Monday, April 23, 2012

Is Honesty Enough?

*This post includes spoilers for season 5 of Californication. Turn back now if you haven't seen it and don't want to be spoiled.


Does honesty absolve you of responsibility in relationships? Obviously, it doesn't in literal terms: you can't say, "I'm going to hit you now" and then hit the person without consequence using the "I warned you" defense. Can the same be said for emotional responses and consequences?

Because everything relates to fiction for me these days, look at the situation between Carrie and Hank in the fifth season of Californication (and I should preface this by saying I in no way favor the way Carrie chose to deal with her emotional issues). From what little we know of their actual relationship (which was mostly explored off-screen and presented after the fact at the beginning of the season), Hank and Carrie were together exclusively for nearly a year. They were regularly sexually involved, she had a key to his apartment, and he knew she wanted the white dress and all that comes with it. While he told her that he wanted to keep things simple, she became emotionally attached to a man who was not ever going to love her—something we, as an audience, believed, but sadly she did not until too late.

You could say that Hank acted honestly: he was always straightforward with her, and when he suspected that she was going to ask for more than he could give her, he ended it. But she accused him of "stealing" anyway. Yes, you could say her actions before and after those accusations indicate that she was unhinged, but her accusations did resonate with me (and for the sake of argument, let's pretend I am not similarly unhinged).

I would have rolled my eyes and dismissed her if they had been together only a couple of months. She was a big girl, no stranger to sexual relationships, and he told her that he didn't want anything serious. She has to take responsibility for listening to what he wanted and still thinking that she could change him. Intellectually, we all know that isn't going to happen in real life and it certainly wasn't going to happen in the case of Hank Moody. On a purely logical level, we know this.

But they were together a year. Was it really unreasonable for her to develop feelings for a man she had a relationship with and hope that he cared about her too? And make no mistake; spending a year in a relationship in your mid-30s is a bigger commitment than spending a year with someone in your 20s because if you want to have children, the clock is ticking. By her own admission, she didn't really "get it" until she saw him with someone he actually loved and realized that he was just killing time with her because he couldn't have what (or who) he really wanted. On an emotional level, was it unreasonable for her to be angry that he wasted her time?

I don't think this issue is uncommon (the issue itself, not the crazy way Carrie dealt with things). People stay in relationships that aren't going anywhere or aren't working for a multitude of reasons: love, access to sex, comfort, a desire to avoid confrontation, laziness and fear of being alone all come immediately to mind. But even if you aren't lying about what you want, are you being honorable in your dealings with another person if you know what they want is not something you can give?


Helen said...

Relationships are co-created by the people involved in them so in situations like this, both people are contributing to the outcome. I don't see Carrie as a victim in this scenario because she's doing what many of us have done before: imagining we can change him. The truth is many times we just don't listen when men say they don't want anything serious or they aren't the marrying kind. We imagine our awesomeness will win them over and so we invest more and more of ourselves in a relationship in which we are never going to get what we want. Here's the other side or the coin--Hank saw things had gone too far and he ended it. A year was probably longer than he should have let it go, but at least he did end it. (Also, we have no way of knowing how things played out during that year. She may have been assuring him that she was fine with keeping it casual while secretly picking out bridesmaid dresses.) In my opinion, Hank ending it showed he at least cared enough about her as a human being not to go on wasting her time. I think if you are honest about not wanting anything serious, you are obligated to end it when you see your partner is getting serious. To continue the relationship knowing you will never give them what they want is beyond selfish. It's cruel.

Dee Murray said...

First, I must say that men can be much more dense than women when it comes to the perceived levels of emotion and commitment in relationships. That darn penis-brain just keeps getting in the way. But I think that once the man realizes that the woman wants more, it is his responsibility to end it if he doesn't. Or the other way around if that were EVER on earth to happen. I've never know a guy hoppin' to walk down the aisle & the woman saying, "hmmmm, no, I just want to keep it light." Women (stereotyping, I know) are usually much more emotionally...well...emotional on that subject. In short, yes, honesty is enough. If it is revisited semi-regularly. Don't keep your gal on edge all the time, but "I said at the beginning that I didn't want a relationship" doesn't count 21 years later when you're still hanging around. I'm just sayin'...

eleanore said...

Women in relationships sometimes have the tendency to see and hear what they want. He told her he didn't want the same relationship that she did. She chose not to believe him. In this case, I believe he acted fairly because he was honest and clear. She preferred not to believe him. This is one of my favorite sayings about relationships: when a man tells you who he is, you should believe him.

(Author: The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree)