Last night I was in the middle of a text conversation with one of my male friends, providing him with the latest and greatest regarding my love life. I was more or less trying to get his advice about one of those situations that could go a lot of different directions for a lot of different reasons. Then, he said something that stuck out. And, I believe my friends know me well enough now to understand few memorable comments go unmentioned on this blog.
“You’re a woman; y’all make the rules,” he said.
At the time, I responded with, “Ooh, kill em!” But, in my head, I thought, “Really? We do?”
Up until recently, I rarely felt like I made the rules in my dating life. I’ve endured and recovered from a lot of shitty dating situations where I was always responding to the other person’s behavior. I’ve allowed myself to be in a lot of precarious positions, flexing and molding to meet another person’s desires. Make the rules? I was too busy trying to keep my head above the shark-infested waters of dating a control freak or obsessing over someone who had zero interest in me. In essence, I was too busy screwing my whole life up and collecting the experiences you all read about.
Now, I don’t believe I make the rules. I just know my tolerance level for bullshit. And, I know that tolerance is below-sea-levels low. It’s not a matter of rules; it’s a matter of self-esteem.
A few months ago I wrote a blog post entitled, “The Poison Of Power In Relationships” summing up how bone-crushing it is when somehow has emotional reign over you. I toyed with the power dynamic that exists in many relationships. And, when someone makes “rules” or “sets the agenda” they are determining the trajectory of a relationship and ultimately exerting power. Of course we all want to adopt the Kumbaya mentality and say relationships should be equal. Because, they should. In theory. But, this is real life.
I decided to take this issue of “Who makes the rules: men or women?” to the Twenties Unscripted Male Think Tank, especially considering it was a man who first raised the point. Here’s some of what they had to say:
I don’t think it should be gender based. I think it should depend on the couple if one is better with certain decisions, then so be it.
…I think it’s true because women put up with what they allow. If you’re guy isn’t faithful to you and you keep letting him back in over and over you’re allowing it. On the other hand, if you didn’t allow it, that relationship would be terminated.
I think in a healthy relationship, both people make rules and respect the other’s rules. I do think that the woman gets her way more often than the guy. I think as men, we have to just end up having to concede more often because there’s nothing worse than a woman who’s pissed at you…
Women set the standards. They set the overall pace and outcome of what relationships entail and encompass. As a man, I still have my input in what the hell I’m doing with you, but I have no problem with working with a woman and her standards about how to make the relationship better. Rules are for fools.
Yes, women make the rules. They hold the key to their [goodies], and we hold a higher chance of unlocking that if we treat them better and abide by their rules more often vs. them abiding by our rules.
A range of opinions indeed. My favorite? “There’s nothing worse than a woman who’s pissed at you.” Probably an accurate statement. Their thoughts encompass the power dynamics of sex, the strength of a woman’s emotions and traditional gender roles. In other words, we could write about ten dissertations based on those thoughts, but I’m going to pass on that for tonight.
Instead, I’d like to say the onus is always on both parties to communicate. Level-set and express their standards. The onus is on both people to use the mouths God gave them to speak up and the ears he stuck on the side of their heads to listen. The onus is on both people to act in the interest of kindness and work to preserve something good.
Yes, rules are for fools. There aren’t any rules. There are two complicated human beings with emotions and thoughts and desires. Once the honeymoon phase has come and gone, you are left with two tender and vulnerable souls, overwhelmed by the audacity it takes to hand over your heart. You are left with two people who are trying to figure each other out the best way they know how. Two people who are prone to making mistakes and are eager to learn from their slips and make shit right. You are left with the complex web of a relationship that is never just two people. It is their pasts, their tragedies, their hurt, their hope. It is every person they ever dated, every heart they have ever broken, every scar they ever inherited. It is never just the two of you.
Nothing ever begins or ends just because of a woman’s tolerance or her “rules.” Things begin and end because we are human. We fall together and sometimes we fall apart.