You’re Going to Love Me Whether You Like It or Not”

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Burn.

There’s a reason why ethical pagans do not believe in doing  love  spells  to get  their  man and why “good Christians” don’t pray to God that a certain someone will love them. It has to do with trying to control the destiny and will of someone else instead of just  nurturing the relationship and letting it grow naturally and with unconditional love.

Flying by Night

It’s too bad you can’t just push a button and have the relationship you want, but it doesn’t work that way. What’s even worse is that so many people put so much time and effort into forcing someone to  have the kind of relationship they want when they could probably have that relationship by putting the same amount—or less—time and effort into the actual relation- ship. It’s like the boy who spends hours preparing sly ways to cheat his way through an exam when studying and retaining the knowledge would have been far less trouble.

But no, like desperate teen girls just discovering witch- craft,  they’re hell-bent on trying to control the relationship, to manipulate the other person to feel close to them, to make the other person love them the way they want to be loved. And ordering another person to be close to you will never get you the closeness you want and rarely any real  satisfaction in having forced them to bend to your will. If they don’t come to you on their own, then how can it be real?

Love spells and manipulations are on my mind as I share a ride to a meeting with several colleagues. It’s the end of the fiscal year here and  we’re all rushing around with our hair on fire, trying to get everything finished before midnight. It’s sorta like the whole month of September is April 14th and your taxes must be done and mailed by the next day. Not fun at all. Which is why I’m stuck with colleagues I’m not terribly fond of or don’t know very well. If only I hadn’t answered that last phone call, I would have ridden to the meeting with someone else in- stead of three civil servants with teenagers.

Two dads in the front seat, two moms in the back seat, including me. They think they’re talking about teens, but they’re really talking about relationships.

The three of them agree that there’s no communicating with teens. Neither dad has had a real conversation with his kids since the kids started high school…or before. They’re the adults, yet they blame it all on the kids. Neither man can name a single friend of their kids’ or even one teacher or how the kids are doing in school. They don’t know what kinds of movies their kids like or what they think is wrong with the world or how they plan to change  it  or if they yet know how they want to change it. They don’t have children-they have strangers in their homes.

I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I can’t believe they can have other people so close to them physically and still be oblivious to who they really are and what they dream of.

“You’re lucky,” the woman in the back seat tells me. “Just wait til you have a teenager.”Flying By Night novel

“I do have a teenager,” I remind her. “And have for several years.”

“Then you know what I mean. You can’t get them to share a thing of themselves with you.”

“No, I don’t know what you mean. I have a good relationship with my daughters, both of them. And when the older one became a teen, that didn’t change. She has her privacy, but we’re still close.”

“You’re kidding.” The woman in the backseat stares at me, her jaw open. The whole car is quiet now, as if I have some kind of “secret” to divulge. “My daughter and I had an actual ten-minute conversation last month,” she says, gloating. “When was the last time you had a talk with your teenager?”

“Last night,” I tell her without so much as a pause. “For about an hour. One on one. And the night before…for almost an hour. And, well, most nights.”

“You’ve got more time than I do,” my backseat passenger confides. “I don’t have an extra hour in the day to talk to my kids, even if I wanted to.”

I think the key words are “if I wanted to.” She works fewer hours than I do and is always chatty about her TV schedule and her busy  social life with her live-in boyfriend. I don’t watch TV and don’t keep boyfriends so maybe I do have more time than she does.

The driver jerks his head up and frowns at me in the rearview  mirror. I don’t really know him, but I know his wife and kids, and they’re  great. “What the hell you could possibly talk to a teenager about for an hour, let alone several times in one week?”

Everything,  I  want  to  tell  him.  Life-Death-and-the- Universe.   School,  work,  ideas,  history,  science,  philosophy, friends, love, language, drama, emotion, wisdom, hope, disappointment, humanity-everything. Everything.

But the  front  seat  passenger  is  already  talking  about something  else,  about  how  his  kids  aren’t  interested  in  the sports he wants them to play and instead they want to do some- thing offensive, like play in the  band or take a drama class. If they were interested in his sport, then he  could play it with them. He’s forgotten that it’s not about him and that the kids never signed up to like only what he likes and be interested in only what he’s interested in. Even clones get to be their own people, don’t they?

The driver has decided that the fact that his kids don’t feel close  to him must be someone’s fault, especially when he shares custody. He tried making it the kids’ fault that their relationship isn’t what he thinks it  should be, but that seemed to push them farther away. Funny how that  works. So now, he’s decided it’s his ex-wife’s fault, particularly because the kids are closer to her. As if love is limited and the kids can’t be close to both of them. He thinks she must poison them against him, but doesn’t know how little she speaks of him or even thinks of him outside of her  post-divorce journaling, and that the kids have their own history with him that’s brought him to where he is-or isn’t-with them now.

He spends the next few miles grousing about his ex and how he wants a relationship with the kids like the one she has, but he can’t make it happen. He wants them to spend more time with him, yet he dumps them at his mother’s when he’s bored with them or he’s busy in bed with his  current girlfriend and forgets they’re there and really shouldn’t hear the things they’re hearing or have access to their booze and cigarettes and R-rated TV. He’s drawn his mother into the scenario to guilt the kids into  respecting him and to let them know how unimportant their mother’s influence is and has even told them that a grand- mother’s mothering  would  be just as good for them as their mother’s.  It  only  serves  to  drive  a  wedge-not  between  the mother and the children but between the children and their father as well as between them and their grandmother. He and his mother don’t realize this, don’t see this, because it’s all about them and what they want. They don’t consider what the kids want or need. The kids would be so forgiving, as many kids are, if they could just pick up with today and move forward with a relationship instead of this constant manipulation. So hungry for an emotional return  after  so many years of their own investment. If only they could work from now forward and nurture it and stop trying to pin blame and force emotion. But the driver doesn’t see that. He has to be in control.

He’s even tried to convince his ex-wife to make the kids work harder at the relationship, again putting the effort on the kids to be responsible for the relationship being a good one in- stead of investing  himself personally with the kids. He started out asking his ex-wife how to  create a stronger bond with his kids, but he didn’t like her advice, so he stopped asking and she stopped giving. It’s his responsibility to figure it out. Not hers. Not the kids.

By the time we reach the parking lot at the conference center, he’s admitted to spending an inordinate amount of time focused on his  ex-wife and her activities. I’m not sure if he’s looking for imagined crimes to turn the kids against her, if he’s still trying to control her life, or if he’s still that caught up in the past and can’t move on. In a way, it makes me feel sorry for his new girlfriend, that he can’t just agree that he screwed up his last relationship, it’s over, and it’ll never be anything more and then get on with a new life with a new love. It just seems sad and narrow that he, his family,  and his friends would spend so much more time interested in his ex now than when they were married.

As we exit the car, the driver mentions that he’s even recruited his mother and friends to keep an eye on his ex and watch  her  when  she’s  not  aware  she’s  being  watched.  His mother has even phoned his former in-laws, who are in ill health and can’t afford any upsets, to try to find information that might be used against his ex. In a way, I understand his mother’s con- fusion, given that he’s never told her the thing that  destroyed the marriage and his ex doesn’t feel it’s her place to bring it up, particularly since he was seeking help for it, last she heard. But I do understand now why his ex-wife was asking a few days ago about stalking  laws in Florida and about restraining orders to keep people from causing serious health problems for her parents. any more than being physically present with another person creates or maintains-or nurtures-a relationship with them. The relationship can’t be forced and molded from the outside. As with any relationship that’s worth  having, it takes an investment of self, at the most intimate and emotional levels.

As for me, I can’t wait to get home and see my kids.