My girlfriend is extraordinary.
If I wasn’t too afraid of embarrassing her, I’d post the list I wrote for our six-month anniversary, “100 Things I Love About My Girlfriend”.
Fine, twist my arm. Here are just three things that make her special:
- She’s amazing at meeting people at a party where she knows no one.
- She’s grateful for what she has, instead of clamoring for what she doesn’t.
- She squeaks when I rub my hand up her arm.
But what makes her particularly unusual is that she handles me perfectly. It was as if she read a handbook on how to be the ideal girlfriend and executed it to a T.
And while I could sit here and yap about what I think she does so well, I thought it would be much more valuable to ask her if there was a method to her madness, a secret to her success.
So, Girlfriend, what is it that you do that makes me want to never let you go?
This is how she responded.
When Evan first threw out the idea of having me contribute to his blog, I thought, “Who, me? I’m not the expert!”
My dating history could not be more different than his. He has dated LOTS of women, has had many girlfriends and, for the bulk of his adult life, has been single and dating prolifically. I am quite the opposite. I can count on one hand (yes, ONE hand) the number of boyfriends I’ve had since turning 17. Of those relationships, all but one lasted for 3 years or more, and one developed into a marriage that, alas, ended in divorce. You might call me a Serial Monogamist.
Even though my background is completely different from Evan’s, we generally agree on the things that count. I never really thought about why it’s been so easy for us until he asked me to write this column. But after a little thinking — and some lengthy conversations with my best friend — this is what I came up with. I hope it makes sense to any relationship-minded females who are reading this.
So here goes…
Advice from a Single Dating Expert’s Girlfriend
Don’t Cry Wolf
“Women are crazy.”
How many times have you heard this from your mate, your brother, or a guy friend?
I’ve heard it more than I care to admit, and, sadly, I can’t entirely refute it. The fact that we are more in touch with our feelings means that sometimes our emotions get the best of us. It’s natural. And, yet, do we have to let that happen all the time? Do the men in our lives have to walk on eggshells in fear that something they say will set us off? Do they have to always be extra cautious in case we start yelling, crying, or giving them the silent treatment?
If something bothers us in the relationship, it makes sense to let them know. But what if we were to “emote” every time a little thing rubs us the wrong way? Then when something important comes along and we are justified in being a little emotional, he will not take it seriously. Men literally become desensitized to our emotional outbursts. So rather than him saying, “Honey, what did I do that upset you?”, instead he thinks, “Here we go again, another dose of the crazy.”…
Evan will tell you I’m even-tempered. I’m proud of that because, although it now comes naturally to me, it didn’t always. I’ve been a slave to my emotions in the past and I know it is not pretty when I unleash the crazy on some poor unsuspecting guy. I have since figured out that not every little thing that bugs me is worth an emotional meltdown. But there was a point in our relationship a few months ago that caused me to have feelings I could not control.
Evan RSVP’d to an out-of-town wedding mere moments after meeting me. How could he know that we would turn into a relationship, right? I knew about the wedding, but we never really talked about it as it was months away. Well, months passed and we were still together and before we knew it, the wedding was upon us. I was disappointed that I couldn’t go with him, but he seemed a bit glib about it. At least that’s how I read it.
While Evan was gone, he called me several times each day, texted me during the reception and mentioned over and over that he wished he had brought me. And, yet, even with all this attention, I couldn’t shake the feeling that he didn’t care that I wasn’t there with him. I needed to vent. When he returned, I did just that. Instead of thinking I was crazy, Evan listened intently, validated my feelings, and reiterated many times that he wished I had been there. My feelings may have been justified, or they may have been completely irrational, but because it wasn’t my M.O. to have emotional outbursts, he didn’t just blow it off — he took it seriously.
The Golden Rule
This is such a simple concept — treat others as you would like to be treated — that I feel a little silly mentioning it. But truthfully, I think we women are often unaware of the extreme hypocrisy of our behavior. We would never want our mate to boss us around, yet we want to force him to do what we want. Sometimes we use guilt, sometimes we use anger, sometimes we use sex. But we often try to manipulate men in a way that we’d never want to be manipulated ourselves.
If your coworkers invited you to join them for drinks after work, but this was going to delay dinner with your boyfriend, you’d expect him to understand. You wouldn’t even think it was a problem — you’d only call your mate to be polite, not to request permission to have drinks. Yet we often make our men feel like they have to ask for a special, one-time only waiver to slightly change our plans. And then we expect them to “make it up” to us somewhere down the road.
Men are so used to this that I think they’ve come to expect and dread it. Case in point: About a month ago, Evan and I had tickets to a classical music concert. A few days after we made the plans, Evan found out that his friend’s whitewater rafting bachelor party was the same weekend. Risking ridicule, he told his friends he couldn’t go to the party because it was on the same weekend as our concert. When I heard this, I immediately told him it was ridiculous to miss an entire weekend of fun with his guy friends for a few hours at a concert. Evan was surprised and admitted this was not what he expected me to say. Why not? I mean, wouldn’t I assume that if the situation were reversed he would give his blessing for me to spend time with my girlfriends? I think men have become so accustomed to giving up their freedom just to be in a relationship that they often lose what makes them men. Not that a relationship isn’t worth the sacrifice, but does it have to be such a sacrifice?
For those not familiar with the golf term, a mulligan happens when a player gets a second chance to tee off if his first shot is errant. In general speech, the term has come to mean any minor blunder which is allowed to pass without consequence. Can you see where I’m going with this?…
Guys are simple. I don’t mean this in a derogatory way, but, truly, women are more complex. We notice not just what men say, but how they say it, what they were doing when they said it, and what they said afterwards, etc. Since it is in our nature to dissect what men say and do, you can imagine how many times we will be hurt by something they said or did. So give them mulligans. Lots and lots of mulligans.
My theory is this: If a man cares about me, I make the assumption that he wouldn’t purposely try to hurt my feelings or make me angry. So, when a man says something and for a moment I think, “What the fu–” I stop myself, let the moment pass, and remind myself that this man who loves me was most likely unaware of what he did. He gets a mulligan.
Now, you may be thinking, “Well, if he doesn’t know he angered or hurt you, he’ll continue to do it.” I agree. Men can’t read our minds. But you have to remember what’s important in the grand scheme of things. Is it better to assume he is being malicious and tell him so? Or is it better to give him the benefit of the doubt and, in doing so, keep the peace? My method is this: If I am still thinking about that annoying thing he said the next morning, then perhaps it warrants a discussion. A man who loves a woman wants to know if he did something to offend her. And hopefully by bringing it up later she will have had time to cool down so the “discussion” does not turn into a full-blown argument.
Evan is truly the most conscientious and self-aware boyfriend I’ve had. But even he will say things that could bother/hurt/anger me if I let them. For instance, it has never upset me when he makes fun of my love of food (if you catch any woman on the wrong day – and, no I don’t mean just that time of the month – she could interpret this as, “you eat too much, you’re getting fat”). I also take it in stride when he says that one of his female friends is the funniest or sweetest or most in-shape girl he knows (it wouldn’t be too difficult to hear, “I wish you were funny/sweet/in-shape”). Since I know he would never purposely hurt my feelings, I don’t try to read between the lines to extract some other, less-flattering meaning to his off-handed comments.
But I am human and my feelings do sometimes get hurt. One time I remember Evan saying that I did not fit the mold of what he thought he wanted. Of course, I already knew that. He always pictured himself with an Ivy-league educated, East Coast Jewish girl. And I pictured myself with…well, not a guy like Evan. But it wasn’t the East Coast Jewish comment that bothered me. It was the “Ivy-League” part. Even if I didn’t go to a nationally ranked school, I want my boyfriend to appreciate my intelligence. So, one night before we went to bed, I let Evan know how I felt. He apologized and reassured me that he does think I’m intelligent, he doesn’t care about labels, and he’d make an effort to be more sensitive in the future. And since he couldn’t take back what he said, that’s all I could ask of him.
Now imagine if EVERYTHING he said was dissected like this one issue. How could he ever feel comfortable speaking freely? How could he ever be himself around me?
The answer is, he couldn’t.
Like I mentioned in the “Don’t Cry Wolf” section, Evan would end up feeling like he had to walk on eggshells around me for fear that I will interpret something he says in a way that could upset me, even if that is clearly not his intention. So he would end up having a different persona with me than he does with any of his other friends. We women do not want to have to act differently in our relationship than we do at work or with our girlfriends, so we shouldn’t force our men into that awkward situation by jumping all over everything they say.
I hope this resonated with you. Again, I don’t consider myself an expert in anything but my own life. Thanks for reading.