This 17 day holiday break has been a very magical time for me. I have spent a lot of time reconnecting with old friends, reminiscing on my past, and rethinking what I want out of my future. As you may know, I have been on a dating/relationship research project. My goals have been to interview as many people as possible to figure out rules of dating in your 20’s (which, it actually turns out, there aren’t very many rules at all), what makes a successful couple, and what ruins relationships.
A conversation I had with my room mates this week made me very angry. I tried to let it go, but the more I think about it, the more angry I get. So, before you continue reading, I want to warn you that this is a rant about how we, girls, allow guys to treat us. And, I also want to establish a little bit of credibility for myself as well: part of the reason I am angry is because I allowed myself to be subjected to this same kind of treatment.
Recently, I have been very interested in how societal values have changed. I will tell you that girls are frustrated at the lack of quality men that are out there anymore. My friends are always harping on how there “are no good guys out there anymore”–guys don’t hold doors open for us, they don’t walk in the way of oncoming traffic, they don’t buy us flowers just because. My friends are always saying that guys are getting lazy–they text us to ask us on dates, expect us to chip in with the bill, ask us to drive.
While I completely agree with most of these accusations, I also believe that part of this has stemmed from what girls have allowed to be acceptable. I think part of the reason is because, as girls, we are insecure about ourselves. Society tells us that we need to be blonde, stick thin, super stylish all the time, college educated, gregarious, crafty, be able to whip up a Thanksgiving dinner in a heartbeat, etc. So when we look at ourselves, and realize we are NONE of those things, we start hyperventilating and comparing and settling; “Ok, so my boyfriend never takes me out with his friends, but that is ok because I have small boobs so he shouldn’t want to anyways”, “He told me we were exclusive and then posted a picture of another girl on his Facebook, but that is ok because she is waaay prettier and makes more money than I do”, “He makes me rub his scaly feet all the time and never offers to rub mine, but that is ok because I am very socially awkward so that is my way of giving back”. But, as young women, we need to learn to value ourselves. As said in ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’, “we accept the love we think we deserve”. So, when we don’t value ourselves, when we are insecure, when we don’t realize that God made us all different for a purpose–we let ourselves get taken advantage of. (And, again, I am totally saying this because I, too, was in a place that I did not value myself and my attributes and, now that I look back on it, I realize I deserve SO much more–and you do too). YOU are great just the way you are–who cares if you are nerdy and spend all your free time reading books? Who cares if you love jamming out to Celine Dion? Who cares if your life goal is to own your own water polo factory? We are all different and diverse and that is the beauty of life. Embrace yourself–you can’t be anyone different.
Here are a few common responses I hear from people (and, of course, my response to those as well):
“I know I am his last priority; but that is ok because we are both busy”: Stop making excuses for him. I was totally guilty of this in my last relationship. I was always saying, “Oh, no it’s fine that we haven’t hung out in four weeks because I know he is busy with school but it will be better when this semester is over”, and, “Oh no, it’s fine that I wasn’t invited to his family birthday dinner. They just wanted exclusive family time”, and, “Oh I don’t mind I always have to go visit him and he never comes to visit me. I enjoy going to the gas station every week and filling up with my own money that I don’t have because I am a poor college student/graduate”. (Oh, and actually, things never got better when the semester was over, the birthday thing became a huge wedge, and me driving everywhere caused one of my cars to blow up…)
Now, I believe there is a difference between both being busy and putting each other as last priority, and being busy and making time for each other. Being last priority might look like forgetting to call each other frequently, choosing to hang out with your long-lost high school enemy instead of your significant other, playing Candy Crush and Zombies while on a ‘date’. Both being busy and putting each other as first priority might look scheduling time to call each other and both making sure you have time to talk, putting your cell phones away and committing to being present when you are spending time together, sporadically letting each other know you are thinking about them. Stop making excuses for him. If he isn’t doing it now, he probably will never do it.
“I don’t really like that he stays out all night with his friends, but I am just worried that I won’t find someone better”: You will. He does exist. You just haven’t met him yet. And, if you are still dating that dead weight, then you certainly are not going to meet this strapping young fellow. I certainly felt this way; I would tell myself, “Oh I am dating him because I love these qualities and haven’t found someone else who fits me as well” (except now that I think about it, I don’t even know what those qualities even were and I am pretty sure I found someone waaaaaaay better already). You just have to open yourself up to the possibility and be confident that there is indeed someone that is a better fit for you. Oh, and be patient, which is sometimes the hardest part, but I believe it will be worth it. There are still plenty of great guys out there who will treat you with respect. I have seen it in my sister/room mate, my married friends, my single friends, my friend’s parents, etc. It does exist. Don’t let yourself settle, because after all, you are looking at the rest of your life together. Why make yourself miserable?
“My friends/family just don’t like him because they are jealous. They don’t know what we have”: Actually, your friends and family probably know you waaaaay better than you know yourself. Outsiders are always able to pick up on things that you are too naive or immune to see. If they say he is looking at another girl with elevator eyes, he probably is. If they say he treats you like crap, then he probably does. If they say he will be a terrible father, then he probably will be. Listen to your friends and family (and your dogs–if they run and shake and bark from under the bed and hide in the pantry, it is probably not a good sign). They have your best intentions in mind; listen to them.
“Relationships are hard and can be so much work”: I remember having a conversation with someone a couple years ago, and she shared these same words of wisdom with me. At the time, since she was older and had been married a while, I thought she was exactly correct. But, when I take a step back, I realize that, no, actually relationships should not be work at all. After my last boyfriend and I broke up, I suddenly had a burst of energy; I was staying up late, getting up early, going to more social events and coming up with more innovative ideas than I had in years. I didn’t realize how much work I was putting into it that was a just more of a hindrance on my life. Yes, in order for it to work, you will both need to compromise. You will have to change some of your habits and so will they. But, it shouldn’t be work, because you should want to make those compromises and changes to make that person happy. As one of my favorite ballet teachers once said, “It should be easy; your lives should just co-exist together”.
“We fight about the same thing all the time”: Good. Get rid of him. Don’t let yourself be subjected to a monotonous, unwavering argument, because it will just turn to bickering. If you are constantly fighting the same battle and neither of you is changing, then it is going to become a battle that you fight for the rest of your life. We were constantly fighting about him ‘forgetting’ to call me; his excuse was that ‘he didn’t like to talk on the phone’. I even got him a car charger with a picture of my face on it to remind him to call me. Did it work? Of course not. Is it worth it to go through that much stress? Probably not. There are way more important things in the world to worry about.
“We got in a big fight last night but it is ok because he sent flowers to my work so I forgive him”: Don’t let yourself be bought. Money has never bought happiness. Is he really sorry, or did he just send you those flowers because he knew you would tell your co-workers about the tiff and he didn’t want to look bad?…
“I don’t know if we are going to get married or not. We will see”: So, if the whole point of dating is to look for a potential spouse and you cannot even see a glimpse of a future with this person, then why waste your and their time? Being 23, I am relatively young, but I also know that, if Prince Charming doesn’t show up in the next few years, I might have to start accumulating a lot of cats so I don’t go out like an old maid. Life is too short to just be frivolously dating and spending time with people you don’t see staying in your life. Trim the fat. Cut your losses.
After a lot of examination of myself and the girls around me, I get very angry when I hear about the disrespectful things guys do and say to us. The truth of the matter is, we need to look out for each other and we need to tell guys this kind of behavior is unacceptable. What ever happened to the times when our parents grew up, when the boy ran to the side of the car to open the door for a girl and held out her chair for her? When the guy asked the girl on a date in person? When the guy, oh I don’t know, actually called when he said he would? In part of my research, I have been asking the wiser (not the older…) about their perceptions of these changing societal norms. Most of all agree that, while there were certainly scummy guys twenty years ago, part of the change is because (a) girls wear skimpy clothes that sends off a promiscuous message and (b) social media has caused people to forget their manners. Where have all the good guys gone? Well, the slutty girls chased them off.
Regardless of if it works out for you and whoever you are dating or not, I believe it is our responsibility to other women to not let ourselves be treated so poorly anymore; if I allow a date to treat me poorly, he is going to think it is acceptable, and most likely use those same moves on the next, and the next, and the next, until someone finally gives them a nice, sturdy kick in the rear, or they find a girl with a complete lack of self-esteem that she bends to their every beckoning call.
So, do yourself and the rest of the female population a favor: stop allowing men to treat us like garbage. Each of us deserves to be treated like a princess and don’t let yourself settle for anything less.
(….but I should also add that, as women, we should not necessarily take advantage of this kind of treatment, which will be in a future Blog post…)