So what if I like drama?
March 24, 2011 1:34 PM   Subscribe

So what if I do like drama?

This is sort of a follow-on to my question about liking very confident, somewhat domineering men, and a lot of questions I've read about relationship difficulties that usually get the response of "DTMFA, unless you like drama".

A lot of people answered something to the effect of "this kind of person is okay if you like a lot of drama". In answers to other questions, some people have said things to the effect that there's nothing wrong with liking drama, if that's what you go for.

Well, I guess my question is: What *is* wrong with liking drama? And if there's nothing wrong with it, what does that mean for how I should approach relationships?

Sorry if this is a weird question.

I'm not sure what it would mean if I liked drama, or if that's even true. But what if it is? Is there something wrong with that? If not, why not?

I guess I should clarify that I'm referring to emotional drama, not serious life drama like physical violence, constantly being broke, catching an STD, alcoholism, etc. I just mean emotional drama.

(I'll try not to threadsit so much on this one!)
posted by 3491again to Human Relations (35 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
What happens when the drama runs out? Will you stir things up on purpose to get new drama? Think of how this may be an issue.
posted by amicamentis at 1:36 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Liking drama has a strong correlation to creating drama. False drama poured over one's life like a glutinous cheese sauce is a taste relisdhed by few.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:36 PM on March 24, 2011 [18 favorites]

So you like drama. I don't see a problem with that. It's just not everyone's cup of tea, and that's just fine.
How do you approach relationships? By being open and honest, clear about your intentions. Just like with every relationship, drama-laden or not.
posted by msali at 1:38 PM on March 24, 2011

At one level, I'm inclined to say "hey, whatever floats your boat." People like all kinds of weird things.

On another level, saying that you like drama is another way of saying you like conflict in a relationship. You have conflict because something is wrong. So saying you like drama is like saying you like it when your relationship is going badly. It's hard to square that circle.
posted by adamrice at 1:39 PM on March 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: You can like whatever you want. Most people find drama to be emotionally draining. That said, in my experience, drama is often (but not always) created by narcissistic people, whose self-obsession makes them captivating people. Fractured though they may be, a lot of narcissists have the kind of blinded obsession that lets them be high achievers, the center of attention etc. When you're with the narcissist, you're at the center of the universe, because they're the center of the universe. I think that's how people get wrapped up in someone else's bullshit drama, when all signs point to flight.

Looking back at some of your past questions, though, it sounds like you've been talking about submission to a dominant partner, which I think is wholly different from drama, though. Leaving aside abuse, a person generally does what the drama partner wants in order to avoid more drama; a person generally does what the dominant partner wants because it's what the dominant partner wants--it's a question of power and respect.

In any event, drama or submission--it's your life, do what makes you happy.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:45 PM on March 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

It took me years to realize that my girlfriend wasn't someone who felt more, suffered more, and experienced things more deeply than I or any one else ever could feel, suffer or experience things, but that she was someone who simply "liked drama." Or, put another way, "liked fights". Not just with me, but with random people on the street. So if you're one of these people, I would suggest that you get a t-shirt or something that says "I Like Pointless Fights, Emotional Scenes, Throwing Things, Arguments with Shopgirls, Suicide Attempts, Public Scream Fests -- Don't Take it Personally." Let people be forewarned.
posted by Faze at 1:49 PM on March 24, 2011 [12 favorites]

Sometimes people say "I like drama" when they really mean "I like to blow up every tiny feeling I have into a raging inferno, freak out about everything, and not be held accountable for any of my actions". Emotionally healthy people learn, after awhile at least, to avoid people like this. This leaves you with only the unhealthy people to spend time with, and the whole thing just spirals downward into a huge disaster.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:54 PM on March 24, 2011 [43 favorites]

I would suggest that you get a t-shirt or something that says "I Like Pointless Fights, Emotional Scenes, Throwing Things, Arguments with Shopgirls, Suicide Attempts, Public Scream Fests -- Don't Take it Personally." Let people be forewarned.

Maybe just a forehead tattoo that says 'POOR IMPULSE CONTROL'?
posted by FatherDagon at 1:58 PM on March 24, 2011 [15 favorites]

I'm not sure I understand your question but here are some thoughts.

I think to some extent, liking drama implies a certain amount of immaturity. High school is very dramatic - people are constantly breaking up, fighting, threatening suicide, slamming doors, hating parents, etc. What are the long-term implications for liking drama? Are you someone who sees yourself settling down or having a family? What's it going to be like when you're trying to secure a mortgage or thinking about having kids and you come home from work and your partner is moving out? Or bought plane tickets to China? Or quit their job to become an actor?

BTW (and again, sorry if I don't understand your question), my best friend for several years loved drama. Once, she called me to tell me she and another friend had a huge fight just to see how I would respond. She also (proudly) kicked her then-boyfriend/now-husband out of their apartment and tossed his stuff into the hall. I stopped talking to her after she told me I was the worst person she ever met and she never wanted to speak to me again. Months later, she was like, why did you friend dump me?! She eventually sent me a letter years later telling me that after she tried to kill herself and now her doctor says she's bipolar. Go figure.
posted by kat518 at 2:06 PM on March 24, 2011

Drama is addictive because when you are careening from crisis to crisis as a couple, you are communicating with a flavour of intensity that is difficult to replicate in any other way. It's got a lot of upsides; I mean, you really can't argue that you're not fully engaged when things are like that, and the sex tends to be kind of awesome.

I ran relationships like that for a long time. I get it. I don't really know what to tell you except that it gets old, both for you and for your partner. I tend to think of it as a hallmark of the very young; it takes more energy than I have at 40. Conversely, I find the total honesty, no-bullshit model to give me the little rush I need now and then.

Ironically, it's also a fairly high stakes way to run your relationship.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:09 PM on March 24, 2011 [8 favorites]

The precise meaning of "like" here is critical. I think when most people say "[thing] is all right if you like drama", they mean "unconsciously drawn to intense, high-energy and painful situations, with lots of recriminations, anger, tempestuous feelings, unrequited longing, power imbalances, lies, loneliness and so on". Many people who are unconsciously drawn to these things would consciously prefer to have relationships without them, and probably need to take some time to unpack what draws them to these relationships.

If you are consciously drawn to relationships with inevitable, that's unusual but not impossible at all. I suggest reading Samuel Delany, particularly his memoir-inflected novel The Mad Man and his memoir Times Square Red, Times Square Blue. Delany has a lot of insights about what draws people to high drama relationships, a lot of patience for unusual and difficult people and situations and in general might have a lot to say to a person who wants to have high-intensity romantic relationships that don't work very much like regular romantic het situations.
posted by Frowner at 2:09 PM on March 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm sort of in the "whatever does it for you" camp ... except don't punish your friends who don't like drama by bringing them into it.

I've had several friendships end because their chaos was too indulgent and exhausting. HOURS late into the night sobbing about the latest boyfriend. I actually care when my friends are in pain and want to help - but I have my own life and don't need someone else's drama puked all over me for months on end.

I'll also add: most people outgrow it, chaos is not the only indicator of deep feelings and it's possible the energy could be spent doing something more productive. Like volunteering.

I really only mean to be slightly snarky.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 2:10 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

By which I mean that you can have a life full of oddball, dramatic romantic relationships, but you shouldn't do this unless you're pretty self-aware (like Delany) and have a strong sense of what you want your life to look like. Delany, who is a gay man who gets around quite a bit, has made what sounds like an enviable life for himself with his daughter, his long-term partner and a variety of casual friends, occasional lovers from a bizarre array of backgrounds and so on. He is awesome and reading his books taught me a lot about how to manage my relationships with drama-intense but interesting and compelling people.
posted by Frowner at 2:13 PM on March 24, 2011

Drama is interesting and often entertaining. It's emotional junk food - bad for you, but tasty and addictive. The thing about drama is you're spending a ton of time and emotional energy on shit that never really gets resolved. You just kind of go in circles instead of moving forward. It's exhausting and repetitive.

Drama also tends to drive away people who don't like it. And non-drama-y people are interesting in their own, quieter ways. A relationship (platonic, romantic, sexual, whatever) with a non-drama person might not have highs that are as intense as you're used to, but it also won't have as many lows. If you rule out the pleasant but "boring" people, you're doing yourself a disservice.

Liking drama can also hurt you professionally. People who are attracted to drama in their personal life will be drawn to it at work, too. Bosses tend to notice this, and they rarely like it.

And, possibly most importantly:

I'm referring to emotional drama, not serious life drama like physical violence, constantly being broke, catching an STD, alcoholism, etc.

"Emotional drama" frequently escalates into the more serious stuff.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:17 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't enjoy emotional drama. One of my parents was bi-polar, alcoholic, and generated a lot of drama. It was unhealthy. Like other commenters, I had a friend who stirred up lots of drama, and who eventually just sucked too much energy out of me, including stealing prescription medications from me, threatening suicide, and driving off erratically. In front of several kids, one of them mine. I miss her in many ways, but I got her and her drama out of my life.

However, it can also be expressed as emotional intensity. And you can find healthy, creative ways to be emotionally intense. Take up drama, literally. Join a theater group. Get involved in helping roles where there is a natural abundance of emotional intensity that you can talk about and experience, but not necessarily generate. Many teenagers have an emotional field that, if it could be harnessed, could power whole cities. Great sex is emotionally intense, as is joy. Creative expression, like painting, poetry, singing, etc., is a healthy way to enjoy your emotional intensity.
posted by theora55 at 2:18 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

I used to be someone who liked drama (though I don't know that I could have articulated it so directly like that), because the intensity of the various dramatic situations I'd find myself in seemed to indicate that that the relationship itself was intense, and therefore Very Meaningful and Important.

This was problematic in some pretty significant ways. First, as others have noted, it pushed away a lot of people, because the charm and excitement of your drama for other people wears off quickly, and just becomes exhausting and tedious. Moreover, all that drama and all that lurching from crisis to crisis and riding the waves of very high highs and very low lows didn't actually bring me what I really wanted in a relationship (though, again, I couldn't have articulated it at the time), which was to feel genuinely accepted, supported, and inspired by a partner who was as committed to me as I was to him.

Those things were only within my reach when I decided to get off the self-sabotaging drama train and get emotionally healthy... at which point, I was finally able to recognize other emotionally healthy people (both as friends and as potential romantic partners), and finally be able to craft an emotionally healthy relationships.

tl;dr -- ThePinkSuperhero nails it.
posted by scody at 2:19 PM on March 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I've had a few (former) friends who were super duper drama queens. Here are the things they had in common:

- They were incredibly self-aggrandizing. Every conversation turned to something amazing or edgy they had done.
- They really weren't interested in hearing about you. When you were saying something, they were usually just waiting to talk.
- They were always one-upping everybody around them.
- They loved talking about themselves.
- They would get themselves into preposterous (and often risky) situations.
- They were total shit disturbers.
- They loved to gossip.
- They loved to fight. Especially with their SOs.
- They were vicious when drunk.
- When things were going well for them, they sabotaged the situation in some way, leaving behind a string of fractured relationships and friendships.
- They took accountability for none of the numerous problems and "disasters" in their lives.
- They could be really fucking rude, to friends, family, and strangers alike.

They could also be incredibly kind, interesting, fun-loving, and generous people at times. But hanging around them was exhausting.

OP, I've read a few of your previous posts and you sound nothing like the people I describe above. Just avoid the kinds of behaviors on Faze's t-shirt list above. You will be happier and healthier for it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:26 PM on March 24, 2011 [12 favorites]

One of the things I realized once I was no longer a teenager and had some perspective on life was that when you are a teen everything is the most important thing ever. Everything is going to last forever and everything is the end of the world. Small details would get blown way out of proportion and it was hard to see how a fight with your best friend wasn't possibly going to ruin your life forever. How exhausting! Most of us grow out of that mindset and find others who are still in it to be too much drama. It's why parents and teenagers fight and it's also one of the many reasons why it isn't wise to marry a teenager.

So, I guess you should really think carefully when you say that you like drama. Also: research "emotional vampires." There's a reason they suck.
posted by amanda at 2:31 PM on March 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding adamrice. Drama is Conflict (Aristotle). You want ceaseless conflict?
posted by londongeezer at 2:35 PM on March 24, 2011

I think people like the idea of living as though life was an opera--they love passionately, they hate feverishly, they're either at the top of the world or they're suicidal. Huge personalities (Dick and Liz, as written by tabloids) seem more romantic and engaged than those of use who have to earn a living, raise kids, get up and do stuff. Don't equal emotional intensity with noise and heat. Raised voices and flying plates are outward actions, but I think the more noise, the less actual depth of feeling. Liking a lot of emotional drama is a great way to distract yourself from actually feeling your emotions and dealing with them.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:41 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Drama is Conflict (Aristotle). You want ceaseless conflict?

And more often than not, manufactured conflict. Or at least, encouraged conflict.

Which is kind of removed from real conflicts and real emotions, and then when real conflict DOES arise ... uh-oh! What's this?? Oh crap.

I second what other folks have been saying about seeking emotional intensity in other ways, and directing your emotional energy into more interesting projects than Drama. Though honestly it sounds like that's already more what you're looking for, and not the super disaster slash and burn drama that people are talking about in their anecdotes here.
posted by little cow make small moo at 2:43 PM on March 24, 2011

Best answer: I'm a big believer in the idea that there *is* such a thing as 'good' or even healthy drama. I think that we are so conditioned as a society to see, create and perpetuate the bad kind, that we run screaming from any hint of drama in any form. I believe that the good kind is the stuff that keeps us going, striving, feeling alive and connected in a beautiful and playful tug-o-war with our fellow humans (as hokey as that may sound).

Part of this inherent problem with eschewing all drama is that we have these pesky emotional desires - the desire for tension, the desire for excitement, for passion, for an emotional swing - and when we don't know healthy ways of getting those desires met, we fall back on the quickest way we know how to get there. Which is often some a destructive or less-than-healthy learned behavior we picked up from our parents or past lovers or cultural role models or whatever.

To acknowledge the desires and put the energy towards good's about building trust so you can create tension, and find release; imagining scenarios and crafting pleasing stories around your experiences; playing games with people...including surprises, jokes, playful secrets; challenging yourself to be more adventurous, more vulnerable, more creative, and more scared than ever before...and out of all that, success. (and some failure too, but it'll be ok)

Also, making good choices (so you don't fall back into bad drama traps)...a wonderful rollercoaster of its own. Have fun!
posted by iamkimiam at 2:58 PM on March 24, 2011 [18 favorites]

Best answer: So...this might be just semantics, but I think you (general you) can live with intensity and spontaneity. You can have a big personality and strong emotions. You can take risks and speak your mind and do exciting things. You can be dynamic, or fascinating, or unpredictable (in a fun way, not an unreliable way.) Those traits, I think, would make for a life in which things are always happening and changing. Drama, on the other hand, has more to do with making a big freaking deal out of every little thing that goes wrong. And if nothing is going wrong, inventing or causing something to go wrong. If you do that long enough other people will roll their eyes at you, and start to avoid you, and eventually not want to be around you at all because it's selfish and tiring and ultimately really boring.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:59 PM on March 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

Also, drama (like many things, unfortunately) can be cute in your 20s, and even 30s, but after that most people will just wonder why you're still reacting to things like a teenager, and honestly it looks a little sad.

That said, if you really truly like drama and you are surrounded by enough other people who like it too so that you won't end up alienating everyone you know, then hey, why not. It's not like there aren't plenty of 70 year olds who are always fighting with this friend and freaking out about that problem and not speaking to a different relative every day. I personally find the whole thing too much work, but it's definitely a lifestyle choice many people have made.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:10 PM on March 24, 2011

I find that people who love drama are usually trying to fill a void within themselves. They can't stand the idea of having to sit alone their thoughts, or having to deal with their actual feelings, so they just become a caricature of themselves to get attention.
posted by smokingmonkey at 3:30 PM on March 24, 2011 [8 favorites]

Is it drama you want or passion?
posted by mleigh at 3:52 PM on March 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

I agree with iamkimiam in that there can be good/positive drama. It's not really a concept that gets much buzz, though.

Usually I assume that when someone says something like, "I like drama," it means that they enjoy getting into screaming arguments with their partner all the time. I grew up with parents like that and HATED it, but if the two of you both enjoy that sort of thing and nobody else has to live with you and listen to it...*shrug* well, whatever floats your boat. But most people would rather have positive drama (if any) rather than shit stirring drama or having to get into fights all the time.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:19 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Drama is a big, imprecise term. So let's talk about better things that commonly get conflated with drama: spontaneity, romance, fire, passion, and strangeness.

Sensible people who follow sensible rules can have all these things. But to do so successfully, you need more control, discretion, and intelligence, not less. Emotional diarrhea does not equal passion. It equals a repellent mess in your pants.

So here is what you do: you develop a Code. Your straight life is lived exactly that: arrow straight. You pay every bill on time, you work harder than anyone else, and you don't brag or gossip about the shit you do off the clock. Your taxes are done promptly and correctly. Your house is clean. You don't speed and you don't get in accidents. You don't do yourself or others harm. You write to your Grandma. You live straight in the straight world and so are above reproach.

You do these things by habit and get ruthlessly efficient about them so that the time that's yours is truly, really yours. Then find your fire. Be pleasant with the people you meet but totally honest about what you like and you don't. (Because this seems to be at least in part about D/s, read this just to start with, and go forth and prosper. It is lengthy and so very not safe for work.)

If you're lucky you'll find a circle of people who live like you do, and better still a partner or partners who do. Take care of your straight life and be ethical and clear in your private life, and you can be freer than you ever dreamed. Seriously, your life belongs to you. If doing a 9-5 grind and coming home to a salad and sitcom while spending time with people who never surprise or challenge or enflame you makes you die inside, you are so not alone. Live your heart out but don't fuck yourself or anyone else over to do it. I wish you well.
posted by melissa may at 4:23 PM on March 24, 2011 [11 favorites]

My first girlfriend was a massive drama queen. She being my first girlfriend, I hadn't really learned to tell the difference between "drama" and "maturity". Both involve conflict, a certain degree of introspection, and being expressive about your feelings, but they really aren't the same thing at all. It took me a while to figure that out, and it sounds like what you're looking for is maturity--possibly involving a certain amount of submission--not drama per se.

The way I draw the distinction is that drama is making every single little thing the biggest issue in the world while maturity is treating everything with the seriousness it deserves. The former is, as others have said, pretty damn exciting, but it involves disproportionate responses to just about everything. The latter still lets you be emotional about things about which it is appropriate to be emotional, which is important because there are lots of those things, but it also lets you shrug off or just ignore those things which don't really matter, which is even more important, because most things don't.

Knowing which is which is where the maturity part comes in.
posted by valkyryn at 6:43 PM on March 24, 2011

Replace the word "drama" with "bullshit" in your post and you'll understand what's wrong with liking it.
posted by quadog at 7:38 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The problem with drama comes if it takes you away from your other goals. Say you want to pay your bills on time, and you want to go out to dinner with your best friend on Friday.

Say that on Tuesday night, your partner decides in a dramatic whirlwind that with all the pain he has had lately, he has to let the ocean soak it away under this full moon. Fabulous and exciting, so you* go along and drive two hours to the nearest seaside town with him. You have a big bonfire, and he goes out to have a cleansing ceremony. But he stays in the water so long that he gets hypothermia, and you have to take him to the emergency room. You're there all night and spend $1000 on the copay. You miss work the next day, and before you notice how low your funds are, your rent check bounces. You're tired and distracted all week. After work Friday, you start to discuss whether he can partially pay you back, but he feels really unsupported by you reducing this life-changing night in which he almost died into some monetary transaction! You don't want him to think that was all it was to you! You have to stay home to straighten out this mess, so you cancel on your friend and spend the night reassuring him, arguing, and crying. But to no avail. He storms out, and you cry yourself to sleep. All day Saturday, you're frantic. Where is he? You call everyone. You're worrying. Sunday, he comes back. There is more fighting.

At the end of these five days, you're broke, your rent is unpaid, your laundry isn't done, you're on your boss's and your landlord's bad side, you flaked on your friend, and you didn't even find time to catch up with her all weekend. Your life is falling apart, not getting stronger.

* By the way, this is the generic "you," not some scenario I came up with to match you you after reading your other questions.
posted by salvia at 10:37 PM on March 24, 2011 [12 favorites]

I guess I should clarify that I'm referring to emotional drama, not serious life drama like physical violence, constantly being broke, catching an STD, alcoholism, etc. I just mean emotional drama.

People's emotions effect the actions they take in serious real life therefor it is impossible for emotional drama not to become serious real-life drama. Good emotional drama results in positive serious life drama: surprise flowers, taking family leave, sex that meets both partners needs, and other such drama. I think this good drama doesn't have the epic peaks and valleys that bad drama has so it's not thought of or spoken of much and iamkimiam, et al, are very wise to articulate it.

Bad emotional drama will necessarily become serious life drama. People act on their emotions to make practical decisions regarding their day to day life, and when that involves major emotional swings, constant relationship stress and conflict their behavior toward their partner will reflect the emotional rollercoster. People do crazy shit when they are cough up in extreme emotions and people who "like" drama are more often than not feeling extreme emotions. As other people have said, this will alienate a lot of a person's social network, including coworkers and bosses.

I have also noticed that people who "like" drama often have an external locus of control, i.e. it is always outside forces or people acting on them to make them make their decisions; they do not accept their full agency in their actions. This is the opposite of confidence and strength.
posted by fuq at 8:18 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nothing's wrong with liking drama - just don't come here agonizing about how to get out of it (this answer is more for my benefit than yours, so please don't be offended).

There's a reason why you keep seeing answers that are essentially saying drama is "bad" and get out of it - that's because the questions are about undesirably dramatic situations.
posted by althanis at 9:25 AM on March 25, 2011

I don't think anyone has mentioned the cultural aspects that may be missing from the picture. Are we and our potential or actual partners from slightly or very different cultural or subcultural origins? The level of contention and emotional expression that feels normal *really* can be different between people. If in my subculture, reservation, evasion, whispering, and muted emotion are the norms, and in another person's cranking up the decibels and broadening the emotion are the norms, well then ... conflicts might arise.

If we drama means passion and elevating emotion from the everyday humdrum, then live on the broader stage, huzzah!
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 9:58 AM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, thank you everyone.

I'm realizing that I'm not the drama queen -- it's that I have a HUGE taste for drama kings. Salvia, have you been bugging my house? The only reason I don't have significant real-life problems from this is that I'm pretty good at what melissamay calls "The Code".

It's not the personality-disordered it's-not-my-fault stuff or the high-conflict that I get into, more the "let's run out to the beach at midnight for a cleansing ceremony" that I'm attracted to. I love the high-energy, quirky people... but not when they dump all of the responsibilities on you afterward. And I hate fighting. Hmmm...
posted by 3491again at 1:50 PM on March 25, 2011

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