I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
We met downtown for overpriced coffee. We chatted and discussed the ridiculousness of our past relationships. For as much as I like to project that I am a sound board for my friends, truthfully, I need them just as much as they need me. All of the coffee hangouts are simply cheap therapy. There is value in male bonding but unfortunately, most of those discussions are about music or movies or “chicks.” And while most of my coffee hangs are with women telling me how disappointed they are with men, I have learned to listen. To find commonalities I have with their exs and unfortunately, identify with their inappropriate behavior. It truly helps a man to grow when he surrounds himself with open and aggressively vulnerable women.
I guess the downside of all of this is you have to hear the horror stories. The abuse. The indifferent men who take advantage of the love and care these women have given back to the world. Half of the time it makes me want to go out, find them, give them a solid punch to the teeth then yell, “You know what that’s for.” And they would. Because lets be real, most dudes have earned a punch to the mouth. And sure, there are plenty of unhealthy women in this world but carefully and generally speaking, we live in a society where male abuse is more prevalent and accepted. And finding men who truly want to become better men, seems to be few and far between. Needless to say, I couldn’t imagine having to be a straight woman in this world searching for a man who was confident enough to be vulnerable and strong and appreciative all at the same time.
There is value in the sharing of stories. Not simply from the educational and therapeutic level, but seeing the pain and stress and animosity in a woman’s eyes as she tells you how she just continues to be disappointed. And those words are genuine. It shakes me sometimes, you know? To see someone you care about so desperate and willing to give their love and affection to someone, anyone, who would be willing to give back just enough for it to feel worth it. I have seen strong independent women lower their standards so far down because they figure being with the best of terrible men is better than being alone. So many people in this world sellout their self-worth in order to not be alone. While that might sound trite, it’s more complex that one might imagine. Being alone is more than tough, it’s scary as hell. So it’s more than understandable why anyone would be willing to give up on what they believe they have earned.
We all have to compromise in relationships and no one will ever give us everything we want. That much most of us understand. And while we all determine where our line of sacrifice lies, it is important to not trade who we are as a person for the comfort of another body. Unfortunately, this happens more often than not and if it is all we see as a child, whether in the from of books and movies where the plot revolves around the guy getting the woman, or when played out in front of us in the form of neighbors and family – it is completely socially acceptable, and often expected, to sacrifice who we are in order to have a nice roof over our heads and a ring on our finger. Guilt trips by our friends and family only reinforce the social expectation that the value of a woman is based upon whether or not she can find a man want wants to “keep” her.
The biggest tragedy of this is that people are shamed into believing they need someone to “complete” their lives, so much so that they are willing to actually fight to maintain unhealthy and abusive relationships. But again, the idea of being alone, of being shamed by family, and lying in bed at night with the idea of dying a single cat lady are very real fears no matter how ridiculous they sound. And unfortunately, more often than not – guilt, shame, expectation, and societal pressure, can sometimes be more powerful than self-esteem.
I wish it was as easy as saying, “Look, you are worth so much more. You don’t need this unhealthy relationship.” And having them walk away with their head held high. But the truth is, that is the exception rather than the standard. And sitting there at a table with coffee between two people is important. Because the best thing you can do for a person in a situation like this is to listen. Just knowing they have a person who cares, who asks about their day, and who is so invested in their happiness that they are willing and excited to remind them of their worth – that is what people need. People need to be reminded of how far they have come. Of the difficult situations they have survived. Because these are reminders of confidence. And confidence is as fleeting as your next insecurity. You can’t give anyone answers or solutions. All you can do is help them make realizations. We make more decisions than we like to believe, because like I have said many times before, no one truly talks anyone off a ledge. All we can do is remind people they are stronger than they believe. Because every person you meet is stronger than they believe.