Boundaries

Whenever a guy says “I’m so nice but women ignore me or treat me badly”, I commonly hear the retort that “being nice isn’t worth anything, because it’s the baseline for getting a relationship”. This is usually followed by an attack on how the guy has allegedly nothing going for them other than their niceness, and maybe even a further attack about how even their niceness is fake.

So let’s think for a moment about some guys who are in relationships – say Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich. They’re married (three times in Gingrich’s case), and I’m sure they’re both fine and accomplished people, but is “nice” really the first adjective you’d use to describe either of them? My point is that while being nice is an admirable trait and generally leads to healthier relationships, it is not actually a requirement for dating (sadly).

The real problem isn’t that a guy is too nice – it’s that he’s too generous. Consider this scenario: Stewie tells my friend Leonard that he (Stewie) isn’t doing well and asks for $70,000 immediately to make ends meet. Stewie adds that if Leonard doesn’t help, Leonard would be complicit in destroying Stewie’s marriage and career, since Stewie wouldn’t be able to buy a pink Mercedes for his wife and golf games for potential corporate clients.

Here, Stewie is violating boundaries by manipulating Leonard into putting Stewie’s interests ahead of Leonard’s own interests. But Leonard shouldn’t be pressured to solve other people’s problems. Now, Leonard is entitled to help Stewie if Leonard wants to, but he shouldn’t feel guilty about refusing to do so. Leonard’s financial needs & wants are important, and Stewie’s needs & wants shouldn’t be placed ahead of Leonard’s, unless Leonard is actually OK with it.

Nice guys aren’t just unlucky – they are being specifically targeted!

Now it becomes clear why nice guys always end up being treated badly by people in general – women or men: there are predators in the world, like Stewie, who can spot over-generosity and target people like Leonard because they’re easy victims. Nice guys aren’t just unlucky – they are being specifically targeted!

We wouldn’t tell an assault or rape victim that they were attacked because they were weak. So we shouldn’t call victims like Leonard weak either. Instead, we should tell it like it is – that Leonard’s unfortunate experiences are both real and unfortunate. After that, we should encourage victims to develop firmer boundaries and be on the look out for predators exploiting their generosity.

But how does all this relate to dating? Well, some predatory women also smell Leonard as an easy target and string him along for money, favors, etc. Leonard might sense that these women are using him and don’t really like him. However, he fails to acknowledge his gut instinct or even clear evidence that something is wrong. Due to cognitive dissonance, he rationalizes his over-generosity instead of cutting these women out of his life e.g.:

* She needs his money to fly to Hawaii to meet her ex-boyfriend that she has “absolutely no feelings for”.

* Having just met, she demands that Leonard drive her to work at 5am every second morning, as if she – an adult – had not been capable of catching the bus before.

* She says that Leonard has to pay her college tuition because she has decided to stop asking her parents for money and because Leonard makes so much money that he would be cruel to not help her.

In all these cases, the woman is asking that Leonard put her interests ahead of his own. Unless Leonard really wants to do these things, he should maintain firm boundaries and say no. Consider these three possibilities:

1. The woman is actually giving Leonard a “shit test” to see he is “weak”: While she is a master manipulator and drama queen who needs to be dumped, she actually wants Leonard to say no anyway.

2. Leonard says yes: This is like giving a mouse a cookie. The predatory woman will make increasingly unreasonable demands until Leonard has to finally say no, at which point she will dump him.

3. Leonard says no: The woman dumps him because he’s a “jerk”. He might well be lonely for a while, but his firm boundaries mean that he’s actually dodged the bullet of an unreasonable woman. He can now spend time looking for someone better, because he deserves someone better.

The good news is that predators are the minority regardless of what The Red Pill or the right-wing might tell you. Most people are just living their lives and aren’t out to get you or Leonard. It’s only predators who are out to specifically target overly-generous people / nice guys. Simply put, the way to beat predators is to say no. They won’t stick around and you’ll eventually meet someone who respects your boundaries.

Until next time my friends, keep dating!

Rewinding to Rochelle: Part 3 – The GPS

This is part of my “Rewinding to Rochelle” series that sheds light on what an abusive relationship can look like.

Trigger Warning: This contains content that may be upsetting to some readers. While the incidents are real, all names are fictitious.

It was a dark and cloudy evening in Rochelle’s hometown. We had just spent the afternoon with her family and I was beginning the hour drive back to the city.

Rochelle: Why are you using the GPS? You’ve been here before.
The Dating Introvert: Yeah, but I’ve only been here twice before and I’m not sure about the route.
Rochelle: You should be able to get to places without relying on the GPS.
The Dating Introvert: It’s dark and I’m not familiar enough with this area.

At that point, she pulled the power cable out of the GPS unit.

Now, I’ve never claimed to be a great driver. It’s hard for me to drive on a poorly-lit road at 40mph and need to suddenly choose between two closely-positioned freeway entrances – one going north, one going south. Given how dark it was, it was unclear whether the entrance to the north was before or after the “North” sign. As luck would have it, I picked the wrong one.

“God!” she cursed.

I took the next exit but there was no easy turnaround to get me onto the north freeway, so I had to take side streets. Sometime later I saw a different “North” sign but I was too late and blew past it.

“God! Now we’re going to be wasting 10 minutes because you can’t read street signs,” she complained.

Rochelle displayed a pattern of complaining about my allegedly incompetent automobile skills. For instance, she had previously implied that I was not a “Real Man” for not knowing how to change the oil in a car. For the record, I actually know how to change the oil in a single engine prop airplane. I just never got around to learning how to do it for a car.

Why was she so obsessed with ensuring that I drive in a particular way? She didn’t work at the DMV.

And what was the point of turning off the GPS? What does it prove?

With the benefit of hindsight, I now realize that she was obsessed with finding men who embodied the stereotype of (toxic) masculinity. And part of that is being able to drive recklessly and fearlessly. I’m not that man and I don’t want to become him.

 

Rewinding to Rochelle: Part 2 – The Restaurant Menu

This is part of my “Rewinding to Rochelle” series that sheds light on what an abusive relationship can look like.

Trigger Warning: This contains content that may be upsetting to some readers. While the incidents are real, all names are fictitious.

Rochelle and I sat down at restaurant. I don’t even remember which one.

Rochelle: What should I eat?
The Dating Introvert: I’m not sure. I haven’t been here before.
Rochelle: I want to date a guy who knows what’s good on the menu and can tell me what to pick.

There are only two possibilities here. Either:

  • Rochelle wanted me to have visited all restaurants beforehand, to prepare for a date with her: This was obviously unreasonable.
  • Or, she wanted a guy who could “take charge” – the kind of guy who would order the steak for himself and then tell the waiter that “she’ll be having the salad”, without even giving her a chance to speak.

In hindsight, the conversation was disrespectful as she was putting me down, by basically saying that I wasn’t good enough. This was just another example of the abuse I dealt with throughout the relationship.

As for wanting the kind of guy who could “take charge”, she was seeking a toxically masculine figure. She wanted a sexist man who would dominate her and put himself first, because she confused misogyny with confidence and power.

In the years since, I’ve realized that she always sought out uneven relationships, where either she abused her partner, or her partner would abuse her. I wish I were making this up – in a future post, I will write about the violent man she dated next. I hope she gets help and breaks out of this cycle.

Rewinding to Rochelle: Part 1 – The Mug Incident

Trigger Warning: This contains content that may be upsetting to some readers. While the incidents are real, all names are fictitious.

Rochelle was the sweetest girl I had ever met until this point. Just a few days before, Rochelle and I had become official girlfriend and boyfriend.

We were drinking tea with her mother, who was visiting from out of town. I stepped away to the bathroom for a minute and when I came back, she whispered in my ear:

Why the f*** didn’t you put your mug into the sink?

This blog entry is the beginning of my “Rewinding to Rochelle” series on what an abusive relationship can look like, based on real dating experiences from my past. My goal is to help you identify, avoid, and leave abusive relationships, by writing about red flags that I had dismissed at the time.

Back to Rochelle, you might be wondering why I had stayed with her – for two painful years. Well, I was young and had never had a girlfriend before. I had no good role models and desperately want to feel loved. Here was the main problem:

I was so insecure about my own self-worth that I couldn’t tell whether the problem was with me or with her.

In hindsight, the problem was clearly with her. While there are arguments in all relationships – and sometimes we regret things that we say – the question is whether there is a pattern of disproportionate and disrespectful language like the above. If there is, it’s an abusive relationship.

Stop Watching “Sex and the City”

I always tell people that they should never get dating advice from movies or pop culture, because there’s a difference between something that is meant to be entertaining vs. something that is meant to be accurate. A perfect example is Sex and the City, a 2008 film about Ms. Carrie Bradshaw’s engagement to Mr. Big, a successful businessman in New York City. She is either unemployed, independently wealthy, or has great working hours, because she can afford to spend 3 days with her friends sorting through clothes over a bottle of wine.

The film is a sad and tacit endorsement of domestic violence. When Mr. Big gets cold feet on their wedding day, Ms. Bradshaw brutally attacks him in front of a score of witnesses – none of whom even lift a finger to defend him or call 911. Instead of a follow-up scene where the police come to arrest Ms. Bradshaw – for felony assault – the film is one that says that violence is ok, that glamorizes criminal behavior, that drags our society into the gutter.

Even worse, Sex and the City portrays this classic example of an abusive relationship as being the new normal, by having Mr. Big eventually marry Ms. Bradshaw. Most likely he rationalized the assault as a “one-time thing” and that “deep down, she truly loves me”. In a sequel, the film’s writers ought to portray how a real abusive relationship ends: either Mr. Big finally gaining enough self-esteem and courage to leave his abuser, or the alcoholic Ms. Bradshaw finally pummeling him to death.

Lastly, the film sends the misleading message that if one squanders their 20s and 30s with irresponsible life choices, they will still have plenty of chances to get married at 40 to a stable and wealthy partner. The film’s writers are either ignorant of statistics, or pandering to a gullible audience who will repay them with purchases of movie tickets or DVDs.

It is time for us, as a society, to take a stand against domestic violence and abusive relationships. So instead of modeling our relationships based on Sex and the City, we should instead look to those of our friends and family who are in loving and stable relationships.

Until next time my friends, keep dating!