41 Things, 12/11/06: Excuses And Thier Abuses

Stop making excuses for a person and their behavior.

To have a charitable heart is a virtue, but is virtue that great when it hurts? It’s not; I think that we can all agree on that. I promise you, it will start hurting a lot when a man or woman treats you like dirt, acts against your best interests, or has no consideration.

Our acceptance of bad behavior stems from several things. Low self-esteem, attachment to a certain outcome, guilt, or a fear of emotional honesty can make us turn a blind eye to maltreatment. Also, many people are socialized to be giving and selfless; we shouldn’t make too much of a scene, he didn’t mean to say that assy comment at dinner…the list goes on, and on, and on. Women fall prey to the memes of the “good woman” or “the good girlfriend”- this is why that horrible book, “The Rules”, made the bestseller lists. Men, on the other hand, are taught to be the long-suffering hero, meant to slay every one of his lady love’s dragons. Heroics can only go so far, because self-respect dictates that there be limits.

Self-esteem

This is simple: you don’t feel good about yourself, so who is going to feel good about you?

Example: a man asks a girl out on a date. She picks a trendy eatery in the middle of Soho, full of sophisticated people, models, and fabulous scenesters. Great, you think, looking at your Levis and Dockers polo shirt. Instantly, you feel bummy, and that all eyes are on the freaky pair at the door. You know what they’re thinking: “What the hell is that bombshell doing with that bum? Egads!” You sit down with the bombshell, who, for some unknown reason, is all smiles as she talks and flirts with you. The truth is there, though…she’s GOT to be playing with you, because she knows that you don’t belong here…

Your responses are closed, mumbled, monosyllabic. She starts to pull back, then turns awkward. By the end of the night, she’s talking on her cell phone, making other plans, ready to leave you alone with your misery. But, hey, you KNOW you’re right!

Right?

Probably not. In this case, the man’s low self-esteem drove off a perfectly good date. But, in the case of excusing bad treatment, it’s the other way around. Obviously, the woman had the good sense to know that her date wasn’t enjoying her company, and decided to move onto greener pastures. Some women, though, would sit there, still trying to keep up the game face. They could be having an awful time, but they won’t try to make something better of the evening. Hey, just because your guy makes up his mind to be emo, doesn’t mean that you have to put up with it…especially on the first date!

We always have a choice to remove ourselves from situations that are less than what we want. That, however, is a choice that we have to exercise in the care of our own best interests. In the beginning of a relationship, there’s more wriggle room than later on, of course. There’s not so much emotional attachment at the start, which means that we probably lean more toward self-gratification than being giving. There’s no sin in that! It’s human. Until you feel comfortable with that person, and until they completely earn your trust, you shouldn’t turn over too much of yourself to their keeping. Because, when you do that, you’ve upset the balance. You’re now the more giving party. And, as a result, you’re more likely to let things slide. Later on, though, feelings are so commingled that it’s hard not to feel as much.

Low self-esteem is a great tool for keeping yourself secluded. You don’t feel that you have anything worthy of sharing with the other person. Therefore, you present a false front. It really sucks to have a date cancel at the last minute, but if you forgive it, it just shows that you don’t value your need for a good time as much as their needs. The realities of both parties end up like a warped reflection of one another. You’re not getting a realistic view of what that person is, since they’re reacting to a shallow version of yourself. Plus, you’re not able to understand them, since you’re also learning about a fake.

If you let someone walk all over you, shame you in front of others, or belittle your desires, there is only one way to remedy this: be the best, accept only the best. If you don’t feel it truly, fake it till you make it. Put on a bitch-face, at least. Do something to make it clear that your standards have not been met, and that there will be consequences for that. All that sitting at the dinner table will get you is an evening at home with the Spice channel, looking forward to nothing but solo fun.

Enabling

We enable someone when we refuse to make a cooperative effort to set healthy boundaries. Enabling is a part of codependency. One person is the taker, the other the giver. The taker’s benefits are the most obvious to the outside viewer; they seem to get away with murder, with token or no resistance whatsoever.

What does the giver get out of it, though? Several things, possibly. Some people like to suffer. It makes them feel good to be a martyr. They can keep a running tab on how much they’ve given up (more on this later). That makes a great weapon for later. Or, they like to imagine themselves as the benevolent benefactor, the one who has set the wild one free to act as they will- with them there, waiting to bask in the dubious glory of being attached to the resident attention whore.

Enabling also imparts a manipulative brand of control that is tasty in its insidiousness. Cloaked in the shroud of giving and compassion, enablers keep a running count of everything that they’ve done for the other. What they give isn’t out of love, or selflessness. It’s out of pure greed. If you’re a taker who decides to come to their senses eventually, I can almost guarantee that the enabler will scramble to keep their place in your life. They are defined by their sacrifice. Without this sacrifice, they’re left with their own worst enemy: themselves. They may have to answer those hard questions, such as “What am I missing from my life?”, or, “What the hell was I thinking, dating that jerk?” They might have to admit culpability in a situation where they’ve tried to run from all responsibility. The end result may be to become adult human beings on their own.

The enabler, meanwhile, has to realize something. First of all, they need to realize that what they’re doing is silly, selfish, and wrong. It takes a lot of gumption to say, “Yeah, I’ve really been kinda loving my role as the straight man in the pairing, but I’ve gotta stop and be real now.” It takes even more backbone to start withdrawing the support you’ve given the other person in their madness. You may even lose the person, since takers don’t especially like to be shorted on what they consider their rightful due. What you will gain is clarity, the respect of your friends, and your god-damned backbone.

Guilt and socialization

Remember that I mentioned “The Rules” before? It’s a really great read when you need a good laugh. Here’s the book, condensed for your pleasure:

If you make a ruckus, or become strident, then you’ll piss off the mister. Anger: bad. Donna Reid: good. Your choice, lady.

Many women are told to put on a happy face in so many situations where we should be stabbing someone in the eye with a sharp fork. We’ve all been on the date where the guy gets roaring drunk and starts pawing you like a kid at the petting zoo. The smart thing to do in this situation would be to call the guy a cab, open the door, plant your foot in his keister, and shove. If you can do this while simultaneously erasing his number from your cell, all the better. But, I know and you know that a lot of us gals will stand there with a stupid smile on our faces, tittering nervously and saying, “No, teehee!, stop! That’s not funny!”

With the tide of American culture turning feminism into a curse word, it’s hard to keep sight of the fact that there are not Etiquette Police following you, ready to swarm if you happen to become assertive in a stressful situation. Our worst enemies are ourselves, especially if we don’t take responsibility for our own well-being. That means extricating yourself from any situation you feel uncomfortable in, no matter what the fallout may be.

I have a story. A funny one. I went out on a date with this guy that I met clubbing. He was cute, foreign(yum), and had piercings (double yum). Always one to give the cute ones a go, I agreed to see him on, ahem, Easter Sunday. It was a very special time. By special, I mean ghastly. I had a bad hookup in my car, for one. He was wearing the same clothes he’d worn the day before at the club, point two.

The worst thing, though, happened when he told me that the band we were going to go see what at the Greek Orthodox Church. On Easter Sunday. Picture it: me in an orange cowl-neck sweater and some cute jeans…in a room of expensive gowns and suits. I was super embarrassed. I didn’t know what to do. My date was horrible, actually telling me that I had to walk behind him, because it wasn’t proper for women to walk with their man there. No joke. People could see that I was super uncomfortable, and we asking me if I needed a ride home. I said, “No, I have a car. Thank you, though.” I was the perfect little lady…until something in me snapped. When it did, I got up, marched right to him, and said in no uncertain terms, “I don’t walk behind anyone. I’m really embarrassed by you and this whole situation. Goodbye, I’m out.”

Well, he followed me to the door, trying to get me to stay…and then tried to kick me. I made a lunge at him, people pulled him into the place, and I left, feeling like I dodged a bullet.

If I’m correct on this, and I think I am, the Rules ladies would have said to grin and bear it. They maybe would have approved of a plaintive, sotto voce complaint in his ear, but nothing more than that. Nope, not the thing.

Womanhood isn’t about subjugating your desires and needs in order to make a man happy. Men, same goes for you; being a provider and hero can only go so far before it becomes ridiculous. Don’t let the Gender Police dictate whether you leave the party in dignity, or in tears.

Attachment to an outcome

Are you allowing things to happen because you’re just so certain that you can change them later? Do you know that, by attempting to control the natural flow of things (happy, angry, or otherwise), you’re just tempting fate to come down on your head like a pile of bricks? It’s true. If you’re too attached to making things end up exactly the way you want them to, life has a way of teaching you a lesson you won’t soon forget.

I knew a young woman who was married to a complete jerk. This guy was awful- controlling, emotional abusive, hurtful, ugly…you name it, he was it. I loathed him. Her family loathed him. Even his best friend wondered what the hell his problem was. My friend knew it, too. However, instead of breaking away from him to go on to something more nurturing, satisfying, and passionate, she did something incredibly stupid.

She had a baby.

Of course, she kicked herself when she was cleaning out the gutters, five months along. She hated the fact that he sat on his butt and didn’t help around the house. But she was so attached to the fantasy of being the perfect wife and mother, that she simply couldn’t let herself admit defeat.That attachment got her knocked up and trapped, since he had also refused to let her work.

I have no idea what happened to her. I’m sure that, if she hasn’t gone crazy yet, there’s another baby. Her attachment to a dream, a construct, got in the way of reality. This situation sums up my argument to a tee. My friend didn’t feel good about herself, which opened the door for her husband to call her fat and dowdy. She enabled him by cleaning up his messes, staying silent, and not making a full life for herself outside of her marriage. Her desire to be the selfless mother as an antidote to the selfish father earned her a baby, and a future full of limitations. She wanted perfection, in the end, but no one’s perfect, and no one can make a situation perfect if it’s not meant to be. Life will show you if something close to perfection is possible, but you have to be open to hearing what life is trying to tell you. Closed ears or willful ignorance will keep you running in circles.

Never think that life won’t have the last laugh. Don’t worry, it could end up laughing with you, but not if you’re crying because you’ve been told that you’re stupid. Let live, let love.

What to do?

Repeat after me: honest boundaries and healthy expectations are necessary for mutual respect and equality.

Lather, rinse, repeat about a million times, or until you become catatonic.

The biggest antidote to being an executive excuser is to be an executive realist. Don’t fall into a trap of suffering for the sake of it. No one appreciates it, and you’ll just feel unfulfilled and worked over. Martyrs belong to the Catholic Church, and nowhere else. Face your masochism and ask, “Why are I afraid to get what I want? Why am I afraid to be real, and build a real relationship based on respect and reality?” Sure, reality isn’t perfect, and it’s not easy to work within its confines, but it’s the best teacher you can have. Nothing can be learned in a drama bubble.

Compromise toward mutual exaltation and fulfillment is the greatest gift between two people. It’s brought about by respect and love. Remember that, and you won’t end up planting your foot in someone ass.

Next up: If you have ANY doubt in your mind about someone’s character, leave them alone. 

Related posts:

41 Things: Preface

41 Things, 12/2/06: They Stay, They Go

 

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~ by isiskali on December 11, 2006.

4 Responses to “41 Things, 12/11/06: Excuses And Thier Abuses”

  1. Marry me. Now.

    Seriously, this hit me from so many angles, on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin, but readin’ all of this solidifies the choice I made a year ago, and that was to leave everything. Her, the house, all of it. Back then it was one of the most painful things I’ve done but in the long run it was one of the best things as well. I’m a year older and surprisingly a lot wiser. I know what needs to be done, and the main one is not to go back. No matter how promising it looks.

    This column was just an awesome read, from start to finish. I was definitely puttin’ a lot of the points you made into practice before I read this, so seein’ it in print from someone who’s comin’ at me with no fillers/no bullshit is refreshing, to say the least. Granted, a lot of this is gonna make me work even harder now, with no guarantee of success (you slavedriver, you). Should I grab that brass ring though, it’s gonna be one of the sweetest victories I’ll ever remember. And it will be because of solid advice like this.

    I think you’ve unwittingly created a Frankenstien here.

    Uncle/Achtung.

  2. Eeeeexcellent. A convert!!! 😀

    I’m glad you’re here, hon! I always think of you when I write!

  3. Once again honey, you have hit the nail on the head. You need to write a book. People need to hear your voice. This article smacks of the honest reality of Barbara DeAngelis. I loved it. I have wanted to put a fork in several of my exes’ eyes. I identify with the enabler/martyr syndrome (recovering Catholic…working on it). Love, respect, compromise and equality are soooo important. I wish it for both of us in future relationships. And let me break my foot off in that Greek Ortho boy’s ass for his disrespecting you! Thank you for your insights.

  4. […] 41 Things: Excuses And Thier Abuses […]

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