I noticed something asymmetrical in my HAI relationships: People would partner with me to begin something, but then end them unilaterally. It did not make sense and hurt me every time as someone with infant abandonment and childhood abandonment trauma. Why would this culture say "Is this a good time to talk," or "Let's get together at this time," which was a mutual choice, and then disengage abruptly without checking with me to see how that felt. It seemed as if the cultural protocol was: We will begin something mutually, but anyone can terminate it for any reason abruptly and without any responsibility for impact unilaterally.
I hated this. I felt hurt and it damaged my willingness to spend time with that person since I did not want to be hurt or shocked again. Then I found another asymmetry. I remember a woman getting up in my living room and walking to my front door in the middle of a conversation. "Bye, she said." I felt disoriented, shocked, and pain. I was not included. I said "I'm not going to stop you from going but this will be our last interaction if this is your style of closure." She walked off.
Then she wanted to get together again. I said: "I don't feel comfortable with your style of ending our interactions, as I pointed out before you left the last one." She was hurt and angry. "It sounds like you want the right to do what ever you want, without understanding how it affects me, including spending time with me when I don't like being hurt." She replied "I'm not going to let anyone tell me what to do."
This was a very clear message to me that if I wanted to have a respectful ending in which I was included, I had only one chance of securing that: At the beginning of the relationship or interaction. Being abruptly left was so unpleasant and rude in my experience that I did not want to begin something that was going to end without including me. I wanted an ending to a date or visit that either had a pre-agreed ending time that worked for both of us, or that went: "I'd like to wind down in about 30 minutes. How's that for you? do you want to complete any thoughts or do anything to feel complete?"
This is very natural in some cultures in the world, but for some reason this was never extended as a default courtesy by American women, who in some cases seemed to pride themselves in how abrupt they could be as a way of flaunting their feminist values (i.e. "I don't need you and don't care what you think or need").
I started finding that this was a good filter: A woman would say "Let's hang out." I would say "Well, let's talk about the culture and protocol of our interactions. How do you want our endings of dates to look like? Or on a larger level, if we are lovers and you or I want to end the relationship, what does your ideal scenario look like?"
I learned that the really smart, kind women who knew themselves well enjoyed this question. I began to be increasingly marginalized in the community the more emphasis I put on taking care of feelings, from start to finish. It's not that I wanted to have strong boundaries, filters and protocols prior to sex. I was just tired of being hurt or being accused of hurting 80% of the time because people did not have the skill or empathy to spontaneously offer or do the things that helped me feel good or tell me in advance what they needed.
Questions: What percentage of your relationships have ended with dignity, kindness and mutual understanding? What percentage of all relationships end for reasons other than death? How is it that the beginning of relationships is so carefully discussed, but a beautiful ending is ignored and rarely achieved, despite the fact that 90% of relationships end for reasons other than death? Why does a school teaching love, intimacy and sexuality not practice and explore the intricate ritual of beautiful endings?
Concern: I have ended about half of my HAI relationships with an ending ritual I negotiated with my lover at the beginning of the relationship. These endings have been some of the most beautiful and loving moments of my life. I have never met a woman who had done this before. I have met many women with horror story endings. We need to value the time of letting go and dying as much as we value new life and maturing. A healthy school goes against the grain of a chauvinistic and simplistic culture to add depth and beauty to endings, dying and good byes. The death is as important as the beginning and all are served when the same care is taken. So many of the things I find most useful and valuable are things I've learned outside HAI and there has not been any interest on the part of the facilitators to learn what works for me and share this with others. How can you teach if you will not learn?