“You don’t know how to be a girlfriend.”

So, if you couldn’t tell from previous blogs, I’m a pretty independent woman. I don’t like being told what to do nor how I should act under any circumstances. I also don’t like jealousy or people that I’m with getting jealous of how I act or how I am. This goes for friends and (previously) boyfriends.

Sadly, it’s happened in every relationship that I’ve ever been in, including the dating phase of my now marriage. And each and every time, it was due to a lack of confidence in them and eventually, a lack of trust for me. No trust equals no relationship, no matter how hard you try to make it work.

No one ever taught you how to be a girlfriend

In one relationship that lasted on and off for about five years, I was constantly told that I didn’t know how to “be a girlfriend.” When I think about it now, he was basically saying that he didn’t know how to handle a strong woman who existed outside of the normal gender roles. I wasn’t sweet. I wasn’t warm. I had been jaded, and that’s really the only way to explain it. I was a “bro” and welcomed by my male friends, because I didn’t have any options for girl friends. The girl friends I did have were like me– unapologetically themselves.

Because of the fact that I got along with my mostly male friends, I learned how to take care of myself. They taught me that. When guys who were interested in me would tell me, “they just want to get in your pants,” didn’t they think I already knew that? When I would hear, “that doesn’t look right,” didn’t they know that I could give a crap about how it looked to other people? I was talked about and “looked at” so often, that it really didn’t matter to me anymore. No one came up to me to tell me what they thought, and they wouldn’t either because it wouldn’t change things. That is, unless it was a boyfriend.

Why would these guys choose to be with me if they knew how I acted and who I was? Usually, them trying to “tame” me (and that’s really what it was) created rivets in our relationship that made me resent them. That, and the lack of their self-confidence. Those two things showed me how much they distrusted me and how much they believed that I could just run off with someone else. Why? Was it because they didn’t believe they could have me? Or that they weren’t good enough for me? Or because all of my guy friends knew me so well? They didn’t like whatever they saw and I told them to get over it.

Knowing yourself can be a curse

The thing is that I was alone a long time in between boyfriends and I knew who I was. I wasn’t going to be making the same awful mistakes I had made before (even though moving forward there were new mistakes I wanted to make), and I wasn’t going to be someone’s girlfriend if I couldn’t be loyal to them. I typically got out of those situations when I no longer felt like I could be loyal to them. Except for the on that cheated on me, cheated on me good.

The 5-year guy hated the way I got along with my friends, hated the way it looked, didn’t want me acting certain ways and would tell me so. It aggravated me so much, that when we were out arguments usually ended up with, “then why are you with me?”

Let’s go back to the “taming.” I really, truly think that guys liked that I was a challenge. They wanted to know if they could tame me and turn me into a lady. This happened various times and those relationships ended because I said something that they didn’t like, or they realized that I really couldn’t be tamed.

Another thing about guys: they LOVE damsels in distress. I remember when I was at a conference, I lost my voice. I wasn’t sick, in fact I had gone out the night before had too much whiskey and a couple of cigarettes which killed my throat. So, I wasn’t exactly able to communicate, but I was able to listen and observe very well. At the end of the conference, two men (graduated students and I was a lowly undergrad) started talking to me, took an interest in me. One, a student at UI Bloomington, was tatted and pierced and cool looking. The other went to school there at U of I.

Remember, I didn’t have a voice, so communication wasn’t only hard, I sounded sad and pitiful, for lack of better terminology. I kept in touch with Bloomington dude, who ended up being really cool. He laughed at me a lot because once I got my voice back, I was loud, obnoxious and bro-ish. We were just friends and when he came back to Chicago, we met up and hung out. Nothing more.

The other guy, since he was on campus, decided that he wanted to talk more. OK. Sure. As soon as I got my voice back and challenged ideas and topics that we discussed, he stopped calling, stopped looking for me. I was clearly too much for him, too loud, too me. He didn’t tell me anything was wrong, he just kind of ghosted me and that was it. I laughed because I knew why. The power of observation.

As soon as I wasn’t a meek little girl, they saw no need to be in my life.

Another guy I hung out with in college who was a teaching assistant in chemistry, no less, decided that I was giving him too many ideas. See, we went out drinking every other Thursday or so. Nothing super serious. We knew the same people and hung out at the same places. Once he called me to see if I wanted to go out and we started talking about our day. He started telling me about the class that he was teaching and I started asking him if he should try certain things to get them more engaged. I then made some recommendations, to which he reacted negatively. “You know what? I got it, I got this,” and that was it. Never called me again. I also knew what happened there. I was making suggestions, challenging him. Do I regret it? NO.

What I learned from these situations

So, in this edition what have I learned? Let’s go over it:

  • Be you and don’t let anyone tell you different. If your partner ever tells you to stop acting a certain way, (unless you’re hurting them, being drunk or absolutely out of line) tell them to beat it. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
  • No trust, no relationship. Sorry, if you don’t trust me, it wouldn’t last at all. There’s no way that I could sit there and take your lack-of-confidence-projecting. Just because you think I am a certain way (and THAT’S a problem) doesn’t mean I am.
  • If your partner dumps you for any of the reasons I mentioned above, screw it. Another person will come along.
  • The only person that can make you change is you. If you get called out on certain things (and I have),  you get to determine whether the person you’re with is worth that change.
  • A new person in your life has NO RIGHT to judge your friendships, especially if they’ve lasted longer than the average relationship.

How my marriage is different

I’m sure that’s what people really want to know. My husband is very much like me. We have a lot of friends, a lot of people who like us and love us. We like to party, to be around people. And as I mentioned before, he was jealous, but only because he didn’t know me.

Our relationship moved pretty fast. It was really a “when you know, you know” situation. After a year of dating, we were engaged. After a year of being engaged, we got married a few months after being together for two years. We knew we wanted to be together and I had the ultimate respect for him. I wanted to do anything for him because I knew he deserved every ounce of my love and I deserved his. It was the first time there was a mutual, all-or-nothing love in my life. We both wanted it to happen and although we are each not perfect people, we are totally perfect for each other.

What have you learned from previous relationships?

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