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The ever-popular Emotional Pain Cycle

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The relationship Emotional Pain Cycle is a multi-step process, yet it's pretty fucking simple. It works like this.

Step 1: You are in a relationship.

Step 2: Something happens.

Step 3: You don't like it. It hurts, you get angry, your feelings are hurt, your expectations are not met, your trust is violated, your beliefs are challenged, your nerves are irritated, your pets are unfed, your money is spent, your practical needs are ignored, your hopes are dashed, your buttons are pushed, your fears are unleashed, you are bewildered, bothered, confused, upset, disturbed, impatient, uncomprehending, resigned, unhappy, vengeful, threatened, spiteful, unnerved, or you even come up with some feeling not listed above, just because you feel like it and it seems to fit.

Step 4: You react.

Step 5: Irritatingly and surprisingly, reacting does not make the pain go away.

Step 6: Therefore you process it. You brood, you analyze, you argue, you obsess, you mutter, you moan, you reason, you complain, you rationalize, you justify, you attempt to understand, you vent, you explain, you complain, you cajole, apologize, you wheedle and you twist and turn, processing until the initial pain is ground up into tiny little meaningless bits of absolutely no use to you or anyone else and therefore seems completely irrelevant as far as taking further action.

Step 7: Nothing changes.

Step 8: You are still in a relationship.

Step 9: That something happens again.

Step 10: To your horror and surprise, you discover it is painful once again! This is shocking! So you repeat steps 4 through 9 for the rest of your fucking life. You start to wonder if you should leave. But you don't. You're screwed.

This is an incredibly logical and rational process on your part. It may seem a little stupid that if you didn't like something the first time, that you would be dope enough to proceed as if it wasn't going to bother you the second time, but that is exactly what you will do. And it is isn't stupid. It has to do with how pain is processed.

It will take a while, maybe quite a while before you get wind of the idea that this fucking shit (whatever it is) happens all the fucking time! And even once you realize this, you will still not know what to do. You will have identified something as problem (one minute she is sweet, the next minute she lashes out), but you will be stumped as to do what to do about it. Soon enough, you will be asking yourself the Should I Get the Fuck Out question, but you will not come up with the answer.

Here's why. The problem starts with Step 5. Normally, if something is not going to be a problem, reacting will make it go away. For example, if a bee lands on your nose, jumping up in alarm and saying 'fuck, there's a bee on my nose!' will startle the bee and it will fly away in a huff thinking that you're not much of an attractive flower to sit on. Or else it will sting you and you will do something about that. Pretty simple. That's why you reacted in the first place. Because reacting is usually helpful.

In a relationship if something happens and reacting works - you don't go through the rest of the cycle. Let's take a happy example. You want to have sex - your wife's not in the mood. You react - you say - 'how can I get you in the mood?' She says - Well, take a shower for one thing. You always want to do it when you're hot and sweaty. You say - well, hot and sweaty is best. I love it when you're all natural and sweaty. She says - yuck! don't say that. I wish you'd get dressed up for once, take me some place romantic, wear that cologne I got you. And shave! You never shave! You say - neither do you! She hits you. You sigh and say - really? would it really make a difference if I shaved and showered? She says - yes, really. it really would. You say - look! I'm jumping in the shower right now! From the shower you yell - Listen! I'm showering! She gets exasperated but she laughs. From the bathroom you yell - shaving! Can you hear me shaving! She gives up. She puts on something sexier. You come out of the bathroom. It's not like she's a supermodel or anything but you go - oooh hoo, nice! You jump on the bed. She says - don't! She laughs - you start making out. sex ensues. everybody's happy.

What happened was - reacting worked. You reacted, she reacted. You didn't have to dress up and go to dinner and she didn't have to have sex with a sweaty pig. Your willingness to do something helped and her willingness to compromise helped. This is what you wish always happened. It doesn't. That's why you are wondering if you should dump someone.

Instead, you find out that your girlfriend cheated on you by kissing your best friend. (Twice! She liked it the first time.) You react. Wildly. You get all hurt. She feels all guilty. A harrowing argument ensues. To cover her guilt, she screams - well what have you done for me lately?! You never tell me that you love me or anything! You scream - you kissed my best friend!!! She says - well I'm sorry!!! I'm sorry I kissed your goddamn best friend. Maybe if we had sex more often, I wouldn't have!!! You scream - you're the one that never wants to!!!! More screaming ensues. But strangely, the screaming does not soothe your feelings.

Somehow it turns out that a screaming argument like this is not actually the best remedy for finding out that your girlfriend is kissing other people. You were actually expecting that it would be. You were actually expecting that somehow the screaming would lead to something like this: Her: 'I'll never ever ever do anything like that again! Because I love you more than life itself, more than breathing, more than the beating of my own heart! I am so incredibly devastastingly sorry. I realize now, I only committed this atrocious act because my own incredible insecurities mixed with my overwhelming passion for you led me to believe that a forbidden kiss could ease my heartache at not possessing you totally as I so deeply desire. I was so wrong, so misguided. I now see that not only do I never want to cheat on you, my true calling in life is to dedicate myself totally to your constant happiness.' And so on. That's what you thought would happen. You didn't realize that when you started screaming, you just naturally and sensibly thought screaming would probably make the pain go away. But your girlfriend didn't give that penitent speech and screaming didn't work as well as you'd initially hoped.

So you move on to Step 6. Processing. This is inevitable. Pain wants to go away. Processing makes it do just that. So you obsess, justify, brood, analyze, sulk, figure out, fume, rage, pout, rationalize, justify, plot, discuss, attempt to work out, try to understand, and on and on and on until you have taken that big lump of surprised pain and analyzed into smaller more manageable portions. You tell yourself things like 'it's not that she kissed him - it's that he's my best friend! And then - it's not that she's attracted to my best friend - it's that she actually kissed him. And so on. You do this to divide and conquer. You do this - because as harrowing as the obsessing process is - it works. By the time you have finished obsessing - it's pretty clear that there's nothing you can actually do at this point anyway. It already fucking happened. You have - unbeknownst to yourself - accepted the situation.

Meanwhile, Step 7 kicks into gear. Nothing changes. You didn't dump her right at the moment because you were caught off guard and weren't ready to. You'd been together 18 fucking months for chrissake and you didn't see it coming. So your natural instinct was to try to make it not true. Erase it out of existence through confrontation. In the meantime, she doesn't leave you. She doesn't want to. If she'd actually wanted to fucking leave you, she'd have done it, but she didn't. So she doesn't. As part of your processing, you have begun to suspect that she's not sure she really loves you. But you can't tell. Because she doesn't leave. And she acts like nothing happened. In fact, she acts very sweet. And she's cute. She has not gotten any less cute. So hmmm.... What can you do but assume it won't happen again. After all, you did react the first time. You did indicate that you didn't like it. So surely she won't do it again. That would make sense, wouldn't it? And so Step 8 has taken over. You are still in the relationship.

If something had changed - you wouldn't be in this cycle. If she had said later - 'you know what - it's not fair. I'm really not sure I want to be in this relationship. And that's why I....you know....with your best friend that night. But I've realized it's not fair. To you or me. If I'm not committed...what I'm trying to say is maybe we should start seeing other people...' If that had happened, you'd be very busy dealing with the reality of rejection and you would not be asking yourself if you should be dumping this person. Because they'd have dumped you. It's precisely when the other person does something that seems so terrible it's almost as if they are saying they want to dump you - but then they don't! - that you start asking yourself these terrible indecisive questions. This is partly why you are so confused in these situations. It's as if you are carrying the burden of dumping for them.

You're not the one who wants them to not love you. You want them to change and be nice. And since that's what you want (nobody really likes to be rejected to or treated badly) - what can you do but hang around and hope they do just that. So you won't have to say to yourself 'this person treats me like shit because that's what they think I am!' So you wait and pretend things are going to change. You may even say to them while you are waiting - you treat me like shit! You think that if you say this, they will say - oh holy fuck, wait a minute, you're right. And I'm just wrong. You know - I'll just quit treating you like shit, how about that? And sometimes they even do say things like this - I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Etc. But then they do it again. If they didn't do it again - it wouldn't be a problem. But they do. And it is. Things are not changing and you want them to. So you hang around trying to control the situation by sending a thousand and one subliminal and overt 'change you fuckhead, change!' signals.

But they don't. She kisses someone else. And there you fucking are - caught off guard again. This is excruciating. But you don't even immediately storm out and say 'that's it! I'm outta here. I can't take this shit!' Or even if you do - you come right back. Why? Because you didn't prepare yourself to leave. If you'd prepared yourself to do that - if you'd said - okay that's it, if this ever happens again, I'm fucking history - you'd have done that and you wouldn't be asking the Should I Stay or Should I Go question. You didn't keep with the pain that would have allowed you to make this important decision. You processed it away. You didn't already face the pain of the breakup process by dealing with the fact that the person might totally reject you and you might have to ditch them. Instead you pretended it was never going to happen again even though you knew it could. And you did that because the other person, in your mind, has the upper hand with the It's Entirely Possible I Don't Love You and Am Not Going to Treat You Very Well Card. As long as they are holding that card, you are subliminally motivated to prove them wrong. You just don't fucking want to hear that, to face that. No one ever does. You are not unique. You are just like everyone. No one ever likes to face the fact that someone else could be totally uncaring of their feelings.

What people much prefer to do is ask themselves - is there some way I could look at it that will make it seem like I'm not really in an Uncaring Of My Feelings situation? Is there some way to protect myself from this incredibly unpleasant sensation of helplessness and maltreatment? I'll bet if I think really hard there is! And so you think really hard and you are protected. And what makes it all more confusing - what makes it incredibly difficult - is that it is entirely possible the other person is not uncaring of your feelings and you won't have to face that feeling at all! Because this happens all the time. People do hurtful things and they didn't mean it and they try to figure out how to stop. Relationships go through this shit wherein people learn how to treat the other person all the time. It's an integral part of many relationships. Figuring out that she actually likes romantic things - she's not just saying that to be really weird. And then doing them. Figuring out that it really boosts his ego when you laugh at his jokes - which is strange because they are not funny. And then learning to laugh - or at least not make him quit telling them. So you place a bet on hope - hope that there's good faith and the other person does care about your feelings and it'll all work out.

What you really meant to ask me when you were asking me to place judgment on the Terrible Thing that has you contemplating a breakup - is 'does this person have good faith and care about my feelings or don't they?' Which is why these things are questions only you can answer - because how the hell would I know? I've never even met this other person. And you know that - which is why you wouldn't trust my answer on the Terrible Thing if I gave you one.

So there you are - going through the Terrible Thing over and over again, unable to determine what it means. Do they fucking care or don't they??? Well....do they or don't they? Should you leave or should you stay? God, it's such a fucking hard question. It seems like if they are always kissing other people...but then other times they are so wonderful and things are so good....Damn! It's a question that could give you a headache. It's such a fucking irritating question that everybody is now rooting for you - just dump her! Just dump her for chrissakes! Just fucking get it over with! You're a fool! Your friends will almost always tell you to ditch the other person - because they don't want to live through your fucking processing and your indecision. You could be married to the goddamn best person on the planet who is just going through some incredibly rough times and at least half your friends will urge you to toss Best Person On the Planet out the window. Don't listen to your friends!! Very important. Particularly not if they seem to be on your side. If they don't seem to be on your side, give their words some serious consideration, but otherwise remember - if they weren't stupid people they wouldn't be your friends! Don't listen to them.

Okay, now that we have gotten that very important warning out of the way - we'll move on to how you get yourself out of the Pain Cycle. To do this we will have to question the very nature of reality - something you are not in the habit of doing. However, your alternative to questioning the very nature of reality is go break up with someone when you really don't want to right now because that'll be a drag and everything. So I'm suggesting that a quick tour of the nature of reality might be well worth your time right now. (Special Bonus Tip!: If you read the next page very slowly, you can put off actually doing anything for even longer!).

 

The very nature of reality....and why it completely fucking prevents you from being able to tell whether or not you should get the fuck out of your relationship....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because now - suddenly and unexpectedly, the webmistress has decided to take pity on humanity and answer every single person in the entire world's Should I Stay Or Should I Go question with an incredibly detailed and insightful analysis of the Should I Get the Fuck out of This Relationship Dilemma that will personally apply to you!

This is an incredible deal and a one-time only offer found only at prettyfedup.com for your personal benefit. So let's get started.

But first, let's fill out an incredibly handy and super-fun Interactive Should I Get the Fuck out of this Relationship? Form! Please take a moment now to note your answers to the following fill-in-the-blank questions.

My _________________ (insert category of Other Person here. E.g., boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband, dog, fiancee, best friend, etc.)

__________________________________ (insert Terrible Thing here. Annoying habit, character defect, major flaw, egregious behavior, sudden change, etc. For example, is an alcoholic, has found Jesus, wants to spend every weekend with his family, has gotten fat and ugly, is pathologically jealous, criticizes me in front of other people, won't quit smoking, never wants to have sex, spends all her time at work, overdisciplines the kids, doesn't take care of him/herself, spends all our money, wants me to convert to Judaism, seems indifferent and uncaring, has a terrible temper, won't listen, has cheated on me more than once, never puts the toothpaste cap back on the tube, is into perverted sicko sex practices, etc., etc., etc., etc.)

He/She/It/They (circle one) says _______________________________ (insert Other Person's reason why Terrible Thing above is not so terrible. E.g., it's only sex with other peope - it doesn't mean anything, it's my problem and I should lighten up, I don't understand the pressure he is under, she is just 'having fun', etc., etc., and even more etc.)

I/We/He/She/Our...(insert pronoun here) _____________________________ (insert reason for staying here. As in, we have two lovely kids, I really love her, we have really good times together, he has always been faithful and a good provider, she is wonderful half the time, we have been together a long time, we have worked hard to get where we are, I don't believe in divorce, we used to have a great relationship, the sex is still really good, etc., etc., etc.)

....but this problem is really driving me crazy. Should I stay and (try to work things out/hope things work out for the best - choose one) or should I just call it quits and get out of the relationship? ____________________ (sign here with your name or a snappy handle such as 'Uncertain in Northampton' or 'Cheated On and Wondering' and so on.)

Very good! You did such a great job filling out the form that you should really take a moment to congratulate yourself. Your misery fits into a form and is exactly like everyone else's - and that kind of lack of personal individuality is always comforting in this complicated modern world. And look how neatly your entire Complicated Situation and Detailed Explanation fell into handy paragraphs! You're an analytical genius to be able to organize your relationshp hell so cleanly and conveniently. No wonder you are drawn to a superior website like prettyfedup.com - you're just naturally a superior person!

However, now that we are done congratulating you, we have to point out that your entire chain of reasoning in explaining your relationship above is completely fucking useless. It's of no help whatsoever. It's the format you all use - and there are excellent excellent reasons why you want to explain your situation this way - but it does you absolutely no fucking good whatsoever.

What you are asking me to do - what you are always asking me to do - is to pass judgment on the particular Terrible Thing haunting your relationship and tell you objectively whether or not it's a worthy justification for ditching your significant other. Which I would be happy to do - except it won't make a fucking bit of difference to you. It's natural that you ask - you really do sincerely want to know if someone else's unwillingness to brush their teeth constitutes an Objective Justification for leaving them. But you won't believe me no matter what I tell you.

I could tell you that cheating is always wrong and you should always get out. I could tell you that unfaithfulness is not so fucking bad. I could tell you that your girlfriend has Major Issues and that you should ditch her. I could counsel understanding and patience. But it will not solve your problem.

Because your problem is not whether the other person's Terrible Thing is really a terrible thing - your problem is that you can't fucking figure out whether to stay or go! If I told you to go the part of you that wants to stay would start whining and moaning and coming up with justifications for staying and it would express the opinion to you that some idiot on a website is not sufficiently qualified to understand the beautiful and intricate complexities of your personal Relationship Hell.

If I told you to stay, the part of you that wants to go would start howling and screaming and sobbing 'but I don't want to be in this relationship....'. No matter what I told you, you would doubt me and you would doubt yourself. There's a decent chance you have been burdening friends and family members with this dilemma for quite some time and yet you are still chewing over it! And if you haven't been burdening them, you've been burdening yourself to the point of exhaustion with the same result. Your problem is not Terrible Thingness - it's indecision!

This is just pure logic. If you weren't suffering from indecision, you'd have made your goddamn decision and you wouldn't be bothering me, yourself, or anyone else with it. People leave other people all the time - once they make up their fucking minds to. People stay with other people all the time - once they make up their fucking minds to. The truth is you've got plenty of evidence that the thing you think is a Terrible Thing is a terrible thing. You've also got plenty of evidence that it isn't. Thus you are indecisive. You can't make up your goddamn mind. My opinion isn't going to sway you. Incredibly unfortunately - you are going to have to convince yourself instead of me. This is hard fucking work - as you are discovering right now. But convincing me won't do it - because I'm not going to dump your girlfriend for you - no matter how much I might enjoy it.

This is incredibly unfair and I certainly applaud you for your admirable attempt to get me to do your work for you. And I would be happy to do it if I could. I love making decisions for other people! Particularly people I don't know where I won't suffer any consequences if I screw it up! That's just good entertaining fun! But having watched you over the years ignore my advice on these matters countless times in person and over the internet, I have faced reality and realized I can't make up your mind for you.

All is not lost however! Because I can tell you how you can make up said mind of yours. This is so fucking great! This is what you wanted all along! You just fucking wanted to know how to make up your goddamn mind whether or not you should dump that goddamn miserable person you are still somehow goddamn miserably attached to even if you don't want to be which part of you actually does which is why you can't fucking make up your mind in the first place!

Okay, now that we have delineated the problem, I want you to start over and put the question in its proper format. Like this:

I have a boyfriend/girlfiend/mistress/lover/whatever and I can't fucking make up my mind whether or not I should leave them. I keep going back and forth with myself on this issue. On the one hand I want to and on the other hand I really don't. Aaaaaarrrggghhhh! Fuck! Shit! I hate this! I hate this goddamn indecision! This sucks! Everything sucks! Fuck! Help me! Help me please! Damn it, help me now!!!

Very good. I honestly think you did better on this part even than filling in the form above. And I must say you have an incredible way with words. Such verve, such style. Such raw naked passion. You must be quite a catch. If you do leave, you are sure to be scooped by a lucky successor in no time. And if you stay, your significant other is bound to be bowled over with admiration and appreciation once you get this problem worked out. This is very encouraging.

All right. So we're going to help you make up your mind. No matter who you are or what your circumstances. We are going to do this by delving deeply into the philosophical territory of mind making upness and relationships. In the process we will cover the esoteric topics of "The Relationship Emotional Pain Cycle" so familiar to many of us by experience and the even more exotic "I'm In A Relationship, Where the Fuck Did Reality Go?" topic that is currently bedeviling you.

We will dive deeply into these topics and swim around in them for hours at the complete expense of giving you any even vaguely useful advice as to what to do actually do. We will do this for a Very Important Reason. While you are swimming around in deep topics, you will be avoiding your actual serious relationship problems. This is important because dealing with your actual problems is hard and painful and not fun. Whereas, avoiding them is lots of fun! Okay, now that we are clear on that, settle back for a stress- and worry-free description of your current relationship and how it got all fucked up. This is going to be so great.

 

 

So where did reality go?

 

 

BONUS! RELATED CONTENT, UNRELATED OBSERVATIONS AND RANDOM FUCKING LINKS

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