Dithering idiots

Okay ladies, this is going to sting.

So we’ve all been in that somewhat ambivalent relationship where we don’t know where the guy’s head is at.  He’ll tell you that he’s not ready to commit yet but you can’t see a really good reason (really good reasons include a family medical emergency, finishing school, etc.).  Let me break it down for you – he might be ready to commit but not to you.

If the right girl came along, he’d commit in a nanosecond.  However, you’re not that girl and under no circumstances will I advocate attempting to change yourself into *that girl* just to make him happy.  This isn’t about you though.  In all likelihood, you’ve done nothing wrong; you’re simply convenient for the moment, however long that moment lasts.

How do you differentiate the dithering idiot from the manchild?  The manchild refuses to grow up.  The dithering idiot is a already an adult who handles his responsibilities.  The manchild doesn’t realize the relationship has no future; the dithering idiot is fully aware that you’ll never be anything more than his ‘girlfriend.’

If you find yourself in this situation, recognize it, extricate yourself, and move on.  Don’t blame yourself for anything more than allowing him to waste your time, and go find a guy who deserves you.

That rainy day

Hopefully you have heeded my advice on creating an emergency fund and hopefully you’ve been dutifully saving for it and requiring your partner to save for it as well (it would be completely unfair for one partner to shoulder the burden for both of you).  You will also need to re-evaluate it when your circumstances change (new job, new house, pay raise, divorce, etc.).

You will also need an emotional rainy day fund.  A collection of good memories, inspiring quotes, and happy moments to pull you through the less-than-thrilling times in life.  Not only when boredom sets in but also when trouble arrives on your doorstep.  You will need to feed this account as often and as thoroughly as you add to your financial emergency fund.  Hold onto supportive friends and allow the rest to fall by the wayside.  If you need to, change your outlook from negative to positive and keep it that way.

Into every life a little rain must fall, make sure you have an umbrella.

Your children are not your relationship

Some people have made the mistake of choosing their children over their relationship.  Worse, they don’t even know that they’re doing it.  Parenting can be exhausting.  It can really test your endurance and while you may want it all, it can be difficult to have it all.  Choices need to be made and priorities assigned.

Do not make the mistake of focusing more on your children than on your relationship.  Yes, children are precious little minds that you are responsible for molding into productive citizens.  However, in eighteen years, they’re going to be moving out of your house and you’ll be left with a complete stranger for a spouse and nothing to say because the main topic of conversation is gone.

Your children are important but so is your significant other.  Continue to make time to check in with them on a daily basis.  Have date night – yes it’s cheesy but it’s also important.  Stay connected to your partner through common interests (no, the children do not qualify as a common interest).  Remain a couple, even within a family.

When he wants to have a baby

Possibly the four scariest words coming from a man are, “Let’s have a baby.”  While this could be taken as a good sign, if you’re not married (or on a similar commitment level), there could be a variety of reasons why a man suggest this and you should fear it or not.

First, find out why he wants to have a baby:

  • Your relationship is in trouble and he thinks it will make things better.
  • He doesn’t want to get married but wants to “show” that the relationship is progressing.
  • Your genes and his genes would make cute babies.
  • He wants a baby and the uterus is irrelevant.
  • He honestly wants to have and raise children together.  (Obviously this is the only good reason.)

After you know why, then you can work out how to handle the situation. Gentle confrontation and tactful honesty will probably work best.

If the relationship is unstable or he’s unwilling to make a commitment to you (there are a number of men who will try to tell you that a baby demonstrates more commitment than marriage), suggest counseling before you opt for getting pregnant.

Cute babies?  Tell him he’ll need a better reason; it’s probably a passing fancy.

If he’s getting broody, it may or may not pass.  If, when discussing having children, he makes you feel irrelevant, absolutely refuse.  He may go find a more accommodating woman but it’s better than attempting to co-parent with a person who believes you do not matter.

There are good guys out there, use your judgment.

Baby, it’s a trap

Do not ever attempt to “trap” a man by having his baby.  In the history of bad ideas, this ranks in the top 10.  A baby will not cement a relationship and in this day and age, it won’t even convince him to do the right thing.

If the relationship is already unstable (or perhaps simply not headed where you want it to go), a child is not going to improve the situation.  Children can be a blessing but they aren’t a substitute for a healthy relationship.

Babymommas are a dime a dozen.  If the relationship is not on solid footing, having a baby does not make a guy think about marriage, it makes him think of escape.  The social stigma of fathering a child out-of-wedlock simply does not exist in most western cultures.

Here’s where the real trap comes in – you trapped yourself.  If he doesn’t want the child, you’re going to be the one raising it, supporting it, nurturing it, disciplining it, and if you’re lucky, he’ll pick the child up once or twice a month to play with it for a few hours, feed it junk, and hand it back when it is no longer fun.  Unless you really want to be a single mom, don’t go down this road.

Now, accidents do happen and there are good men out there who will care for their child without being in a relationship with their mother.  However you should never bet on the fact that baby = security.

When bitchy isn’t bad

Bitchy generally refers to someone who is mean or spiteful.  More recently, bitchy has been used to describe any woman who isn’t a doormat.  If standing up for yourself is bitchy – be bitchy.

I’m not saying that you should be rude, malevolent, or vindictive.  That won’t get you where you want to be in your relationship (unless your goal is to alienate your partner and make him leave – then by all means, go right ahead).

Having said that – you should always stand up for what you believe in even within your relationship.  You will not be rewarded for subordinating yourself to your partner.  You have 50% of the responsibility in a relationship and 100% of the responsibility for your happiness.

Be honest.  Be nice.  When your needs aren’t being met, communicate them rationally and in a straightforward manner.  Men are not good at reading between the lines.  If you aren’t clear they will likely think they are doing well while you are growing in your resentment.  You can not blame him for not delivering what you need if you never tell him what it is.

Direct from my desk – week 41

So what if you’re the one who cheats?

First and foremost, own what you did.  Even if you decide not to fess up to your partner (more on that in a minute), you certainly shouldn’t live in a state of denial.  You were in a relationship and no matter how bad or good it was, you weren’t faithful to your commitment.  It doesn’t make you a horrible person, it just means that your actions don’t always live up to your expectations.

Analyze why you did it.  Was it unhappiness?  boredom?  fear?  Put some time into figuring out why you did it and how you can fix it.  Cheating is rarely about your partner so you’ll need to find what it is about you that needs to be improved upon.

If you decide to tell your partner, pick your moment carefully.  Be calm.  Answer their questions.  Do not give details.  Understand their anger.  Suggest a way to get the relationship back on track but don’t expect that it will be accepted.  Realize that they will need to be healed from this experience and that it won’t be easy or pleasant.

If you decide not to tell your partner, consider why you’re in the relationship.  If you’re thinking that it was a one-time-thing, then make sure that it was.  If you prefer not to burden them with your mistake then you need to make sure that they’re never going to find out.  Think long and hard about it before you take this course of action; honesty is long regarded as an essential component of any successful relationship.

Lastly, forgive yourself.  Neither you nor your relationship can move forward if you’re clinging to that past.

My mailbox is open:  girldontbestupid@gmail.com

It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission

Being cheated on is similar to living through an earthquake – the one thing you thought was solid turned out to be shaky ground.  Cheating encompasses so much more than just the physical act of sex.  It’s a devastating cocktail of lying, humiliation, and righteous anger.  Unfortunately, it’s also not that uncommon.

As the old adage goes, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.  Wouldn’t you rather they ask permission?  Then at least you have the option of giving permission or leaving the relationship.  You might suggest this to your partner but don’t expect them to stop in the moment and ring your cellphone to ask if it’s okay.

How should you react when your partner confesses to cheating?  You have every right to be angry and you shouldn’t deny yourself that.  There will be a split-second where you will need to decide if you want to save the relationship or be rid of him – that moment will dictate your near-term and long-term future.  Either way:

  1. Do not ask for details.  They will only haunt you and drive you insane.
  2. Ask where his relationship with the other person stands at the moment.
  3. Ask what resolution they would like to see occur.
  4. Despite the rollercoaster that you’re on, maintain your calm and do not make any rash decisions.
  5. Talk to a trusted friend or counselor to help you gain perspective on the situation.

Coping with changes within the team

Most people go into marriage assuming that it will be forever.  Some people also go into marriage with the assumption that neither they nor their partner will ever change one iota from who they were at the ceremony.  I think we can all agree that, if we step back and look at it, this is a ridiculous expectation and one entirely impossible to achieve – even if you wanted to.  People are not static entities, if we are not growing, we are dying.

One measure of a strong couple is how they cope with changes within the team.  Strength is not rigidity, it’s flexibility.  There will be times in any long-term relationship where you will need to be flexible in order to endure.  So how does a couple do this?

  1. Realize from the outset that there will be changes in you and changes in your partner – and you’re not going to always like the changes.
  2. Determine if you can live with the change or not.  Is it temporary?  Is it permanent?  How much does it actually affect you?  Keep a long-term view.
  3. If it’s something you absolutely can not live with, get out.  It’s not fair to you or your partner to say you can live with a change when it will build up resentment that’s destined to explode later.
  4. If it’s something you can easily live with, be supportive without being an enabler.  You don’t have to like it to live with it.
  5. If it’s something that you can live with but not exactly as it’s currently presenting itself, negotiate the changes you need in order to live with it.  Again, this isn’t about you liking it, it’s about you living with it.
  6. If a change worries you, talk to your partner about it but give him the benefit of the doubt.

Keep in mind that no change, even a change for the better, is permanent.  A person’s priorities depend largely on their situation.  What’s important to a person at twenty may not be as important at forty or even sixty.  Similarly, a person’s concerns will be different if they’re stable than if they’re insecure (emotionally, financially, etc.).   As the saying goes, “everyone is on a journey.”  Be as accommodating as you can be without losing your identity.