I was getting ready to head out when Out of Control by Hoobastank came on my Ipod. This song reminds me of some very emotionally abusive relationships I found myself when I was younger.
I thought these guys loved me but I know they just loved the fact that I was so weak, unable to stand up for myself or make decisions and oh so eager to please. I couldn’t trust my mind so they told me what was right and wrong. I fought them on it most times but I just wanted them to be happy with me. I was willing to change and did change if it meant they would be happy with me and stay. I was always left bleeding, drunk, angry and crying.
I tried so hard to give them everything they wanted and didn’t care if I was given nothing back. It just broke me down and even these past four and bit years with my current partner has only been unable to undue a bit of the damage that had been done.
I just wanted to be loved for who I was not for who they thought I should be.
Since realizing that I live in denial I have done a lot of thinking about why I find it more comfortable to be ignorant to my past and my pain.
I can say quite confidently that some of the ” BPD symptoms” developed as a defense mechanism and have helped protect me from emotional pain that might have killed me. I can’t let them go and that is where the problem lies.
If I stop fighting, if I stop being angry then I become vulnerable. I unfortunately see it as if I don’t get my way then I am giving in to others. This comes from one too many relationships where the guy I was with dictated many if not all aspects of my life.
Two guys come to mind: S and R.
I was with S for 2 months (the worst two months of my life). He was 21 and I was 17. S was attempting to train me to be his little housewife. S did not want me interacting with other guys. When I had a male partner for an English project at school (grade 12) he demanded I ask my teacher to let me switch to a female partner. I ended up doing the whole project via text messaging. I spent almost every day with him so he would know where I was and so we wouldn’t fight. He was my prom date and got mad at me that night because I was taking pictures with my guy friends. He said they were groping me but in reality we had our arms around each other’s waist, a typical picture taking pose.
I planned on going to Alberta that summer (2007) to work and he told me I hadn’t proved to him that I should be able to go somewhere far by myself. Trust was something I had to earn from him and until I earned it he was going to assume that he couldn’t trust me. The final straw for S was when I wanted to spend a second night at my friend’s house. He said, “how dare you!” and that was when we ended our relationship. I cried for 10 minutes, out of pure frustration.
Next was R. I was 18 and he was 23. We dated for 14 months. He very quickly in our relationship referred to me as a slut and made sexually offensive comments about me. R didn’t want me speaking with or hanging out with guys and that eventually included my girl friends. We spent about every day together or we were constantly texting. I tried everything I could think of to make him feel comfortable and I tried to compromise. He went on my MSN and got into a fight with one of my guy friends, he went through my text messages and my journal to see if I was hiding something. R told me constantly, “Guys and girls can’t be friends.” We would fight and at times I would win but only for a day or two. I once left him at my house and went to my friend’s party but he had criticized what I wore, telling me I looked like a whore.
When I was in university he would text me before exams and break up with me, making writing them very difficult. When I would be studying at home he would get mad at me that I wasn’t paying attention to him. R admitted to my Dad that he was worried I was going to be smarter than him. We spent most of our time in his room or in my basement since I wasn’t allowed to hang out with my friends and he had ditched his. The one time he met my friends (the three girls above) he told me he thought they were sluts. It was while I was with R that I began speaking with my current partner and I began to like him. When I finally left R he harassed my partner, my friends, my sister and myself for 7 months.
I would have thought that 4 years of freedom with my current partner would cancel out all the bullshit that guys, especially S and R, put me through but it’s not. This is through no fault of my partner and I guess no fault of mine. I don’t want anyone to take away my power ever again! I’m going to the extreme though, I need to be in total control of myself or else I think I’m being controlled.
When my partner asks me when I’m going to wash the dishes it is not uncommon for it to turn into a fight because I feel like he is making me do something I don’t want to do. No one wants to do dishes but I see it as he’s trying to control my life which is not true at all. He’s told me that. He’s told me we’re a team but I can’t let my guard down again.
This fear will hold me back. My strong desire to never be made powerless will make changing my thoughts and putting my emotions in check impossible. I know I’m safe in my relationship with my partner. He’s given me what I’ve always deserved and that is my right to be me. I’m still scared. Will I always be scared?
One more from Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life by Samhita Mukhopadhyay for today! I swear!
Chapter 5 discusses single women. I personally have never been a single woman which is something I have had to analyze because my strong need to be in a relationship is closely linked to why the idea “settling” is so horrible.
Outdated, in a section called “Single Women Are Too Picky”, looks at how stupid self help books are telling women that settling is better than being single. The book specifically referenced is called Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gottlieb. From the brief summary of Gottlieb’s book by Outdated I gather that this book tells women to get out of their own way. lower their standards and accept a guy as is. I know that at times we can all have unrealistic expectations on our partners (media is not helping us with this) but to settle is a horrible thing to do.
If I had settled, for fear of being single, here are a types of guys I would have found myself with:
- Being with a partner who had horrible drug and alcohol habits.
- Being with a partner who controlled essentially all aspects of my live.
- Being with a partner who was emotionally and psychology abusive.
- Being with a partner who was seeing other women.
- Being with a partner who could not support me with my mental health.
- Being with a partner who did not have life aspirations that where similar to my own.
Many of my partner’s told me that I was all they’ll ever get, that they’ll never find anyone who treats me better, that I’m good for nothing. But guess what? I found someone who gives me everything I need plus things I didn’t know I needed.
We should never settle for less! Settling for a person could be extremely dangerous and it would be much better to be alone then to have to listen to someone who says they love you call you names or physically hurt you.
DO NOT SETTLE!
Chapter 3 (Cinderella 2.0: New Era, Same Old Fairytales) ended with something so thought provoking that my friend (who I’ve borrowed the book from) folded down the page to remember. This is the final paragraph and what I want to answer:
“Despite the transnational social, political, religious, and economic implications of weddings, the idea of marriage is a beautiful (albeit unrealistic) one. And marriage is changing. Gender roles are morphing and access to marriage is slowing changing as well. But instead of pushing for a world where women can get married guilt-free, I think, as women, we need to push ourselves and really thinking about why we want to get married, what is still symbolizes, and how much of what we want is based on what we want versus what the fairytale ideal has taught us to want.” -Outdated, Chapter 3, pg. 83
So, why do I want to get married or why do I not want to get married.
I have always thought I would get married (except in low moments when I hate myself and think I’m not worthy which is a whole different mental health and feminist discussion) and I figured I would do so because that’s what people who are “in love” do. I went for the expected traditions head first but as I’ve gotten a little older, as the idea of marriage becomes more real and the more I’ve read this book I’ve begun to question how important marriage is.
I am lucky to live in a country that recognizes common law partnerships. I do not have to wait for marriages to receive such benefits as my partner’s health insurance. When you tell an institution that you are living in a common law relationship no one bats an eye. When I do not see the “common law spouse/partner” on a form I am usually shocked (this form is forcing me to be “single” and not acknowledging the effort and commitment I have put into my relationship) but this doesn’t happen too often. So again, the question is why would I want to get married?
I think it would come down to the symbolism of the ceremony. I hate symbolism (it taunted me in high school English) because in the case of marriage it’s done to show people something I don’t care if they see and that is long term commitment to my partner. I personally (and Michael and I have talked about this recently) have no problem with not getting married, exchanging rings as a personal sign of commitment and then that’s it. I am not against marriage or weddings but like Outdated has been saying, it is the expectation.
I want kids. That is the pressing matter for me and that is the part of my life I am more excited about. Not being married should not mean I can’t go down that road with my partner free from stares.
In the end I will get married when it is financially possible and I am glad that I explored why or why not this is something I would want to do. Within the ceremony I have already decided on changes that would be more suited to my feminist values.
Some examples: my Father will not give me away, my family will. I will not be introduced at the reception (or at any point) as Mrs. (insert my partners full name)…I will always be me and I don’t even know if I’ll change my last name! I will also have an officiant who marries same-sex couples (which will be easy to find in Ontario).
I now turn it over to you! Readers, why would you want to get married? Why did you get married? Why would you not want to be married? Also share with me any other awesomeness that you may have
A friend of mine lent me her copy of Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining your Love Life by Samhhita Mukhopadhyay. I’m only on the first chapter and already I have more insight into my past and current dating experiences than I ever.
Outdated first speaks about how it appears impossible for feminist women to be able to navigate romantic relationships because there is not model for how feminism would work in said relationship. Feminism is currently being used incorrectly and being blamed for ruining relationships but that is not actually true. Many believe that feminism is encouraging women to not date or marry, that’s it’s all about the “independent women”. True but nothing is ever that simple. Feminists want love and relationships too. Outdated blames the gender roles that are pushed on men and women, followed by the romance industry and government legislation are the culprits for romantic relationships of any kind being difficult.
Gender Roles: It is was dictates everything. Gender roles in relationships tell us what men and women are supposed to be doing in order to be happy (it’s all lies by the way). For example: men should be the breadwinners and women the homemakers. Not following what your gender role tells you to do is believed to lead to chaos and the ultimate break up of your relationship. For some, stereotypical male and female gender roles may work but Outdated (and myself) would argue that majority of us end up suffering, staying in poor relationships longer than we should because we are trying to be someone we are not in order to find love.
Romance Industry: This industry enforces gender roles. What motivated the author of Outdated to write the book was because she found all women’s “self help” love books to be focused on what is wrong with us, women, and how we can fix ourselves to become a “man whisperer”. This is where “that girl” comes in. No woman wants to be “that girl”. Outdated uses The Needy Girl and The Bitch as examples of “types” of women these “self help” books say women should avoid being (ie: telling us to ignore that our partner doesn’t keep us posted on events in their life or else we’ll seem needy and controlling). These books, that claim to be able to help people find love, want us to repress what we personally want from relationships (ie: attention from our partner).
Government Legislation: There is nothing better than legalized sexism (sarcasm). It is in government legislation that we can really see not only gender but heternormativity (which in this case means straight, monogamous and married). Straight, monogamous, married couples are granted privileges that are denied cohabiting partners whether they be opposite or same sex (the details of this legislation depends on your country of residence). Privileges such as marriage, insurance coverage, ownership, separation etc are not given to most couples unless they are legally married. The government is dictating what types of relationships we can have which in turn can make us pursue relationships we do not want or not pursue relationships at all.
I can see how all of this played out in my life. Mostly when I was younger, and knew nothing of relationships, I put myself through a lot of pain because I wanted to be the perfect girlfriend. This usually meant that I ignored what I wanted and did what I thought would make the guy happy. I let a lot of things go, for example, not saying I felt ignored or that the relationship was unfair. I believe the perfect girlfriend let the guy decide things. Now I’m wondering what is my purpose in a relationship if I’m not an active participant in how it works? That’s not the relationship I want.
I was always worried about being labeled as “needy”, “crazy” or a “bitch”. No matter how hard I tried though I would end up being those things and it was probably because I was denying myself what would make me happy in a relationship.
How can we use feminism in our relationships? I think the first way of having feminism in your relationship is by not allowing gender roles to decide how your relationship works. I can’t speak for everyone but this is how I feel it’s playing out in mine.
I am with someone who has similar goals, values, morals and beliefs.
We support each other in our professional and creative endeavors.
We do not expect either of us to do certain things because of our identified gender.
We communicate about our needs and work through how to achieve them.
We accept each other as we are.
Still, Outdated is right, there is no framework for feminism and dating. There should be one but the most important thing is that you are in a relationship that is working for you. Only you and your partner(s) can decide how everything is going to work and that will actually change as your relationship changes.
I have a feeling this book is going to produce some great posts and hopefully great comments from all of you
In grade 10 I dated a guy for 7 months who I’ll call B. He was the basically the second “real” boyfriend I had, had. He was funny, cute, smart, athletic, caring and I couldn’t believe my luck. Everyone thought we were the perfect couple. We never fought. B made me feel amazing, like I was worth it.
It was while I was with B that I was eventually, and finally, diagnosed with dysthymia (chronic depression) so I was not in the best place during this relationship. I spent a lot of time crying or completely shut down. It was not an odd occurrence for him to hold me down on his bed while I fought him trying to get to my purse so I could grab my blade and cut. I was happy with him just not happy with myself.
The break up hit me like a freight train. The boy I loved didn’t want me anymore. My friends and I couldn’t understand why he would leave me. B and I never fought so that should have meant that everything was alright. I had seen him that day at my friend’s house. We were going to have some drinks but then he just disappeared. I called his house and no one was picking up. I waited. He eventually called me at my friend’s house and explained that he had gotten a ride home because he couldn’t be with me anymore. I was angry. B explained that he had been thinking about breaking up for a bit and that he had even called Kid’s Help Phone (or something similar) to ask for help. He told the counsellor on the phone that he thought I would kill myself if he broke up with me. The counsellor told him that he was not my therapist and not responsible for my actions.
I was horribly offended that he thought I would kill myself if he left me and I was angry that the bitch that told him he wasn’t my therapist. B was my boyfriend which meant that he had to fix me. If he loved me then he wouldn’t leave and he would fix me. Just like in the movies.
It took me a year to get over that break up and B and I haven’t spoken since (about 7 years).
A few years ago, when I was older and understood myself more, I realized that B did the right thing. I’m not angry at him anymore. I’m angry at myself (but constructively). We were 15 years old. Neither of us should have had to handle what we did. It wasn’t up to him to fix me, only I could do that. I wasn’t fair to him. I am very sorry. I feel terrible that he felt I would harm myself if he left me. That must have been a heavy burden to carry.
A former friend of mine kept telling me she would see B around her campus (about 4 or 5 years later) which prompted me to send him a “Hello” message on Facebook. The rare occasion I would get information about him it would sound like I did some damage to him or whatever. Maybe I’m being completely narcissistic. I didn’t get a response so I figured it was better to leave it alone but I have been wondering if I should try again but this time just flat out say, “I’m sorry, you were right.”
Then I start wondering why I want to do this. What do I hope to accomplish? I don’t want to reconnect and/or hang out. If I didn’t get a response I wouldn’t even care. I just think it might be important for him to know and for me to know that I said it.
I’m open to suggestions.
A friend of mine posted this picture to my Facebook wall saying it reminded her of me. I would have to greatly agree :p
Well, that’s easy. Every time I decided to stay with a controlling ex-partner instead of leaving!