Is the relationship a jail or a resort?

My wife recently posted something about toxic relationships. Since she and I have both experienced those, we know a bit about why people don’t just leave them.

As I thought about the difference, I recognized that in broad terms, there are two ways to maintain a relationship. I think some people commingle the two. The paths are simple: one can either make it perilous, cumbersome, or guilt-fraught to leave, or one can give a partner incentives to stay because life is better.

In other terms, one can run a relationship as a jail, or as a resort. Some relationship jails are humane enough, just hard to escape from. Others are places of constant, brutal interrogation. I know people who, if their partner transgressed against them, would never leave the relationship–and not out of fear. “And miss the ability to punish him/her for years?”

If one manages one’s side of the relationship like a resort, giving him or her reasons to stay, one is a partner.

If one manages it like a jail, presenting mostly barriers to escape, one is a prison warden. And if the reason for confinement is to inflict suffering, one is also a terrorist.

Then again, the same could apply to much of life.

If a parent assures filial devotion through kindness, wisdom, support and gratitude for past sacrifice, that’s a parent.

If a parent commands filial devotion through browbeating, passive aggression, fear of disapproval, withdrawal of affection, and/or threat of disinheritance, that’s not a parent. That’s a jailer and and a terrorist.

If a supervisor retains employees through competitive pay, a positive environment, quality leadership and personal growth potential, the workplace is a resort.

If a supervisor keeps them through fear of starvation, gaslighting, constant dicking over, and changing expectations on the fly, the workplace is a jail. The supervisor isn’t a manager, but a terrorist.

If police spend most of their energy in the primary role of preventing harm to people who generally do the right thing, and helping them when they have problems, they are resort security.

If police are mostly occupied with reasons to catch right-doers in the occasional wrong, they are jailers. If the purpose is to intimidate, they are also terrorists. If the purpose is revenue, they are organized criminals. If the purpose is their personal gratification, they are sadists.

If a soldier points a weapon at your enemies, and blocks their path to reach you, s/he is your defender.

If a soldier points his or her weapon at you, to compel your obedience or submission, s/he is your jailer.

If government spends most of its energy figuring out ways to empower and help people, it is resort management, inspiring voluntary compliance for the common good.

If government spends most of its time inventing new reasons why people can’t go here, do this, have that, it’s a prison warden. If it does so mainly through bullying and fear, it engages in terrorism. Its minions who take pleasure in this are sadists.

Maybe if one spends a portion of one’s life in a virtual jail under intimidation and terror, it’s easier to accept that jail, intimidation, and terror are just normal life, the eternal state of humanity.

Maybe if we’re going to fight against terrorism, we should begin with our families, homes, workplaces, streets, and highways.

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