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Nico Lang

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Don't Get Mad, Get Empowered: Why You Deserve Healthy Relationships

Posted: 08/02/2012 12:20 pm

For all of my life, I've been a card-carrying relationship masochist. I loved the bad boys and the brooding, unattainable types- from a shockingly early age. When I was 12 years old, Ryan Gosling was the first guy I fell in love with, back in his Young Hercules days, even before he was somehow both the ideal guy and the guy you could never really have ever. I've liked them to be stoic, mysterious and mumbly but secretly sensitive, the kind of guy who you know you can just get to open up to you if he tries. You know him, you've met him and you might have dated a couple of hims. If you are any of my exes, you are him.

I've liked a lot of types of guys who weren't good for me and who I -- deep down -- knew it wouldn't work out with -- the serial daters, the serial bachelors, the serial workers, the serial pot-smokers, the serial heterosexuals -- and they've failed, miserably. In my non-dating life, I really like to help people, a lot, whether they be random people on the street puking after having too many shots at Casey Moran's or my best friend who really needs another job because his bosses are horrible. And I looked at my dating life the same way. Even if things weren't good, I could make it work, I could make things better, I could fix anything if I tried.

This was screwed up. Not on their parts, because the guys I've been involved with were generally up front about who they were and what they wanted out of life -- or were sending very blatant signals about what they expected from our "relationship." Our expectations were always very different, like I was at an Italian restaurant and expecting them to bring me Miso Soup. You can't get what's not on the menu, what someone isn't able to give.

I used to blame them, because my relationships have fizzled out in some fairly terrible ways, like the time I got dumped so he could go watch Mad Men. So, it was easy to take all of the hurt and torment and rejection I felt and place it somewhere else -- because who doesn't want to complain with their friends about the guy who broke their heart and make up nicknames for their exes? But the problem wasn't Chronic McMasturbator, Insensitive McCantCommit or Beardy McBiPhobe. I was the one with my fingers in my ears, quoting lines from When Harry Met Sally back at them, pretending that they were still El Uno.

Of course, the problem wasn't me in every single case -- I didn't cheat on myself, because I'm not in a Patrick Marber play -- but sometimes it was. A lot of the time it was, and I wasn't totally blind to my part in that (because, hey, weirdly persistent feelings of self-loathing!), but I wasn't dealing with that in a way that was particularly positive, either.

Because I have really great, supportive, gung-ho-about-affirmation friends. They are really good at enabling that and getting angry along with me. I've gotten so much support every time I get acid thrown in my face by life, and the answer always seems to be along the lines of:

A) He's crazy!

B) He's such a jerk.

C) We always hated him, anyway!

D) You're so much better off!

E) You're such a catch!

F) Oh my God, you're so skinny!

G) Let's get drunk!

This happens to all of us. We love our friends, and they love us and want to see us not dwelling on this pain and getting back on the road to Happy La-La Zooey Deschanel Land.

However, I think that in getting this (pretty awesome) universal support, we get unknowingly shielded from the realities of our own dating lives, so that we may be able to see the big picture but not the dangerous substance inside what's waiting to be thrown at us. If we persist in making these decisions that are clearly (to any sane human being) not healthy but then are told how beautiful and awesome we are, how can we learn to see? Sure, he might not be perfect, but you choose that when you accept less than you need from a relationship. You can't expect perfection, but we all have our non-negotiables. Let the first one be dating people that want to be with you as much as you want to be with them.

If you persist in accepting that, you become like that woman in the documentary Crazy Love. If you didn't pick up on the overt extended metaphor I've been building, said woman's boyfriend flings acid in her face so she can never be with anyone else, and she is "forced to stay with him." However, she's the one who chooses to stay in that relationship, and when the acid burns her face off, she learns to live like that, to accept the pain. She learns to love the person who throws it at her, because -- deep down -- she thinks she doesn't deserve better, that she somehow deserves to be unhappy. As she puts it: Who else could love her the way she is?

Ladies (and gays), do not listen to this woman ever. She is the worst female role model of all time, right after Courtney Love, Octomom, Helen of Troy and the lady that raised Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Sometimes in life, I think we get to the point where we are scared that we've been through everyone out there and no good guys left, so we should just accept the bad relationship we are in. We have to make this one work, or we are finished. Personally, I've been afraid that, if my life were an Anna Faris movie and I weren't allowed to date any more people (or I die or something?), my guy would have already passed me by.

However, what I sometimes forget (and what we all forget) is that if that guy came along -- not The One, but the One That's Right for Me Currently -- I would probably know, because I would be with him, pretending I care about the Olympics. (I'm still really sorry that I don't. I think it's a genetic flaw.)

It would be right, because we would both make it right, and if it's clearly not right, you can't force it to work out and shouldn't be angry at him for that. Even if he's the nicest guy or so cute, that won't matter if he's already got a boyfriend or dying or lives at work or is betrothed to his Swedish cousin or a jerk or can't commit or just isn't that into you. Let that guy go marry his cousin or get married to his job, because if he wanted to be with you, he would be. If he isn't, don't get waste your time feeling angry. Get a move on. Get over him.

For instance, they always say that dating is like friendship but with more genitals -- and in some ways, I think that's correct. They don't have to be your best friend, but a general friend compatibility is the basis of any relationship, and I know I can't personally keep my friends away, even if I try. When my best friend is having a bad day, I'll search for an hour online trying to find any picture anywhere of Jay-Z making a constipation face or squatting, just so I can go on Meme Creator and make a caption for it that says, "Big Pooping." When I mention that life is getting me down in a status update, my friend's mom will send me pictures of cats hanging in there -- just to remind me that I have claws and can fight out life's gravity, too.

And these people don't even get to sleep with you for that. They won't be rewarded with sex for making you happy, unless your friend's mom is Jennifer Coolidge in American Pie. The only thing they want is for you to keep being in their life. If that certain someone who really cares about you, in the right way, you likewise don't have to worry about whether they will want to meet your mom, whether they will remember your birthday or if they are ever going to call you. When it's right, you know the answer already; you know you don't have to wait by the phone, because you don't have to wait. You are empowered enough to know that you deserve to be called, just like all people (even your most evil exes) deserve to be in the relationship they want to be in.

No matter who you are, you deserve to be loved, affirmed and listened to. You deserve someone who can't wait to call you -- and genuinely wants to hear what you have to say. You deserve someone who wants to make it work as much as you do. Don't accept anything less. Life is a terrible thing to go through when you're covered in acid.

 

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