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So you want to keep your lover or your employee close. Bound to you, even. You have a few options. You could be the best lover they've ever had, kind, charming, thoughtful, competent, witty, and a tiger in bed. You could be the best workplace they've ever had, with challenging work, rewards for talent, initiative, and professional development, an excellent work/life balance, and good pay. But both of those options demand a lot from you. Besides, your lover (or employee) will stay only as long as she wants to under those systems, and you want to keep her even when she doesn't want to stay. How do you pin her to your side, irrevocably, permanently, and perfectly legally?

You create a sick system.Collapse )


( 315 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 18th, 2010 03:57 am (UTC)
Holy cow.

You just described my 12 year relationship with my now-ex husband.

Until I got some distance from him, I thought we had a great marriage.. with distance I saw how controlling and selfish he was.. what hurt the most was realizing that he never really cared that much at all- when he lost control, he threw me away like trash.

I'm so much better off.
Jun. 18th, 2010 04:55 am (UTC)
Excellent article.

For me, the system was high school. My greatest regret is all the stress I put myself through there. I lost years of creative potential.
Jun. 18th, 2010 05:32 am (UTC)
Hospitals work this way too.

Thanks for posting, I'll be passing it along too.
Jun. 20th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
Yeah. I'm not in that field, but every time I read about interns (or regular staff or friends in it) working 16-24+ hour shifts, I'm reminded of the study that demonstrated that being awake more than 16 hours straight impaired one similarly to having a drink...
(no subject) - wtchywmyn - Jun. 21st, 2010 01:01 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 18th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
sick educational institutions
I agree that high schools and colleges can often be or contain sick systems, but I think it needs to be pointed out that they differ significantly from relationships and jobs (at least for the students). Most of the differences arise from the variability between and within schools, and from the fact that not all educational institutions are intentionally designed to be "sick."

In any given educational institution, there will be a wide gradient of students and teachers. Students can range from motivated hard workers to slackers, apt to disinterested, or abstract thinkers to hands-on learners. Likewise teachers can range from strict to understanding, obscure to clear, or challenging to easy-going. This variability allows for lots of different possible teacher-student systems, some of which might be healthy and others sick. Given luck, intelligence, and skill, a teacher or student might remain perfectly sane; lacking them they might not. In a sick student teacher relationship, for example, if an average or below average student who cares about their grades gets a teacher who assigns challenging homework and grades harshly, that student will find themselves in a sick system. However, an average student with an easy going teacher or an excellent student with a challenging teacher will probably do fine without tiring themselves out too much. Generally a student who either does not care about their grades or gets good grades easily will be fine. Thus, sick systems in institutions often exist on a student-to-student or classroom-to-classroom basis. They can be transient as well, when teachers change policies or students switch classes. Much of it is in the mind of the student: a students and teachers can exit their little sick system bubble if they realize that (a) learning in and of itself is more important than grades, and/or (b) the limitations of mind and body must both be respected.

Schools are usually not completely sick systems because they do not need to be. Sick systems form because the creator of the system wants to get something out of its prey for less than it gives. Students (well, parents) pay money regularly (as taxes or straight up) for education. However, the quality of education received by the student depends not only on the amount they pay, but on the integrity of the administration, the skill of the teachers, and the attitude and aptitude of the student. Thanks to how it is funded, a school has little motivation to slack off on giving the students a good education and create a completely sick system. Thus schools do not become sick systems in the same way as other institutions: they become sick by accident.
Jun. 19th, 2010 01:16 am (UTC)

...thank you for putting all of this in easy-to-understand terms. I've worked in that sort of situation before. On several occasions. Having it all explanified like this will make identifying the problem easier in the future.
Jun. 19th, 2010 09:14 am (UTC)
How insightful! Very validating.
Jun. 19th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
On In Waiting, #11: I'm wondering what laws are on the books about medical emergencies and who to file a complaint with since her uterus could have been seriously damaged by delayed care.
Jun. 23rd, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC)
Excellent question. She probably wouldn't be willing to file even if she could, though--bad employers are mighty good at preventing that. They'd go out of business otherwise.
Jun. 19th, 2010 07:43 pm (UTC)
I just spent a year watching my roommate recover from a relationship that was abusive that he couldn't see his ex's name on the "From" line of an email without feeling sick to his stomach.

This post goes a long way to explaining why he didn't walk away a long time sooner.

Thank you for writing it.
Jun. 20th, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
reminds me of half of my jobs. but I;m out of one because they fired us, end of season... and then where suprised when we didn't come back because we'd gotten another job. ;)
Jun. 21st, 2010 12:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you and congratulations.
Thank you for a great article. I have been struggling to combine and put all these thoughts into words for some time now.

(Deleted comment)
Jun. 23rd, 2010 12:30 am (UTC)
Congratulations! I wish you success, and the fortitude to not stab anyone until you can break free. Which skills are you learning, if you don't mind my asking?
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - issendai - Jun. 23rd, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 22nd, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
thank you very much for your post. supremely insightful.
Jun. 22nd, 2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
"Things will be better when... " is one I heard a lot from a friend who hated her job. When I'd prod her to quit, she'd cite the need for money -- though she really wasn't in a financial pickle as she lived at home with no rent, bills, or food to pay for -- then turn around and, after just going on about how horrible her job and boss is, claim, "It's/he's not that bad, though," and "It'll get better when I..." To date, she's still working there and still hates it.

This is also tied to the possessive significant other who is often also a skilled manipulator.
Jun. 23rd, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)
Arrrgh, yes. Complaining for hours and then immediately retracting everything when someone suggests change is a major sign that you're caught in a sick system. It's creepily similar to cycles of depression in which people say/post how miserable they are and how they don't think they can live this way any more, then a couple of hours later they deny deny deny. They didn't mean it! How could you think they meant it? It was just a silly thing they did because of some totally unrelated stress. Everything is fine, was fine, will always be fine, STOP SAYING I'M DEPRESSED GOD DAMN IT.

I'm sorry she's trapped. Being caught between a sick job system and a sick relationship system must be hell for her, and I wish her luck and strength in getting out.
(no subject) - xplo_eristotle - Sep. 15th, 2012 06:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - issendai - Sep. 15th, 2012 12:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 23rd, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
An unfortunately true and wholly chill inducing description about exactly what things you have to do to get people to 'love' you beyond all reason and sense.  I've mostly managed to dodge this bullet when it comes to relationships (despite my earlier in life penchant for girls that were batshit insane) but I've still experienced some of this in the tangle of my pre-married love life and quite a bit of it in my working life.  This article reminds me of a much more immoral version of Robert Greene's The Art of Seduction which I also find more useful in my dealings with companies and media than with other human beings.  I hope my kids read things like this, I hope that reading about our vulnerabilities as human beings helps inoculate us against all the psychic vampires and tiny puppet masters this world abounds with.  But I'm not entirely convinced that this is so, I fear that when it comes to the most painful lessons most people can only learn through direct, agonizing experience.

On a related note, here's a youtube video about how to start your own cult. 


Jun. 23rd, 2010 08:12 pm (UTC)
Great read, if a little scary. Thanks for that! :)
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