Things I’ve Learned From My Relationships With Other People

Every now and then I like to look at someone I know and wonder how I would perceive them if I knew nothing about them. How did I see them when we first met. How would I see them if we first met again.

I tend to do that when I find myself taking them for granted, when I’m stuck viewing them from one angle, when I get frustrated with them and the frustration sticks around for longer than it should tainting our interactions, when I’ve allocated them a role in my life and it’s limiting them and thus it’s limiting my experience of them.

I know there is so much more to them including many things I don’t know because I’ve never asked or didn’t ask the right question. Perhaps they’ve never thought of telling me about it. Maybe they think it wouldn’t interest me – how do they know it wouldn’t interest me, is it because of how they see me.

I do something similar with myself. When I get too bogged down by who I think I am, the roles I’ve given myself, the assumptions I’ve made about my place and purpose, my habits, and I’m bored with myself being that way… I’ll press pause and consider who I’d be if I didn’t know anything about myself.

The inspiration behind that exercise comes from things I’ve learned from my relationships with other people, and in my relationship with myself.

I’ve been repeatedly surprised – pleasantly and unpleasantly. Someone was not who I thought they were. I was not who I thought I was.

“Every person has four lives: one that sows, one that waters, one that reaps and one that consumes.”

Goblin (Korean Drama)

While I’ve categorised this post as “Astrology” and added astrological tags, the astrology is simply there as a framework, a guideline to keep me focused. The narrative of this post works without the astrological angle, but this particular angle has helped me with my relationship issues.

Relationships are an Achilles’ heel for me. In astrology the asteroid Chiron can be viewed as revealing your Achilles’ heel, and my natal Chiron is in the 7th house of personal relationships.

It’s partnered up with (conjunct) a hypothetical karmic point known as the North Node, which reveals what you’re supposed to be learning in this life, a new lesson which is unfamiliar, which you may be reluctant to learn but you’re going to learn it anyway, probably the hard way.

If you’re me… you’re definitely learning it the hard way. All of my relationships tend to come with hard lessons which I really didn’t want to learn, but I learned them anyway.

Am I grateful that I learned them – I tell myself that I am, but I don’t always listen to myself. Sometimes that works out for the best. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Am I a better person for learning them – compared to who I was… I’m tempted to say yes, I like myself more now and others seem to like me more than before, but I don’t really know.

Many years ago, when I was in my late teens, I went to see a psychic who told me that I was a king in my past life. Yes, that was most likely complete bullshit (I never rule anything out utterly and totally because who knows, maybe, and I can file it in my mind’s useless information which might one day prove to be useful section), however it was a good observation of an issue which has reared its head in my relationships and caused me to be crowned (hit on the head) in a painful to ego manner by others.

That usually happens because others perceive me as thinking I’m better than them. I don’t but they don’t care what I really think, they only care about what they think I’m thinking. They see me as not respecting their authoritah over me – sometimes they’re right about that especially if their claim to authoritah is tenuous.

“All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusion is called a philosopher.”


― Ambrose Bierce, The Collected Writings Of Ambrose Bierce

In this life I’ve felt more like a servant, and the king in me fought tooth and nail to be a king again, repeatedly failed, had a harder time because it was no longer my turn to be king. The ones whose turn it was to be king didn’t appreciate their servant being all uppity and refusing to serve them, and finally the king in me had to deal with the reality of this lifetime – it was my turn to serve.

That is sort of what learning the karmic lesson of the North Node is like. It’s your turn to be the opposite of whatever you used to be, and that’s a difficult pill to swallow. Welcome to your uncomfortable zone, this is where you’re living now.

Having reluctantly accepted that I was a servant here to serve others… I threw myself into a subservient role, groveling, bowing, self-sacrificing, allowing myself to be used and abused by the users. This created a rather heavy cauldron of bubbling, boiling, stewing resentment, which eventually led to a rebellion on my part to overthrow the people whose turn it was to be king.

I have natal Pluto, misunderstood lord of the underworld, opposite my Achilles’ heel and karmic point, and firmly placed in the 1st house of self. It’s retrograde (looks like it is going backwards thanks to an optical illusion caused by being a human being looking at stuff not on Earth from the viewpoint of being a being on planet Earth) which means the hell goes on inside of me and I may look totally fine on the outside.

Gently smiling while spreading flower petals, which I personally collected by tearing lots of lovely once alive flowers to pieces, for my masters’ dainty feet to walk upon while inside I’m imagining those petals to be the blood, skin and guts of my masters after I’ve dismembered them. The gentle smile inspired by my imaginings rather than due to my pleasure in serving my masters.

I never quite got the formula right – the balance between respecting yourself while respectfully serving others, enjoying being of service to others and being rewarded by the act itself. I kept swinging between extremes, and getting wounded regardless of which side I was on.

Until, that is, I met my partner.

“To say that one waits a lifetime for his soulmate to come around is a paradox. People eventually get sick of waiting, take a chance on someone, and by the art of commitment become soulmates, which takes a lifetime to perfect.”


― Criss Jami, Venus in Arms

I’ve learned a lot in our relationship. About myself, about him, about others because he came with a family, so did I, and our relationship with our families influenced our relationship with each other, about other relationships past and present, he came with relationship baggage and so did I (although he was my first love – but that is baggage too), our past relationships also influence how we relate to our present relationships, about all the different aspects of relationship, how to relate and how not to relate.

This is a wonderful article, with some insightful twists and turns about learning about ourselves through our relationships: The Atlantic – Dear Therapist: Is It Wrong to Divorce My Sick Wife?

One of the ways I’ve learned from our relationship is through observing how he deals with scenarios which have the servant/master dynamic. He has a balanced approach. He has the formula for which I’d searched and failed to find within myself.

I’ve adopted some of his techniques, and call it the “Zen of Him” – I tend to only call it that when I use his technique on him and he gets annoyed with me. Then I bow to my Sensei and thank him for teaching me his wisdom.

He uses “Zen of Me” on me too. Very annoying. He’s a piece of work, so am I, we’re very well suited to each other.

The other day we bought some new taps for his bathroom. Our house came with two bathrooms, and we both chose one as ours. His and hers. Mine is the one which needs to be redone because it’s a mess as is.

I’m the plumber in our relationship. This morning he asked me when I was going to change the taps, meaning would I do it today, preferably now, immediately.

I smiled and replied that I would do it when I did it, not a moment sooner nor later. Such is the “Zen of Him”.

I used to find this particular “Zen of Him” really frustrating, until I stopped being blinkered about it, only seeing it from my point of view when I wanted him to do something and he didn’t do it immediately.

If you ask him to do something and he says he will do it – he will do it. If it is important to do it immediately, he will do it immediately. He always gets everything done by the deadline. If the deadline is a long way off or if there is no deadline and it can be done anytime, then it will get done when it gets done, not a moment sooner nor later.

Now the clever part, the bit I really needed to learn the most was – If you’ve asked him to do something and he’s said he will do it, then he will get it done and it will be done in time. He will not forget. It has gone onto his To Do list.

You must trust him to do it, and above all – you must not nag him to do it. Not nagging him respects him – nagging him disrespects him.

If you nag him, it delays the process. He warns everyone of this rule ahead of time, and repeats it if people forget it and nag him. That nag just cost you a day’s delay.

“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”


― Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

Haha! He just asked about the taps again, albeit he was very clever about it and asked if I would instruct him on how to change them himself.

He also used aegyo, making the request ridiculously comically cute. What a piece of work! Why is my heart beating this way, I might need to go to hospital to have a bandaid put on my fever (you won’t get that and may think I’ve lost the plot, but my partner would get it).

He learned the ridiculously comically cute thing from me. We’ve added to the repertoire thanks to watching South Korean TV shows, Japanese anime, and Asian horror/thriller films like Audition – if you’re going to nag make it funny with a slightly sinister edge to the cute like a cat.

The point of learning a formula like the – I’ll do it, but I’ll do it when I do it – one isn’t to annoy others. It isn’t to exert control in an unhealthy manner. It’s simply to create a certain balance of power which works for everyone involved.

I used to have a real problem with nagging. When anyone did it to me or to someone else I would experience it like torture.

I couldn’t listen to music if it sounded like it was nagging. I could not watch a scene in a film or TV show where someone was nagging someone else, if there was a main character who was a nag, it didn’t matter how good the show or film was, I was done with it.

I gave up on Breaking Bad because of the wife – she reminded me too much of my mother. My mother’s main persona and facade was that of a saint and martyr who was always fixing other people, tidying up their messes, burdened by their troubles, their problems, their brokenness (the fact that she was the one who might have broken you was erased).

She used to “save” people by nagging them to death. She did it to such an extreme about everything that I ended up doing things just to shut her up – which is part of the power of nagging.

“When you nag, you become the problem, and he deals with it by turning you out, but when you don’t nag, he deals with the problem.”


― Sherry Argov, Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl—A Woman’s Guide to Holding Her Own in a Relationship

Anxiety is a nag too. Nagging causes anxiety, anxiety causes nagging. If you don’t do X now the sky will fall, the whole world will come crashing in on you. But what if you don’t want to do X because X isn’t good for you to do, and if you do it another type of hell awaits.

Learning how to say stop to nagging and control its effect, and to do it so simply, has been a wonderfully liberating experience for me.

It’s about learning to respect myself. If I don’t respect myself first… I’m not going to respect anyone else. That’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to relationships.

North node in Aries in the 7th house must learn self-respect within the framework of a relationship which requires respecting the other person too, equally, as an equal partner in the dynamic.

Chiron in Pisces in the 7th house is about healing yourself by understanding the wounds of others which cause them to disrespect themselves and therefore disrespect you. Their wounds are your wounds too. Your healing is their healing too.

Symbiosis.

Physical illness, in other words, is a disorder of the family emotional system [which includes] present and past generations. Children who become their parents’ caregivers are prepared for a lifetime of repression. And these roles children are assigned have to do with the parents’ own unmet childhood needs — and so on down the generations.

Inappropriate symbiosis between parent and child is the source of much pathology.”


― Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress

Being able to do things for others, to accept their requests without feeling anxious and nagged by it, without feeling pressured, under duress, forced into a situation that makes me feel dragged to hell (oh why oh why did I say yes when I should have said no to doing that for them), want to rebel and yell until my lungs burst.

To be able to respectfully deal with the relationship in a manner with respects others and myself makes relationships more pleasant and rewarding.

If I feel someone is being disrespectful – I’m done and whatever it is they want me to do won’t get done. They will be notified of their failure to comply and be given the opportunity to readjust their parameters.

No, I’m not a robot, but sometimes I like to imagine that I am. Testing my system and testing that of others, testing to see how the system of self and other interact, where they flow well together, where they don’t, where they spark, and where the gears grind to a halt.

10 comments

  1. I’ve made it over here from Coffee’s page. He mentioned that you suggested getting transcripts for his podcasts. I did, too.

    So far, I have been a pretty good judge of character. I find that I pick on people’s traits fairly quickly. As time goes on, these traits just magnify. Good, or bad.
    But I like your idea of looking at yourself with “fresh eyes”. Or someone that’s you like, but who annoys you at the moment.
    A very interesting read overall.

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  2. I found The Atlantic article very interesting. I saw the issues with the man’s letter, but hadn’t been able to turn it the way the therapist did.

    My mother was an insatiable nag as well. Every now and then she would ask me or my dad, “I’m not a nag, am I?” Neither of us would answer, and then she would proceed to nag us about how she wasn’t a nag. She knew she was, but she tried to convince herself otherwise by trying to convince us.

    I think these sorts of questions from her were the genesis of my habit of sometimes not answering questions, which used to drive my M nuts. I had to figure out if it was a real question, and that took time, and then the M window for answering would be closing, and he would be getting irritated, and then I would just withdraw. We both deal with that much better now.

    Gabor Mate – I met him at one of his presentations a few years ago. Very interesting man, very thought- provoking (like you 🙂 ).

    Great post. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Lynette 🙂

      What you mother did is similar to what my mother would do – they ask the sort of questions to which you know there is only one right answer and it’s not the truthful answer, it’s the answer they need and want to hear or else you’re a bad person and made them feel bad. So what she was really saying when she asked – “I’m not a nag, am I” – was “If you love me and are a good person who makes others feel good you’ll tell me I’m not a nag, if you say I’m a nag then it means you hate me and are a bad person who makes others feel bad.” ergo the bad person is you and not her. It can never be her. I was always having to tell my mother what a great mother she was, especially after she’d done something mean to me, like stab me in the back again.

      Once you get sucked into that kind of a relationship with questions, where you know that there is only one right answer which the person who asked the question wants to hear, and if you give the wrong answer all hell will break loose on top of you for the next 300 years, it makes answering questions a perilous undertaking, you need time to figure out the “right” answer so as not to upset the person asking the question. But you also encounter the difficulties which that poses for you if the “right” answer means denying yourself again and again, selling yourself out, and other sacrifices which take their toll on the relationship with the self.

      That’s so cool that you met Gabor Mate, it’s always intriguing to meet people like that. He’s a Capricorn 😉

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  3. Gabor Mate is a good friend of my friend C. She has known him for a long time and is the reason I went to his presentation (it was more for people who are training to be therapists, but there wete a couple of vacant seats). He also used to write a column for the Globe and Mail newspaper. I love his writing and some of his ideas guided me through parenthood.

    It seems that Capricorns are the catalyst-inducing thinkers among us. 🙂

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  4. I was reading an old post of yours the other day that prompted me to watch Anomalisa, always wanted to watch but never did until I read your post. I was sick last few days so didn’t do much except watching films. After that was Ex Machina… At first it looked like Michael was a narcissist, but the final scene seemed contradicting. Anyway, who is worst Ava or Michael? Just some thoughts…

    Oh, the first installment of my Wong Kar Wai’s series is out… it’s not quite how I wanted it to turn out though… 🙂

    Miss your posts too but I’m sure there’re more important stuff waiting for you than writing/reading blog posts. No sweat, till then, stay well 😉

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    • Thank you, Reverist 🙂 I seem to be on a post-writing break.

      That’s a wonderful post and glimpse into your story of you. I really enjoyed reading it an the way you structured it. Some very deep thoughts to ponder.

      I don’t remember either film well enough to recall much about the characters and my impressions of them when I watched the films. I do remember Ava being interesting, the way she evolved based on experience and observation. She was ruthless, but she needed to be in the environment in which she’d been brought up. In a different environment, she’d have been different too. It was an intriguing perspective on what shapes a being. I don’t remember Michael at all.

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      • I’m not sure if there is anything deep to ponder, sometimes it seems to me shallow. But then without any parent model, my self could only be based upon whatever is most likely to be my attention then.

        I had wanted to try to fit all in one post but couldn’t. As for the structure, I would think it came from movie… I didn’t mean it this way. Never thought I would speak about the influence of Wuxia characters but think deeper that’s what made me even if it feels shallow 🙂

        I think Wong Kar Wai films have something I can relate to my psyche, remind me something like that. Now I’m rewatching Chungking Express

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