In a recent post, Life in the Slow Lane, I make a blanket statement about women’s lack of mercy. And I feel that I need to elaborate on that brief and somewhat misleading statement. Amazingly no one has called me out on that but I keep hearing it in my head and it makes me uncomfortable which is good and right. It should make me uncomfortable. I said:
Why is it women have no mercy when it comes to men? I know girlfriends want to have your back and everything but they’d be all over his ass if I wanted to take a break and he refused to understand and acted out badly, called me names, etc.
I really meant that I wonder why our girlfriends are so willing to go to battle against our lovers. I know that many men have a history of abusing women, leaving women to raise kids alone, being unavailable emotionally, financially, all kinds of things. You know what? I picked the guy. So when you call him all kinds of names you’re also commenting on my choice, my decision, me. That battle commentary puts down both parties and I resent that.
A lot of my rants on this blog about people’s comments about my relationships (and a few other areas) were secretly directed towards R. I tried on several occasions to talk to her about the things she said but not once did she look at her own behavior. She had a million excuses. She said she said certain things because she cared about me. Look, if you care about me, why not try to understand how I tick instead of judging someone you have never met? If you care about me, why not respect my wishes? And never, ever, tell me what to do. Defiance is my middle name, I will bristle every time. I know she cared in her way, so did I. It simply wasn’t enough. I could so write a rant about her but I’m trying not to. Once I gave up all hope of the business side of our relationship bearing any fruit I left. I’ve left as many women because of their small minds and tight hearts as I’ve left men and that’s the truth.
I think that the way our society brings up its men is atrocious. We teach them that certain behaviors are not acceptable and then, once they are grown and exhibit no trace of the very behaviors we beat out of them, we get all mad and declare that they are unfeeling and behave badly. I think men have been more severely damaged by the status quo than women. Yes, women have been beaten etc… Yes, men have done ugly things. The list is long. In my experience though, those women have kept their humanity, their compassion, their ability to love and care about others. Men have been trained not to from birth and they are the biggest losers even though we all lose. I’d rather survive a beating and still be able to love (but of course leave and stay far far away) than to try not to love and feel and cry and live a life of complete and utter confusion and demoralization that denies my very spirit and soul. Some men do it better (or is it worse?) than others. I have compassion for the ones who, against all odds, are trying to be decent human beings.
Frankly I think we’ve harmed men as much as women with the silly and damaging boxes that we require the sexes to mold themselves into. I remember reading _Men are From Mars Women are From Venus_ and thinking to myself, hey, I’m a woman from Mars. Those boxes just really offend me.
When I was in junior high and high school it was the status quo for the girlfriends to gang up around you when some guy broke your heart. Sometimes what he did was truly cruel. But most of the time he was just as clueless as we were and he was doing what had been mirrored to him so many times by his own father and male relatives, friends, movies, songs… And I bet when girls treated the boys badly the boyfriends of said fella ganged up around him, pulled in the wagons and went to war just as mercilessly as we did. I hurt a boy in high school, so badly that he refused to talk to me for almost 30 years. He still doesn’t talk to me but he friended me on facebook (That video could apply to me as easily as to men). Does that mean I’m forgiven? I tried to earn that and took it to be forgiveness. I have to. I have behaved as badly as any man I know.
When I got sober I had a really bad attitude towards men. Pretty much a major resentment seethed in me 24/7. I went to a lot of women only recovery meetings. And as much as I hate to say it those meetings were rarely recovery and sobriety focused. There was a tendency to get all group therapy-ish and stray from The Program guidelines. There was a tendency to complain about men. Women’s meetings then were considered to be fairly “whiney.” Perhaps that is no longer so, many younger women of a different era and different sexual inclinations are getting sober these days and I very rarely go to women’s meetings so I don’t know. But the result of my not liking the women’s meetings back then was that I started going to mixed meetings. And was stunned. Here were men, healthy men, talking about their feelings, their desires, their pain, their regrets, their new way of living, their hope for the future, and their sadness at how many relationships with women (and children if there were any) they had destroyed. Sober men rebuilt my faith in men. I love the men in my life today. I admire them greatly. I believe the ones I know have had to overcome more than I have, M is one of them. They’ve had to teach themselves to feel deeply and I didn’t need to do that. Your mileage may vary.
I’ve done a few 4th steps in sobriety. “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Four columns. For example:
- Who I am resentful towards (The Forgiven)
- What did they do (His inability to keep his word, disappearing when needed most, sleeping (really, just sleep) with another woman)
- How it affects me (Sex relations, self-esteem, security)
- What is my part (I continued to trust him and shouldn’t have been so surprised at the end)
Tall order that. Just try it. The best one I ever did was the one I did specifically on all my sexual relationships with men, 28 years of it. It was much messier and uglier by far than my above example. I had a couple years of sobriety at the time and there were mistakes from that sober time as well the years previous. Two incidents prompted that 4th step, things I did completely sober. I slept with a married man in sobriety. I invited someone who turned out to be a registered sexual predator to my home during a snow storm in sobriety. Things went very badly that time. That wasn’t my fault but my motives weren’t pure when that phone call happened. I was the predator but became the prey. All because of my own inability to have appropriate relationships with men. What was really obvious as the entire history of my relationships was put on paper was that there was a noticeable decomp in my relationships and that my own predatory behavior escalated over the years. All the while expecting love to come from that. I was truly messed up. My part. Oh man. It was at that time that I decided to not date for awhile (as if what I’d been doing was dating). Turned into 8 years of celibacy, spending time getting to know who I was, healing, finding true love of me. Those were a great 8 years, best thing I ever did for myself.
Over the years I’ve watched some pretty amazing men get sober and live lives of honor and dependability. Are they human? Why yes, yes they are. Do they make mistakes? Why yes, yes they do. Do we women do the same things? Why yes, yes we do.
So. What’s my point? I guess I prefer, in the dynamics between the sexes, to come from the standpoint that we are both good people. That we both want to do the right thing. That sometimes doing the right thing for ourselves will hurt the other person. And that causes us/them pain. Yes, there are some men/women out there whose behavior is despicable. There always has been, always will be. Sad fact but there it is. BUT most of the time it’s simply the fact that men and women are different, partly due to nature, partly due to nurture. In many ways we are the same. We all feel deeply. We all want. We all desire. We all get confused. We all make mistakes. We all have regrets.
I would rather err on the side of compassion and love even when I’m in pain. Am I able to do that all the time? Not at all. I was very hard on The Forgiven but I didn’t allow anyone else to be. I found my compassion eventually, it was always the goal. He still gives me the creeps and I don’t want to hug him *shiver* but I care enough to let it go now. I’m not perfect and don’t want to be but compassion is something to strive for and I have to say that when I have taken that road less traveled I’ve felt so much better about myself and my actions. My regrets are decidedly lessened.
I don’t want my girlfriends to talk shit about men, all men but especially my men. They can say that a certain action makes them angry. Of course. But they can’t talk shit, call them names, deny their humanity. I don’t want them to beat up some ex to prove they have my back, that we are united. I don’t want the man’s friend to do that either. I want to be friends. Even in my worst days I usually picked good men to have relationships with. The men who stayed? Good people. And with his death I was able to forgive Joel completely (isn’t that sad??) so I now have not one single man on a list of resentment and pain. Gotta work on getting R off that list next.
I believe that our lives are simply a microcosm of the large global ways. Is it any wonder that we are at war around the world when we can’t even talk to our mates or forgive them? If we can’t find new ways to communicate with each other in our daily lives we will never find new ways to communicate with our global neighbors. My knee jerk comment about women being unmerciful towards men comes from my frustration. The real truth is that I’m pretty sick of humanity’s inability to show mercy.
And that is, I believe, the way it should be. Mercy is a grace, a gift, and with rare exception preferable to the battle.