My mom called me the other day, and I made the mistake of telling her some inconsequential thing my boyfriend had said about our respective career paths. How he would move if he got a really good job opportunity, or how I might move, and how maybe we would just take a break and see how it goes if that happened.
Which, to me, is totally reasonable. I’m almost pathologically unsure about what I want out of life, and I don’t believe in the concept of “The One” or anything. And I’m a pretty serious loner, so I’m pretty sure I would be Just Fine if Boyfriend and I were separated.
Anyway, my mom took this opportunity to give me some Really Terrible Advice. It went like this:
1) Boyfriend is obviously not committed enough to your relationship. This is your fault for the following reasons:
a) You give him too many compliments, therefore making him feel cocky and take you for granted.
b) You don’t have enough going on in your life besides him. (Note: I have a full time job and am taking grad classes.)
2) Solving this problem is of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE. Drop whatever else you were planning to do this year, and begin internet dating in an effort to make him jealous.
I don’t really feel like spelling out exactly why this advice is bad and wrong–I hope it is self-evident–but suffice it to say that I won’t be following that advice.
My only qualm about totally ignoring the advice, and the reason I’m writing about the advice at all, is that I’m having a bit of a who-am-I-to-know moment about it. I’m young, and my last relationship before this one was totally dysfunctional and abusive. At the time, I was pretty sure that I knew how relationships worked. There were good times and bad times! Relationships require work! Sometimes you will fight! Sometimes your partner will annoy you! And if the bad times outweighed the good, if the relationship work was endangering your real work, if the fights were really screaming fits followed by sulking until you agreed that you were wrong and bad and hurtful, and if your partner did not give a shit that he was annoying you–well, you just had to put up with that, since that was how Relationships Work, and you wouldn’t want to be an immature, illogical, unfair, emotional Relationship Killer. Suffice it to say, I did not actually understand how relationships should work.
I’ve learned a lot, in the year-and-a-bit since I got out of that relationship. But now I find myself totally questioning my judgment when it comes to good and bad advice about relationships. I think that normal relationships don’t involve manipulating each other via threatening to find a New Shiny Person, but I’ve never had a multi-year relationship that didn’t involve a flaming asshole, so who am I to know? Am I being naive about this? Is my life DOOMED TO FAILURE because I don’t feel like finding some dude on OkCupid for the sole purpose of making my boyfriend jealous?
That last one is facetious, I hope. But the advice comes across as some ridiculous The Rules shit (I haven’t read The Rules). It’s not like I secretly wish I were internet dating and Boyfriend is holding me back. (Really, if Boyfriend and I broke up, I think I would probably be single for awhile and concentrate on my career, and then date women. Even though then I would have to come out to my family. But I digress.) The thought of internet dating makes me want to throw up and then never leave my apartment again. Digging through profiles trying to connect with someone, dealing with creepy messages from random-ass dudes (and couples!), meeting people I might not even like for the express purpose of determining whether or not we should have sex, definitely getting sexually harassed, maybe getting raped again–none of this seems fun to me.
I do kind of wonder how much my distaste for the idea of Trying to Meet Dudes is fear of creepiness/harassment/rape. Creepiness is ubiquitous, as in, if I’m a woman, on the Internet, or in a bar or at a meetup group or wherever (actually, maybe I should start a Grouchy Sex-Negative Feminist meetup group; possibly (with enough vigilance) we could scare away the creepers), I’m going to get unwanted sexual attention from men. Harassment (which I’m defining here loosely as repeated unwanted sexual attention) is more of an every-few-months sort of thing if I’m social in a mixed-gender group without a male escort. Rape–well, at this point, I’ve only been raped once, but it was really more than enough, thank you very much. And the desire to avoid creepiness, harassment, and rape is pretty much outweighing my desire to go out into the world and make new friends, and it’s DEFINITELY outweighing any desire I might otherwise feel for new male sexual partners.
It’s not like it would make my mother happy anyway, if I were to start internet dating. I have had two boyfriends a few times in my life, and each time she disapproved. So I think I’m just going to stick to my instincts on this one, and leave my OkCupid profile deactivated.