted to echo Rivermomma's remarks. There was a 1950’s film called 'Three Coins in the Fountain'. In it, a young woman, in her blind quest to secure the love of a man, learns everything about him - his likes and dislikes, habits - even food preferences; all so she can mirror those choices back at him so he will hole her in higher esteem. Evidently her own personality just wasn't enough - she felt the need to copy the man she wanted in thought, word and deed.

Haven't we all done that in pursuit of love when we were young? Couldn't pay me to now. I am, and will always be myself. Yet my best friend, a wonderful, intelligent, accomplished woman constantly sublimates her wants and desires to favor the man in her life. She's afraid he will stop loving her if she doesn't constantly give. I understand that feeling; I just won't do it anymore.

Anyway - I also wanted to let you know I am still getting odd and somewhat hateful comments from men (at my home site) on the misogyny pieces I did. They are still tracking me down. I actually had to remove one because it advocated violence. You know, Polly - this antipathy toward women is quite frightening. Where do you think it all comes from? I'm afraid I just don't buy the abuse excuse - not alone, anyway. I think there is a climate of prejudice afoot lately; and it lends strength and support to those who are looking to hate something. Just my opinion. What do you think?

I think the climate is afoot but not lately, its been afoot. Sad comments, FLS.
Perhaps on Polly's academic experience: I went to school for social work and I think we had two men in the program? Yes, many women emerged as domineering. But many came from places where they were not empowered in other areas of their lives. Some were in their fifties and had never gone to college. The classroom became both a vehicle for unmet expression and also a place to exhibit the internalization of what we were being taught. When we learned about social change, it became almost a contest about who could be the hippest radical. We students were fawning, vying, pandering creatures. This is all a part of academia. Any time there is a safe haven for boldness, people who need to prove themselves will do so. Thats not necessarily bad! But boldness in the UNSAFE environment is the challenge.
I suspect I was like you in school- I read, I became engrossed, I had an opinion about every thing I heard. I took being a student to heart, like you, but was already a mother with an unplanned life shift.When I became interested in "peace matters" I was taught to ask myself why I was speaking. Why was I raising my hand? To contribute, to reveal the weakness of another, or to show how well I caught on to the material? To give my voice a chance to bellow? To get attention when I needed some and felt so inexperienced and awkward? What was behind the need to speak, to enrich the classroom experience or to enrich my own?
I learned to listen. To shut up, and be open. To really pause, to be humble but not weak.. And it changed me.
We can be assertive without being domineering. Quality, not quantity.

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