My lighthearted little mind has been troubled all week by a conversation Phil Huston and I were having about relationships between men and women. (If you don’t know Phil’s work, go read it! I love his perspectives.Find Phil here.)
Once upon a time, girls were trained in all the fine arts of how to catch a man and run a household, which might include supervising household staff or darning socks, depending on the wealth of the match. For hundreds of years, this is what women were supposed to do–attract a man, transfer from Father’s house to his, have some children, and repeat the cycle.
Then came the Brave New Age of rights, hard-fought and hard-won by so many great leaders throughout our time. Women could work and own property and even make decisions over their own bodies…
…but really, so many women were still just girls in grown up clothes.
Without a mother to mold me and with only a dad to tell me what’s it like from the other side, I have had a strange life of looking in the out door. There are so many strong women I love and respect, thinking, Wow, she’s got it all figured out! Successful and sexy and taking no shit! Then I find her crying in the bathroom because she a) doesn’t know if he loves her; b) discovered he loves someone else; and/or c) has no one to love. She is usually also extremely apologetic about crying, as if she knows she is worth something more but is unsure what that could be.
“I don’t know if we’re really a couple. He hasn’t said anything.”
“I don’t know if I should stay with him, anyway. We just bought the new house…”
“I don’t know if I’ll ever find someone who loves me. Everyone good is taken.”
My heart breaks.
Women, we have come so far from the days of being bartered like chattel to the highest bidder. We should not now do this to ourselves!
“Oh sure,” she sneers through her smeared make-up. “You can talk; you met someone.”
Yes, I have.
I met someone through an online dating site, after a long time sifting through liars, creeps, and a few perverts. I accepted this as part of the process. When I met Lover, we were up front about what was most important and that was complete honesty.
Lover didn’t want a relationship; he knew that his job was the paramount mistress of his life, and he was very clear.
I just wanted to burn off some steam with a man I found incredibly sexy. Fine, no strings attached, watch me lock the door behind me as I leave.
Things changed. Who knew?
When I realized I wanted more than just our clothes all over the floor, I initiated a horribly awkward conversation to determine if Lover felt the same way. If he did not, I needed some distance and to stop seeing him.
Luck was with us; neither of us wanted to share with anyone else.
So things changed, but we talked about it, we were honest and upfront with each other. No one found me curled up on my bathroom floor bemoaning that I fell in love with my one-night stand.
I knew what to do.
And, women of my heart and the world over, so do you.
Wipe off your face and scoop up your dignity.
Be honest, be forthright, and say what you mean.
If this is the kind of relationship where eventually you want a ring, you should let him know.
If this is the kind of relationship where you need to hear him say it, let him know.
If this is the kind of relationship that is worth it to you to save, let him know the terms.
“But what if he leaves me?”
Then you weren’t going to get that ring anyway, now were you.
“But what if he gets scared about emotional commitment?”
Are you snaring a rabbit or involved in an equal partnership? A man who runs is a man who is not worth the time you are wasting right now wondering about it.
“But what if he cheats on me again?”
You cannot make a relationship work all by yourself. If he breaks that trust, it is entirely up to you to decide to trust him again or kick his ass out the door. If you choose the former, do it with your eyes wide open that you may get hurt again–in which case, I hope that you always keep Option B in mind.
Women everywhere, I love you. You are my friends and my co-workers and my soul sisters. Believe in your own worth, I beg of you.
Because if you cannot believe in yourself, how can anyone else believe in you to begin with?
I use “he” because that is the relationship with which I encounter the most crying, but I respect all choices for you to substitute the pronoun of your choice should it apply.