Tonight, I am horrified. I just spoke with a friend, “Dana” at a support group. Here was her question:
“I’m dating this guy that I’m super into. He is dating and sleeping with other women and has told me this. I’ve tried to be ok with it but I’m not. It really hurts. Am I being selfish for wanting monogamy?”
I almost fell out of my chair. And then I REALLY almost fell out of my chair when I heard others in the support group hem and haw. Many of the comments were a variation of “maybe.”
Are you fucking kidding me? I wanted to scream. But I thought better of it. Instead, I tried to be somewhat civil but I apparently came on too strong. I told her that…
- You are NOT being selfish EVER for expecting a guy to treat you well.
- If a relationship hurts, you (EVERYONE) should RUN and NEVER look back. That is true for a guy one is dating, a friend, an employer, neighbors, a religion… Because relationships that hurt are abusive.
- You should set high standards and boundaries and know that if those people (or entities) in your life violates them, hanging around is a really bad idea.
- You owe no one apologies for sticking up for yourself.
- You should trust your instincts and not be afraid to act on them.
- If he’s sleeping with other women, he’s just not that into you. Because if he was, he wouldn’t be out there looking for better. (I mean, if that’s ok with her, she either has super low self-esteem to put up with this or then she’s not “that into him” either.)
- Expecting monogamy is not all that high a standard to expect. (Sure, initially, if one sleeps with a guy super fast, you can’t expect monogamy. But if you’ve been dating for awhile and he’s still sleeping with others and not even making an effort to hide it from you, that says a lot for where he thinks your relationship is heading. If you’re totally hip with that, proceed. But then again, why are you in a support group?)
What was even more disturbing with this mindset were the people who jumped on me for stating the above. Here’s a summary:
- People can successfully be in polyandrous relationships and be really super happy with it. (Ok, true, and some people are super happy living with cheating husbands. And some men really like to punch women in the face. But if you ask me, this is super messed up. And no one should aspire to a relationship that includes fucking around — or abuse of any kind. The fact that people find themselves in these relationships and are perfectly happy says, to me, that something very traumatic happened somewhere along the way that enabled this to happen.)
- We need to give her guy huge kudos for being honest with her. He’s not abusive, he sounds pretty awesome. (Um, ok, this might be true. But then she knew the rules and it’s really sad that she settled for something that hurts her and makes her feel bad.)
- He might change and be faithful to her. (True, but then it’s time to speak up. If he refuses to move their “fuck buddy” status to monogamy, then that tells her everything she needs to know.)
- (This is my favorite, NOT!): What a tough decision. Either way you go, it is such a loss. (For real? A loss of what… the chance for happiness? Um, ok… I’m speechless over this one. Please, I hope she doesn’t have children who she advises.)
- I was judgmental and owed Dana and her guy (who we, of course, don’t know) an apology. (Ok, apology for sounding bitchy but what I was trying to do was stick up for her.)
Here’s the deal… and, really, I can’t think of a single exception: If a relationship hurts, it is bad. It is harmful. And if we allow it to happen, we are going to likely end up with a bad relationship. And if we don’t, then we are super lucky.
If you wouldn’t wish your relationship on your daughter or your best friend, then why are we allowing it for ourselves? Boundaries are good. They are necessary. They are healthy. And we should date men who rock our world and who do not (purposely) hurt us. Asking for a guy to not keep searching for “better” is not selfish.
I have not always been so good at listening to my own advice. Putting this in practice and not settling for great is surprisingly hard. I have dated and married for all kinds of reasons: fear, loneliness, because I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings by bailing, loyalty, image… And where did that get me? It got me married and sticking in an abusive relationship far too long. Selflessness, to our own detriment, is dangerous. And doing this serves no one—not the asshole guy, or our children, our friends—no one.
After all, if we don’t stick up for ourselves, we can’t expect someone else to do it for us.