I've dated 3 men in the past year, only one for a significant period (5 months). That's really more than I've ever dated in my life. But it's time to take a little break. Which also means doing some assessing. Not just of the last year. But of my relationship life in general.
I realize that I have a tendency towards men who spare no time getting to the business of telling me what's wrong with me, what I should be doing differently. Whether they're nice about it or not is beside the point. Why do I lean towards men who do this? (Or do they all? I honestly don't know!) Is it back to the old (boring) standby - I'm used to being told what's wrong with me by ruthless, unsparing coaches? YAWN!!
As boring, redundant and annoying as this may be, I do think this might be it. I believe I deserve the criticism. Deep down, somewhere in my heart of hearts, I believe they're right to do it. Therefore it doesn't repel me. Though most women I know would high-tail it out the door before the second criticism passed his lips. I endure. Because I believe it's all true to some extent. And therefore deserved albeit annoying.
I tend to look passed faults, at first. If I find them, I push them aside in trying to be open. I so want to be open! I try to look at the whole person, even if one little bit is askew and doesn't fit with my ideal picture. I squint a little, I take it all in, see how it feels. After I've viewed the thing in it's entirety, I can decide if we can be complements to each other. If his outstanding qualities provide inspiration and uplift. If the less than outstanding ones are part of his humanity.
Maybe I should pay a little closer attention to these flaws sometimes known as 'red flags'. Things like no job. Or chronic underemployment. Or going at it in the sack like a horny and unskilled 17 year old. Or impatience. Quickness to anger. Petulance. An utter disconnection from reality. Bad breath. Or an inability to financially plan for one's future.
Still, amidst all of these, the biggest red flag, for me, in the future, will be the compulsion to tell me what I do wrong. That I work too much. That I do too much. That my job is easy so why on earth would I worry about it? That what I really need to do is take a year off (yeah that'll happen) so I can just "be". That I'm not affectionate enough. That I don't initiate sex enough or the right way. That I let my kids drink soda. And watch less than educational television. That my kids are too loud. That I'm too stressed and I pick my fingers too much. That I shouldn't go to therapy because, really, it's not a lifelong solution. What you really need is a women's group? (It's called friends, moron.) That I drink too much coffee and not enough water. And and and... are you done?
I know all of these things about myself. (Well, my job isn't easy but the others...I know!) I'm okay with them. Step off already.
Why do men think they have the right to do this? To pick and pick and pick? It's as if they are editing and re-arranging the pieces of the story before they've even read it all the way through - they don't even know if they like it, if it's any good and they want to change it up. Yes, if you've been with someone a long time and he is doing something inconsiderate, or you disagree about some childrearing issue or other, you have to discuss it, to compromise. But when you're dating, just starting out, don't you just have to take it all in? At first? And then, if you're married, don't you have to accept a person's foibles? Not beat him up too much, for being the guy you picked? I need to take this advice myself. Lord knows, I shot some daggers at the ex for simply being the guy he always had been.
Yet I sat mired in unspoken but keenly felt criticism for many years. I wanted too much. I was too competitive. I spent too much money. Or wanted to (so weird, I'm such a saver). I was fake and nice to people when I wasn't really so nice. I was too loud. Too stressed. Too anxious. Too everything.
And now, this feels uncomfortably normal to me. To be criticized is my set point.
I endured it because I felt I deserved it. I didn't adequately express my complaints because I felt unworthy to even have complaints. He was good. I was bad. If I were better, he wouldn't criticize. Period. The answer here is NOT that I should express more complaints. The answer is I should believe I am worthy of not being picked at. Of being appreciated as a too hard working, raggedy cuticled mom of soda drinking loud-mouthed kids.
Note to the next man who wants to date me: (1) pick up the check our first time out; (2) if we have fun - ask me out again before we say goodnight; (3) even if you're trying to be helpful, hold off on anything remotely critical for at least 6 months. Maybe longer. Maybe just hold off on it altogether. For the foreseeable future anyway. I've got enough self-reproach rattling around in my brain for the both of us. I promise.