If you’re a misogynist who wants a live in house-keeper and sex-slave rather than an equal, your list would likely include:
- Cooks and cleans (so I never have to lift a finger and she can replace my mother)
- Daily blowjobs (but never reciprocating because her pleasure is not important)
- Always in the mood for sex (exactly how I like it, no turning her on necessary)
- Never nags (because expecting me to do anything helpful, keep my word or act like an adult is unreasonable)
- Perfect body, perfect face (but I can look however I want)
- Always sweet and demure (never gets angry or fights back when I treat her like shit)
- Doesn’t diet (drinks beer, eats burgers, but is never allowed to gain weight)
- Is one of the boys (likes sports and other things I enjoy because “girly” interests hold no value and I don’t want her to have her own life outside of me)
- Isn’t clingy (I only see her on my terms, not considering her wants and needs, and really only when I want something)
- Isn’t jealous (doesn’t complain when I flirt with / touch / send sexual messages to other girls and just acts cool with it)
- Doesn’t talk a lot (I have no interest in anything you think or feel and just tune out)
Okay so I haven’t met many people who expect or want their girlfriends to tick all those sexist boxes. But when expressions like “crazy ex” and “don’t put your dick in crazy” and “stage five clinger” are bandied about, it certainly feels like there is a lot of pressure to be laidback, cool, and almost disinterested when it comes to relationships. Women are often expected to hide their feelings, because if they let them show then they risk being accused of being “psycho”, “needy”, “whiny”, “nagging” or “crazy”.
I’ve definitely felt the pressure not to be jealous in past relationships. “Oh that attractive girl who I know has a crush on you is giving you massages and sitting on your lap? Yeah, I’m totally cool with that, why wouldn’t I be? I trust you.”
Trust is sometimes thrown back in our faces if we admit we’re jealous: “If you really trusted me then I should be able to flirt with other people and have female friends sleep in my bed and have play fights with girls who have expressed interest in me and let them cuddle me. You know I won’t cheat on you, so everything I do should be fine.” If you complain your feelings are treated as though they are wrong and that it is you that needs to change your behaviour.
Note: Your feelings are never wrong. Your partner may not understand them, or agree with the reasons behind them, but you are perfectly entitled to have them. It is how you go about expressing these feelings that are important.
Concerns need to be discussed so that a middle ground can be met and boundaries can be made.
There have certainly been times where I’ve tried to avoid doing anything that I know a guy might use as ammo to call me crazy. I’ll wait for him to text me first. If he doesn’t seem interested in texting me I won’t push it. If I am jealous of his female friends, I won’t bring it up and act like I’m not jealous at all. If I’m feeling insecure about my body I won’t bring it up. If I wish he’d spend more time with me I won’t bring it up. If small things he does is really bugging me I won’t bring it up.
Why was I going out of my way to hide any negative feelings I had? Why was I so worried about being the perfect girlfriend?
A lot of it is learning from past mistakes.
After being dumped by a guy I loved in high school, I was a mess, because we were on different pages. He was ready to move on and, obviously, I wasn’t. It was very difficult for me to go from being in a relationship to being friends. He got with someone else three days after breaking up with me. It was all over his Bebo page (yes, back in the days of Bebo!) – his friends mentioning her, saying how cute they were. It was as if I went from being the most important person in someone’s life, to being nobody. I loved someone who didn’t love me back. Anyone who has been there knows how much that sucks.
So now, I’ve learnt that you simply cannot stay friends. You need a break. You need to move on and this won’t happen if you’re being “friends” and they’re out getting with other people. Don’t see them, call them, text them, email them, or look at their Facebook.
But back then, I didn’t filter my emotions. I told him every thought that was in my head about it. I told him I was upset. I told him I was hurt. I told him I couldn’t believe he’d moved on so quickly and how it was insulting that he’d prefer someone stupid like her to me – how shit must I be if you’d prefer her? This is such a blow to my delicate self-esteem! Bleh.
I was being honest. Naturally, this all came across as bitter and pathetic and some of it definitely was. But nobody teaches you how to act when you’re heartbroken for the first time. Nobody says, “Don’t say that, you’re going to annoy him and you’re not doing yourself any favours.” I cringe when I look back on all the things I said and wish I could take it back.
Later, we got to a point where I had moved on and we were talking again. He mentioned in passing something about his friends referring to me as the “crazy ex”.
This really stung. I wasn’t crazy. I was perfectly sane. The relationship itself was healthy and normal and laidback and fun. I didn’t stop him seeing his friends and I tried to get along with his female friends. I didn’t demand things from him that he didn’t want to give or make him spend more time with me than he wanted to. Any problems we had we talked about them maturely. I didn’t have mood swings. We didn’t have screaming matches. Our fights were few, silly and over quickly. Sure, I wasn’t as mature as I am now, but I was trying my best.
It seemed like every good thing about me was erased and all boiled down to a stereotype. My emotions weren’t valid – they were used to make me seem nuts. I wasn’t a heartbroken teen trying to deal with losing love for the first time and unsure how to cope; I was crazy. I had shown my emotions as they came to me; I was crazy.
Why is it that some guys are so quick to label a woman as crazy?
I think a lot of it is simply not wanting to deal with someone else’s emotions. Instead of trying to understand, reassure, or talk it out, they’re baffled that it’s happening in the first place. Part of it is confirmation bias: You’ve been told all your life that girls are crazy drama queens. You’ve seen it in the movies. You’ve heard your friends talk about their crazy exes. And here is your girlfriend yelling at you for not texting her all day– she’s just proving that it’s true! They are crazy! It’s easy to roll your eyes and not take any responsibility for another person’s emotions and reactions if you’ve been raised to expect them and put them down for it.
Can a woman overreact? Sure. So can a man. But remember that not everybody will view things the same way, and just because something doesn’t bother you, doesn’t mean everybody else has to be okay with it too. What might seem like an over-reaction to you could be seen as completely normal and justified to another. You might have no problem with leaving dishes all over the place, but it doesn’t mean everybody else is crazy for not liking it.
When it comes to arguments, what might seem like a blow-up over nothing could have been slowly building up for a long, long time, small thing on top of small thing grinding away and suddenly you’re being screamed at just for not changing the toilet roll!
The solution is, as always, communication. And that involves listening and trying to understand where they’re coming from. Don’t accuse someone of “nagging”. Ask (in a non-accusatory, non-confrontational tone) what you can do to make things better and why they feel the way they do. Don’t stereotype. Don’t assume. Calmly talk it out. And if you can’t, take a breather and have some space from each other. If only I’d done this five years ago instead of letting everything out when I was feeling upset!
Being the perfect partner (regardless of gender) isn’t possible. The old adage is true: nobody’s perfect. But being a great partner isn’t about never showing emotions and always being laidback – it’s about talking things out before it gets to boiling point, and listening and trying to understand each other’s point of view. It’s about not labelling the other person, or using their actions to stereotype them. It’s about setting boundaries, being firm with them, and if the other person keeps trying to cross them knowing they’re not the person for you. It’s knowing when to say something and when to let it go. It’s having respect for each other’s feelings. It’s wanting to make each other happy, not expecting them to simply be there to make you happy. It’s being good friends who have sex, basically.
Don’t feel pressured to pretend you’re totally cool with everything that happens in life and relationships. Your opinions and feelings are important and valid as long as they’re handled maturely. If you’re with someone who makes you feel worse when you feel bad, ditch them. Life is too short to devote a lot of time to someone who calls you crazy.
Unless you’re currently reading this from within a strait-jacket in a very soft-walled room, in which case you probably have some issues you need to work out before getting into a relationship. Ha!