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Tragedy: An Excuse for Couplemania? August 13, 2011

Posted by Onely in Food for Thought, God-Idiot or Asshole?.
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My sister called me the other day with a question I couldn’t answer, so I told her I would reach out to Onely’s Copious Readership for insights.

First, the background:   My sister’s good friend, whom I’ll call Mark, has had an awful year.  First he lost his job due to the recession and couldn’t find another one. Then his girlfriend cheated on him and they broke up. Then his older brother, whom Mark idolized, developed a drug problem related to some painkillers he’d been on for an old, ongoing back ailment. Bad times for Mark.

Understandably, he withdrew from my sister and the rest of their circle of friends as he tried to sort out his internal chaos.  Knowing that they might well have done the same thing in his circumstances, but still wanting to show support, my sister and their mutual friends left him email, text, and phone messages just to say hi and let him know they cared.

The messages went unreturned, and no one blamed Mark.  Then my sister found out that he had reconnected with his cheating girlfriend and they were a couple again. According to the grapevine and Facebook, Mark had enough emotional fortitude to hang out with his formerly-cheating girlfriend, but not to interact with his long-time friends. “I think he just really needs someone right now,” said my sister, aware of the irony of her words yet trying to be sensitive to Mark’s situation. “But. . . her?”

Recently, while under the influence of assorted illegal substances, Mark’s brother crashed his motorcycle into a tree and died.  During the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, Mark continues to date his girlfriend and continues to remain withdrawn from his friends.

Copious Readers, in normal circumstances we chastize people who neglect their friends for a significant other (especially a cheating one). But obviously a brother’s addiction and death are not normal circumstances. Trauma can cause and excuse (or at least explain) all sorts of crazy human behavior.  So do we suspend all judgment here? Or do we judge Mark’s actions as inappropriate, but excusable? Or do we blame society’s mythologizing of coupling, which may have brainwashed Mark into believing that even an unfaithful girlfriend is a good painkiller? Or is she, perhaps, in fact a good painkiller?

Given that we have little real knowledge of the nuts and bolts of Mark’s situation (including the circumstances of his girlfriend’s cheating–maybe she thought they were “on a break“),  how would you advise my sister to interpret Mark’s social choices?

If I were writing this as a novel, I might make Mark’s motivations as follows:  He’s struggling with a lot of different feelings and is afraid his internal chaos will negatively color his interactions with the people he cares about–so he avoids them and seeks the company of people he doesn’t care that much about, specifically the cheating girlfriend. However, unfortunately for Mark, this isn’t a novel that can be shaped and tweaked by a good editor. It’s life, where the only editor is God, and he seems like kind of an asshole.

–Christina

Photo credit: kevingessner

Comments»

1. denisegburgess - August 14, 2011

I totally get Mark’s reaction. He’s probably stressed out, or feeling like nothing is going right. I know when I feel like that, I actually turn away from EVERYTHING/ONE that could help, and turn to the things that can’t. It kind of numbs the stress (like a painkiller, as you said) and you don’t have to think about all the bad stuff. For some reason, numbing seems (at the time) like a better option than solving the problem. Mark will come back to his friends when the time is right, but they shouldn’t feel like it’s personal. He just has to sort things out first.

Onely - August 14, 2011

SD and Denise, I think you both said it very well!

2. Solitary Diner - August 14, 2011

I agree with denisegburgess’s comment above – sometimes when everything is going wrong, it can be hard to take steps to make things better (like reaching out to friends). Sometimes we just need to wallow in our sorrows (or our ex-partners) for a bit before we can pick ourselves up and start putting our lives back together. Hopefully Mark’s friends will be understanding and patient and will be there for him when he’s finally ready to rejoin them.

3. April - August 14, 2011

I wouldn’t say tragedy is an excuse for couplemania, but an example of it. A common fear is dying alone. When death hits, many are conditioned to latch onto their SO. And while I agree with those that are concerned about him that he’s rushing into something that’s probably not the best thing for him, we all have to figure these things out for ourselves. I’d say to them to keep reaching out, and to silence their judgment around him.

Onely - August 15, 2011

Yes, because chances are he probably wouldn’t “hear” them anyway. . .
CC

Charlie - August 23, 2011

as if we aren’t all going to die alone…who is going to die with us??

4. vashti760223 - August 22, 2011

Although, I really don’t think that anyone is judging anyone here. Like Mark, they are just responding normally as anyone would respond in this situation, because they care. My point being that, in this case, it would, thus, be kind of difficult to separate a normal typical human response from one’s expression of caring.

I think we should agree that Mark’s actions and those of your sister and friends could both be considered inappropriate, yet excusable.

However, I do agree that couplemania and the emotional distance that one typically tries to place between those they care about and themselves are the most likely contributing factors to Mark’s actions.

5. Stella - August 26, 2011

I have nothing wise to say; I don’t understand Mark’s reaction at all. I guess the best that his friends could hope for is to try not to judge him, and if he reaches out to them again they’ll have to decided if they still want to be friends.

6. Treya - October 22, 2011

Just wanted to add that in dealing with a friend who’s going through a very difficult time, it is about them, not about us. Depression coming from loss of loved ones can come as a withdrawal and things or words that might be perceived as hurtful by friends. But stick there, Mark needs it more than anything.


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