I’ve been in relationships since I was 16. I was young starting out (a point I discuss in a previous post here) and despite it not being the best idea looking back, I’ve inevitably seen the best and worst sides of them.
With the rise of social media comes the open sharing of people’s opinions, actions and experiences. The amount of posts, pictures and comments I have come across during the past few years on social media concern me as to how we view relationships and treat our significant others. This is a discussion of just a few of the general attitudes and expectations I have read and the negative message they put across:
“It is a man’s job to chase a woman – if he doesn’t pursue you, he’s not interested“
Being at opposite sides of the scale, it’s hard to predict or fully understand what a man or woman is thinking. We each have our own characteristics, thinking processes, understanding and language along with personality traits that are varied and specific to an individual. As well as this, we all go through different experiences and events that shape how we respond to future occurrences in order to protect ourselves – for example, being wary about putting trust in people. This can result in some people being very confident, being extremely shy or being very withdrawn.
To others who maybe haven’t been through that trauma, or understand how reactive behaviour occurs, it’s often difficult to empathise with somebody who may not react to situations the same way you do. It’s like assuming all men are cheaters because they got cheated on before, or assuming all women are gold diggers because your last girlfriend just used you for money. For a new love interest to come into the picture, and be responded to with resistance or lack of trust, that’s sometimes hard to swallow because you know you could never do that to someone – but you’re being judged before you’ve been given a chance.
But, taking those two sides into account, it is wrong to expect a man to chase you otherwise ‘he doesn’t like you’ or it’s what is ‘expected of a man’. Men are not born to ‘pursue women’ and just because he isn’t chasing you, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like you. Sure, for a small selection of men – that is the case. But for a lot of men, they don’t have the confidence in themselves to pursue a woman they like. I can understand maybe 80 years ago when a woman couldn’t pick her suitor in most situations – it was seen as the man’s responsibility to pursue a woman and prove what he could offer her.
But in today’s society, where women demand equality and fair treatment, how is it we can pick and choose where the equality lies? ‘You can’t pay my male colleague more than me – oh but I’m not allowed to ask you out, you have to ask me because I’m a woman and that’s a man’s job‘ – hell no. If you want to be treated equally, have an equal attitude and realise that it’s just as much a woman’s responsibility to be present in a relationship as it is a man. Women are very, very difficult creatures for men to understand – and it would be beneficial to consider that whilst you’re having a hard time reading them, they’re having an equally hard time reading you too.
So how do we get round that? We communicate. When I realised I had feelings for my boyfriend, I told him first. Imagine that. I blurted it all out in a message, sat there with my heart in my mouth waiting for a response and he responded by saying he felt the same way too. Not all men are out to play a game – and if you ask someone how they feel, and put yourself out there too, then they will meet you in the middle and let you know how they feel. Nobody wants to hurt someone else just for the sake of it. Where’s the fun in that? And if they don’t like you back, then hey, they aren’t for you. Don’t chase what openly doesn’t welcome you in. There’s a whole world out there – don’t waste time on something that makes you stressed and upset. So – let’s shut down this idea that men need to chase women – no, we need to come together if we want an adult relationship and talk like adults. Only kids should be playing games like that.
“I deserve to be spoiled and get what I want”
Okay – this one is a biggie for me. Especially in the run up to Christmases and Valentine’s Days – I cannot stress more as to how damaging this attitude is towards your partner and your relationship. Now, I’m all for somebody surprising you with as many or as little gifts and gestures as they want to. That’s amazing that you’ve found somebody that wants and can afford to do that for you. But – to have that as an expectation before you even meet somebody or set your standards that high – you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. I am going to aim this segment at ladies because I believe the stigma out there is aimed at men providing for women etc. (Refer to the above for my opinions on equality between the sexes).
The reason I say this is because not everybody has the same attitude, the same upbringing or the same financial situation. You might meet a wonderful guy who ticks every single box on a personal level – respects you, makes you laugh, makes you happy, does what he can to be a good boyfriend to you – but if you base his love and respect for you on what he materialistically brings to the table, then the relationship is set to fail. And let’s face it – you base this from what you see online, than what you see in person. I don’t know anybody that has received a bouquet of 100 roses, a life-sized teddy bear and a Cartier watch for Valentine’s Day. That’s because 99% of us regular folk don’t have the means to do it! You just see the grandeur online, never the small and meaningful.
For a lot of respectable men, they have been brought up to appreciate their money, not throw it around and to use it sensibly. I would much prefer to have a partner that knows how to manage their money, can be independent and know how to look after themselves financially rather than a man who spends his last penny on gifts and taking me out and being irresponsible with his money. Sure the gesture is there, but if you live together, wouldn’t you rather have the rent paid than a nice new watch? Priorities. They also may prefer to show you how they feel in a much more personal way that doesn’t scream money and wealth. A heartfelt message, a home-cooked dinner, something like that. Don’t expect a man to sacrifice his money by throwing it at you, appreciate a man who would rather help to keep a roof over your head, food in your belly and prefer to spend his time with you, not his money.
It doesn’t have to be about the man showing his love for you, either. You can take him out too once in a while, or buy him something nice. Be it his favourite chocolate bar, or a shirt you’ve seen you thought he’d like. Men liked to feel just as appreciated as women. Some show their affection by doing the washing up whilst you’re out, or a woman might treat her man to a surprise massage. It’s the little things that matter just as equally, if not more, than the big gestures.
I’ve been with my partner for almost 6 years, and for Valentine’s Day we buy each other a card, get a bottle of something to share and go out for a reasonably-priced meal. We show each other we love one another every day – which is so much more important to me. I’d rather know someone loves me everyday than be shown just once or twice a year how much I mean. So analyse and decide what means more to you, and base your expectations on that. Not how much a present is worth, but how much thought and love is put into showing how they feel about you.
“Now that we are together, I own them…”
One of the most common topics for ‘memes’ I see is one that makes a joke of a woman being possessive and controlling over her boyfriend which gives across a really bad message to girls about to enter – or entering into relationships. But what’s concerning is that, whilst the replies to comments are girls tagging their friends saying ‘this would actually be me!’ – were the shoe be on the other foot, we would all be screaming ‘domestic abuse!’ if a man was putting restrictions on his girlfriend like this.
What people seem to forget when entering into a relationship is that they had a life before you came along. Just because they are with you now, it doesn’t mean that their friends aren’t as important anymore or that because they are spending time with their family or friends, you aren’t as important. A lot of these feelings can stem from either insecurities – ‘what are they doing when they’re not with me’ or self-entitlement ‘why wouldn’t they want to spend time with me more? I’m the most important person in their life.’
Wrong. You may or may not be equally as important as everybody else, but don’t be under the assumption that you are their only priority. They have a family, friends and other responsibilities and managed just fine before you came into their lives. The whole point of a relationship is not to take over it, but to share it, support one another and enhance each other’s happiness; not spend every spare minute of your lives together.
Rather than coming across as being loving, caring and wanting to spend time with them, you come across as clingy and obsessive. Remind yourself of what you did before they came into your life, and find a hobby that you enjoy that’s separate to your relationship. I made the mistake of spending every single night with my ex-boyfriend over the course of 5 and a half years and it was soul destroying to us both. We argued because we were fed up, we didn’t have much new to bring to a conversation and, we didn’t realise it, but we grew tired of each other’s company. When one of us wanted to make alternative plans, the other would be upset and angry and an argument would ensue – making time together even more hostile and full of tension.
What I do understand is that it really is so much more harder now to be in a relationship than it was say, 15 years ago. Whilst it sounds ridiculous, with the channels available to us and it’s much easier for people to connect, talk and share through our phones and apps – it actually makes some people more paranoid about missing out on something.
Let’s think of it this way. Before phones and the evolution of the internet, if someone was doing something behind your back, you had more chance of finding out. Stumbling across the voicemail, catching them in the act, finding love letters and notes (sounds cheesy but this is exactly how my uncle found out his wife was having an affair – he found her stash of love letters towards the end of the 90s! Harsh.). Nowadays, however, we can talk through an unbelievable amount of channels with people. Texts, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, email, phone… and I’m not surprised people are so edgy about it. Genuinely I’m not.
But what is also unhealthy is the comments we throw their way “AS A JOKE… god” or the assumptions we make – not realising that with each comment, theirfeelings of self-worth shrink and shrink – that you don’t trust them or are expecting them to mess up before you’ve had chance to get going:
or going one step ahead like this for ‘banter’:
The point is that your partner isn’t an object. You cannot own them or claim them to be ‘yours’. If you’re worried about your partner cheating on you, then being obsessive and controlling won’t stop them from cheating on you if that’s their intention. To be honest with you, my brother always said to me from a guy’s perspective – if somebody wants to cheat on you, they will do it, not matter how hard to try to stop it or show them that you can ‘see everything’. So rather than spend your time trying to ‘catch them out’ and spending your life being paranoid about the ‘what ifs’ – stop and think, are you the problem in this scenario? Are you holding yourself back from relaxing and enjoying your relationship? Apart from be by your side at every spare minute, what else could your partner do to stop you from feeling so on edge?
It’s hard but sometimes, we have to think and accept that it is us with the problem – not them. If you’re paranoid because of what your ex did to you two years ago, that’s your issue to deal with – not your new partner. Treating them with suspicion is not fair, and assuming they are just like everybody else isn’t fair on them either. You would both be better off alone.
If you find you are in a constant state of anxiety and paranoia about your partner who hasn’t given you a reason to feel that way, it may be helpful to speak to somebody about your experiences and start some self-healing. It is not your partner’s responsibility to heal you, and expecting them to put up with the behaviours you have developed to protect yourself isn’t fair. Do they deserve to have to put up with you being paranoid and upset every time they go to see their friends? Or asking them to give up their personal time because you don’t trust them when they’re not around? No – it’s not their job to sort your personal problems out. They can be there to love and support you – but not to sacrifice their life in return for your trust and acceptance. As explained earlier in this post, experiences mould us and we amend our thinking and our behaviour as a way of protecting ourselves from hurt again. But eventually, we have to address those issues and start living again, not existing in a state of panic or fear.
I hope this post has helped in some ways in maybe identifying patterns of thought or behaviour you may be experiencing, or come in handy when entering into a relationship with someone. I understand how hard it is to maintain a relationship today is such an openly connected world where we gain insights into other people’s relationships – but being in a relationship is about trusting and respecting each other as equals. You may get hurt, we all have our heartbreaks in life, it’s how we learn from our mistakes. But what is important is not allowing yourself to be swallowed up by those mistakes and getting back on your feet again prepared for whatever comes next. You will meet who you’re meant to be with eventually, we don’t need to force it or try to mould it into what we think other people would approve of. Find someone that makes you happy, supports you in times of despair and need and motivates you to be a better person and to achieve your dreams.
*Check out my latest post looking at why you shouldn’t let the impending Valentine’s Day get you down.