I think I have commitment issues…but I am a woman? What da hell??

I think I have commitment issues. If that’s true, that is a problem. But I may have a greater one. I am a woman with commitment issues!

In case you didn’t know, only men have commitment issues. Women are just sitting around waiting for love, romance, relationships, marriage, boyfriends and husbands. They’re just dying to be all “booed up” with some dude. They’re just waiting for an opportunity to love a good, strong, honest man to take them off the market and away from the cruel cold world of singleness. The only thing keeping them away from “happily ever after” is men’s unwillingness to commit.

To hear them tell it, men don’t want to commit. Men don’t want monogamy, and the monotony that is often a part of it. Men want as many women as they think they can handle, they have no interest in maintaining faithfulness to one. Men are dogs running the street, unwilling and unable to settle down. And because men are unwilling to commit, and women are just beside themselves with excitement waiting for commitment to happen, there is always this great sense of unbalance in the universe. Because men won’t commit, thousands of lovely women will never have their “happily ever after”.

But what am I to do when I think I am on the opposite side of the fence as most of my gender?

All my life every woman I have ever known wanted to get married. That didn’t mean they didn’t want to get their educations, or pursue their careers, or accomplish other things. But marriage was always in there, always an integral part of their plan for themselves. When I was a young girl, my girlfriends would dreamily plan their weddings, taking their Barbie dolls down imaginary aisles in their rooms with their older brother’s GI Joe’s. Even if their mother’s told them “girl, men ain’t s**t”, (because some mothers did do that), the girls still held onto their dreams in a little corner of their heads. I never planned my wedding as a child like my friends, and my dolls never got married. They were single I guess, dating the Ken dolls and whatever other toy male representatives I could find amongst my toys (I didn’t have a brother.) I never imagined marriage really. When I did think about my wedding, my main concern was always how much fun the party/reception would be — what music would the deejay and bands play and what kind of delicious food and fabulous drinks would be there – you can see where my priorities were, even then.

As an adult, most women I’ve known really wanted to get married. Sometimes they were in a relationship with their boyfriend that had gone on for years and they wanted to “make it official”. Sometimes they had kids by this guy, which was all the more reason to “make it official”.  Sometimes they were under pressure from their family (“girl, you ain’t married yet??). Sometimes they wanted financial assistance (“somebody needs to come help me with these bills, plus I need more income to get this mortgage!”) But whatever they reason, they wanted marriage. It was important to them. It was a burning desire they would not turn away from. It just had to happen, it just had to be.

I am still waiting for my burning yearning to begin. Even in the cases of my children’s fathers, I never felt like the children we shared was a good reason to get married, much to the chagrin of my family, which has a long illustrious history of “shotgun” weddings – more women in my family have gotten married pregnant than not. But I didn’t do it.

I have never experienced that burning desire to get married. Even when I have been involved with men that I wanted to marry, that I thought I would marry, it never burned inside me. It was never the most important thing to me. It never kept me up nights. I never ached to be wed. I ached to be with them, yes, but not as a wife necessarily. Being with them was my primary focus, not the marriage part. Now don’t get me wrong…I did want marriage yes, and I wanted it very much, but…it just never seemed to inflame me like it inflamed other women. And in every case where I was involved with a man I thought I would marry, at some point I ended the relationship.

In some cases, I sabotaged the relationship with unrealistic demands, and when the mere mortal of a man failed to meet them, I ended the relationship. Sometimes I was unfaithful, and when I started doing that I knew I had to go, so I ended the relationship. Sometimes I knew the man would never be happy and satisfied with who I really was at the core of me, and I ended the relationship. Sometimes I felt like he just thought it was time (“well I’m getting older, I don’t wanna be the old dude at the club so…let’s do this!), and to me that was never enough reason to get married, so I didn’t do it. I have returned engagement rings, cancelled appointments to look at dresses and the whole nine. All this leads me to wonder if my fear is commitment.

I have had good men in my life – gainfully employed, college educated, smart, good looking men who wanted to marry me, and I didn’t do it. Men with homes, men with cars, men with ambition and dreams, men with substance mentally, emotionally and spiritually, men who treated me well. As I write this I can think of four men with those qualities who I could call right now who would be more than happy to seriously date me, and if I put my mind to it I could be Mrs. Somebody in six months – maybe less, with a bad ass ring to seal the deal. But I don’t make any of those calls.  Even on the days I complain about being single, how I wish I could find love, and more importantly, acceptance in the arms of a man who would cherish and honor me, I can’t help but taste the hypocrisy in my mouth as I think about the men I keep at arms length for whatever reason.

Sometimes I think my biggest fear is being forced to be something I don’t want to be. In a lot of my past, I have dated men who really thought I was perfect, except for one or two things they wanted me to adjust. Unfortunately, the things they wanted me to “adjust” were things that were too much of a part of my essence. It always seemed like there was something wrong with me when it came to these men, and I always left rather than cut off pieces of me to fit. And right now, I can’t imagine it would be easy for a man to want me for a wife. I just don’t look like, sound like, act like, anyone’s idea of a wife I guess. When men picture their wives, a woman like me doesn’t pop into their heads. Men always seem to want their wives to have these very obvious “good girl” traits, even if they discover later it wasn’t as “good” as they thought it was going to be. My “good girl” traits aren’t obvious. Anyone who knows me well will tell you I have them, but from the outside looking in it isn’t the first thing you’ll notice about me. I don’t have a problem with that; I enjoy my many layers and facets, but many men do have a problem with it.

Sometimes I think I fear getting into something I can’t get out of easily. Marriage is hella hard to get out of, and the longer you’re in it, the harder it is to get out. I know you shouldn’t enter into something immediately looking for the exit and trying to plan your departure strategy, but this is what I do. I am a planner. So to me it makes sense that you plan how a relationship would end if it ended, because it’s better to plan that now while you like the person than later when you hate them and are gonna be all about cutting his balls off. But I know if I get married, there will be no divorce UNDER ANY CONDITIONS. We may part and go our separate ways but there will be no divorce. And I always worry that I might choose a man that I’d have to separate from, and that would hurt.

Sometimes I think my biggest fear is failure. I don’t like not succeeding at things, not being good at things. I work hard to do everything I do well, exceptionally well. And in most cases, I manage to accomplish that. Everything I have ever failed at haunts me endlessly; I revisit the grave of that failure, pondering over what I did wrong, trying to never do it again. If I failed at something as important as marriage, I don’t think I could deal with it. I think I would never forgive myself. I would blame myself, feel ashamed and hurt and sad and defeated. And knowing me, I would marry someone who was my best friend, because I genuinely believe you have to have that kind of love that exists in close friendships as part of marital love. (You know how when you get totally fed up with your best friend, they’ve made you totally sick and you’re disgusted with them, but you know good and damn well they will always be your best friend no matter what? That kind of thing is what I want in my marriage.) So if the marriage failed, I would lose my best friend too. That would tear me up more than anything. I don’t know how I would handle that.

Sometimes I tell myself I am too honest to get married. I hate to say this, but some marriages seem to involve some degree of coercion on the part of the woman. She had to threaten to break up with him, or nag him into it, or get her family to nag him into it, or get pregnant, or pretend to get pregnant, or something like that. It has always been my dream that a real man would get to know me, love me, carefully consider all his options, and decide that having me as his wife was what he wanted more than he wanted to be alone or with some other woman/women. I want him to volunteer, completely and totally, heart and soul, ten thousand percent. I don’t want it any other way. If I have to employ trickery, or use my womanly wiles, or get him drunk or drugged, I will not do it. But very few men seem sure enough in their choices to pursue them actively once they make them. Oftentimes they just don’t make them at all, and wait for some woman to drag them into it. And the women never seem to much care, as long as they have their husband.  That I cannot do.

Sometimes I think I am selfish. I mean, every time I have ended a relationship I have said to myself in consolation,“well, I guess I just love me more”. And as much as pop culture talks about self-love, to really make marriage work both parties have to, on many/most levels, care more about the other party than themselves. And this has to happen all the time. For marriage to work everybody has to be serving the needs of the other person and the union 24/7, and not their own needs. Ideally, if everyone is always serving everyone else and the needs of the union, everyone will get most of what they need and want.  And hardest of all, you still have to do this even when the other person isn’t. But in the relationships I ended, at some point I decided he was not serving my interests; he was only serving his own. And I decided I didn’t wish to serve his interests anymore. That kind of selfishness has no place in a marriage, so I guess it’s good that I ended those relationships.

Sometimes I think I just haven’t met Mr. Right.  I do so want to find someone and create a place and space for us where we can be our most genuine authentic selves, and improve on ourselves individually and as a couple. I sometimes worry that my man will hate me once he finds out about the real me. I don’t want a man to fall in love with “my representative” when we are dating, only to discover me and she have NOTHING in common. I want him to love me, all of me, me as I am today and me as I will come to be as I improve and grown in the sunshine of his care. And often I tell myself I haven’t found that evolved man who can appreciate my domestic side and my workaholic side and my imagination and my creativity and my sexuality and my tendency to be overly analytical and critical and nitpicky and sometimes self-deprecating  and all the other vastly contradictory things I am.

But mostly I think I’m just afraid of commitment.

My parents were reasonably happily married for over 40 years, so I had a good example of a solid marriage before me. Many of my family members are married, and have been for many years also – ten or twenty plus years in some cases. I am the oddball in that I have been single so long, just raising my kids on my own, and pursing my own interests without even a regular guy in place to bring to family functions. They kind of see me as this slightly off-center, artsy type that they don’t quite get, but they love me because I am family. They have stopped trying to fix me up, because it never works.

So I write this now, as a single woman who may be afraid of commitment. Occasionally I attempt to talk to other women about it, but they all look at me like I’m crazy. That lets me know how messed up I am, because I am supposed to want this like a man in the desert wants water, and I just don’t feel that way about it. I am not prepared to give up all of me for it. I don’t want to pick the wrong man. I don’t want to be hurt, or taken advantage of, or live a life of misery with some man because I chose out of desperation. I don’t want my sex life to dwindle away into nothingness (I hear that’s what happens in marriage, and sex is wayyy too important to me to have that happen). I say I want a man of my own, and I have options if I were to attempt to exercise them. I’m not sure if they are the options I would choose if I did the choosing, but I have them. I could at least explore them, find out what they have to offer. What is my problem?

Am I afraid of commitment?

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THIS JUST IN — WOMEN CHEAT TOO!! **clutch the pearls!**

Women cheat too.

Take as long as you need to deal with that bombshell

No need to rush…I’ll wait. Please take your time, because I want you to be ready when I continue.

Ready? You sure? Cool.

Women cheat too. No trust me, they really do. I have known many women over the years, of all races, ages, marital statuses and socio-economic statuses, and without exception all of them cheated in committed relationships they were involved in at least once. As I am faced with this barrage of stuff from the media about men cheating on their wives or girlfriends, I always find myself screaming at the television, or the magazine, or the radio, or at the computer monitor “but WOMEN cheat too! I know they do! Doesn’t anyone care about THAT?”

The way  women’s cheating tends to be excused and explained away troubles me. It is one of the primary reasons why men and women will continue to flounder in their attempts to deal with each other successfully – men are constantly demonized in these kinds of discussions, while women continue to find ways to not own up to their own deceitfulness. But I’m not allowing it. I am a woman and I know how much women really cheat. The myth that all the men who cheat are doing it with these completely single unattached women is complete and utter bulls**t. It is as much of a myth as that stripper who is paying her way through college. Many of these women are ignoring the committed relationships they’re supposed to be in the same as the men are. And relationship drama will never be successfully dealt with if all parties don’t own up to their wrongdoing. And because I believe in setting an example, I am going to start with me. I will lay myself on the altar in the hope that this will generate truly honest discussion.

I have been unfaithful in several relationships I have been in where I had given my word to be monogamous. This did not happen because the man was mistreating or neglecting me in any significant way. I make a choice to not keep my word, and to violate his trust in one of the most heinous ways imaginable. But in order to stop doing that I had to own it. I had to look at why I was doing it.

For me, I often found I cheated when I thought I was about to be rejected by the man. If we had a big argument or huge fight, one that I thought might do irreparable damage to us or cause us to part company, or if he had said something that deeply hurt me, I would usually call up some guy I know, typically an ex-boyfriend or some dude who I knew had a thing for me and was just waiting for an opportunity. We’d go out for a drink or two, and the next thing you know, there I was, cheating.

Now in most cases, the arguments were things we could have worked out. But I was so fearful of rejection, fearful that the man I was seeing didn’t love me enough to work with me to work our problems out, fearful that he would go out and cheat on me, I just figured I’d beat him to the punch. So there! In the instances when I was truly deeply hurt or wounded, I didn’t feel compelled to bring my issues to him openly and honestly. I didn’t want him to know he had hurt me, had the power to hurt me.

Sometimes I would cheat if I was angry at my boyfriend, or just felt that he had been dishonest with me about this or that. Proof was never necessary either. Often I didn’t even bother to tell my significant other, and had no intention of telling him. I just wanted the internal satisfaction of knowing that even if he thought he’d gotten away with whatever, I really had the upper hand, whether he knew it or not. And with that mindset, I was unfaithful to several of my exes, most of whom were just doing the best they could to deal with the person they thought I was, and didn’t deserve to be treated that way.

But once I matured a bit, I began to discover the value of monogamy. I began to learn that this type of violation of trust usually does permanent damage to whatever two people have built together as a couple. Even if you manage to recover and rebuild the relationship to a functional level, it just isn’t quite the same as it was before the loss of the trust. In situations where I cheated and me and my boyfriend attempted to continue the relationship, I found it all but impossible to forgive myself for behaving so badly, and things just got worse and worse, usually to the point where the relationship could not continue. I always punished myself much worse than the men who wanted to continue on with me ever did, or could. Ultimately I learned the hard way that if you care about someone its really not worth it, no matter how you feel in a moment of anger, lust or passion. I also learned to be stronger, I learned to be more honest and forthcoming about my feelings. I learned not to be afraid of arguing with my man because I made sure what we had as a couple was solid enough to address difficulties, differences of opinion, hurt feelings and the like. I taught him how to treat me, even when he is mad at me, and made sure I learned how to treat him when I was mad. I let go of the idea of just trying to gain the upper hand in some weird kind of way by secretly hurting him and secretly saying no to the promises I made to him. I learned to withstand disagreements and arguments without feeling the need to run off and be with someone else. And with much hard work and sensitivity to these things, I have managed to be monogamous in my last few serious relationships. And I am very much looking forward to being monogamous again. I love the level of intimacy it builds. I really do get it now – I get that its not all about me. It is about us. I am very proud of my growth in that respect.

But what I find in my girlfriends that cheat is that they feel justified in doing it. They always have a reason, or several reasons, and usually that reason(s) have something to do with the guy’s bad behavior, real or imagined. “Well he’s cheating on me”, or “he doesn’t pay attention to me anymore”, or “he doesn’t care about my wants or needs“, “we’re moving in different directions and have grown apart” – that kind of thing. The funny thing is these are the EXACT SAME THINGS my male friends who have cheated say to me when I ask why they did it, but if you are a dude, you just try to use any of those excuses or any variations thereof and see how you get.

I hate the idea that adults think you’re supposed to go around making decisions about your behavior based on the bad behavior of others. It really pisses me off. People always talk about “doing me” and “keeping it real” with themselves, which to me means making decisions about how you act not because of what others do, but because of who you are and what you believe and how you want to live your life and the kind of person you want to be. But if someone hurts you, suddenly its okay to be out of character. Suddenly its okay to be all these things you say you aren’t. Bullshit. If it ain’t cool when things are good and going your way, it ain’t cool when things are bad and not going your way. Period.

When women cheat, they often genuinely feel they’ve done all they could to address the situation with their men that led to the cheating. They claim they’ve tried to “talk about it”.  Unfortunately their idea of addressing it isn’t talking. It is yelling, accusing, insulting, name calling, nagging, cussing, instigating, not listening to what he has to say, shutting him down if he dares to not agree with what she is saying, and other types of behaviors that are a woman’s attempt to CONTROL the situation, not address the situation. Now in all fairness men will do damn near anything to avoid arguing with their women, partly because it is impossible to win and secondarily because men’s ideas of fighting and women’s ideas of fighting are totally different (that’s a blog for another day). If a woman is having an issue with her man that he thinks might lead to drama, the man is not very likely to be good about addressing it in conversation. He’ll attempt to avoid the discussion, which just heightens the woman’s aggravation with him, which makes her more angry, resentful and more apt to nag him, which makes him avoid the discussion even more, and on and on. I really hate when men do that – my biggest gripe with men is that they have to stop avoiding conversations with their women just because they don’t want them to turn into fights. Because all those things you’re avoiding discussing that you think you are “letting go” – you ain’t. And eventually they will lead you right to another woman’s coochie. And when that happens don’t totally blame your woman for being so difficult to talk to; blame yourself for being a punk who wasn’t adult enough to have the kinds of difficult conversations necessary to make an adult relationship work.

But back to the ladies —  even when a man makes it hard to discuss things that are bothering you, that is not a good reason to be unfaithful.

Now I get why women are so dishonest about their cheating. They don’t like what it says about them, and as is often the case, society has more to say about women’s bad behavior than men’s. Cheating makes women appear unladylike at the very least, and whorish at the most. It shows too much of a similarity to stereotypical men’s behavior. So many women thrive on being better behaved than men, less like animals and more “human”, the admission that they too engage in “animalistic” behavior is one they aren’t going to make. Women tend to like to be right, and as long as they are not cheating, they are right and the man is wrong. It is a position of power, to be so utterly, completely, ten thousand percent right. They’re not trying to lose that upper hand by admitting to anything. And additionally, truth be told, men don’t make it easy for women to admit they have cheated, and it is harder for them to get over in most cases. A lot of people ask me why men tend to feel that way, and this is my theory on it: Sex by its very nature is an invasive process for a woman. It isn’t for a man. When a woman has sex with a man, she is  allowing him to place a part of his body into a part of hers – an intimate part at that. Men just have a lot of trouble dealing with the idea of another man putting a part of his body into a part of his woman’s body. The idea that another man was inside her, was inside her most intimate place, a place that only he was supposed to be, is just way more than the average man can handle. I think it’s the natural invasiveness of sex that, when violated by the presence of another man’s penis in her highly personal space that drives men crazy.

And hey – for some people, monogamy is harder than others. I honestly think for some its all but impossible. (SIDEBAR – I have seen so many women who seem to have ended up with men who haven’t had enough time to process the concept of monogamy and determine it is what they want for themselves. Most times women know when they’ve stumbled upon this kind of man, the kind for whom monogamy is impossible, and instead of leaving him alone to figure those things out, they stick around and make themselves and their lives miserable.) Having difficulties with monogamy doesn’t make you the worst person in the world. That was the hardest lesson for me to learn when I was trying to get my behavior under control. Women in particular don’t like to be “bad people”. Acknowledging that I had problems being faithful was hard because I genuinely felt it made me this monstrous woman, the worst kind of woman – one not deserving of a good man. But I learned that it didn’t make me Super-Slut – it just meant I needed to take a long hard look at some other things in myself. I had to figure out if monogamy was right for me, and why, and fully commit to it. I find women think monogamy will just automaticlly happen for them because they are good, virtuous women. Of course they wouldn’t consider getting with another man because they’re ‘not that kind of girl’. “Of course I’ll be faithful, that’s the kind of woman I am!” If you’re one of these expecting monogamy to just be somehing you sail into by virtue of your purity, you’re gonna be in for a real shock. Long-term monogomany isn’t easy, and if you don’t consider how you feel about it and how you will maintain it, you’re  setting yourself up for failure. Trust me,  temptation knows EVERYONE’S address.

As I post this, I am bracing myself for the barrage of women who will contact me to say they have never cheated. If the only reason you’re contacting me is to call women who cheat sluts and hoes and the like and to get your rocks off by touting your virtue and putting your purity on display, please don’t bother reaching out. Because I won’t believe you. If nothing else you’ve done that “emotional cheating” that you’re so fond of pulling men up on – you know, when they get too close to a female platonic friend and end up confiding in her about way too much, even though he doesn’t sleep with her. Yeah ladies, you’ve done that too. And I’ve covering my ears before you start with “but I needed someone to talk to and he was there for me!”

Finally – for those of you who say “well of course more men cheat on women than vice versa. Look at how many women there are with these stories compared to men!” You need to understand this —  the reason society makes such a bigger deal out of men cheating is because WOMEN make a bigger deal out of it. Women demand attention be paid to them when they are wronged. And I’m not saying they shouldn’t, but men usually don’t do the same. They internalize it Men don’t express themselves in the same vocal way when they’re cheated on.  It’s not that they’re cheated on any less, and it’s not that they don’t care, but they don’t have the luxury of being highly emotional and expressive about how they may feel about it. Women can openly go out and cry and scream and feel intensely depressed about being cheated on and women, friends and strangers alike, will offer a shoulder to cry on. She can get books, videotapes, DVDs, medication, and turn on a wealth of radio and television talk shows that will be all about addressing her pain. Because a nation of women who have been cheated on back her up, make their voices heard. Men don’t get that and they know it. When their woman cheats, it is a commentary on their manhood, their ability to keep her happy, people aren’t going to automatically support him and help him through his pain, they’re going to ask “well, what did you do to make her cheat on you?” So they keep their mouths shut. Why wouldn’t they? Hell, I would.

I sincerely hope that women will get off their high horses on this topic. I know it’s a highly volatile, emotional one, and once women get their emotions caught up in things it can be difficult to let go. But relationships need logic and reason just as much as they need emotions and passion. So let’s try to bring balance to the discussion of infidelity. Let’s not demonize anyone, because in this matter both men and women have things we need to learn. Let’s  please bring civility and honestly as well, and most importantly, understanding and forgiveness.

Let the sniping begin!