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Posts Tagged ‘men withdraw’

The girl sitting across from me on the subway was an exact replica of me at fourteen years old: chubby face, disobediently curly hair, a slim body struggling to develop and a slightly rowdy innocence that would one day cause some trouble. She looked so much like me I had to do a double take, convinced a miniaturized version of me was within arm’s reach.

I may have gone on without giving the matter much thought, except that there was something even more me-ish about the girl than her plump cheeks. She was pining away over a boy who apparently was giving her the run around. Moreover, she was testing the limits of friendship by giving the pal next to her every minute detail of their last conversation.

Me much?

The boy had told the girl to stop calling him. He didn’t want to talk to anyone right now. He wasn’t replying to any of her texts or returning her calls. Every so often, she’d call late, sometimes after midnight, and was surprised when he wasn’t home.

Fourteen-Year-Old Me was confused. Older Me knew there were only a few causes for such behavior and they all revolved around other girls, lack of interest and overall jerkiness.

“He says he can’t handle a relationship right now,” the girl told her friend. “He’s worried about his mom and he has to get a job.”

The girl lifted her chest and proudly said, “And I was like, ‘you expect me to wait for you?’”

Older Me hoped either the guy fell to her feet in tears or she gave him the grand heave ho.

“’He told me, ‘no.’ So I asked, ‘do you want me to?’”

It took everything in me not to take the girl by the shoulders and shake her senseless. “Get some strength in those knees and stiffen that spine. You cave to this creep and you’ve got years of male crap to put up with. Get out now!”

“Honestly, Mary, I don’t know,” the girl continued. “I was like, ‘I can be your girlfriend and support you through this.’”

No, you can’t, I thought, trying to use mental telepathy to communicate with her. You can’t because he doesn’t want you to. Or someone else is his support. Or he doesn’t have a problem, he’s just making up bull malarkey because he’s afraid to cut the cord.

“I was like, ‘I’ll be waiting for your call.’ He didn’t call me, so I called him.”

You just earned another year of lessons from the Relationship School from Hell.

“He was on the phone with his cousin.”

Yeah, right.

“He kept crying and crying and I was like, ‘I’m right here for you.’”

Man, was this girl tugging at my heart strings. How many times have I begged some big wounded boy to let me love him? In fact, nearly every female I know has blubbered to me about some damaged soul who won’t let her heal his pain. Few things are as confusing to women as men who turn away love and support.

I wasn’t angry at the apple of Fourteen-Year-Old Me’s eye. Sure, guys like him can be selfish and plain mean. But they’re just snot-nosed little boys and it’s up to the women who adore them to cut their losses when the writing’s on the wall.

Unfortunately, it can take decades before a woman learns to stop hanging on to dead end love. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me, but will confess to making tons of stupid decisions, dating scads of nincompoops and coming face to face with lots of not so pretty truths about my own inner workings. Most importantly, it took the real love of a couple good men to show me true connection isn’t something you have to beg someone to share with you.

I wanted to tell Fourteen-Year-Old Me to let this cad go and avoid love she has to wrestle to the ground. Spare her the agony of heartbreak or an on/off affair with someone who only kinda likes her. But like every hard lesson, you’ve got to learn it on your own.

All I could do was give her a smile that said, ‘you’ve got a long, hard journey ahead. But you’ll get there.’

She probably didn’t grasp my message. But maybe she will in twenty years, when her own Mini Me sits across from her on a train.

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I have a friend, we’ll call him Buster, who’s in a marriage most people might refer to as “shitty.”  He’s got the bitter wife, the resentful kid, the budding alcohol problem, whole nine yards.   Buster caters to his woman’s every wacky whim and exhausts himself trying to put himself in her dainty shoes to empathize and bridge the divide.  For Buster, saving his marriage has become a second job.

Those of us who are his friends have mostly been in the “dude, cut your losses” camp.  When a good pal finds more comfort in Jose Cuervo than his wife, not a lot of folks pitch their tent at Camp Hang in There.

The recurring sentiment amongst Buster’s pals when we sit around talking about him is that he’s staying in the marriage because he doesn’t want to be alone.  Apparently nothing is more offensive to the average American than someone else’s fear of being alone.  I know lots of unhappy couples whose inner circle whispers about how their pansy asses stay together just to avoid ending up solo.  As if remaining single is a courageous act on par with traversing the surface of the moon.

However, I think I’m abandoning Camp Cut Your Losses.

Ever been alone for longer than, say, two years?  I have and I can tell you.  It blows.  No one wants to be alone.  What person prefers sleeping in a cold bed to snuggling up against a warm body?  Isn’t talking to your best friend better than talking to yourself?  Doesn’t life feel more consequential when someone else is watching you live it?  Knowing your mere existence plops another human being onto cloud nine?  That’s pretty rad.  And who wants to be on his death bed with some nurse he’s never met holding his hand as he transitions to the sweet hereafter?  I can’t think of a better incentive to work your tail off in relationships than to avoid being alone.

What are ugly are those relationships where folks have stopped trying.  Dead romances where people who used to love each other go through the motions of loving like state employees nearing retirement.  Should those people bail or just start noticing each other again?

Certainly, some circumstances call for hightailing it out of a relationship.  Like if your partner comes to you one day saying, “Wowza!  Two free tickets to the next Tea Party rally!”  Walk away.  This can’t be salvaged.  Otherwise, maybe put in the time.

Buster has a family and a woman who has known him for ages.  These are the building blocks for the one thing everyone wants most in life: forever.  Buster wants to grow old with someone and have his kids at his bedside when he kicks it.  He wants a satisfying relationship and contented family, and so will do what he must to make it happen.  He may also love his wife even if the rest of us think she’s Cruella DeVille.

There may come a time when Buster’s marriage should officially be pronounced dead and both parties should save themselves from being buried with it.  Until then, ain’t no shame in working toward forever.

[Photo of this completely awesome panda from rootsgpk.blogspot.com]

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Women can fake orgasms.  Men can fake entire relationships.

This juicy tidbit marking the romantic distinction between males and females recently made its way onto my Twitter feed.  Enjoying a brief chuckle after reading it, I soon realized how closely this alleged truth hits home: my friend Jay is in a fake relationship and I’ve been wondering if I should tell the girl.

Jay is one of those good-looking, charismatic fellas who rarely have trouble finding a female companion.  A decade ago, he was madly in love with a special lady who dumped him after his ego decided to feed itself by convincing him to cheat.  Since then, Jay has steered clear of anything “too heavy,” opting instead for casual relationships with dippy bores or overly controlling kooks whose mania gives him the perfect excuse to jump ship.

But every so often, Jay wants someone to care enough to check in on him each day, someone for whom he can make elaborate dinners and buy gifts, someone to offer him regular sex and hold him in the middle of the night.  And so, Jay gets a “girlfriend.”

There was the pretty actress with whom he spent every weekend for nearly six months and the slightly neurotic realtor with whom he went on a Roman vacation.  Both of these women were mighty surprised at the end of their relationships to find out Jay was never really feelin’ it even though his actions suggested otherwise.

Then there was the Latin American gal who flew herself back and forth to the States whenever Jay reemerged begging for her company.  The night I met up with them, I watched him walk hand-in-hand with her down the street, introduce her to his friends and fill her imagination with daydreams about a shared future.  Jay’s behavior offered the kinds of clues every silly women’s magazine might say is evidence a dude is thinking long term.  Obviously, the Latin American believed herself involved in a long-distance romance.  But in fact, she was one of a handful of women satellite-ing within Jay’s orbit.

My friend may be an extreme but he’s far from an exception.  I’ve known many guys who’ve gone through the romantic motions with women in an effort to avoid loneliness.  I even know a guy who stayed with a woman for five friggin’ years, knowing every single day there was no way in hell he’d ever marry the chick.

My gut tells me no woman would ever do such a thing and not for any noble reason, like sparing someone else’s feelings.  I just think most women are too gung ho on finding Prince Charming to waste time on a peasant.  And I can’t imagine any woman being able to turn off her emotions or even worse, pretending to feel something she doesn’t feel.  If you’ve ever seen a Sharon Stone movie, you know how to fake an orgasm.  But love?

So, Jay has started up again with the Latin American and is even considering giving in to her demands to be more exclusive.  From the beginning of this relationship, he has said, “I don’t love her and know I never will.”  Meanwhile, his girl is fantasizing about lifelong love, marriage and family.  So is Jay…with some other woman he hopes to meet one day.

I only met the gal for the second time over a group dinner, when she indirectly expressed doubts about Jay’s intentions.  She dropped hints about being open to any insight those of us who are his female friends may be able to provide.  Whenever I considered cueing her in, I remembered how perilous it is to place oneself in the center of a couple’s battlefield.

However, I also wonder if sometimes all it takes for a man like Jay to finally make a commitment is to force himself into one.  If certain men tell themselves they’re not in love in order to make sticking around seem less confining.  In the end, can fake love ever become true?

What say you?

[Photo from the film Lars and the Real Girl, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment]

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Jack and I had our first romantic interlude on the 4th of July.  Back in college, going out with someone usually meant deciding to end up in the same place, so I wouldn’t have called it a proper date.  We met at Boston’s Charles River Esplanade, watched a couple bands and some fireworks, then Jack leaned over and said, “I dig you.”  The rest was history.

Over the years, I’ve come to believe relationships are meant to teach us how to relate authentically yet continue to be our most genuine selves.  Some folks need to learn selflessness, others intimacy, and some just need to learn to put the toilet seat down.

Kicking off my relationship life on Independence Day with Jack was hardly an insignificant twist of fate.  This first real love set me off on an endless quest to learn the meaning of freedom.  See, Jack already had a girlfriend.  Thus, our year-long liaison was an education in giving someone the space to have his own life outside of our shared life together.  However, I was too naïve to realize “space” might include time with the boys and creative pursuits, but probably shouldn’t include other girlfriends.

After Jack came a mostly happy marriage, until I discovered I’d built my world around someone else.  The whole enchilada was sure to crumble unless I made life more my own.  But the more fulfilled I became as an individual the less this particular person seemed to fit me.  Much as I loved my guy, I had to break free to survive.

After marriage, I wanted nothing even remotely close to a relationship.  I formed flimsy emotional bonds then backed out once things got too close.  To this day, I feel sorry for the poor fella who tried to hold my hand across the table on a dinner date only to have me freak out about feeling trapped.

Of course, I soon started wanting connection again but only came across sexy commitment phobes and men with life agendas that didn’t include me.  The subsequent disappointment always forced me back to self, where I had the choice between blubbering about lost love or making my own world even more interesting.  Choosing the latter may have been lonely.  But it also created a more enticing life for someone else to slip into or one to inhabit solo.

Maybe true love really is unconditional, maybe wanting someone to be fulfilled with or without you is the key.  If your woman or man needs to follow a path you’re not on, why not love ‘em anyway?  If love is real, you couldn’t stop anyway if you tried.  Nothing wrong with hoping the path leads back to you.

I’m thinking it’s not only me who needs to learn this lesson.  Maybe the next step we modern gals need to take is learning to balance drive and self-discovery with connection.  And maybe dudes need to learn to dig women’s independence.  Most importantly, we all have to learn to appreciate how much a relationship benefits from sharing it with someone who’s got a frickin’ life.

Happy Independence Day!

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If you’d like to figure out what’s wrong with you relationship-wise, don’t read a self-help book.  Get an online bank account. 

Every time I log into my checking account, I’m asked a “security question,” the answer to which only I’m supposed to know, so the bank can confirm my identity.  Thus far, the only question the bank has asked me upon logging in is the name of my first boyfriend.  And what a joy it is to be forced to recall that relationship on a regular basis.  

When I was setting up the account, I had to select three possible security questions from a handful of rotten choices.  The only questions I could answer with any certainty were my mother’s birthplace and the name of Bozo my first boyfriend.  But choosing the third question threw me for a loop.  The street I grew up on?  Geez, I moved around so much, I barely remember what my high school was called.  The name of my favorite pet?  Well, there was Mitten, my first cat, but we had to give her away.  Then there was my Grandma’s dog, Maggie, but she got hit by a car.  My best friend in grammar school?  Which grammar school?  I had a best friend in each one.  I could say Molly Bartasevich, she was a decent chick.  But am I going to remember ol’ Moll every time I log in?  

Still, the worst question has to be about my first boyfriend, a self-loathing man/boy who cheated and made fun of everything I did.  Now, every time I log into my account I have to think about this hideous example of masculine turd-headedness and what a dip I was for digging him.  

Could there be worse memories to unearth from the past?  How ‘bout, “what was the name of the kid in grade school who used to make fun of you for buying your clothes at KMart” or, “what was more embarrassing; having food in your braces throughout the entire fifth grade or tripping over your shoelaces in front of your quarterback crush in high school?” 

Based on the answers to my security questions, I’ve deduced the following: I may have a fear of intimacy due to a history of rootlessness, mean kids on the playground and pet trauma, culminating in a damaging first love relationship with a complete heel.  

Thanks, Bank of America! 

If we must remember personal information about ourselves with such frequency, how about more forward thinking, more enjoyable security questions?  Here are my suggestions: 

“What is the most interesting city you’ve ever visited?”  

“What do you love most about puppies?” 

“If you had five minutes in an elevator with George Clooney, what would you do to him first?” 

“How much money do you wish was in this bank account after you get through these lameass security questions?” 

Personally, I’m glad to have discovered this banking treasure.  My financial institution is really helping me out in the most challenging areas of my life.  Their exorbitant fees keep my piddly budget in check, the crickets I hear chirping whenever I’m on hold with customer service teaches me patience, and now their covert love counsel is getting my romantic life back on track. 

Who needs self-help when you’ve got a bank?

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Halle as Catwoman“You know what your problem is?” asked Dave. 

Boy, do I love conversations that begin with this question.  Nothing’s more fun than having a know-it-all friend instruct you on the failings of your existence.  

Fortunately, I wasn’t on the other end of Dave’s question.  My friend Kim was.  She was complaining about her romantic life and asking our friend Dave for advice.  The issue was sex appeal and how Kim simply oozes with it.  Men are drawn to her like she’s a hunk of steel and they’ve got magnets in their pants.  She has few limits, no fears and porn star levels of experience.  On the outside, she’s a minx.  

But on the inside she’s broken-hearted.  Kim feels deeply and wants something real.  But few men she meets see her as relationship material.  Thus, Dave was educating us over a bottle of scotch. 

“Your problem,” he said.  “Is that men are intimidated by sexually assertive women.”  

“How is that my problem?”  She asked him and nervously lit a cigarette.  “Sounds like their problem.”  

“You know what it’s like?”  Dave took a sip of scotch.  “Batman.” 

“I see your point,” Kim said.  “Kind of…not at all.”

 “You’ve got Batman, right,” he said.  “Batman’s strong, he’s successful, he does good in the world, he’s got his life under control.  But see, there’s this other side to him, this dark side where all his sensuality and weaknesses are.  We all have a dark side, but Batman thinks he has to fight it.” 

“Did I ever tell you how much I love Val Kilmer?” asked Kim. 

“Then you’ve got Batgirl,” Dave continued.  “All she wants is to take direction from Batman, y’know, she looks up to him and never steps on his toes except in cute little sassy ways that really don’t threaten his power.  Most men really want Batgirl.” 

“But what about Catwoman?” I interjected.  “He wants her too, doesn’t he?  Catwoman can defend herself.  She has her own agenda and doesn’t need any direction from Batman.  He wants her because she’s sexy and strong and tempts him to his dark side.  He wants her as much as he fears her.” 

“Catwoman’s evil,” said Dave. 

“Only because no one will let her enjoy her own power,” I told him.  “Batman can’t handle Catwoman because she’s sexual in her own way, and if she’s sexual in her way and not his, then he has to satisfy her and he may not be able to.  How can he dominate a woman he can’t satisfy sexually?  How can he control a person who has her own agenda?  How can you tame a wildcat fighting for her own survival?” 

A trail of smoke poured from Kim’s lips.  “I totally need to see that movie again.” 

Dave and I glared at each other.  He was just about to attack my Catwoman theory when Kim flailed her hands in the air as if she’d burnt them.  

“Oh my God,” she shouted.  “I’m Batgirl.  I just realized I’m Batgirl.  I wanna be Catwoman but I’m really Batgirl.  Oh God, who else is there?  Pick somebody else.  I don’t wanna be Batgirl!” 

“You’re not Batgirl,” Dave assured her. 

“I’m totally Batgirl,” she whined.  “Oh God, this is terrible.” 

“Well, even if you were Batgirl, it’d be okay,” I said.  “She’s the one Batman loved.” 

“No, Batman loved Vicki Vale,” Kim whined.  “And she didn’t have any power at all.” 

According to Dave, lust and admiration were mutually exclusive concepts for some men.  Apparently for these guys, the two-hour conversation a woman had about the implications of Derrida’s quasi-transcendental thinking on modern deconstructive theory was erased by the image of her boobies jiggling as she grinded him into the box spring. 

And so what was a woman like Kim supposed to do?  Deny her desires and be the Madonna dazzling a guy’s romantic vision, or give into them and become Magdelene getting flicked off the hem of his robe? 

Kim wasn’t interested in smothering her sexual passions and didn’t really buy Dave’s Batman analogy.  However, she did come to one conclusion.  Whether she was Batgirl or Catwoman, she had to stop knockin’ around with jokers.

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Biracial couple loveA guy sitting next to me on the bus the other day kept looking over my shoulder to check out the book on my lap.  When I stuffed it in my bag, he asked, “what are you reading?”

Slightly embarrassed, I told him, “it’s called, Love, an Inner Connection.”

“What’s it about?”

Self-help books and pseudo-spiritual tomes I’ve always considered hokey.  Human beings are fantastically complicated, a lifetime isn’t long enough to discover all the nooks and crannies in one person’s psyche.  Merge two of these creatures in a relationship and they’d need at least a couple centuries to figure one another out.  For every self-help “rule” about relating, you’ll find a thousand situations that break it.

So, when a friend suggested Love, an Inner Connection, my first reaction was to gag.  But since the book’s based in Jungian psychology and ancient Chinese philosophy, I gave it a whirl.

Here’s the gist: there’s the “essential” self and the ego.  The essential self is our identity in its purest form, untouched by social conditioning.  The ego is an insecure bully who concocts a social role and avoids challenging situations to keep the self from harm.  When two people fall in love, their essential selves recognize each other and connect.  In a real love connection, two people can manifest their essential selves, savor intimacy’s bliss and fulfill their lives’ purposes together.

But along comes the ego shouting things like, “you’re too ugly and stupid for someone to love,” or “yo, the last time this happened, your heart got trampled.”  The beginning of love is always a battle between one or both partners’ egos and essential selves.  Thus, the journey to love means silencing the ego, withdrawing when your partner’s ego is actin’ a fool and having the patience to endure the initial difficulties.

When I described the book to the guy on the bus, he nodded and said, “see, my problem is whenever love comes, I push it away.”

The fact that most of my acquaintances and even strangers on the bus (swear to God, it happened) are voicing romantic concern suggests lots of people are struggling.

Having allowed his “issues” to get the best of him, my friend Jay cheated on the girlfriend he’s crazy about and has been fighting ever since to get her back.  My girl Diane caves into the whims of a guy she loves but who sucks at the teat of non-commitment like a baby to a pacifier.  Jack’s in love for the first time but won’t make the changes that would allow a new person into his world.  Irene drives away every man who shows affection because she won’t take the time to let feelings evolve.  Everyone’s selfish, terrified egos are running amok.

Years back, a recently divorced guy I’d been dating admitted to some anxiety about the intensity of our fledgling romance.  He wanted to keep seeing one another, but a small part of him was tempted to back out.

I went ape shit.

“Nooo,” I wailed.  “It’s too soon to freak, you can’t do this, give it a chance.”  And so on.

Dude disappeared.  Shortly thereafter, I picked up Love, an Inner Connection. And by gum, the book changed my life.

Instead of pushing my own romantic agenda, what if I’d taken into consideration what the other person wanted?  We like to think love is all about tying someone down and eliminating whatever in their life threatens our attachment to them – a busy social calendar, autonomous behaviors, emotional hang-ups.  But love is about freedom.  Someone chooses to love you and to be loved.  You shouldn’t have to convince or force people to be with you.  They should want to be with you.  And if they need time to work through some stuff, well, you best chill.

Jay’s ego didn’t want him to admit his mistake, while his essential self was pining for the woman he betrayed.  After he read Love, An Inner, he snubbed his ego and told the girl he missed her.  She came back.  Consequently, the book is making the rounds and guiding my friends to softer places in their souls.

It’s hard to be patient.  Hard to put someone else’s needs on par with your own.  Hard to know whether you’ve got a true love connection or whether you’re a fool.

But as I told my friend on the bus, if there’s one tried-and-tested rule about love, it’s that it’s worth the risk.

**Love, an Inner Connection is by Carol K. Anthony

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