Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to Know if You're Being Treated Right

Remember the Whatsername Saga?  That was the trio of stories I posted about how back about 20 years ago, I got together with a girl who then tore my heart to shreds by breaking up with me 4 separate times.  What prompted my writing at the time was that she had just contacted me via Facebook, where after a few exchanged emails, we talked about the whole sordid affair and then buried the hatchet.

There was one interesting offshoot to the story, which I’ve been sitting on to post later.  It just so happens that “later” is today.

In the course of our email exchange, after hearing about the bumpy path she’d been on since we parted, I mentioned that I thought that going forward, she needed to stick up for herself more and stop being such a goddamned doormat.  I phrased it much more delicately than that, of course, but the point was that she needed to find herself a good guy that treated her right.

She responded by asking me “what my definition of that was and what are the signs that you know that a man is treating you right.”  She went on to say that in her experience, “men will reel you in and then change.”  That prompted me to come up with this list of rules to help guide the screening process. 

Director’s DVD Commentary: You may see some similarities to the guidelines I wrote for my buddy’s daughter Kyrie, in my Letter to a 16-Year Old.  When it comes to finding a good guy, there is very little difference between 16 and 60, when determining how one wants to be treated.  Some things are timeless.  So here is what I wrote to Whatsername.

You are correct; it is often the case that a man (or woman) puts on their best face early on.  One always tries to present their better selves at the onset of a relationship.  The trick is to determine what's for show and what's the real person.  It's key to remember that a guy will not change his true nature.  He may be able to mask some rough edges for a while, especially early on, but his own nature will reappear.  You cannot change him, no matter what you do.  So you need to look for clues as to what his true nature is, especially after the "new" wears off.

These are some things that I think entail “a man treating a woman right.”

* A man should always see that the woman is comfortable.  Too hot?  Too cold?  (Also, the woman needs to make a good-faith effort not to skyrocket the utility bill, like walking around in shorts and a tee shirt, complaining that the room is too cold.  It's tough because men and women are rarely comfortable at the same temperature.)

* He should thank her for the things she does... whether it’s bringing home a paycheck, making meals, cleaning up... Her work should not be taken for granted.

* And it doesn't hurt to take on some of it himself.
* He should say things that add to her confidence and make her happy, never detract from it.

* He should be proud that she's his woman and act like he's happy to be seen with her.

* He should pick up the check, almost always.  I say "almost" because there's nothing wrong with a woman treating her man once in a while, when she can.  But it should be the exception.

* He should listen to her and not just wait until her lips stop moving so that he can talk.  And she should try not to talk his ears off as soon as he walks in the door.  Guys like quiet time.  And don't try to start heavy conversations at the very moment that his favorite show, or a big game, comes on TV.

* When arguing, (which is inevitable) it should never devolve into name-calling or insults.  It should stay on point and stay away from old grievances, IE everything the person ever did wrong since the beginning of time.  (This goes both ways!)  An argument should never sink to violence, hostile actions or threats.  Ever.

* He should be loyal, physically and emotionally.  While he may have female friends, they should not replace his own woman in any role that should belong to her.

* He should involve her on big decisions, not make them unilaterally.

* He should not keep big secrets, nor snoop through her things looking for hers.

* He should not make fun of her or belittle her in front of his friends.

* He should protect her from harm; from others and from anything else.  (But not to the extent of boxing her in. See the next 2.)

* He should not attempt to cut off her access to family or friends.

* While it's good to know where his woman is and when she's coming home, he should not hound her by cell phone every 20 minutes to check up.  He has to trust that she's not messing around.  (And she has to keep that trust.)

* He should be physically affectionate as a matter of practice, (so long as the woman likes that) not just when he wants sex.

As I'm writing these, I'm noticing that almost all of them apply both ways.  (In fact, all of them except the one about picking up the check, and maybe the protection one.)  A woman should treat her guy the exact same way.

I realize that real life can interfere with a lot of these things.  I mean; I know I violate some of these ideals my own self and I need to do better.  However there are a few that should be deal-breakers and prompt a woman to ask hard questions of herself about why she’s still with a guy.

* She should never accept being hit, shoved or treated violently.  Even if he claims it was just the booze or drugs, it doesn't matter.  If it happens once it can (and will) happen again.

* She should never be verbally abused or called names.

* She should never be exposed to danger... like being kicked out of a car, far from home, or left places when she’s out.

* She should never feel like she’s being "kept" or "owned."

* She should never feel threatened for expressing a differing opinion or be bullied into changing it.  Persuasion, yes.  Force, no.  And sometimes people just have to agree to disagree.

* If he makes her feel cowed, pressured, afraid to express an opinion, unsafe, unappreciated, unattractive or unloved, she should get out.  She’s not in a constructive relationship.  The only question is how long she’s going to be unhappy before she acts.

After saying she wanted to think on it for a day before responding, she later told me that she read it twice and asked to include it in her memoir.  She said that what she found so attractive about it was “that none of the men that I have ever been married to would have spent the time to put that into words like you did.  No one ever taught me this.  I am not sure I ever asked anyone, ‘how do I know if this relationship is right for me.”

She said some other things that I won’t include here, just because it would have been too completely self-serving, but you get the point.  I was just kind of shocked that she, or anyone wouldn’t know all this.

So now we know.

17 comments:

  1. Have you been channeling my life? This is a great post Bluz!

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  2. wow. that was very informative. I know a few women that I need to sent this link to.

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  3. Mad,
    Thanks, Christy. I hope it helps to know that the things you think are wrong but you are being pressured to believe otherwise, there other people agree with you, independent of knowing anything about your circumstance.

    Wow, that may be my most round-about sentence ever.

    Dazee,
    Please do. Definitely send to anyone that could benefit from knowing that what they may be enduring is not normal and not right.

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  4. I could have used this information decades ago.

    Seriously, my friend. This is really quite wonderful.

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  5. Jayne,
    Really? I would have thought you were the type that didn't take that kind of shit.

    Live and learn, huh?

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  6. Here's the thing we don't often think of: Children model what they see. And turn into adults who behavior what they saw as kids. If Whatshername grew up witnessing a certain type of adult relationship dynamic in her house, she was pretty much destined to repeat it. She didn't know how to be treated "right" as you put it.

    As a mother, I am very conscious of this. IF my children see their dad and I fight/bicker, I make sure they also see us resolve the argument. (We try not to fight in front of them, but occasional blowouts happen.) I make sure my daughters see the way that their parents treat each other with value and respect. I will make sure my son understands how to treat a woman as a person and an equal, not as an object.

    These are all good points. I know for me what turned out to be vital is that my partner have similar values and goals. Dan & I wanted a family (i.e. kids) and we wanted to have good friends in our lives. Our religion is important to us. Education is important to us. Having realistic financial goals. Etc., etc. Also, being interested in your partner and what your partner is doing. Supporting your partner's career goals and hobbies, not just paying lip service.

    So: good list. Keep in touch with your nieces and nephews, because they can learn from you, too.

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  7. *who behavior* what the what? Who behave as adults the way they saw adults behave. Caffeine has not reached the brain. Please excuse any and all typos.

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  8. This post is great! You touched on all the key guidelines to a healthy relationship. I am guilty for violating some of these but I also try to practice all of them as well.

    One thing is for sure(this is directed towards women)....never try to change a man or make him give up things that make him who he is. It will never happen. We are who we are and you must accept us just as we are!

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  9. Wow. Nice post.

    A friend of mine is currently into a total ass. I point out everything he's done (stolen a fire extingusher from an apartment in Bangalore and sprayed it on a homeless person at night, taken a leak on his ex's car when no one was around... you get the picture), and she says "I've told him he has to improve. I'm giving him another chance".

    The real problem is, when a girl is into a guy, she stops checking for all the signs that show he is a total ass.

    I guess the only way to protect yourself is to have a friend you can trust completely, and when he/she says its time to get out, get the hell out of there without asking any questions.

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  10. Bluz...
    Outstanding work. I'm forwarding this ASAP. Perhaps she'll understand if it comes from a stranger.
    Thanks

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  11. Red Pen Mama
    I don’t really know how Whatsername’s parents interacted with each other. I suspect, as you do, that it wasn’t very constructive. I do know that Mom was a whackaloon and served as a trigger for many of Whatsername’s maladies.

    You are definitely correct about two people wanting the same thing. Despite the old adage, all opposites really attract are drama and conflict. It’s like having two people paddling the same canoe in different directions.

    And kids will definitely model their behavior after what they see every day. If mom and dad are yelling at each other all night, that becomes the ‘normal,’ and they are destined to repeat the dynamic in their own lives.

    (Do I have to sign this as Another Childless Douche if I agree with you?)

    Dan
    You are exactly right. For better or worse, we are who we are. It reminds me of that old saying, “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.” Women have to decide whether our personality traits are something they can live with or not and decide to either accept them or bail. Of course, I’m not talking about stuff like leaving the seat up… more like what we value and the way we perceive the world (and our house) around us.

    I tried to craft this document in such a way that it lends insight into the typical dude, to promote understanding and acceptance running both ways.

    dilip
    I completely agree about trusting the friend to provide the lowdown. It’s just unfortunate that those same blinders will tell the person in question that their friend is being disloyal, and they will ignore or “unfriend” the friend.

    Your friend’s boyfriend sounds like a total jackass. I should probably amend the list to include noting how the guy treats other people, especially clerks, waiters, and others in the service industry. Also, how does he treat others in his family… mother, sisters, brothers, etc. If he’s treating those people poorly, odd are is that you’re going to get the same.

    IKNAB,
    Thanks dude, and you're right. Sometimes it helps if the message comes from someone that's not emotionally involved. Glad to help.

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  12. This is such a good and thoughtful list, and you're right, it goes both ways. I would add communication... you should be able to tell the person that you're upset about something they did and talking about constructively and not be too intimidated to speak the truth.

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  13. Thanks, Jessica.
    And I agree with you. No one wants to hear about when they're wrong, but one has to be able to hear it without creating a major incident.

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  14. Where are the publishers of dating self-help books when you need them? Because seriously, this should be required reading for every American citizen over the age of 13.

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  15. MBG,
    You know what they say... those that can't do, teach. And those that can't teach either, write about it online.

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  16. Sherry,
    I always wanted to be a stand-up guy, but I was afraid I’d bomb and get booed off the stage.

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