Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dominant or Accommodator

    A dominant theme in complimentary sort of relationships is that one person tends to be the dominant one, and the other tends to be the accommodator.  Guess how that works out with B and B? 
   I think it's really interesting how complimentary people are attracted to one another. I think it is really God's plan that can still be awesome, but has also been corrupted.  I have heard before that if you put one alcoholic in the room with a thousand attractive people, only one of which is codependent, the alcoholic will find the codependent every time. Because of the degree of our oppositeness, and some other really weird coincidences, our relationship has been just that bizarre. 

**Because they are just so cool to me, I think I will take a second to list a few of those "really weird coincidences":  Although Blake and I had never met or heard of each other until the night we met, it turns out that 1.) Our names both start with B and have 5 letters.  
                     2.) We both go by our middle names
                     3.) We were both named after our father who happen to have the same name: Randy.  My first name is Miranda after my dad, Randy.  And Blake's name is Randy after his dad, Randy.
                    4.) Both of our parents are divorced, and we've experienced step-parents and step-siblings.  We also both have half-siblings, however, we are the only children that both our mom and dad had together. Which in so many ways causes us to want to stay married. It's just not ideal to introduce other relationships into the world of a child, even in some really good situations like some of our "steps" or some of the worst situations like some of our other "steps".  Oh, my dear Blakely, how you do have your ideals.  
                    5.) Our moms both have the same middle name: Lynn and Lynne.
                    6.) We both came from families whose primary field of work and study was medical.
                    7.) Although, I never lived there, and Blake mostly grew up in Vestavia, we are both originally from the same county in north Alabama: Lawrence County.  We both have deep roots in Moulton, Alabama.  My family (currently or in generations past) never lived in Moulton as that was too close into "town", but Moulton is the county seat so it's the place more people know.
                   8.) Blake's last name is Thompson, and my grandmother, I call her Nana, who I was always super-close to's last name was also Thompson.  I always idealized my Nana's marriage to my Papa.  They have been married now 67 years, and I am honored to wear her maiden name. And who says cousins don't get married in Alabama??? Can anyone else hear the banjos playing and the pigs squealing? That is a pig, right?  Didn't we figure out we are only like 16th cousins or something crazy distant like that?  Related by our 16th great grandmother Rebecca Love Terry (no, seriously).

   Back to the original subject...  In case you haven't guessed, I was/am the accommodator.   I was raised by a mom who was an accommodator, and also brought up to sort of believe that's what the woman does (Biblically speaking).  Now that I am older and have been through a lot of marriage classes (and therapy),  I realize that this Dominator/Accommodator dynamic is really common, but I don't believe it's supposed to be or even usually is the woman's place.  There's as many hen-pecked husbands who let their wives make the decisions and wear the pants as their are fibromyalgia-ridden, lip-biting wives. Can of worms: officially opened.
Dear Hen-Pecked Men,
Grow a pair, stop squatting when you pee and be a real man. Not a jerk, abusive or controlling, but stand up and stop letting your wife usurp your share of the authority and responsibility in the house. It isn't fair to you or her and that kind of horrible example is setting your kids up for a nightmare of a future in relationships. If you can't step up I recommend you start wearing a skirt, referring to your time as a man in the past tense and figure out how to consume enough prolactin so that your man-teats begin to lactate so you can fully embrace your femininity. That is all...for now anyway.  Okay, then, welcome to the comedy club.

   "Spiritual leader" is a term I heard a lot growing up.  It was something I was told I was supposed to be looking for in a husband.  Someone to be my "spiritual leader." So, naturally, when I showed up at this fluke Bible study at a UAB (Satan school to my southern baptist english ivy covered Samford university) campus house, invited by a random acquaintance, at a time when I had been praying for any sort of sign that there actually was a God,  of course I was going to be attracted to the hot, muscle-y college senior (with the bad haircut) singing and praying and leading the thing.  And, then there was the fact that he approached me.  Dude.  I had never been approached by a guy in my life.  All my past relationships, I had been the instigator (you know, you tell your friend so in so to tell his friend so in so that you might be interested in so in so...the small town way, right?).  That is so gay (and I mean "gay" in the most PC sort of way I can muster without violently vomiting)...Dear Wussy Guys...see my above statement. Never been approached??? Good Lord!!!

  Then there was the fact that I was...hello!...19 years old.  I had lived through and lost relationships of various kinds, been varying degrees of rich and poor, but I just had not had time to develop that many opinions yet (of course, the fantasy land I liked to live in didn't help me meet reality too much either).  Unlike Blake, who had, let's see...been homeless, lost a brother, lived with a brother suffering with a terminal disease, lived with a mom going through medical school since he was in the 3rd grade, turned over his life to the United States Army That's a good way of saying it or as GSGT Hartman said, "You can give your heart to Jesus but your ass belongs to me", walked side by side with a best friend who ended up in prison serving consecutive life sentences, took his ACT test (among other exams) completely drunk I'm not sure how my sobriety (or lack of it) is an accomplishment but I'll go with it, been radically saved by Jesus at age 21, had the privilege of a mentor relationship, and set off to devote his life to unknown tribes in Africa...just to name a few.  I was frickin' star struck by his resume.How could I, at 19, have the experience to compete with his "spiritual leadership."

Oddly and honestly, I was equally as star struck by Brook and not really sure why she would think I had done anything very special in my life. Brook was unlike anyone I had ever met and I knew that it ultimately mattered little that she hadn't done some of what I had done. She had an inner strength and goodness that a million cool experiences couldn't create and I knew that we complimented one another and just really fit one another in some unusual and amazing ways. I say that not to butter her up or to be nauseatingly sentimental. I say that because a perfect storm was brewing by Brook over valuing me and under valuing herself and by me under valuing myself. This storm lead to a huge disconnect from reality between Brook and me.
We went into the relationship both feeling very fortunate to have the other one...which was and is true. The problem is that we felt fortunate because of our own lack of self-worth instead of more appropriately valuing ourselves and one another. 

   So, as you can imagine, I set off as a newlywed accommodating Blake's every whim.  But, as you can also imagine, Blake is not, in fact, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ himself.  And, one such little girl from La-la land can only accommodate so much for so long until she starts to have an opinion or two of her own.  

This may be a good time to point out that the dominant person in the relationship is no more or less dysfunctional than the one accommodating. The dynamic is unhealthy and requires both people to spin around in the muck and mire of relational junk. It is also important to note that neither the dominant nor the accommodating person realize what is happening until the relationship reaches a boiling point in some area. When the accommodator explodes the dominant one will think he/she has literally lost it because at no time have they intentionally dominated. In the same way, the accommodator will think the dominant person is crazy, blind or just manipulating because it has to be obvious what has been happening...though oddly, it wasn't really obvious to the accommodator until the pressure became too great.

And the pressure surely became great. Fortunately, I can say that we were stubborn enough to stick together through some major flip-outs, a month here and there of wondering if I would ever stop hating his guts, and a ton of that feeling like "I have given all I can give, when is it my turn to get?".  Truly, there comes a time, tho, when an accommodator has to have the guts to stop giving themselves away.  Like Blake said, that's every bit as dysfunctional as the person who dominates and thinks they make the rules.  
Here's some advice we got before we were married and it makes so much sense, I think I even passed it on to other newlyweds: *The goal is to give.  Husband, put your wife first, meet her needs above your own.  And, wife, do the same.  If you are both focused on meeting each other's needs then both of your needs will be met.*  Makes sense, right?  In a perfect world, it really does, maybe somewhere out there once upon a time, it did, but in the world of reality, it simply doesn't work.
What did work was finding those places, those areas of expertise, where we deferred to and relied on the other.   Sometimes you dig holes and burry each other's dreams, and other times, you say, "No, dammit.  This dream is coming true, and you are going to help me make it that way."  No one wins with one person's playing small.
It turns out that Blake and I have learned over the years to accommodate each other. For example, just this morning I found out that Blake has been accommodating me on my brand of toothpaste for years. I like smell good, taste good and smooth kind of toothpastes like the sexy Close Up. Blake apparently likes some form of liquid sand or gritty acid to clean his teeth. I'm fine with straight baking soda...whatever works.  The older you get the less "stuff" matters, and the more it matters whose foot you are sliding yours over to meet in the night.    

Much like communication, sex, faith, rearing kids and so many other facets of a relationship, this dynamic is best addressed by a dance of intimacy. The accommodator has to step out of their comfortable place in the shadows of the relationship and become assertive. The dominant one also has to step into a place of discomfort by backing up and allowing time, space and understanding as their partner finds their way in being more assertive and speaking their mind.
This new dance will yield some really wonderful fruit as intimacy always leads to depth of relationship. The dance can also cause some friction as the two learn new steps and maybe even have their traditional ways of doing things challenged. I know for us I have really enjoyed getting to know the part of Brook that for years hid behind accommodation and I have learned a lot about myself by exhibiting patience and understanding as Brook has really come into her own.