How to not fuck up a relationship
Some time ago I ran across this article which I thought was brilliant for many reasons. I shared it on Facebook and the two biggest complaints I got were a) it was too long and wordy and b) it had to do with feminism which certain men’s rights types claim oppresses men.
The latter complaint I will disregard as I think the men’s rights movement is largely woman-hating bullshit and I don’t have time to cater to those guys. I wouldn’t want them dating any woman I know so they can keep on fucking up their relationships all they like, till they breed themselves right out of the population.
The former I can get down with, as most of us are cruising the net while procrastinating at work. So here I’ll try to condense some of those ideas and a few others in 1500 words or less.
WARNING: The following is written from a fairly heteronormative female perspective as I am a (mostly) straight chick who (mostly) dates guys, and this stuff largely comes from my complaints in my past relationships.
It’s also geared toward romantic relationships. However, it’s pretty good advice for any gender and sexual orientation in any type of relationship as it’s mostly about treating yourself and other humans decently.
But it’s also kind of bitchy, cuz I’m like that.
Most men I associate with are not assholes who think women are meat puppets to be used and thrown away, or kept around and disregarded. They are largely caring, intelligent people. However many of them seem bewildered by the women they try to get close to. So here are a few tips that would at the very least have helped a few dudes I’ve dated.
1. The whole jerks vs. nice guys thing is bullshit.
Straight up. All you “nice guys” who can’t figure out why the women you’re attracted to all seem to gravitate toward dickbags, ask yourself this question: How boring am I?
That sounds awful I know, but speaking as a woman who has a lifetime of dickbag dating behind her, I can tell you that if all you have going for you is “nice” you don’t stand a chance.
The appeal of jerks is that they tend to keep things interesting and engaging, if only on a negative level. Every asshole I ever loved, I loved because he made music or art or poetry and deeply gave a damn about his legacy to the world.
Do you live life passionately? Do you care about anything that matters? Do you have anything to offer, to interest her, to set her on fire? Or are you just inoffensive?
If you answered no to the first three questions and yes to the fourth, don’t bow your head in defeat just yet. Understand that relationships, like life, require more than simply breathing to maintain. If all you do is work and watch TV, why would you want someone to share that with? Do you really find it all that satisfying yourself?
If yes, eventually some boring woman may flop down next to you on the couch and you can spend your lives together in vegetative bliss. If no, what are you waiting for to do what fulfills you? If you want a woman who inspires you, you have to inspire her. So get off your ass and go be inspirational, or quit bitching. Do it for yourself first and watch your life transform in more ways than one.
The moral: Complete yourself. No one else can do it for you.
2. You are 50% responsible for your relationship’s state of emotional wellness.
So let’s assume that you have successfully incorporated tip #1 and a fascinating, complex woman has fallen in love with you, or is at least interested. Good job! Do you expect things never to go wrong? Or a better phrasing might be, are you completely gobsmacked when things inevitably do go wrong? Uh oh.
Look, it’s gonna happen. One of you will step on the other’s toes at some point. If she does it to you, you may get hurt or mad. Can you express that openly and maturely? Passive aggressiveness is bullshit, don’t do that. But so is blame and accusations.
Try to find a middle way where you can name the action and its effect on you without making it a judgement on her. If she’s a decent person, she will do what she can to make it better. This skill may take time to develop for both of you, but it is a skill.
So what if you step on her toes? What if she’s upset about that? One of the biggest problems I’ve had in relationships is, female hurt or anger tends to freak guys right out. And quite often in my experience they will immediately focus on the way I’ve expressed myself rather than what I’ve expressed.
I do consider it important to express these things in a non-threatening way for best results. However if she happens to cry or be visibly angry without being abusive, do not use her emotional expression as an excuse to dismiss her. Don’t attempt to rationalize or minimize your actions thinking that if she only understands why you did what you did she won’t be mad anymore. It doesn’t work that way.
Do apologize sincerely first. I recommend this to everyone. You may not have meant to hurt or upset the other person. You may think they shouldn’t feel the way they do. But guess what? They do, and as a caring partner your job is to try to rectify your own part in causing it.
Apologize first, explain later, and for God’s sake don’t go into hiding because you aren’t comfortable with displays of emotion. Learn to deal with the discomfort head on. You will grow as a person and your relationship will grow too. I promise.
The moral: Make it better, not worse.
3. Take space if you need it, but don’t disappear. And don’t be jealous and clingy either.
Let’s say you’re dealing with the above scenario and don’t trust yourself to have the conversation in the moment. Or maybe there are questions about the direction of the relationship that you don’t feel prepared to answer. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into having an immediate conversation you aren’t ready for. The results will never be good.
So, step back, take a few hours or days, think hard about the question or issue. But don’t take forever about it. If someone has presented you with a problem you helped cause, you need to do your part to fix it in a timely manner. Don’t assume it will go away if you ignore it long enough. It will grow.
Similarly, if you’re being asked to make a commitment or state your intentions, this is a defining moment in the relationship. Refusal to answer the question is in itself an answer. If you let that hang, she will draw her own conclusions and you will wake up alone one day. But, do take your time exploring your feelings before answering, lest you be forced to backpedal later.
On the other hand your partner also needs space. Don’t try to make another person compensate for your insecurities. If you’ve been cheated on or deceived in the past it’s reasonable to fear that happening again. However acknowledge that your choice to be with this person needs to be based on a reasonable faith that they won’t. So treat them like it.
The Moral: Balancing sharing and privacy is healthy!
4. Don’t be an asshole.
Evaluate your maturity level. Fucking and chucking is not ok. Mind games are not ok. Punishing another person for hurting you instead of working toward positive change is not ok. Sticking them on a shelf is not ok. Comparing them to a past lover is not ok. Dating someone but only caring about your own needs? So not ok.
If you’re looking for a punching bag, step away from Plenty of Fish and go to the gym. If you’re looking for someone to prove something to you, prepare to be disappointed. If you’re looking for someone to make you happy, you are missing the point. If you are looking for someone to share happiness with, you’re headed in the right direction.
The moral: Give good to get good.
Above all, remember that we are all struggling human beings who make mistakes. Honestly admit to your own and be as forgiving to the other as you would want someone to be to you.