Saturday, July 21, 2012

Romantic Relationships and Envy

Envy is the worst and most corrosive emotion in the world. And in the history of the world, for that matter.

Probably the best-known myth in the Western world is that of the Garden of Eden. And one of the things it is about is envy. Adam blames the woman for his transgression and Eve blames the serpent, which is a symbol of envy, hate, anger and revenge. The lesson is that they often blame their problems on other people out of envy.

Worse, envy brings murder in the world, as shown in the story of Cain and Abel -- Adam and Eve's children. They are the original dysfunctional family.

Cain murders Abel because he feels humiliated when God accepts Abel's sacrifice and rejects Cain's. That feeling of humiliation is based on his envy of Abel.

So, then, envy is apparently ubiquitous. Unfortunately, it may be ubiqitous in romantic relationships. And, just as unfortunatly, one of the defenses against envy is devaluation.

Here is an example: some months ago I watched on TV as three college girls, in their early 20s, were denigrating college men. One said they showed up on dates in dirty t-shirts "holding a bag of condoms."

Another said most wanted to take over their father's business (and what exactly is wrong with that?).

Not one of the three had one good thing to say about the men. They were denigrating and devaluing them. (As an aside, not one of them had a clue they're weren't marriage-material.)

Devaluing someone is one of the main defenses against envy. These girls envied men and therefore devalued them. And why did they devalue them?

Because the men weren't giving them wanted they wanted. I'm sure they wanted the men to be tall, good-looking, ambitious, make a lot of money, be loyal, etc. Because so few of the men were those things, they believe men had all the power to make them happy, and since they weren't making them happy, they devalued them.

So course, none of these girls had the self-awareness to ask themselves, "What do I have to offer in a relationship?"

I once knew a woman, 49 years old, unmarried, no children, no home -- just an apartment and a cat. She told me "men are responsible for all the problems in the world," that they all had baggage from past relationships, and they wouldn't accept her career.

Because men did not give her the things she wanted, and therefore envied what she perceived as their power to make her happy (which she thought they were withholding from her) she envied and therefore devalued them.

None of these women have any gratitude towards men, ignoring the fact men (specifically white men) have invented almost 100% of everything in the world. As Camile Paglia once so famously noted, without men, women would still be living in grass huts.

You cannot be happy unless you have gratitude. And certainly, when you envy and blame your problems on everyone else, you are never going to be happy. Those college girls who envy and blame their romantic problems on men are never going to be happy, and they are going to be shocked when all their relationships don't work out.

For that matter, no man in his right mind is going to get involved with a envious, ungrateful woman who tries to shame him and make him feel guilty and to disrepect and try to humiliate him. Not that any of these girls know they are ungrateful and envious and devalued men. If they were told what they are, they certainly wouldn't believe it.

Many men are mystified. They shouldn't be. As Helmet Schoeck write in his magisterial book, Envy, "It is astounding that countless benefactors allow themselves to be persuaded over and over that ingratitude with the resulting hatred is a rare and special case."

The defenses against men and women's envy of each other in romantic relationships have pretty much collapsed. It looks as if the defenses of women's envy of men are collapsed the worst, which is there is so much devaluation of men by women (the reverse is just a fraction).

I am as always curious as to how this will play out. There is one thing I do know: the psychiatrist James Gilligan, who studied violent inmates for 35 years, found humiliation and shame were the causes of violence and murder (again, the story of Cain and Abel).

I suspect things are going to get a worse before they get better. After all, as things stand now, 49% of the people in the U.S. are not married. And as bad as that is for men and women, the real losers are going to be the children, who are going to end up with single women as parents -- and there is no good to that at all.

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