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Monday, April 14, 2014

10

Logan Echolls Syndrome, Cohabitation Power Politics, and The Girlfriend Label

Can you explain me to me? I am very difficult to please when it comes to women. I'm hardly attracted to anyone, ever, and then when I finally do find someone ludicrously attractive, they're always borderline psychopathic. This isn't even a joke. After a year and a half of being with my last girlfriend, she vanished away and I found out she'd given me a fake name. The one before that was an alcoholic who stole from my handbag, trashed my house on a regular basis and would be brought home by the police approximately twice a month (that relationship lasted three years, woohoo!). Really, I'm talking about sociopaths here. I meet a lot of wonderful, beautiful women who are completely nice and sane, but for some reason I just can't get interested. Last year I briefly dated the perfect girl—absolutely stunning, sweet, funny, interested in everything—and it just didn't work. Sexually, there was no spark at all. Probably if she'd told me "hey, I'm a meth addict!" I would suddenly have fallen in love or something.



I have really tried to date people who aren't hideously violent cocaine-addicts, so it's not about me not having an open mind. I'm always having first dates with beautiful charming girls who actually have bank accounts and don't carry switchblades in their socks, but zip! And I don't even know how I do it—it's not like I know beforehand that the psychopaths are psychopaths! I always find out afterwards! It's pretty much a given that the one in a million girls I find attractive will seem normal for a week or so, and then shed the skin like a sneaky demon to reveal her true form. 



WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME, QUEER CHICK??

It's possible that you have some unresolved issues—that life experience or overexposure to romantic comedies has taught you to associate passion and sex and romance with conflict, suffering, and problems which ruin your life. Portrayals of love as anguish are distressingly common in film and literature—of late, I've taken to calling it Logan Echolls Syndrome, but that's just its latest incarnation—because if the lovebirds don't have daunting obstacles to overcome, where's your narrative arc? In real life, of course, you can't resolve problems like drug addiction or cheating or pathological lying through a dreamy montage or running through an airport as dramatic music plays; it takes months or years of work, compassion, compromise, and probably therapy, and even then it's not a guarantee. But still, the idea that love has to fight astronomical odds to be worth anything is deeply ingrained in our pop cultural landscape, and it's entirely possible that you've absorbed some of that bullshit without even realizing it, and that, on a subconscious level, certain red flags that should make you go, “Whoa, something's off about this one” are instead making you go, “Ooh, she's passionate and dangerous! Bring it on!”

Or it's also possible that you just have really shitty luck. Honestly, I can't tell you for sure. But there are a few things you can do to combat this problem.

One, you need to implement a zero-tolerance policy for bullshit. The very first time a girl steals from you, gets brought home by the cops, starts a bar fight, or gives you a fake name, you're done with her. This also goes for girls who have unaddressed substance abuse problems and girls who are violent when they're angry (even if it's not toward you—breaking plates or punching walls during a fight is a sign of worse things to come). Trust your gut, and if something seems off, err on the side of getting the fuck out of there.

Two, there are no exceptions to step one, not even if you haven't gotten laid in like foreevvvvvverrrr. If you know that someone is bad news, do not sleep with her no matter how much you want to. It is always, ALWAYS better to be single and frustrated than having great orgasms with someone who makes you miserable. Plus, if you deprive yourself of that nightmare-girlfriend sex you're craving, it's always possible that your libido will eventually reorient itself toward healthier choices. In the meantime, take the money you're not spending on bailing your girlfriend out of jail and buy yourself a really fancy vibrator. 

Three, and this is the big one: Get some feedback from your friends. Almost everyone has that friend who always goes for terrible romantic partners, and almost everyone really wishes they could say something about it, but doesn't, because they know it would be intrusive and unwelcome. But you know what? Your friends are probably sitting on some insights that could really help you out. Do you go for people who you know are bad news because you're afraid of commitment? Are your insecurities steering you toward people who will treat you badly because you think you deserve that? Is there some other common denominator among your horrible exes that you're not consciously aware of? I don't know, but I bet your friends do. Talk to them (after first reassuring them and meaning it that you won't be offended, no matter what they say, because you need their help even if the truth hurts), and really pay attention to what they say. If you can identify what's behind this string of disastrous relationships, you'll be more able to dismantle it, whether that involves going to therapy or just canceling your membership to HotSingleSerialKillerFans.com.

Four, for bonus points: When you're out on dates with nice girls whose real names you know, don't make small talk about how horrible all of your exes have been. Even when it's true, talking about your “psycho exes” on a date is a red flag, and makes it sound like you were actually the problem. Just steer clear of this topic until you know someone well enough to discuss your romantic histories with nuance and depth.

My gf and I have been together about 7 months, we've known each other for almost 2 years, and we're about the same age. We definitely have a special and magical spark I've shared with no one else and I love her and don't really question that. We do have one core issue, which is that she makes about 5x more money than I do. She owns her own house, and lives with one of her best friends who lives in the house and has been her "lifemate" for 10 years. I think he's a nice person and I understand they have a long history of friendship, but he's absolutely not my best friend, and in general her best friends make me feel excluded and uncomfortable. That's not so much the issue, but part of it.

As her life is quite stable and established, we are in very different situations. My best friends and family (who adore my gf, and who my gf also adores) are in a city 3 hours away. I have been struggling lately to make enough money to pay my own rent since finishing a degree and trying to re-enter the job market. For the most part I love where I live and my current life, but there are a lot of challenges and I am constantly on guard from being stripped of everything. I am somewhat depressed because it sucks to wake up feeling precarious everyday.

My gf has offered for me to move into her house and pay less rent, but I’ve declined. I can't see myself living in her life 100%, and I know without a doubt I can't live with her "lifemate." She seems disappointed in this because she thinks that if I love her and see a future with her, that means I would be prepared to let her take care of me, for me to move in and be happy with her stable, established life. I feel like I can be in love and want to be in a relationship with her while still maintaining some level of independence. I feel like her "taking care of me" and me living in her life like that would feel like me giving up my power to determine what happens in the relationship at all.



We have talked at length about our challenges, and at the end of every conversation she interprets my hesitations about moving in or letting her take care of me more as me not wanting a relationship with her. She also interprets my feelings about her unintentionally having more power because of her income as me insulting her hard work to earn the life she has, which isn't how I feel at all. It's come to the point where I am starting to question whether I do want a relationship with her because I imagine us building up to sharing a life, friends, and living space together where we both have some say in determining what that looks like. But I know I don't want to be forever stuck in the life she has right now. I can't tell if we're doomed, if we're both overly stubborn, or if we're just bad communicators and need to learn to relate to each other. I think she genuinely does want to take care of me and wants to give me more opportunities than I currently have. I do, however, worry that she wants to keep me close because she is afraid of being alone, and it is really difficult for me to trust that she won't use her caring for me against me in the future. I feel pressure that I should want to jump in entirely and live with her and let her take care of me “because of love,” but I don't think I believe that love should work like that.

Any wisdom here is appreciated.

You mention several times in this letter that you're afraid of allowing your girlfriend to help you financially because she might use that fact to manipulate you. I wish you had expanded on why you feel that way, but I suggest that you take some time to think about this seriously: Are you nervous because this is a fairly new relationship and you have some insecurity about it? Do you generally have difficulty trusting people? Or has your girlfriend given you reason to believe that, if you become financially dependent on her, she will take advantage of you?

In a long-term relationship, it's not unusual to develop a certain amount of interdependence, financially and otherwise. I'm going to admit something that I feel a little embarrassed about: My partner makes a lot more money than I do. If I lived alone, making rent each month would be a major struggle. (I shouldn't be embarrassed by that! And neither should you! The freaking economy should be embarrassed!) But we're partners, and we share our resources—money, affection, energy, time, etc. We both do as much as we can for each other, and we both get as much as we need.

Lots of couples do not have equal incomes, but most couples, if they stay together for long enough and especially if they cohabitate, reach a point at which everything isn't painstakingly split into “yours” and “mine.” It's not at all unusual for the partner who earns more to contribute more money to the household. If you and your girlfriend are ready to take the step of moving in together, then it makes sense for you to do so in a style that your combined incomes can afford—even if that's way more than you could cover alone.

However, the above advice only holds if she really does want to share her life with you, and if she feels that she'd be getting just as much out of cohabitation as she'd be giving. If she's offering to move you in as an act of altruism, I think you're right to be cautious. It may be coming from a good and generous place, but if she feels like she's doing you a favor, some part of her might subconsciously expect you to pay that favor back, and that will undoubtedly lead to an unequal balance of power in your relationship.

Pay attention to how she talks when you discuss the logistics of cohabitating. Is she open to compromise? Or does she want to move you in without changing anything else about her living situation? Is she willing to discuss the possibility of asking her roommate to move out, since it sounds like his presence is a dealbreaker for you? Does she expect you to be the one who makes all the compromises and sacrifices that come with living together, since she'll be footing the bill? (Even if you're moving from a smaller place to a bigger and more comfortable one, moving in with someone always involves sacrifice, whether you're giving up closet space or the ability to wash dishes in your underwear while listening to Beyonce at two in the morning.) Does she want to build a life with you, or does she simply want to transplant you into her life? If she assumes she'll get her way in every dispute, or tries to guilt-trip you into accepting a situation you're uncomfortable with, put on the brakes. Don't let yourself end up in a relationship with someone who believes you owe her a debt you can't repay.

And even if she's proposed this arrangement in a spirit of total egalitarianism and the pure, unfettered desire to wake up next to your morning breath more often, if you're just not ready to live together, be honest about that. Don't let financial necessity push you into moving in before you're sure you want to. Seven months is not a very long time, and if you need to wait a few more months or years before you can do the U-haul, that's okay.

Basically, be honest about what you want and why you want it, and be on the lookout for any red flags that your lady love is not doing the same. If something doesn't feel right, trust your instincts, and be aware that it's always okay to change your mind. Remember that in a good relationship, she shouldn't always be the one taking care of you; you should both take care of each other.

I've been dating a girl for about 3 months now (she remembered our "3 month anniversary of dating" (is that a thing?)) but I mean it's seemed shorter. So anyways the other day she casually referred to me as her girlfriend in a text and I totally freaked (internally). I don't feel like I'm ready for commitment and I don't think we're looking for the same thing. Halp?

Ooh, this is an easy one! Easy for me, I mean, not for you. Because all I have to do is say, “You should be honest with her about not wanting a commitment right now!” You're the one who actually has to do it.

You know exactly what the deal is here: she wants something more than casual dating, and you don't. But she doesn't know that. If she referred to you as your girlfriend and you didn't say something immediately to correct the misconception, guess what, now she thinks you're her girlfriend—which means instead of a preemptive “Just so you know, I'm not looking to get serious,” you kind of have to break up with her.

This will be difficult, especially if you like her a lot and don't want to hurt her, and especially if you hope to continue hanging out / smooching / banging. But don't sugarcoat the way you feel just because you want to prolong makeout access—that's only going to lead to more hurt feelings in the long run. Feel free to write it down and practice it in the mirror before initiating the conversation, but once you're in it, just be as honest as possible. Tell her that you like her a lot, but you're not interested in a serious relationship and you're sorry you gave her the wrong impression. You can mention that you'd be happy to continue dating, but let her know that if a long-term girlfriend is her goal, she needs to look elsewhere.

If at all possible, have this talk at her place (as the more-injured party, she should have the right to kick your ass out when she decides the conversation is over). And after you're done, abide by whatever terms she sets for continued contact. If she doesn't want to hang out anymore now that she knows there's no long-term potential, don't try to pressure her into it. You need to give her space to pursue the kind of relationship that she really wants.

 

Previously: Coming-Out Technology, Exiting the Girlfriend Zone, and the Lesbro Conundrum

Lindsay King-Miller is also on Twitter, and you can peruse the AAQC archive here. Do you have a question for her?



10 Comments / Post A Comment

Mary Ellen Kirkendall@facebook

One rule of thumb that the first letter writer might consider is that if the same thing keeps happening and YOU are the thing in common, the cause is probably you. The thing to think about is why you set yourself up for these situations. Maybe picking crazy women makes you feel powerful and sane. Maybe you don't feel valuable enough to insist on appropriate behavior. Maybe you confuse anxiety with lust (surprisingly easy to do). QC has a point. Ask your friends.

carolinaclay

Love it!!♥@y

Florence

It's weird that there's only one comment on this article. Is it because Lindsay gives such spot-on and thorough advice that we all just sit back and nod our heads in agreement?

themegnapkin

"If at all possible, have this talk at her place (as the more-injured party, she should have the right to kick your ass out when she decides the conversation is over)."

Do people agree with this? I'd rather be broken up with at a place I have the ability to leave. I also tend to associate places with the emotions I felt there, and I'd rather not have break-up energy at my place.

adorable-eggplant

@themegnapkin Agreed, except I am also the wierdo who prefers being broken up with by phone (I mean, do check where I am/make sure it's fairly private) soooo I could be an outlier.

Unless you're cohabitating and there's a sticky wicket (like we have to sort this out before someone flounces off) I'd say: find a tucked away spot near a back exit at a coffee shop. Buy that person a scone. Don't be surprised if person throws scone in your face.

Ditto on not wanting break up memories in the actual place that I live.

paddlepickle

@themegnapkin This might be due to living somewhere where I rely on public transportation, but I prefer my place so as to minimize public weeping.

adorable-eggplant

@paddlepickle Good point! Yes, I am a cycle commuter and a weepy ride is no biggie especially on a cold day, because then really who can tell the difference, but I would not want to have to sit on a bus/subway with a puffy face.

Maybe coffee shop within three blocks of said person's apartment as a compromise? On their turf, but not in their actual home.

bureaucrab

@themegnapkin I'm with you on this. I've been in love only once, and the moment I knew I was in love happened in my kitchen. The relationship turned out to be an unmitigated disaster and it took a solid year after it ended for me to walk past the spot of my, er, "ephiphany," without being haunted by it. I think being NEAR her home so she can get there fast, but not IN her home, is the best way to go.

CaitlinRenee

Ummmm, LW1. This is a thing, what you're going through over and over. I've seen this thing. I've been in this thing. I've had close friends be in this thing, and seen them overcome it.

It's called something like, "I will recycle my childhood dramas now in an attempt to resolve what was fundamentally confusing and painful as a child."

In other words, your dad, mom, older sibling, uncle, grandma, grandpa, or someone important was a borderline personality, or an alcoholic, or at minimum, controlling in a crazy way. So now, the only people who get your rocks off are crazyhats. Because your intimacy meter is keyed to crazy.

I say this with great love and compassion, and no judgment of you or your family, because I've got this too.

One of my friends puts it like this, "You walk into that room, the cocktail party or the BBQ or whatever, and you spot them, the one person in the whole place with something about them, the only one in the building you want to talk to, the one person you're sure you could have a conversation with in the whole damn place. They make your bells go 'ding-ding-ding.' Well, honey, they make your bells go ding-ding-ding because they’re giving all the signs of carrying around that drama you subconsciously need to work on, because your subconscious knows they will recycle into your live the drama you unknowingly crave, because they are *familiar* in the crazy way.”

And the work you have to do this: the person who makes your bells go ‘ding-ding-ding’ and makes all the lights and buzzers go off, you don’t engage with them. You take the tingle of interest and the excitement as a warning, and not as a good sign.

Instead, you consciously and meaningfully craft an idea of what is acceptable to you in a partner. Like A Queer Chick says, and you don’t accept anything else. You force yourself to talk to and engage with the people who seem soooo boring, and unfamiliar, and dumb, and lame, and not all that interesting. You engage them and learn what’s really going on inside those people, because there is a lot. And you get to a therapist and work on whatever cray-cray family dynamic makes psychos light your fire.

Like Mary Ellen said, you keep finding yourself in this situation because you are the common denominator. I know that’s harsh, but it’s actually good news, because it means the resolution is also within your power. One day, you’ll look at the psycho, lying, thieving, identity-shifting exes as having been your friends. Because they were pointing huge red flashing arrows at the path to self-awareness.

I say this as someone who stopped picking the addled recovering meth addicts, the jobless controlling romantic abusers, and the weirdly needy emotionally unavailable alcoholics. It took a lot of work, and extreme efforts at self-awareness and looking at my family and my life, and forgiving my family and myself, but I’m now with someone stable, loving, kind-hearted, and sincere, with a strong sense of self, who fights fair, and whom I have no doubt in my mind or in my heart loves me as I deserve.

shiv

Yesss Veronica Mars reference!

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