ASK ABDI: HOW TO HEAL NEGATIVE PLEASURE IN PAINFUL RELATIONSHIPS?
QUESTION: I have read your book, Shadows on The Path, and listened to your Omega workshops, and they have been really helpful to show me how I have been engaging in a relationship based on “negative pleasure”, and sadly see it has been a long-term pattern manifesting in different ways. I did grow up with a very dominant father who often was physically and emotionally abusive. I have a tendency to be attracted unconsciously to this type of man. I've tried to leave this relationship I am in with a man who believes in very distinct gender roles that seem rigid and archaic to me, where he feels men should always be sole “head of household”, wanting the “obey” clause in a marriage contract, and that men who are not in total control are “pussies”. Our relationship consists of sexual play that includes rape play, bondage, and power exchange, with of course him always in control. I am sure he sees other women behind my back, and therefore I left him for a bit but felt drawn back into my strong sexual attraction to him, and his for me, and this kind of sexual experience. He becomes so soft with me at times, seemingly liking to connect with me and emotionally bond, but ultimately the closer we get the more he wants to disconnect and attempt affairs with other women interested in more hardcore BDSM than I will tolerate. As I awaken and want to heal these deep wounds, I find myself drained by him yet simultaneously addicted to the rush of control and his softness after. But this is not intimacy and he is not comfortable with his own deeply denied vulnerability. I am a deeply intuitive, empathic, loving, beautiful woman, and I can not believe I allow myself to be in a relationship like this. In many ways, he has done nothing wrong since we are not married or sworn to monogamy. It is me who stays in something that in my core I know is never going to lead to a relationship that will be with a true partner. I have so much to offer a really good man and I am so tired of being drawn back into this familiar dynamic. It leads nowhere and makes me very sad and like I let down my soul in some way. I want the strength to leave for good and I wish I could tell him why, but I am unclear if he would understand “soul talk”. How do you break this addiction to negative pleasure especially when the person you are attracted to has some redeeming qualities? Why am I so arrogant that I believe he will see me as special and will change and want to be soft and intimate with me in an equal relationship, as if his need to be dominant is all a result because I am not enough?
ANSWER: Sad as it may be that you are seeing a long-term pattern, how wonderful that you are actually seeing it so clearly. That is such an important step in resetting our compass towards a destination of our choosing, instead of an automatic and unconscious response.
Follow this awareness by taking the focus off of this man and put it completely on yourself. There are a lot of sentences about him, his issues, and his inability to be vulnerable. His horrible qualities, and then his worthy ones. You can not change any of that. You just have to see the painful consequences of being in such a relationship. It stops there. To put the focus on ourselves is not a pleasant task, as it will bring up anxiety we are attempting to push away. The anxiety is why most of us resist this step, but it can not be skipped. You are clear about your addiction to this energy and the fact that it is damaging. We are powerless over our addictions, but we can support ourselves in different ways that feed our soul instead of feeding the pain. Start feeding yourself in ways that you can or are already familiar with. Reaching for this kind of pain for nourishment is like eating junk food when you are starving. Stay conscious through the whole cycle next time you are in it. Feel the anxiety when you pull away and the part of you that craves the connection to mask that feeling. Feel the high when you are in the role play, and the crash afterwards.
You say, “I have so much to offer a really good man”. Start by offering all of that to yourself first. See yourself “as special”. Quench your own thirst fully; tend to your own pain, first and foremost. It is through a true relationship with ourselves that we can follow into a relationship with another. That is a step most of us skip more often than not. Negative pleasure, like any addiction, has a bottom. At some point, the pain is worse than the pleasure. It sounds like you are close to that point. Make it final by your power of observation. Solidify your intention. “I want to leave for good” and “I believe he will see me as special and will change” shows a split. If you want to leave, work on that and yourself. If you feel there is a possibility for it to work out, work with a couples therapist to see where it can go. Ultimately, this is about you and your choices. Pull your center back into yourself.