Yes, we all want to choose a man who is wonderful and kind and has abs of steel and a steady job and who is nice to his mother. Those are all criteria that you may have for a man you want to date (or yours may be totally different.) But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
I’m talking about those first 3-10 dates that are fantastic. You know he meets your criteria. You have fun together. You’re getting deeper and deeper into the process of getting to know one another. If you haven’t already made your relationship official, you’re moving in that direction.
And at some point, you hit a bump. The bump isn’t necessarily huge, but it has you pause and wonder if he’s right for you. You ask yourself, “Is this something I can live with?” Chances are, the bump isn’t something minor like him chewing with his mouth open (who does that anyway?) Chances are, the bump has something more to do with the way you feel when he says or does something that rubs you the wrong way.
And yes, you can certainly choose men who are better matches for you than others. But the critical piece that gets overlooked here is the way you respond to behaviors you don’t like.
The places you get stuck in dating and relationships are never about the other person.
When someone is doing something that you don’t like (either because you feel offended, or you feel angry, or you feel disrespected, or your feelings get hurt), the way the situation resolves depends entirely upon you. Why? Because no one can know if any of those things are happening if you don’t speak up.
Lots of us have a default mechanism to walk away. We make the behavior mean something, instead of just calling it what it is. For example, if he doesn’t text me within 24 hours, it must mean that he’s seeing other women. So when that happens, my response is, “If he’s gonna treat me like that, I’m just gonna move on.” How do I know if he’s seeing other women? How do I know that that’s what it means when he doesn’t respond to my texts? I don’t.
The way to handle this situation is to confront it. “Hey. When you don’t respond to my texts, it makes me feel…, and what I really want to feel is…”
Here’s the thing. People can be pretty self-absorbed. We get hung up on what we’re doing and what we have to do next and what we think about something. BUT. People generally aren’t trying to be assholes. So when someone points out to me that my behavior is shitty, I usually do my best to rectify the situation. And most of the time my behavior was shitty because I just wasn’t paying close enough attention to how it impacted the other person.
When you share with someone how their behavior makes you feel, they get to make a choice about whether they want to change it or not.
I was talking with a client about this a couple of weeks ago. She had it in her head that when a man exhibited what she considered poor behavior, she just needed to move on. I kept inviting her to confront the issue and explain to the man how his behavior was making her feel, what impact it was having on her. She didn’t want to. Due to their non-existent relationship status, she didn’t feel she had a right to have “feelings” about how he was treating her.
I called bullshit. We always have the right to speak up when something is bothering us, whether that’s in dating or relationship or when someone cuts in front of you in line at the coffee shop. When we have feelings about something, it is our responsibility to ourselves to bring those feelings out into the open so that people know how their behavior impacts us.
Doing this is the one simple way we have of demonstrating to ourselves that we have our own backs. If we don’t speak up for us, who will? If we don’t expect that the men in our lives treat us better, why should they? People will treat you exactly the way that let them. You get to set the standard for what that is, and it doesn’t start with having a strong filter for who you let into your life; it starts with teaching everyone you encounter what is and is not acceptable to you.
Your turn! In the comments below, tell me about a situation that you’ve walked away from and what you could have done instead to teach/show someone how you’d like to have been treated?