I have a very close family. That doesn’t mean we never had problems. As I have already blogged about in my previous post “Relationships” (link), I have had to deal with my fair share of issues. My father and I had a tumultuous relationship for years and my mother and I did not always get along either. My father and I would have fights that would literally come to physical blows. My mother and I would have arguments that would last years.
Nevertheless, I never really blamed them for everything—even if it sounded like I did. I always knew, deep down, that I had played my part in that soirée. I knew the lines, I knew the exit cues. When relationships break down or have troubles, there are usually many factors, characters, and actions at work that make something what it is or once was. Nowadays, my parents and I are best friends. We may not talk all the time, I can go weeks without calling, but when we do talk, it is always meaningful, heartfelt, and we make up for lost time, especially when the phone conversation can last up to 3-5 hours!
You see, I’ve always believed quality was better than quantity in any of my relationships with people, which is just something that is not given due credit these days. Everyone is evaluating their relationships based on how many years you have, how many arguments you settled, how much crap you’ve done together, your Instagram posts or whatever, and no one thinks of the little stuff like just being there in the same room, having someone to come home to, or showing emotional support once in a while.
For instance, my father wasn’t always there when we were kids. He was there physically, but I always knew his heart and mind were at times somewhere else. He was a master at checking out and checking back in whenever he felt like it. My mother was a master of disguise and you never knew what she was really thinking. She is a highly empathic person, which takes its toll. Sometimes she would tell you, point blank, she had no more emotional support to give you because she had already expended it on my Dad, sisters, and everyone else in the world.
Today, my parents and siblings are my anchors in this crazy world. One phone call from them or to them and I usually find my center. I am reminded of a much simpler time when bills didn’t have to be paid, sacrifices weren’t necessarily made by me, and these people know me better than most. My guard can be completely let down and I can be as open and honest with them as I would if I were talking to God himself.
That being said, my parents and I like to talk very openly about my dating life. We usually don’t have to go into detail either to understand what it is I’m going through. A few subtle lines and they get it—which is so nice, you see, to not have to explain everything to someone. It’s a relief. They are also the perfect people to talk to about these things because my parents have had a successful marriage—deemed successful only because they are still married for 30+ years. My Dad claims it is because he told my mom “the rules” before he started to truly date her. The rules were as follows:
- They decided as to who would get the last word in a heated argument over a major life decision (my Dad won that one of course).
- They would not argue and scream until the point where it came to blows or when objects were being thrown across the room (a reflection of my Dad’s childhood).
- No cheating was ever allowed.
- And lastly, this one isn’t so much a rule as a fundamental understanding, they would remain separate people. No one would endeavor to control or manipulate the other to become something they were not.
I love these rules and I try to implement them in my relationships as well. I’ve dated quite a few people. In my post about “Relationships” (link) I only wrote about the major experiences in my life. I’ve seen or dated more people over the years, many of my relationships lasting a few months to a year, with roughly only one lasting longer. I have been technically proposed to at least three times, a minor accomplishment to a girl who at one time thought she’d be married with kids by age 24.
I am 29 and none of that has happened, for many reasons, but one that I will share. You see, my father is just too old school. He raised his girls to think like men and at times act like men if the situation calls for it—mainly for survival. What he forgets is that other people in the world will always still just see us as girls.
So picture this. You are on the first date with a guy and it’s been an hour or two of talking and you’re trying to discover what it is you two are all about. My father, as a man, would then establish the rules of the relationship right then and there so there would not be any confusion later on. In previous relationships with other women, he told them point blank he wasn’t looking to settle down, so if that’s what they wanted, they would be wasting their time. I cannot do this as a woman.
The moment you begin to dictate rules to a man, whether it’s the first, or second, or even third date, men see this as a woman who wants commitment, even if she doesn’t. They see this as her venting her frustrations of previous relationship baggage on them, which she isn’t. They may even think she’s a little crazy and too intense. They immediately want to run for the hills! You see a man gets to dictate rules because if a woman did, no man would ever pass the test. We have to settle because our perfect, ideal man doesn’t f—king exist. Period.
I’m sorry guys, but its true. You’ll never be as loving enough, as kind enough, or as “there” enough as we would probably want you to be in our ideal head. We know this and decide we will love you anyway and we hope you’ll do the same which is why it hurts us so much when you don’t make any of the sacrifices that we already have made before we even started the relationship.
Yes, yes, yes…I’m making some large, sweeping generalizations, but come on—this is a blogpost where I am trying to synthesize my experiences to explain something that is human—that happens, to some extent, to all of us. Like a comedy, screenplay, or tv show—they are all sweeping generalizations. Let’s ignore the post-structural and post-modern arguments for now and focus on the forest instead of the trees for second and you’ll realize I may be right about this in some instances. We will ignore the times when women dictate rules and men get hurt for a moment only because this blogpost cannot be 20 pages long. I know this happens. I do. The only comment I can say for when that happens is that it happens to all of us. Whether it’s women dictating rules or men, someone inevitably gets hurt by some them. Some hurts become minor disappointments over the years and the relationship can last, others—not so much. But we need another blogpost specific to that issue at a future time.
Back to the heart of the issue. There is still a discrepancy about what rules a woman can dictate in a relationship compared to men. Women don’t have the ability to exercise our dating rules because society (in this case other men) are used to being the ones that make the rules. They are the ones that tell us women how to behave, what to do or not to do on the first date, or what to say or not to say to get him to stick around long enough for a three-course meal. And ladies, we’ve all heard them, right? We have been told these rules by other women! It’s other women that help keep patriarchy and all that crap up-to-date, not just men. Those rules given to us are as follows:
- Don’t talk about your exes—(he’ll think you’re not over them or venting baggage).
- Don’t talk about kids—(even if you want them someday, he’ll assume you want to get married next week).
- Don’t talk about your flaws—(men like confidence, wait to talk about flaws after he does).
- Don’t tell him how you really feel about him (dangle him along as you assume he’s dangling you).
- Don’t talk about family problems or any problems you’ve overcome in the past (unless he does so first and only tell them about it briefly, don’t go into detail)
- Smile and look pretty
- Act natural but not too natural
- Don’t show any insecurity…………………………………………………………………………….
The list goes on and on! And when you compare my Dad’s rules on what to discuss on the first or second date, with these other rules, you’ll discover that the other rules are really about what we can’t do and not what we can do, except to smile and look pretty. And yet, every single good relationship I’ve ever had with anyone began because I was completely and totally honest with them early on—I allowed myself to be vulnerable very quickly and allowed things to just happen, even if I got hurt.
So, let’s break the cycle ladies and say to hell with it. I’m going to be myself from the first date to the last. Let’s see if there’s a man out there that’s man enough to tame and train this wild creature because I say to hell with the rules—any and all of them. What will be, will be. I think we need to embrace that saying more when we date and explore other people. If he sees my insecurity and runs, then he’s immature, because no one, no not one person, is completely confident about themselves 100% percent of the time. You need someone to love you when you are confident and insecure. When you are human and when you seem to be fitting some person’s fantasy/ideal, because we are all of these things, at one time or another. We are all complex creatures, as homosapiens or creatures from God—whatever argument, they are both true! I’m tired of pretending to be something that I’m not just long enough for someone to want to get to know me more.
Advice is great, but only when it works out. I’ve followed my Dad’s advice over the years, and it didn’t work for me. In part, I know it’s because I’m a woman. I also think it’s because I am way too honest. Sometimes the best advice you can follow, is the advice given to you by your own heart and experiences. Sure. Take the advice and see if it works. If it doesn’t, it’s okay—toss it out! Forge your own journey, find your own way. At least, even if you’re alone, you truly know yourself, what you stand for, what you can tolerate, and what you can’t. Which is more than I can say for all these people in so-called “happy” relationships that are just burying themselves in someone else (and you know the one’s I’m talking about!). Take it one day at time and take some things with grain of salt. Maybe then, and only then, you can find what makes you, you.