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What Women Know

There is no such thing as knowing a woman "better than she knows herself"
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The Case Against Being the "Cool" Girl(friend)

Why It Doesn't Pay To "Play The Game"
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She Speak

The Undermining Conversational Experience of Himterruption
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Understanding and Combating Abusive Relationships

How to Spot an Abusive Relationship and How To Get Out
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Uninterrupted

On misogyny, street harassment, and politely saying good morning exclusively to pretty women
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Period Sex Aversion: Yes. It's Personal.

On Intimate Justice and Period-Sex Averse Partners
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On Misogyny Dividing Women, Intersectional Feminism, And A Complete Annihilation of Slut Shaming
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No Needs No Explanation (Time's Up)

Male Entitlement: On Demanding An Explanation For Refusing Unwanted Advances

February 16, 2019

The Case Against Being The "Cool" Girl(friend)

Why It Doesn't Pay To "Play The Game"

What Is The Game?

The Rules. Why Men Love Bitches. He's Just Not That Into You. Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man What do these have in common? That is, besides their current location in an on fire garbage can. They are books, marketed almost exclusively to women, to teach us about what men like and how they think so that we can achieve our life-long goals of eventually being married to one of them. They teach us about how men are very masculine, and as such need to be reminded constantly that they are big, strong, smart men, and how it is our job to remind them. They teach us that wielding a screwdriver in the presence of a love interest could prove fatal to our chances of ever getting married. They teach us that men are incapable of picking up their dirty underwear and placing it in hampers, so we have to be clever and resourceful by turning our bathrooms into basketball courts with lidless hampers for them to play with. They teach us that we have to handle the very fragile male ego with kid gloves. To handle conflict slyly and often indirectly, because he needs to feel supported by us, not challenged. They teach us that when men cheat on us it is our fault, but not to fear because the answer to how to be the perfect wife who doesn't get cheated on is in Chapter Three. That if he used or disrespected us it is our fault for allowing it to happen, but not to worry because the secret to never being used or disrespected again is in next month's book. They teach us that someone for whom you have to pretend to be less smart, competent and opinionated than you are lest they feel threatened, who feels openly entitled to critiquing your looks and attributes against impossible standards that often they themselves do not hold up against, who holds you accountable for their bad behavior, who regards a relationship as support for their wants and needs yet doesn't acknowledge their own responsibility in actively and consistently supporting and meeting the wants and needs of the person they are in the relationship with - and I mean actual wants and needs, not "providing" so that the fully functioning adult with genuine career goals doesn't have to work "someday" - is probably not capable of having the kind of relationship with you that would actually make you happy in any sense of the word. Wait, sorry...that last bit wasn't in the books. But don't worry, because it's in this article.

;)

The rules of the game, if you're a woman, are simple (and by simple, I mean complicated, often contradictory, and absolutely ridiculous). If you like a guy, the rules say you shouldn't let him know it, or he'll be frightened off by your oh, so intimidating attraction to him. If you get asked out you shouldn't accept unless he's asked you well in advance - you should be managing your personal calendar like a doctor's office, the rules say, and sometimes doctor's offices pretend the calendar is slammed just to make the doctor look super important and popular, to create demand. Run your love life like a business, the rules say. That man is like a client that once landed must still be catered to regularly and kept happy, lest he decide to explore his options and create new partnerships elsewhere. Once you've been on a few dates and mutual interest is clear, don't you dare relax and enjoy your budding relationship and do not - god forbid! - have sex! You've got to keep playing the game, keep him guessing, keep him on his toes, or you'll never win the title of girlfriend. It's the elusive, spontaneously available woman who snags the girlfriend title - not the "needy" girl. Neediness is the enemy. The kiss of death to a budding relationship.

Oh, what's that? You're in a relationship now? Games not over yet, honey. You still don't get to relax, otherwise he may never buy that ring and pop that question - so keep up the hard good work! Keep thinking your entire future rides on whether or not you remember to get your brows waxed regularly, what dress you decide to wear to his work function and whether you responded to that last text too soon. Never ask for anything you want directly - he'll feel nagged. God forbid the man feel nagged! What's wrong with you? Why didn't you subtly hint that you'd be more comfortable if he put his dirty underwear in the hamper rather than on the bathroom sink right next to your toothbrush? Why didn't you handle his fragile ego with kid gloves? Why didn't you pretend you couldn't change a lightbulb, despite your day job as an engineer, so that he could swoop in and save the day? A man needs to feel needed, you know...

How Does Gender Inequality Inform The Rules Of The Game?

The rules of heterosexual dating are very specific, structured, and frankly, silly. And yet most people abide them simply because they've never questioned the status quo. That's just the way things are, they think. But if you tried to apply the same rules to same sex relationships, you'd quickly see problems. Problems like, when it's two men exchanging numbers, or two women, who calls who first? Who is the aggressor and who is playing hard to get? Who is the cat and who is the mouse? Or even worse, as many a non-woke person has asked, who is the woman and who is the man? While questions like that are indeed frustrating, the intent isn't completely naïve. That's because in heterosexual dating culture, people rely on gender to predict the behavior of others and to know how to behave themselves. 

Gender roles inform the rules of the game, and not always in obvious ways. There are the familiar rules, like wait three days to call, don't accept a Saturday date after Wednesday, don't text back right away, or too often, or you'll seem desperate. Rules about when to have sex are clearly informed by gender roles, as they ask women to ignore their own physical desires and instead focus on prolonging the man's experience of "the chase" lest he lose interest. There are rules about who pays for dinner and drinks. Who gets to be generally comfortable and who is expected to prance around in at least one physically enhancing apparatus at a given moment, with at least three coats of paint - ahem...I mean makeup - on at all times.

But gender roles inform the experience of dating in ways that seem subtle but are actually critical. Men often assume the role of hiring manager or casting director in the early stages of dating, because they've been taught that their job is to sow their wild oats until one day they meet the right woman and choose a wife. Men are encouraged to view themselves in an active role of this selection process, not in a passive role of being selected by someone else. While this can become problematic and create feelings of entitlement and an approach to dating that isn't always intentionally - yet can be nonetheless - disrespectful toward women, this is more an issue of agency. Men are groomed to believe wholeheartedly in their agency when approaching dating and relationships.

On the other hand, women are fed very different messaging from the time they are girls. Leave alone for a moment the problematic ways that girls are taught to relate to their sexuality, how they are taught to regard their virginity, how this relates to their sense of inherent personhood and self-worth, and so on and so forth. Let's just sweep that to the side for a moment and put it on tomorrow's to-do list. Speaking strictly from a perspective of agency, girls are fed a very passive message that is akin to someday my prince will come. Women are encouraged to take on an extremely passive role when it comes to dating and relationships. To essentially just wait. Wait to be noticed. Wait to be approached. Wait to be asked out. Wait to be asked to be someone's girlfriend. Wait for him to propose.

At the same time, though, women are taught to be very passive aggressive as they wait, as though they can somehow galvanize the behaviors they desire in men. So since she can't actively approach a man that interests her, but must instead wait to be noticed, she will instead actively focus on her appearance such that she will be noticed. She can't actively ask a guy out. That wouldn't be lady-like. But she can actively position herself in the orbit of the guy she likes; weave herself into his friend group, casually mention her Friday night availability. I could go on but I'm beginning to get a bit nauseous, so...

Notice the net result, though, even though I'm not quite there in my outline yet. The man's agency has been encouraged. The woman's agency has been discouraged. When he dates, he focuses on what he wants. And when she dates, she focuses...on what he wants. Or rather what she thinks he wants - or knows, depending on how much of a Navy Seal she turns into in an attempt to not feel completely powerless in her prescribed role. But if he's focused on him, and she's focused on him...then who the hell is focusing on her? What she needs, let alone what she wants, but while we're on the topic, if she's so focused on fulfilling his every whim and not checking in with herself regularly, then how does she know if she even wants him. (Dear all women who as a result of this paragraph resigned from their unfulfilling relationships - You're welcome.)

What I'm alluding to here, albeit with my tongue in my cheek, is the time that women lose, disproportionately in comparison to the time that men typically lose in pursuit of a love interest or in a clearly dysfunctional relationship, all because we have been conditioned to believe that relationships require an against-the-grain kind of work ethic. We have been conditioned to work tirelessly to be attractive, and desirable, and wanted, and worthy. While our male counterparts have been conditioned to aspire to their own happiness, we have been conditioned to merely facilitate that happiness, and worse, to enjoy and actually aspire to becoming the best facilitators we can be. What's that? Relationship conditions aren't favorable right now? Then you must not be facilitating well enough. Try a deep conditioning treatment. Try another coat of mascara. Try putting on a little lipstick. Try learning to cook. Try keeping fresh flowers in the home, and while you're at it learn a few Martha Stewart tricks. Try nagging less and being more fun. Try having your emotional needs met by friends and therapists so he doesn't feel put upon. Try just about anything besides questioning the man you're going to all this trouble for and whether he's even worth it, because he's definitely not the problem. He's perfect.

My point - finally - is that if you focus your energies on trying to be what someone else wants; trying to look a certain way, and behave a certain way, and otherwise just work to create the perfect conditions to facilitate their initial and continued interest - that doesn't leave much room for you to consider whether you are even interested in the person you are working so hard to reign in. This is so problematic, I find, because often what starts the work - i.e.: let's get on the radar of the cute guy at the bar - is an initial impression. Maybe you were hanging out with friends and he made a funny comment, and it aligned with your political views, and now you've decided that you like him, or have a crush, and have unwittingly sprung into Navy Seal mode. But during the time between the low-hanging-fruit-anti-Trump remark he made and trying to get him to ask you out, this dude may in fact have said and/or done several things that, had you been paying attention, would have told you that he is not the type of person you want to - oh say - grow old with after all, and that actually he just plays the role of funny-politically-left guy in social situations. You might discover that he's not very respectful toward women. You might find out that he's a closet Trump supporter. You might find out that he's a Patriot's fan! (Sorry Patriots. I realize we haven't put points on the board since 2012, but my blood runs Big Blue nonetheless.) If you're so focused on trying to get a guy to like you, then you are not focused on whether or not you even like the guy that you are putting all of this time, attention and energy into. Additionally, if and when things do not go the way you'd like, you will blame your lack of effort, or misplaced effort, or otherwise read it as a flaw in your actions or worse, yourself, rather than reading the situation clearly. An example of this is when a man cheats and a woman believes he cheated because she gained weight, stopped wearing makeup 24/7, or started going to grad-school at night and is no longer giving him the amount of sex that he requires, rather than recognizing that he is responsible for his own behavior, flawed character, ethical shortcomings and all the rest.

This matter of agency - of perspective - with respect to gender roles and dating is not a small thing. It has tremendous impact. Traditional gender roles romanticize the idea of a man being the primary focus of a woman's attention, without ever considering the true implications of that. I take that back. Obviously the implications have been considered for men - loving, doting wife who cooks, cleans, does pilates five times a week, does her makeup so well she became an Instagram model and swings from the chandeliers. But I'm talking about the implications for women.

The thing about goals is that they are attainable. After a certain amount of work, you arrive; you accomplish; you win. The problem with traditional relationship ideology is that the finish line is presumably the relationship itself, but if attaining this relationship requires de-prioritizing or even sidelining one's own needs in favor of someone else's, and maintaining the relationship requires that these behaviors continue, then the goal is one that is only really fulfilling for one of that parties involved and - if you are a woman reading this - quick hint: that party isn't you.

This is not the case against falling in love, however, it is the case against playing the game in order to find or otherwise win love. Because make no mistake - the game is rigged. The game is rigged because we live in a patriarchy and traditional gender roles in dating cater almost exclusively to men while women do most or all of the mental, physical and emotional labor. This work is quantifiable as studies show (if you're reading this, you can Google it) that married men report higher rates of happiness than their single counterparts, however married women and single women report the same levels of happiness. This goes back to men aspiring to their own happiness, and women aspiring to be chosen by men via facilitating their happiness. Women are tricked when they are young, impressionable girls - before life perspective and collegiate gender studies courses - to aspire to a false fairy tale. There's a reason that the prose rarely extends beyond courtship. Again, this isn't the case against love or relationships, but rather the clearly gender asymmetrical and inequitable way that women and girls are taught to think about ourselves and our roles in relationships. The truth is that Disney is bad for your self-esteem, romantic comedies are propaganda, and if you allow yourself to be tricked into becoming the most desirable, perfect, or as millennials say, "cool" girlfriend and eventual wife, then congratulations, you will essentially have succeeded in auditioning your ass off for the principal role of domestic slave.

...okay that was a bit intense, even for me. I've been binge watching Season Two of Handmaid's Tale.

::clears throat awkwardly::

Moving on...

Who Is The Cool Girlfriend?

So...this is a combination, I think, of how society treats single women and what women are told men find attractive. Indulge me for a second...¹

If a woman is in a good relationship, for example, in which she is happy, she will receive positive feedback. If a woman is not in a relationship and is toting a I don't need a man attitude, she will receive positive feedback. However, a single woman who wants a relationship will typically receive negative feedback. She will be told that she doesn't need a relationship, shouldn't feel like she needs a man (even if the woman isn't complaining that she needs one) and that she should be content to just do her own thang, girlfriend.

This is an interesting phenomenon, I find. Single men with relationship goals are catches that people can't wait to set up or be set up with, meanwhile single women with relationship goals are typically labeled as needy, desperate, crazy, psycho - none of these words are synonymous with Beyoncé. So who are we supposed to be setting up the eligible single men with? The quintessential independent women that are boasting their happiness to the extent that they don't need men? How can a woman avoid being needy yet magically convey that, yes, she is available, yes, she does want to get married someday, and that ps: the clock started ticking three years ago so you might want to go ahead and start saving for that ring; no pressure - just one fiscally responsible adult on a timeline to another.

What results from this far too typical damned if you do, damned if you don't predicament is the "cool" girl, or the "cool" girlfriend if the audition process is successful. If you're not sure who she is, she might have some of these traits...

Is or appears to be just as interested in his traditionally male hobby/interest as he is and often does it with him. To be clear, it's because she's really, really into it. Not because she thinks it's the only way to get and keep his attention. Fifty years ago that might have meant gambling or cigar smoking, but with the millennials I'm pretty sure it's sports or video games. 

Doesn't mind behaviors that girlfriends typically mind and complain about. Staying out late with the guys, going to strip clubs, showing up late, cancelling at the last minute, not calling when you said you would, not doing what you said you would do, basically not having to live up to even the most basic of expectations, because she doesn't mind - she's cool. 

Doesn't push for commitment and may even outright state that she just wants to have fun or doesn't "do" relationships. 

Projects a half air of I-don't-care with respect to male companions. 

Has very low expectations of men with respect to relationships and puts up with a lot of bad behavior, though she may claim not to notice or care about the bad behavior because she's oh, so very cool. 

Is very independent and often keeps very busy, not in the least because she's trying to distract herself from her unfulfilling relationship. 

Basically the cool girl is pretending that she doesn't give a shit, even though she actually gives many a shit, because she's been taught that neediness is unattractive. And by pretending not to give a shit, she believes that she will somehow magically attract someone who...does give a shit?

::massive eye-roll::

As with many of the double standard paradoxes, the numbers just don't work out, and the messaging that women receive about what emotional dispositions are most attractive for them set up a contradictory situation. If women believe that appearing to want a relationship is unattractive, and behave as though they don't, they will appear to be emotionally unavailable. The irony is that while they are behaving this way out of fear of being unattractive (thereby subconsciously doing it in the hopes of finding a partner), available men are unlikely to be interested in a woman who is signaling that she is not interested from the outset. Instead, the type of men a woman giving off "unavailable" signals is likely to attract is one that is also emotionally unavailable and genuinely disinterested in a relationship (in contrast to her practiced facade of disinterest).

Which leads to... 

Who Benefits From The Cool Girlfriend Being "Cool"?

First of all, "cool" girls are not something any of us should be aspiring to be. People worth being in relationships with actually care about who you are, and that includes your hobbies and interests. You don't have to transform into a gamer even though the last video game you enjoyed was Super Mario World. You don't need to adjust your yoga schedule to accommodate every game during basketball season so you can sit there in a jersey trying to look cute and stay awake. If you're bending over backwards to try and get into Anime yet he isn't taking you to the Film Forum to see It Happened One Night but instead telling you about this black and white Anime you two should watch together - this is inequity! Part of the joy of being in a relationship with someone is discovering who they are, and sharing and being appreciated for who you are. Not to get into the casting director role, but in those terms the role you want is partner, not sidekick. Which means you don't need to feign interest in everything that makes him perk up so that he gets his partner in crime, then head off to your sip and paint or whatever it is that you're into alone. Your interests matter too! Sip and paints are awesome. You shouldn't have to assume someone else's interests for them to be interested in you - you're already interesting. And all that stuff cool girls are so okay with, like a guy generally behaving like an asshole unless or until you prove just how cool you are, it is because they don't care. About themselves. Enough. Even if you are only interested in casual sex, or hooking up, or friends with benefits, or whatever, these things do not come with a mandatory side of disrespect. And hell, furthermore, what's the point of a fuck buddy who doesn't keep appointments?! It's not even practical!  Putting on an air of not giving a fuck is going to attract people who genuinely do not give a fuck, and are more than happy to treat you like shit if you're going to hang around anyway and pretend not to care. 

Who benefits from the cool girlfriend being so cool? Really un-cool dudes. Those are the primary beneficiaries of you being cool as fuck. What's more, is that the un-cool dudes you will inevitably attract in an attempt to appear all devil-may-care will not experience the same kind of emotional battery and hits to self-esteem that you will as a result of being involved with them.

So there's a little more gender inequality for you think about. 

Emotional Unavailability and Gender

Trying to play the "cool" girlfriend, or otherwise imitating emotional unavailability, can lead to accidental and yet nonetheless actual emotional unavailability. This is critical, because as society is still overwhelmingly patriarchal and misogynistic views still prevail, the consequences for being an emotionally unavailable man and being an emotionally unavailable woman are very different. That isn't to say that emotionally unavailable men do not experience direct consequences of emotional unavailability, but rather that in addition to the direct consequences, emotionally unavailable women - this is speaking only to those who aren't intentionally and consciously unavailable - will inevitably suffer secondary consequences which can ultimately become harder to overcome that the unavailability itself.

Conscious Unavailability vs. Unconscious Unavailability

Emotional unavailability is not always a psychological block. Sometimes it is a practical state that one consciously puts themselves in. Examples: Someone visiting another country for two weeks may meet people they like and find attractive, but will likely be closed off to the idea of starting anything serious due to impractical circumstances. The same can be said for someone who knows they will be having a big move soon, or for someone who travels very frequently without staying in any one place very long. Someone who is extremely focused on work to the point of literally not having time to cultivate a relationship may also make the choice to deliberately close off unless or until circumstances change. What is important about these various unavailable situations, though, is that they are conscious and deliberate, so the person can just as easily make a different choice if they want to. If the traveler suddenly settles down in one place, they may immediately be able to work on a relationship now that the obstacle has been removed, and then voila! They're emotionally available.

However, there is another kind of emotional unavailability that doesn't happen on a conscious level. It happens subconsciously, and it is less about the external factors of one's own life but rather a reaction to someone else's emotional unavailability. Or, in other words, a way to combat neediness.

Think about the plight of the woman who is afraid of appearing to be needy. She projects her aura of independence and attracts an unavailable guy who is happy to meet someone like her who doesn't need a man and doesn't want a relationship (because her independence ensures that he doesn't have to work very hard). They start dating. When he, for example, says he'll call on Monday but now it's Wednesday and there has been no phone call, rather than holding him accountable for his failure to call, the woman who is afraid of being needy will instead hold herself accountable for caring. Strong, independent women don't notice when a man hasn't called. They are too busy being fabulous to notice. Broken date? That's fine - she has a rich life with hobbies, interests and friends and will dive into one of those instead. Three hours late for date? No big deal, she isn't needy and therefore is comfortable enough with her own company that other people's lateness doesn't phase her very much.

This kind of adjustment is necessary if you are consistently engaging with someone who is emotionally detached. A person with healthy emotions would be very hurt were they met with this kind of behavior over and over again. (And I would be remiss if I didn't add that a person with a healthy connection to their emotions typically leaves if and when it becomes clear that this is going to be the case.) There are endless books, advice columns and blogs (hello!) advising women on how to attract the right kind of men who don't engage in shitty behavior, but I would argue that there is no magic formula that will attract a certain type of person and keep another at bay. Rather, the magic is in being honest with yourself about how a person and/or situation is actually making you feel, and having the self-love and self-respect to walk away from unfavorable circumstances rather than either doubling down and trying to change said circumstances or otherwise finding ways to stay in them without them hurting...that much. This is how I believe women who are trying to play the game accidentally become emotionally unavailable. Women who habitually date emotionally detached men have to become emotionally detached themselves in order to survive it. Smiling when she actually feels like crying, texting "it's okay," when it's really not okay, then plastering on that practiced smile and posting a flirty IG pic, because she got all dolled up, so why the hell not, as though being stood up doesn't phase her. If it happens subconsciously, she won't realize that in an attempt to become the super attractive, ideal independent woman, she has inadvertently cut herself off from the healthy emotions that are necessary to have a truly fulfilling relationship.

Men are just as capable of being unconsciously emotionally unavailable as women. Their reasons can be as variable as the men themselves. Maybe they have abandonment issues because they lost a parent at a young age. Maybe they never really got over their first heartbreak. But even if the result is an emotionally detached man who won't be a good relationship partner for anyone unless or until he addresses his own issues, he often doesn't see it that way and doesn't have to, because society is as fine with him being single as it is with him being in a relationship, or lingering in between in a series of casual dalliances along the way. His ability to be in a relationship if he wanted isn't something he is made to feel he has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt; his qualities and attributes aren't critiqued under an impossible magnifying lens. As a result of living in a society that allows, nay, encourages emotionally unavailability in men, men aren't punished by society when they are unavailable. There is no wrong relationship status for a man to have. If he's single, he's a catch. If he's single past a certain age, he's a bachelor, and therefore even more of a catch. If he's in a relationship or married, he's still a catch, and someone caught him. But all of these states of being are generally viewed as OK. Even the most questionable of patterns that he might develop, such as being a serial dater, being extremely promiscuous, becoming dependent on an unhealthy nightlife/weekend life, drinking to excess, cheating habitually, are all still generally rationalized by and supported by society as OK. Men are expected to sow their wild oats, explore their options, exercise their virility, so these behaviors and patterns aren't criticized very heavily. Additionally, because of the perception of agency in the selection process of dating, unless suffering from already low self-esteem, men who habitually engage in "almost" relationships, a lot of casual sex, friends with benefits situations, and even affairs, don't experience the same kind of erosion of their self-esteem and self-worth following these experiences that women do. On the contrary, if any of these are perceived by others as a failure to have entered into a relationship with a particular woman, they are more likely to blame the woman in question for not having lived up to their expectations, standards, etc. than to shoulder the blame themselves. He'll say he's really focused on work, or enjoying his youth, or he just hasn't found the right woman yet. And he won't just say these things. He'll believe these things! Unless already suffering from low self-esteem there is no reason for an emotionally unavailable man to believe that there is something wrong with him despite his being the common denominator in all of the relationships he participates in.

For women, however, it's a different story. A women's single status, especially past a certain age, is often seen as an indication that there is something wrong with her. If she internalizes this belief she'll approach dating as a means of validation, i.e.: See, I have a boyfriend? There's nothing wrong with me. Promiscuity is discouraged and frowned upon, yes still, and often the partners who are willing to engage in, say, casual sex with a woman privately view her as less-than for her willingness to participate, though again, they don't regard their own self-worth as having taken a hit for their own participation. A women's ability to find sexual partners is not championed the way it is with men, and conversely there is an idea that this behavior is indicative of them not being good enough to have a relationship with, which is further invalidating and damaging to self-esteem and self-worth. The types of relationships that tend to develop with emotionally unavailable partners, such as friends with benefits, "almost" relationships, and the like do erode her self-esteem one after another, because as she doesn't approach relationships with agency and instead is hoping to be selected, she feels both rejected and invalidated after each of these experiences, which only makes her more likely to be involved in another, and then another, and then another, and so the erosion continues. Whereas men are more likely to view relationships like this as "having fun", and may even look back at them fondly or as having accomplished the sowing of the aforementioned oats, women are more likely to view these relationships as personal value judgements and failures, even with the crappiest of partners, due to the perception of having failed at being selected, chosen, and thereby validated as "girlfriend material", "wife material", or otherwise just a worthy relationship partner. 

Disadvantages To Playing The Game

You attract people you're not compatible with.
By playing it "cool" and pretending not to care that much, you attract people that are actually cool or even cold and aren't pretending at all - they just don't care. The truth is that you really want a relationship. The truth is that they really don't. It's a mismatch of agendas, desires and goals from the outset.

You're forced to keep up the act or lose the relationship. 
If things continue past a certain point and you end up dating this person, you have to go on playing "cool" so as not to disrupt the pace of things (which you're neither in agreement with or in control of, by the way.) You keep playing hard to get, waiting a while before calling back, second guessing every punctuation choice in every text, because although you haven't done it intentionally you've created a relationship that's predicated on you playing a role that you now have to keep playing in order to stay in the game.

Even if you win, you lose. 
Maybe you end up in a relationship. Maybe you date for a few years and then you get a big ring. Maybe you get married and you pop out a couple kids. But if all the while you've been playing this role, holding back your true thoughts and feelings, worrying whether you said or did the right thing, strategically keeping "cool" when you feel warm or even hot as hell, then you're not really being you. Which in a very real way means that you aren't even really in the relationship! You don't have the freedom and trust to be your authentic self. You aren't getting your emotional needs met. You've been so busy doing so much for the relationship that you haven't stopped to think about what, if anything, the relationship is doing for you. So even if you manage to win...what are you winning, really? 

New Rules

Don't play games. Accept that some people will be weeded out accordingly. 
If saying that you want a relationship causes someone to not call back - good! Now you're free to get a call from someone who wants a relationship too. You mentioned wanting kids someday and he got so nervous he went sprinting from the bar? Great! You just saved yourself an awkward conversation two years down the road. You're not going to want the same things out of life as every single human you encounter, but if you waste your time pretending to align with people you aren't compatible with, you won't have the time, or the space, or the energy (ahem...availability) for the people you might encounter who do want the things that you do.

Be yourself without apologies. 
I have a very polarizing personality. People tend to either love me or hate me. The ones who hate me tend to use the word "too" a lot when explaining just why they can't stand me. I'm too this, too that. I actually get a lot of "too much". But the ones who love me tend not to use the "too" word much at all, and I find that I'm much happier when I'm surrounded by those people than trying to find ways to be less me to appease the people I'm apparently too much - what...human? - for. You're not going to be liked or loved by every single person that you meet. It's just not possible. But the people worth your time, who won't accuse you of being too much or too little of anything, are going to have a hard time seeing you if you aren't being you because you're trying to be something else for someone who doesn't appreciate you as you are.


Don't date to win. 
It's not a game show. It's not a competition. It isn't a referendum on your inherent worth as a person, a partner, or anything in between. You have nothing to prove to the person you just met five minutes ago at the bar, and especially not to the person you literally just met because you both happened to swipe right between Candy Crush levels.

When it's not a competition, or an attempt to win - if not a relationship, then validation, or both - then dating just amounts to meeting new people. Even if it doesn't result in a two car garage and a dog, just meeting people isn't this battering experience that leaves you feeling shitty about yourself. The shitty feeling that can accompany a long string of unsuccessful dates or relationships usually has more to do with being inauthentic on these dates/in these relationships, ignoring your boundaries, or both. Of course you'll feel shitty if you give up all your hobbies for someone who doesn't pick you six months later. Of course you'll feel shitty if you did something you didn't really want to do - like have sex all of eight minutes in - in the hopes of winning some coveted prize. And of course, if you're continuously downplaying or trying to change who you are to appease people you're afraid won't really like you for you, you'll continue to doubt yourself and feel that you're being consistently rejected, because by opting to play some version of yourself instead of simply being yourself, you are the one who is consistently rejecting you.  

If you approach dating with agency, and self-respect, and healthy boundaries, and a conscious attachment to your own feelings, wants, likes and dislikes, meeting new people can be just that. Meeting people. People you like. People you don't like. People you become friends with. People who make you thank your lucky stars you live in a big city among fellow Democrats. People you eventually decide you'd like to mortgage a house and adopt a dog with. Who the fuck knows. But with a healthy sense of self and just the right amount of selfishness - it's okay to put you first - dating need not turn into one devastating, self-sacrificing train wreck after another.

So there you have it. The case against playing the game, adhering to clearly gender biased rules and becoming the cool girlfriend for someone else's benefit. At the end of the day, you are the one who has to walk in your shoes, sleep in the bed you've made, and all the other analogous clichés to that effect.

For the record, my shoe of choice is a stiletto, I'm typing this in a four poster canopy bed, and while some may indeed think this is all too much, I'm cozy and fabulous AF.

Wouldn't have it any other way.

Go forth now, ladies, and be yourselves. ;)



¹one second = about three monster paragraphs with excessive commas and clauses 
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December 31, 2018

What Women Know

There is no such thing as knowing a woman "better than she knows herself"


The Credibility Gap: How Sexism Shapes Human Knowledge - Soraya Chemaly


The Youtube video I've posted above is a link to one of my favorite TED Talks. I watch it every now and then, when I need to remind myself of an important fact. Now to be perfectly transparent, if I watched this video every time I needed the reminder, I'd be watching it several times a day, which is why I nearly have it memorized, and why I have several other inspirational/transformational TED Talks on rotation. To ground me, center me, and help me move forward with my confidence restored and my resolve strengthened in a world that is constantly endeavoring to make me question what I know.

So what is that fact I need to periodically remind myself of?

That I'm not crazy. I'm female.

As I'm typing this we are in the last several hours of 2018. Still, with 2019 hot on our heels, sexism is still a major issue in societies all over the world, and certainly in the United States. One of the biggest obstacles to reconciling the problem of sexism, in my opinion, is the enduring fact that in our society, women's voices are still not taken as seriously as men's voices, regardless of the education and qualifications of the woman in question, and especially if the woman in question is a woman of color, a woman who visually presents with a certain degree of beauty, or both. Now because our voices are not taken as seriously as men's, neither are our issues, because who will primarily be voicing concerns that are uniquely female? - take a guess. Women.

In my article, She Speak: The Undermining Conversational Experience of Himterruption, I talk about the way that women are constantly undermined by men in conversation. My examples range from being constantly interrupted, being "taught" very basic information at varies stages of adult life, to being talked and even shouted over. In my article I even said that before anyone tried to tell me that I was crazy, emotional, or that it was just my defensive perception, there was a recent study conducted that looked at 10 male-male conversations, 10 female-female conversations, and 11 female-male conversations. In the same sex conversations, there were 7 instances of interruptions. In the mixed sex conversations, however, there were 48 instances of interruptions, 46 of them in which the man interrupted the woman. And then I cited my source. Not because it was good journalism, not because I've been citing sources since the 7th grade, but because I knew that despite the truth - a truth that is obvious to every woman who has ever sat painfully through a man's explanation of basic information, not because it needed explaining but because he needed an audience; a truth that is obvious to every woman who has ever had a good idea at work only to have to strategically interject it into an idea session, quickly, distilled down to seven words or less so as to ensure that her sentence gets finished, only to be interrupted almost immediately anyway and even worse, have a man later repeat that idea not five minutes later and get credit for it instead; a truth that is obvious to every woman who has begrudgingly participated in, nay, been held hostage in a conversation with a man about matters exclusively female such as periods, menstrual cramps, hormonal acne, breast tenderness, ovulation pain, pregnancy or childbirth, as he drones on and on with his "facts" that he "knows", because it's "statistical" or "common knowledge", despite the fact that he himself does not know and will never know because he has never nor will he ever experience a period, menstrual cramps, hormonal acne, breast tenderness, ovulation pain, pregnancy, or childbirth, that these "facts" that he "knows", whether from statistics, common knowledge, or wherever have been learned within a patriarchal system that values male knowledge more than female knowledge and therefore are inherently incomplete if not altogether incorrect having come predominantly from centuries of information provided by other men who were equally if not more dismissive of the knowledge of the surrounding women, and that the very fact that he is, in that moment, attempting to teach a woman something about the female experience of her own body is case in point regarding the problem of misinformation that proves dangerous if not deadly for women everywhere whose health concerns are misdiagnosed, mistreated and wrongfully dismissed at a significantly and quantifiably higher rate than men's. (Yeah, I love me a good run-on-sentence-rant, but you know what? It's my blog, I'm my own editor. Learn to love it.) Point is - I knew the truth, which is that anything I said, no matter how true, would need to be backed up almost aggressively with statistical evidence of some sort in order to increase the slight chance that it might be taken seriously because the person saying it (me) was a woman, and because what I was saying challenged patriarchal norms.

That being said, the reason I love the TED Talk - and if you haven't already, I highly recommend clicking - The Credibility Gap: How Sexism Shapes Human Knowledge, by Soraya Chemaly, is that Chemaly discusses the consequences of sexism, not just regarding our emotional experiences, but how it results to deficits in human knowledge that adversely affect our lives as women. From things to inherent listener bias, self-esteem in the workplace, likelihood of asking for and actually getting a raise, to the fact that until recently car crash dummies were only modeled after male bodies, making women more likely to be fatally injured in car accidents, and the fact that artificial hearts fit 80% of male chest cavities and only 20% of female chest cavities.

Sexism is indeed still an issue in our so-called modern world. It is an every day issue that affects our lives, or livelihoods, our physical and mental health, our safety and our wellbeing. It is not a mild annoyance and thusly, feminism is not, as Chemaly beautifully put it, a "pet-project" to be worked on now and then in our spare time - it's a revolution and it's on Instagram. Get on board.

I started blogging in February 2014, which means that in just two short months my career as a published writer will be five years old. (Woohoo! Happy birthday to me!) Since then I have gone from having one blog to two, from being self-published to sought out by and featured in magazines on the topics of feminism, the gender-orgasm gap, and non-monogamous relationships, and publishing some rather risqué novellas. For all the writing I've done in the past five years, it's probably only a third or a forth of what I've actually read and watched to keep educating myself and stay current. From articles, TED talks, medical journals (not exaggerating) to textbooks, I've taken in a lot of information regarding sex and gender. I've also realized that writing isn't enough. As I discuss in Misogyny and the Men Who Love Us, the roots of misogyny are deeply embedded in our every day lives, and most of the issues we see start in the home. It is our job to have the tough conversations on a daily basis, even if it's hard or uncomfortable. That is the only way that we are going to be able to change hearts and minds and continue on the path of creating a world in which women's voices are heard and respected, women and our bodies are regarded as human, not as community property, in which women and girls can proceed outside safely at any time of day without arming ourselves with personal alarms and mace that looks just like a lipstick (I never leave home without either and I recommend it in the meantime), in which men and boys can cry and otherwise express human emotion without the fear of being teased, bullied, called a "pussy", beat up, or worse, in which the term "pussy" is not insulting (it is inherently problematic that the worst thing a man can be called is, essentially, a woman), in which manhood is not defined by characteristics that constitute toxic masculinity which lead to the abuse of women, men, girls and boys, in which the leading cause of death for pregnant women is no longer their spouses, in which women and girls aged 15 through 44 are no longer more likely to be killed or maimed by male violence than by traffic accidents, cancer, war and malaria combined.

In 2008 the number of women and girls killed annually, worldwide, by male violence was about 66,000. In 2018 that number was 87,000. That is, that we know of. The booklet on gender-related killing of women and girls is available here:  https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/GSH2018/GSH18_Gender-related_killing_of_women_and_girls.pdf and is the first part of the Global Study on Homicide which is due to be launched in early 2019. (UNODC) I can't even bring myself to look up the rape statistics for 2018. It hurts my heart too much.

The purpose of this article is not to be dark nor somber, though parts of it invariably will be because of the state of the world we still live in. But in spite of the sad truths and statistics, this sad excuse for a human being which we begrudgingly call president, and the Kavanaugh hearing that left me personally devastated and screaming into a pillow for weeks to follow, there is still hope, and that's what I want to focus on going into 2019.

First, I want to share two hilarious and worthwhile SNL sketches that came out this year in response to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Ugh, I don't know what I would do without SNL. It keeps me laughing in this crazy world, and I hope it does the same for you.


SNL - Welcome to Hell

SNL - Permission


Second, I want to say a quick shoutout to all the women and girls out there. Be confident. Don't be afraid of the sound of your own voice. Don't second guess what you know. Even in the time of revolution, it's still okay to want a boyfriend, or a husband, or kids. You don't have to be ashamed of wanting those things to be "down with the movement". If you've chosen or are thinking about going into masculine coded territory, like, oh I don't know, Information Technology, you don't have to try and make yourself less woman to show that you deserve to be there. To quote Chemaly, "I can look this way, I can dress this way, and I can still have knowledge". To quote myself, "My red lipstick and my stilettos do not interfere with my ability to think, type, or hold a T6 screwdriver." Thank you very much.

Third, I want to speak directly to the men reading this. Congratulations if you've made it this far. Contrary to what some may think, feminists are not man haters. We know as well as anyone that the world we envision and fight tirelessly for is one that requires male allies. We want you with us, not against us. We thank you for buying pink yarn and marching with us. We thank you for finding ways to advertise alcohol without using our bodies as furniture. We thank you for writing songs/screenplays and directing movies/music videos without needlessly objectifying us, demeaning our personhood and/or gratuitously exploiting our full or partial nudity to make sales. We thank you for welcoming the art that we create, art that is liberated from the male gaze, into the mainstream. Yet in order to truly be an allies, we need you to do what is apparently the hardest thing for even the most WOKE among you to do. We need you to wait, that is, WAIT.

We need you to talk less, listen more, and that's really listening, not patiently waiting your turn to say the thing you thought of before we started speaking. And when you do talk to us, to actually talk to us, not at us. Which means not using us as sounding boards to project your inner monologue onto, be it a showcase of your general or specific knowledge about a topic, the story of your life, or even the story of your day just because you happened upon us in a bar. Are we busy? Are we interested? Are we in the mood to talk? Ask - then proceed. Consent is not just about sex, so let's make it a point in 2019 to not hold women hostage in one-sided conversations.

Not talking at us also means not enlisting us as test audiences for that joke you thought up on the train ride home or otherwise recruiting us to role-play in what amounts to a comedy routine without our previously agreed upon participation. We do not want to be used as the conversational equivalent of the magician's assistant as you flex the muscles of your wit, or help you set up dad jokes to later knock down. A conversation is not a one man show, and funny as these moments might be to you there's a reason we aren't laughing. There's a fully functioning brain on the other side of your stand-up routine, and it knows it didn't buy a ticket. So unless you're actually a comedian, you actually need to practice your set, and we actually agreed, please. Talk to us. Not at us.

It means not launching into the two hour story of your stressful day the moment you walk through the door and even seeking us out when we are in the home for this purpose without first making sure that we are, in fact, in a place/time/mindset wherein we have the emotional bandwidth to support you, as we (unlike dogs who humans had to artificially breed the wolf out of to be this way) are not first and foremost your companions (or therapists, or eye candies, or sex partners for that matter) but human beings in our own right. Partners means partners. That means a co-piloted journey, not one person dictating the terms and the other revolving around them like a satellite. We need to challenge the idea that women alone in the home are occupying themselves in between the comings and goings of a man. If the movie of my life had subtitles while I was alone in the living room with a book, they would read:

[Reading in the living room.]

Not:

[Reading in the living room until man enters, where she will immediately bookmark mid-chapter and give him her full attention. She will find out who killed the maid later, in two hours, when he comes up for air.] 

If you see your wife, or girlfriend, or sister, or daughter doing something in a room on her own, consider before you walk into the room and automatically command her attention with the assumption that she is going to immediately stop what she is doing and become your audience. Is she busy? Is she interested? Is this a good time for her? All it takes is a second, but I promise, we appreciate it.

We also need you to challenge the idea that our appearance in public is an opportunity for you to meet us. It isn't always. So stop. Consider. A good rule of thumb might be that if conversing with you would require the woman to stop what she is doing altogether - for example: put down her book, stop what she is typing on the computer, stop with a full cart of groceries in the middle of the frozen food aisle, put down the dumbbell, come out of downward dog pose - that it isn't a good time to chat. We too occasionally hit the bar on the way home from work just to decompress. We too can't get work done in the house and take our computers to Starbucks. We too step outside just to have a cigarette (or a vape...whatever). We too receive bad news about loved ones and head to the beach for yoga just to clear our heads. We need you to check your privilege; adjust your perspective; reconsider what you think you see through your male gaze. We don't just appear in places. We aren't just waiting somewhere for you to approach and start talking to us. We have entire lives, complete with work schedules, deadlines, friends, headaches, apartments with leases running out soon, movers who didn't show up on time, friends we need to buy baby shower gifts for, family members who have recently passed away, groceries we forgot to get yesterday so there was no sugar for our coffee this morning and we're a little ticked off, and yeah let's go ahead and throw some menstrual cramps in there too, all sorts of things that don't just come to a screeching halt just because you decided to come over and say "hi".

We need you to be open to taking the extra moment to make those considerations and, if you fail (and we all fail time and time again when we are learning something new), being open to receiving feedback and even pushback from the women in your lives on a day to day basis, not just once a year at women's marches, late at night nodding along to SNL, or in your college buddies' Facebook comments.

Talking the talk isn't enough. You need to walk the walk, and you need to do it every day, even in the moments you don't think about. That's going to mean unlearning some bad habits.

...

2019 Resolutions

The bad habits I am going to focus on breaking in 2019 that I have to actively make myself think about are: 1 - Speaking in a voice in public that is literally an octave + above my natural, relaxed speaking voice (for those of you who don't know music, that's basically talking in a high-pitched, sing-song voice),  especially with authority figures, people who I'm meeting for the first time, and in work settings including interviews. (This isn't uncommon for women, by the way. In Ellen DeGeneres' new standup Relatable on Netflix, she plays a tape of her interview on the Johnny Carson show from 1987 and sounds like a the forth member of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Women do this all the time to fit into our prescribed feminine roles without even thinking about it.) 2 - Smiling every time someone makes eye contact with me. It's exhausting, and I'm 30 now. I'm trying to still be beating wrinkles when I'm 40. #LifeGoals 3 - Relax in public space. I find that in public space I am constantly worried about being in-the-way. Most Americans are obscenely large compared to me, and yet I have to consciously not pull my shoulders in on the subway to make myself smaller, not shuffle around in the subway the minute I see a human walking in my general direction, not immediately start planning how to maneuver myself, my umbrella, and my suitcase over that awkward tree garden in the middle of the sidewalk when someone is walking toward me. I know that I have an equal right to public space. But I have a bad habit of forfeiting that right without even thinking about it.

I'm doing homework too, not just assigning it.

...

Male allies: We need you to WAIT.

WAIT - Why Am I Talking
WAIT - Who Am I Talking to
WAIT - What Am I Trying to accomplish
WAIT - Why Am I Tempted
WAIT - Why Am I Testosteroning*

*Yes, I just made that up.

Especially regarding topics that are unique to the female experience, we need you to stop, WAIT, and listen. You will never know what it is like to live in this world as a woman, and that is just a fact, not a statement that need be the start of a combative conversation. It's perfectly okay not to know - how would you? What is not okay is when you pretend to know, or presume to know, and when you think that your perception and/or observation of the female experience could or should ever supersede the reality of the woman or women you are speaking with who live the female experience every single waking moment of our lives. If your mother told you a story about something once, or you saw your sister go through something, or you witnessed your daughter having trouble with something, or a friend told you about something else, and you stored that information away in your mental filing cabinet marked "Knowledge About Women" that is great. It's great that you've been paying attention. But these stories you've heard every now and again do not make you an expert on the matter of female life, or for that matter, women. The only experts on women out there are women. So when you are talking to a woman about womanhood rather than trying to convince us that you know us better than we know ourselves, that our thoughts and feelings are invalid, that we are "confused", instead take a moment.

Stop. WAIT. And listen.

You're talking to an expert. Try asking a question instead of making a statement. You might just learn something. Especially if you ask an open-ended question, as opposed to a closed-ended question - I like to playfully refer to it as leading the witness - that reflects your existing beliefs and automatically forces the person you're speaking to onto the defensive if they don't share that belief. An example would be a question like, "You think period sex is gross, right?", as opposed to, "How do you feel about period sex?" It promotes an open, co-piloted conversation, instead of a combative conversation, or something that resembles and interrogation wherein one party is doing all of the talking and compelling the other to answer succinctly with a "yes" or a "no".

When you open the door for those co-piloted conversations, you're encouraging learning and growth on both sides. Making the room to share opinions and experiences that differ from your own, that you may not have ever thought of or realized existed. I'm not saying that you're automatically wrong about everything you think you know about women, or that there is even one female truth. That's the point. We have different life experiences. And since all of our lives...ahem...matter...

For example:

Did you know that the use of tampons pose a potential threat to female health, called Toxic Shock Syndrome, but that most public bathrooms use a multi-stall/shared sink design which makes it difficult to use healthy alternatives like menstrual cups in a manner that is private and sanitary?

We can all agree that in public bathroom situations that are not gender neutral, the wait for the women's room tends to be longer than that for the men's room. Did you know that "holding it" for too long, as well as squatting over public toilets and not fulling relaxing the pelvic floor muscles, can result in a build up of bacteria which leads to urinary tract infections?

What if we took things like this into consideration when designing public bathrooms? If we just did that one thing, it would have a tremendous impact on the lives of women and girls. If we didn't dismiss concerns as silly, or dramatic, or hysterical, we might save young girls from uncomfortable pelvic exams before they've reached sexual maturity, or from the frequent use of harsh antibiotics, or from embarrassing public accidents because they couldn't get to a restroom in time.

And that's just bathrooms! There are a myriad of places in our every day lives where the needs of women and girls are not adequately reflected, and changing that starts in every day conversation.

So the next time you're in a conversation with a woman, and especially when discussing the uniquely female, remember to stop, wait, and listen.

And when the women in your life do speak - trust us. We know.





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November 21, 2018

Finding Closure Post-Breakup on Your Own | A Personal Holiday Special

HOLIDAY SPECIAL

At the risk of sounding like the Dos Equis guy, I don't usually do this, but I've decided to get a little more personal than usual right before the holidays. The months of August and September were extremely tumultuous for me, and having landed in a place so good I almost feel like the universe is paying me reparations - which is a fitting term for this time of year, if you're picking up what I'm putting down - I thought I'd share a couple of self-care holiday tips. 

First, if you're feeling heightened anxiety around this time of year at the anticipation of seeing and spending time with family that you maybe don't get along too well with - you're not the only one. Tis the season! But here are a few things to remember:

1. You have agency 

You don't have to do anything. You have choices. So what that your family always does [insert obligatory ritual here] on Thanksgiving. It doesn't mean that you need to force yourself. If the idea of doing that thing you're supposed to do is stressful for you, either because of money you'll have to spend on travel, the stress of traveling itself, the potential for awkward family interactions, or the fact that you just don't like turkey, you are allowed to make an alternate plan! 

This is not a hostage situation, so don't hold yourself hostage to something you don't truly want. 

YOLO 

2. You can choose to celebrate something else 

I'm about 1/4 Native American (my 23 & me results haven't gotten back yet, so that statement could very well change in the near future, but I digress...). I got really pissed off this year when I saw that Columbus Day was still being acknowledged as a US Holiday alongside Indigenous People's Day. That's not to say that you need to be a part of a certain group to feel viscerally disgusted by that group's mistreatment, but in this case there is the added ancestry factor that makes it personal. To me, Thanksgiving represents the whitewashing of a genocide which has still not been adequately acknowledged nor remedied (if such a thing can even be remedied) by this government. Certainly not something to celebrate. 

However, just because you have the day, or the weekend, or whatever you have off, doesn't mean you need to celebrate what the United States or your iPhone calendar tells you to. 

Personally, I refuse to acknowledge the holiday, so instead, I'll be having Friendsgiving. I'm going to get together with my besties, cook for each other, potentially enjoy the recreational use of a certain something that should be nationally legalized already, and just celebrate the meaningful, enduring relationships in my life that I do cherish. 

Last year and the year before I ordered in Chinese food, did a facial and a hair masque, and it was glorious. 

Point is, whatever your feelings about the holiday may be, you are not beholden to the ideology behind it. Celebrate your friends, your pets, your pores, whatever the hell you want. 

3. Be kind to yourself 

The thing about holidays is that they are a marker of time, and as humans we tend to hold ourselves to rather stringent expectations when it comes to time. Perhaps this time last year you expected to be in a certain place by now, and it turns out that you're not. Maybe you were in a long relationship that recently ended. Maybe nothing is particularly wrong, but many of your friends have made big changes this year (career change, bought a house, wedding, hatched offspring) and you're worried that you're falling behind or stuck in a rut. 

The holidays don't have to be an arbitrary marker of success or failure, or a reason for negative self-talk. I suspect that one of the reasons this happens is that if you do attend big family gatherings, you end up giving people you haven't seen in a while the high level overview of your year, and may feel a "certain type of way" if your report isn't as glittery as someone else's. 

Excuse my language (or don't - I don't give a fuck), but try to let all that shit go. You aren't in a competition. This isn't some sort of sick reality show, and your family, your friends, or whomever are not a panel of judges. There may very well be things you want to do or changes you want to make. All of that is fine. But the holidays need not add extra pressure. 

It's just a day. It's just a bird. And frankly, it's just not that deep. I mean...except for the genocide. 

That's fucking bullshit. 

On another personal note, this summer I was involved in a very disappointing relationship. After exhausting all of my other options and finally going No Contact with them (which included blocking their number), my ex began attempting to contact me from other phone numbers, calling, texting, and leaving messages asking me to meet, if only for closure. Never mind that several months before when I'd wanted the same thing (except without having treated them to months of flagrant disrespect), I was blatantly ignored and not afforded the same respect that said ex was now aggressively demanding from me. One such contact occurred today, just before I took my lunch break, as I was musing over what dessert to pickup for tomorrow. When I realized that the agitation of being randomly caught off guard by this person's attempts was keeping the issue at the front of my mind - the last place I wanted it! - I realized there was an acceptable time and way to break No Contact. Which is a perfect segue into today's article...

I'm happy to report that I am going into this long holiday weekend with my mind at ease. And if you have any unresolved, messy ex issues, I hope this helps you do the same. 

Happy paid vacation. See you after the feasting. 

How to Move on Without Formal Closure

Spoiler Alert: The implication of this photo is a spa visit - not Santeria. 

What is closure after a breakup, and furthermore, why do we need it? 

The answer is different for everyone, I suspect, but if you're anything like me there's a logical component to moving on after a relationship. When a relationship ends, I need to understand why it ended - both when I am the breaker and the breakee - in order to feel confident that, 1 - The relationship cannot work even if "worked on", 2 - I will not end up in the exact same situation with a new person, and, 3 - I will not end up in a boomerang relationship (also known as hot and cold / on and off) with the same person. 

Unfortunately, whilst it only takes one to end a relationship, it often feels like it takes two to achieve closure. Breakups can sometimes be abrupt and inexplicable, which can be confusing after the fact. You may have broken up in a text flurry after a week or so of awkward and unexplained distance. You may have gotten slow faded or, even worse, ghosted. While this can be extremely painful, angering, and sometimes even maddening, for many (and certainly for me) the worst part of a breakup like this is the sheer confusion of the thing. Even in a truly awful scenario - your partner cheating on you with your best friend, say - at least a week into your Telemundo con entire sticks of butter dipped in Nutella marathon you can accurately answer the question when someone asks you why you broke up! But when someone slow fades/ghosts out of your life, or abruptly knee jerks out with a sudden and incoherent excuse (or several), it can be beyond frustrating. Nothing is worse than a sympathetic friend buying you a shot and asking what happened, only to have to sullenly admit that you just don't know. 

There are lots of reasons why a relationship may have ended without closure. Lots of reasons.

Reasons like...

- The relationship was never "official", so the SO didn't see a need to formally end something that, in their eyes, hadn't had a formal beginning. 

- There was a fight or other negative event that the SO assumed was the breakup. 

- The SO is uncomfortable with confrontation and hoped to soft-breakup gradually over time rather than having one definitive conversation (also known as managing down expectations), not realizing the cruel impact of forcing a person to figure out that they are being broken up with by an increasingly ambivalent partner. 

- The SO - for whatever reason, be it BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), or APD (Asshole Personality Disorder*) - has instantly emotionally detached from the ex (you), if they were ever attached in the first place, and could give a shit about your feelings or need for closure. Hell, they may even enjoy your confused, "can we please at least meet in person to talk about this" texts, because it makes them feel important and powerful.

- The SO has already moved on to a new partner whom they were already getting involved with while you were dating. Discussing the true "why" behind the breakup would mean revealing relationship overlap and/or cheating (not referring to consensual non-monogamy), and the SO does not want this information known. Hence, they let you believe the breakup is about that one time you mispronounced the name of a fancy wine in front of their fancy friends. They'd rather damage your self-esteem than their reputation.  

Point is, there are countless reasons why someone may end a relationship without offering you closure. It may be very tempting to sit around thinking up all sorts of reasons why, and all sorts of excuses at that. Maybe you said something off color one night after having too much wine and they've held it against you. Maybe they have unresolved childhood trauma and attachment issues. Maybe their pet turtle of eighteen years just died and they're taking it really hard. But the bottom line is that whatever the reasons of the person who ends a relationship with you without due process (read: care, respect, consideration), especially if you are someone they profess to love, that is really all the information that you need. You don't need to know the why. You don't need to know their damage. The point is not to figure out why you're being treated poorly. The point is simply to acknowledge that you are being treated poorly and address that fact, irrespective of any myriad of excuses.

That being said, resist the urge to question every punctuation choice you've made in the last six months of texts you've sent. Resist the urge to diagnose your ex with some disorder out of the DSM-5 just so you can offer to nurse them back to sanity. And goodness gracious, resist the urge to text them just one more time - stop! Put down that phone.

Instead...

Accept

Accept that the relationship is over. The truth is that a perfect breakup is rare. Would it have been nice if you'd had a calm, heartfelt discussion over dinner, or a long conversation on the phone where you both analyzed the whole relationship and mutually agreed it was the best thing to end it? Sure. That would have been nice. It would have been nice if Hillary had won the 2016 election (and also become President). But, alas. The nice thing doesn't always happen. 

Yes, certain breakups are shittier than others. Dinner and/or a phone call is typically better than hearing it through a friend, reading a post-it stuck to your laptop, or figuring it out after weeks of strange behavior. But the bottom line is that a breakup is a breakup. It's over either way.

There's no sense in chasing after your ex over bad etiquette. 

Move On

So remember that joke about Telemundo earlier? That was just a joke. I know you want to plop yourself on the couch with that bottle of scotch and that pound of Gorgonzola, but no! Don't do that! Don't dwell in what was, go out and experience what is. 

I'm not saying you don't get to be sad about it and experience your emotions. By all means. Emote. Just not alone in the living room. See your friends. Go out and make new ones. Hell, I took myself out for one night after getting a shitty text from my now ex, met a girl who was just out with some friends, and five months later I have a new, true friend who has not only helped me through the shitty breakup at times, but who I've been able to enjoy life and have actual fun with! Between piano bars and drag brunches, who has time to worry about a breakup? 

So don't go dwelling. Go dancing! Or something. You get the point. 

Close The Door

This one sucks, but it may be the most important thing you do in a relationship that ended without closure. 

People like to have closure in order to give a relationship a definitive end. In order to be able to confidently say that this chapter is over. In order to point to a date on the calendar and say, here, this is when we broke up and now we're just friends. (Or now that human is dead to me.)

Without closure it can sort of seem like the relationship is still in play. Maybe not in full swing. Maybe not all hot and heavy, intense, and sunshine and rainbows. But no closure makes it feel like something is still happening, or that something still could happen in the future. This is very dangerous territory to be in. How many of us have gone through all the breakup mourning and genuinely felt better only to be thrown off balance months later by a random "I miss you" text?

Granted, some people opt to downshift from in-a-relationship to friends-with-occasional-benefits but the operative word there is opt. This is only safe and fair territory when both parties are on the same page, not in a situation where one person is still holding out hope for the relationship and the other thinks it would be cool to "hookup" every now and then. 

I know it feels like you need the other person to gain closure, but the truth is that you don't. You have all the power you need to close the door and give the relationship a definitive end. You don't have to send an email, text, or Facebook wall post (although if you choose to, more power to you). All you need to do is decide for yourself that it is over, and make choices that support that decision. That might mean taking a break from any places you may likely run into the ex. That might mean asking mutual friends not to mention them to you. It may even mean unfollowing them on social media, or going full on No Contact unless or until you have the closure you need.

In rare cases, you may have to do more than close the door. You may need to slam the door, bolt the door, or have your Rottweiler sit out on your stoop. That might look like temporarily unblocking and calling the ex, letting them know they better not call you again (welcome to my lunch). It might look like letting friends and family know what the offending ex is doing to motivate them to stop the bad behavior (raise your hand if you can take a hint). It may even look like a restraining order.

Whatever you need, it's fine. 

For those of us who need closure to effectively move on after a breakup, it can be achieved alone, with a commitment to boundaries and self-care. Give yourself what your ex didn't give you. The respect and consideration that will allow you to happily move forward and enjoy the rest of your life.

And maybe...I don't know. A facial.

Happy holiday weekend.

;)

* I completely made up this personality disorder, but I suspect may exist! Who knows, maybe I'll craft some diagnostic criteria that they'll include in the future DSM-6. 

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October 21, 2018

6 Tricks Narcissists Use To Lure You Back | Sticking to No Contact

Tricks Narcissists Use To Get You Back

How To Maintain NO CONTACT

If you've dated a narcissist, you know these two things about them. First, they will do just about anything to get what they want. Second, what they want is to be in control of all things and situations, all the time. That's why it's so difficult to break away from a narcissist. What many people don't realize immediately is that the toxic cycle of abuse with a narcissist doesn't end when you break up. Not even if the narcissist is the one to break up with you. Narcissists still want your time and attention, even when a relationship is over, and will use various tactics to lure you back in. This doesn't necessarily mean luring you back into the relationship. When I say lure you back in, I mean back into contact with them. Back to engaging them. Back to giving them attention and validation. Back to participating in the abuse cycle.

No Contact is a great way to cut ties with a toxic relationship partner, by essentially enforcing a stringent time period in which no forms of communication will be allowed with that person. This is especially effective in relationships where there has been any form of abuse and/or intermittent reinforcement, as this 30-90 day time period allows your brain the biochemical detox it needs from the dangerous oxytocin, dopamine and cortisol combinations that keep you hooked on your abuser (or narcissistic ex, or emotionally unavailable asshole).

Narcissists have a very specific relationship cycle that plays out in the close relationships in their lives, be it with close friends, family, and often in the most extreme cases, their romantic relationships. This cycle is typically labeled by it's three distinct stages, idolization, devaluation, discard, and is actually more accurately described as a cycle of abuse. A similar cycle can also occur with people who are not necessarily full blown, DSM 5 narcissists, but who share abusive traits and tendencies.

For people who have been in relationships with narcissists or abusive partners, No Contact is the prescribed technique for recovery. It involves going at least 30 days with absolutely no communication with that individual. 30 days is the bare minimum. Ideally your No Contact Detox will last 90 days, the goal being to break your attachment to the narcissist and eventually go No Contact forever. If they are someone you cannot avoid interaction with, like a family member or co-worker, you can opt to go Low Contact instead. Low Contact is basically the same as No Contact with the exception of obligatory interaction. Those interactions are to remain as short, sweet and impersonal as humanly possible.

The first 30 days are the hardest part of the No Contact Detox. People who are subjected to intermittent reinforcement (which is what is happening when someone you're dating is being "hot and cold") end up forming powerful chemical associations with the hot and cold partner that are akin to addiction. But if detoxing weren't hard enough, there's another factor that makes the first 30 days of the No Contact Detox the hardest.

Narcissists don't want you to move on. Narcissists and people that operate in a similar style tend to gain amusement and a sense of importance from the final phase of the relationship cycle - the discard phase. However, this only works for the narcissist's ego if they are in control on this phase, and narcissists will only feel in control if it is clear that you are being actively affected by having been discarded by them. Sad break-up posts on Facebook? Good. Telling all your friends how hard it is to date again? Great. Feeling so lost after the end of the relationship that you're having trouble getting back into a healthy day-to-day routine? Oh, perfect. All of these things validate the narcissist.

When you practice No Contact, the narcissist no longer has a clear way of getting validation through you. You have cut off the tap that feeds them Narcissistic Supply in the form of your time, attention, care, etc. It is at this point that the narcissist will typically start flailing, trying any and everything to re-engage with you.

This has nothing to do with loving you or missing you. The narcissist will tell you that they love you and miss you, but these are lies. The narcissist is devoid of true depth and human emotions and cannot love you any more than a stapler can love a food processor. Similarly, emotionally unavailable people who aren't narcissists may in fact feel something when you initiate No Contact after a breakup, and may confuse those feelings with loving you or missing you. In fact, what they are experiencing is panic. People who use Hot and Cold techniques to keep you on the hook are emotional vampires who slowly drain your energy. They dine on your attention, affection, and yes, even your misery when you are strung out on heartbreak. When they sense that you might be moving on, they may pretend to be trying to secure their relationship with you, but really all they're interested in is securing their next meal. For narcissists in particular, the discard phase of the relationship is not really about you, but about the false-narrative they tell themselves about who they are and the role that being "better" than you plays in that narrative. If after separating from the narcissist your circumstances actually improve, this conflicts with that narrative and threatens to reveal all the hidden cracks and flaws in the narcissist's façade. Narcissists have a vested interested, therefore, in interfering with your ability to move on.

I've mentioned before that if you don't walk away from a narcissist after the devalue/discard phase, the cycle of abuse will restart, the first step being the honeymoon phase where idolization and love bombing occur. However, after a relationship has officially ended the narcissist's efforts will look different. Remember, they don't actually want a mutually fulfilling, happy relationship. They aren't capable of that. What they're looking for are signs that you still care, and if they suspect you don't, they use the following techniques to try and make you care. To them, attention is attention, good or bad. 

6 Tricks the Narcissist Uses to Lure You Back


Hovering

Normal people respect that you might need time when a relationship ends before attempting to be friends, etc. Narcissists have no such respect. As such, they will typically do what I like to call hovering, to try and make sure that they are still on your mind.

Spot the Signs

If you go to school together, or work together, this might look like the narcissist suddenly sitting closer to you if they have the opportunity, probably in your eye line. You might observe the narcissist being particularly loud in their interactions with others (when you are nearby, of course). Finally, they may make surprise appearances at events that they usually steer clear of. If they've skipped the office holiday party three years in a row, they'll just have to attend this one despite the potential for awkward post-breakup energy. That energy - the kind that fills you with dread and anxiety - is exactly what the narcissist feeds off of. To the narcissist, all the world's a stage, and they'll be damned if you aren't paying attention to their elaborate one man show.

If you have mutual friends, they may start dropping your name casually around them. After a breakup, your mutual friends will typically understand that you need some time before hearing about your ex every five minutes, especially if the breakup was upsetting for you. But by mentioning you in a very casual way and giving the impression that things between you are good or have healed (not to mention putting your relationship on the mutual friend's mind) the narcissist sets themselves up to be mentioned to you by the mutual friend. They may even deliberately start spending more time with the people they know you're likely to interact with, just to increase the likelihood of being mentioned to you in conversation. (e.g.: Oh, I was just with so-and-so the other day...)

If you are on social media, the narcissist may start flooding their own page with more activity than usual. It is unlikely that they will actually post anything to your timeline directly or tag/mention you in anything. They aren't trying to validate you, after all, they're simply trying to get your attention. However, if over time the narcissist suspects you aren't looking at their activity, get ready for the narcissist to start arbitrarily liking and "loving" your posts. It is very unlikely that they will actually leave a comment or interact with you on social media in any substantial way, but by "liking" things, they keep their name popping up on your alerts or in your timeline, both which will trigger an emotional response if you haven't gotten over them yet. Especially if they decide to "love" something.

If the above methods fail, the narcissist's hovering tactics will become more obvious.

They may try to force you to engage with them for any of the following reasons:

- Pick up items they left at your home / Return items you left at their home
- Ask for your Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime password / Inform you they are removing you from their accounts
- Ask for money you owe them or (extremely unlikely) to repay money they owe you
- Discuss the handling of plans made pre-breakup (a booked vacation, concert/event tickets)
- STI or pregnancy scare*

* Not to say that people don't actually contract STIs or become pregnant. These are valid reasons to reach out to an ex partner. However, if an ex is telling you they "worry" they "might" have an STI, or they "think" they "might" be pregnant without any concrete evidence, it is most likely an attempt to establish and drag out continued communication.

If all else fails, the narcissist may just show up somewhere they know you are going to be. They might join your gym, join the trivia team at your favorite bar. If you work in a public place, like a retail store or a bar/restaurant, don't be surprised if the narcissist shows up there to shop, eat or drink.

Re-Idolization/Devaluation

The narcissist used idolization and devaluation as a way to facilitate your insecurity and dependence on them during your relationship. By covertly (or even overtly) criticizing your abilities, dreams, goals, accomplishments, etc. they made you question your worth, all the while peppering in random moments of idolization so that they became your only source of validation.

Post-relationship, the narcissist will use a similar technique. If they hear you are looking for a new job in a new field, they may criticize that ambition by suggesting that the job you're thinking about isn't really that great, that the field isn't very prestigious or that there isn't much money to be made there. If they hear you're thinking about moving to a new city, they may subtly suggest that the new place doesn't have any number of random "great" things like the city you live in now.

This is a mind game. The narcissist isn't truly concerned with your choices and they definitely don't have your best interests at heart. They are concerned that you might make a choice for yourself that will distance you from their influence. By devaluing all of your choices - even as they pretend to idolize you in the process by rejecting these choices on the basis that they aren't good enough for you - what the narcissist is trying to do is maintain the illusion that the life you had with them is as good as it gets; that there aren't better options for you. They are trying to prevent you from moving on to the bigger and better things that are out there, so that you'll continue to romanticize the honeymoon phase you experienced when they were love bombing you - the lie they used to hook you.

Triangulation

Narcissists use triangulation during relationships to create insecurity in their victims by evoking a sense of competition. Constantly mentioning ex-lovers, the boss that's always hitting on them, or the hot person on the line for the bathroom that made a pass at them while you were sitting at the bar - this is all textbook triangulation.

After the relationship ends the narcissist will inevitably seek to triangulate you with their new victim. And yes, there is always a new victim. The narcissist may simply flaunt the new relationship, posting photos, bragging to friends, doing whatever they can to make the relationship seem amazing. Simultaneously, if you start dating someone new, the narcissist will find all sorts of things wrong with the person you are dating and the relationship you are in.

This is meant to feed the self-doubt they created during your relationship. To support the illusion that they are a wonderful person who just couldn't love you because you aren't lovable, but now that they've found someone who is, they're in a happy relationship devoid of any of the problems your supposed unlovable-ness caused. The truth is that the narcissist is still the same shitty person you dated. They haven't magically transformed into a better person, and if they are in fact treating the person they are dating now better than they treated you, it is only temporary. What you are seeing is them playing out the idolization phase with a new victim. Eventually the narcissist will get bored and turn on them too, if they haven't already, and begin to slowly devalue them the same way they did you.

At this point, the narcissist may begin to devalue their new victim in your presence, alluding to being unhappy or dissatisfied in the relationship in some way. This is how many people who have dated narcissists end up going from the girlfriend/boyfriend to the other woman or other man. The narcissist may indeed be with someone else, but by subtly belittling that relationship they maintain the illusion that yours is the real love connection. They may even use terms like soul mates and behave as though some elaborate circumstance is keeping you apart, when really it's their own behavior.

This is all one big game of triangulation. The narcissist wants you to focus on competing with any number of people in their life so that you remain distracted from who they really are and stuck on them at the same time.

Dropping Breadcrumbs

If you dated a narcissist, you know what crumbs are. In fact, you were living on a diet of crumbs while you were dating them. Crumbs are the little bits of positive attention that the narcissist feeds you once the relationship has shifted to keep you invested even though you aren't happy anymore. This is intermittent reinforcement. The crumbs they feed you provide glimpses of the beginning of the relationship, offering the illusion that there is still a chance of things returning to the original fairytale it once was.

Post-relationship the narcissist will start dropping these breadcrumbs again in an attempt to lead you back to them. It might look like a random "I miss you" text. It may be occasionally telling you how beautiful you look. It may be "accidentally" calling you a pet name that you used when you were together, or talking about and romanticizing the past (the idolization phase of your relationship).

Again, this is not an indication of the narcissist's feelings for you. The narcissist does not have real, healthy feelings for you. Often, the narcissist will drop a breadcrumb like, "I just want you to know that I still love you," followed by radio silence! Even though this kind of attention may seem positive and validating - especially after a narcissist has discarded you! - it isn't positive or validating at all. These things are only meant to affirm and maintain your continued interest in them, so don't follow the breadcrumbs, and whatever you do, do not walk back into that gingerbread house!

Reset Button

Narcissists love to press the reset button. They love starting over. The narcissist, after a time, may claim that something major has changed. They found Jesus, or Buddha, or yoga. Whatever. And now they're a different person who is capable of giving you the relationship that you want.

Do not be fooled, no matter how self-aware the narcissist may appear to be. The same goes for exes who are not necessarily narcissists, but who have narcissistic tendencies that make them equally interpersonally exploitative and emotionally unavailable.

People like this are aware of their behavior and the impact it has on others. You aren't the first person they've built up only to be abruptly cut down, and you won't be the last. You weren't the first to complain about their backhanded compliments, their covert put-downs, or any other number of insensitive and disrespectful behaviors they may have subjected you to. It isn't a question of whether they know about these things, so much as a question of whether or not they care. Further, no difficult circumstance or life event excuses disrespect or abuse, so it doesn't really matter what factors may have supposedly changed in the narcissist's life. It wasn't the external circumstances in the narcissist's life that hurt you. It was the narcissist that hurt you. And if they're trying to get you to take them back after having treated you badly, that alone is a sign of disrespect and evidence that despite their claims, they haven't changed a bit.

Do not allow an ex to come back into your life and try to start over with you if there was disrespect of any kind in the past. Disrespect cannot just be cancelled, wiped clean and forgotten about. Also, while you may ultimately choose to forgive an abuser for your own closure and peace of mind, forgiveness does not equal accepting that person back into your life in any way, shape or form. Forgiveness is about moving on. Not going back.

Smear Campaign

This is a narcissist's last resort in trying to get you to give them the attention and supply that they need to survive. When all else has failed, when it has become abundantly clear that you do not care about them and will not be manipulated into caring, they will seek to attack your reputation, the one thing they are absolutely sure that you will care about.

To understand this technique, you have to understand what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is. People who suffer from NPD have no real sense of self. They are an amalgam of the opinions of others, which is why they surround themselves with an affirming harem and need a constant stream of attention and affection coming from as many people as possible. It is why they lash out so violently at anything they even perceive to be a criticism. Their inflated self-image is false, thus making it fragile, which is why they obsessively and tirelessly seek to protect it by any means.

While narcissists learn to imitate other people, they can never really understand them. The only perspective they truly understand is their own. That is why the narcissist attacks the victim's reputation as a last resort. The narcissist's reputation is the most important thing they have, because quite frankly, it's the only thing they have. It is integral to the survival of that false self-image. Losing an esteemed reputation, the good opinion of others; having the word see their true face behind the beautiful mask is literally a narcissist's worse nightmare. If that were to happen, they would be destroyed. Therefore, when seeking to destroy you, they set out to destroy your reputation. They assume that, like them, it is the thing you value most.

Unlike the narcissist, however, your reputation is not the only thing you have. More importantly, your reputation is not made up of shallow social interactions and artificial charm. It is vital that you keep this in mind when your narcissist launches his or her smear campaign.

When the narcissist can no longer feed on your love and affection, they will try to feed on your pain and shame. This is the purpose of a smear campaign. Ironically, there probably are painful things that the narcissist knows about you. Maybe even things you are ashamed of. But those things are likely related to the narcissist themselves. It may be painful, for example, to think about the time that the narcissist cheated on you with someone you work with. You may feel ashamed, for example, to have stayed in the relationship with them after you found out. The reason I say this is ironic is that these details are likely not to be a part of the narcissist's smear campaign. The narcissist cannot effectively shame you in public with these details, because the narcissist's own ugly behavior would be revealed through that disclosure. Instead, what you'll find is that the narcissist's smear campaign is more often made up of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies.

Part of this is the result of the narcissist trying to maintain their own image, but another part of it is the hope that you will rush to defend your honor and tell the truth. Maybe you confront your narcissist and ask them why they're spreading lies about you. Maybe you seek out everyone your narcissist has contacted to tell your side of the story. Maybe you post on your Facebook page, telling all seven hundred of your closest friends, family, and professional network that he or she is a crazy ole liar. But stop. Think about it. If you do any of these things, you're giving the narcissist exactly what they want. They are still feeding off of you. More importantly, you are losing things. Your time. Your energy. Your passion. Your livelihood. You are losing all of those things by wasting them on the drama the narcissist has manufactured.

So I'll say it again. Keep this in the very front of your mind. Write it down on a fucking post-it note and repeat it as a mantra when you light your meditation candle if you have to.

Your reputation is not made up of shallow social interactions and artificial charm.

Unlike the narcissist, you do have a sense of self. You are someone independent of your current circumstances, including where you live, where you work, your current job title, or who you are dating. Take all those things away and you still are someone. Change all those things and you're still you.

Your reputation is not as fragile as the narcissist thinks, because unlike a narcissist's reputation, your reputation has been built over time by the deep experiences and relationships you have had as you have moved through your life. Unlike the narcissist, you don't exhaust work place relationships and friendships every six months to two years, so the people in your life who are close to you have a true understanding of who you are. Don't worry. Your reputation can withstand even a narcissist's elaborate lies. It is less important that you rush to tell anyone who will listen that the narcissist is a liar, and more important that you just continue living your best life as though you don't hear them yammering in the first place. Granted, if it comes up, it comes up. If you have no choice because you've been approached by a boss, a close friend, etc. then sure, set the record straight on a personal level. But there is simply no need to launch an Integrity Campaign to combat the narcissist's Smear Campaign. Just continue being and living as a person with integrity. Your very existence is your campaign.

That being said, I understand that when you have been involved with a narcissist, especially long-term, your self-esteem is probably shaky at best. That's the whole point of going No Contact in the first place. To take the time you need to heal and rebuild. So if you're having trouble believing that the narcissist's Smear Campaign won't work because you're just too awesome (and you are), I get it.

In that case, here is something to consider:

The narcissist is not as powerful as you believe they are. It goes without saying that they're not as powerful as they believe they are - that's why they're a narcissist! But as powerful as you think the narcissist is, as much of an impact you believe they can have on your life, your future, the truth is only a minuscule fraction of that.

Consider that you have been conditioned for weeks, months, maybe even years, to overvalue the importance and opinion of this person. Consider that during every instance of verbal, emotional or physical abuse, your brain was forming biochemical trauma bonds with this person.

Right now, if you even think about this person, you will feel your heart race, your palms sweat. You may even get very still or notice that your vision almost tunnels. That isn't love. That's fight or flight! Consistent abuse has made it such that just the thought of this person makes your brain go into survival mode. That's why everything surrounding them feels like life or death to you. That's the feeling of your traumatic memories being triggered. But even though the narcissist might feel like they are at the center of your life, the reality is that they are not. The power that the narcissist seems to have over you right now is not a fact. It is a perception. One your addiction to them over the course of the abusive relationship facilitated (and even if it isn't physical or romantic, every relationship with any narcissist is abusive) .

If you feel absolutely compelled to respond to a smear campaign, or are just feeling incredibly anxious about one, my best advice is to wait until after the detox to address it. Wait the 90 days and then see how you feel. If nothing else, you will be operating with a clear head, not from a reactive place of anxiety or fear.

What you'll find, though, is that once you stop perceiving the narcissist as they would have you see them, with an inflated sense of importance, you'll be able to see them and the threat of their lies more clearly. They are not an all powerful master of fate, able to destroy your precious reputation with a single text. They're just a bored, miserable person talking shit.

How To Maintain No Contact (or Low Contact)


- Do your best to ignore the narcissist at school or at work, even as they try their best to put themselves in your way. Stay focused on your work and limit your social interactions in those spaces to limit their opportunities to put on their show. Alternatively, employ a buddy system. Stick close to friends that know you don't wish to interact with the narcissist and enlist their help to create a buffer between you if necessary. Narcissists thrive on isolating their victims. You are much less vulnerable to their various tactics when you are not alone.

- Ask your mutual friends not to mention the narcissist to you, and vise versa. You don't have to come out and say that you suspect your ex is a narcissist, nor do you need to disclose the abuse or any other dirty details of the relationship. You can disclose these things if you want to, but that should happen when you decide you're ready to talk about it - not as a reaction to a narcissist who is hovering in your  life. Simply say that you don't want to hear about your ex and your friends (if they truly are friends) will understand.

* Be weary of people who are not respectful of this. It is common for narcissists to have harems, people they surround themselves with who validate their false self image. These people may be, at best, ex-lovers, people the narcissist is grooming for future use (someone they're currently flirting with to prime them), or at worst, other narcissists. If a so-called friend repeatedly mentions the narcissist to you, or you to the narcissist, after you have asked them not to, it may be a good idea to cut contact with them as well for the duration of your detox.

- Go on a social media diet for the duration of your No Contact Detox. Yes - the entire 30-90 days. If you're on a social media diet, you won't see any of the various cries for attention the narcissist may employ on various networks. Additionally, since you won't be posting anything new, it will be harder for the narcissist to know what you are up to, and thus more difficult for them to use other hovering techniques to lurk around in your life

- Cut any financial ties you have to the narcissist ASAP and get it in writing. If you shared a home, bills, a business, etc. - separate your finances as soon as you can. If you have a lawyer, allow the lawyer to handle these communications so that you aren't personally interacting with the narcissist. Anything they left at your home can be mailed - there is no need to meet in person. Anything you left at their home can be mailed to you. If they refuse to mail your things, have a proxy pick them up. If they try to withhold your things unless you agree to meet them, assess whether these are things you really need. Toiletries can be replaced. Ask yourself whether your favorite college sweatshirt is worth the trouble of continuing to engage with the narcissist. Usually it is better to just let these things go and start anew. The same is true for any big plans like vacations or concert tickets. If you paid for it, take someone else. If they paid, forget about it - they can figure out how they want to proceed without involving you. If you split the costs, refund the narcissist ASAP and move on. Change all passwords they may have had access to. If you shared a Netflix, Hulu or a similar account that they are in charge of, there is no discussion required here. Just stop using it and get your own - it is up to them to change their passwords or not. Take charge of your sexual health. Get tested on your own. It is recommended to get tested every 3-6 months depending on how active you are anyway. If you know your status there is nothing the narcissist can pop up and surprise you with later. Lastly, make sure any claims of pregnancy are substantiated, as well as your paternity, before you engage. Do not get sucked into weeks of "what if" scenarios, getting into long conversations about abortions or co-parenting before you're sure there is an actual pregnancy. There are 24 hr pharmacies that sell pregnancy tests that deliver results within minutes. There is no excuse for a scare that lasts more than a day.

- Change your routine if you notice that the narcissist has started to frequent your typical haunts. If they make excuses to shop where you work, or dine at your restaurant, consider transferring to another location and do not disclose your new place of work. It may be tempting to take legal action and get a restraining order, but remember that this kind of attention and drama is what the narcissist feeds on and it may only cause them to escalate, so only resort to this if you have no other options or if the situation has become dangerous.

- Ignore the narcissist's attempts to malign your reputation. Do not respond with a public attack of the narcissist's smear campaign. This is just another ploy to get you to engage. Attention is attention, good or bad.

- Block the narcissist's phone number so that they literally cannot contact you. Once you return to social media, block them there too. There is no shame in doing this. It doesn't make you weak, petty, immature or any of the other devaluing words the narcissist may assign to your attempts to keep them out of your life. Most of the tactics the narcissist will use to try to lure you back in can be avoided altogether by blocking them on all forms of communication.

Often people are reluctant to do these things because they think they will appear weak, or they are afraid of letting the narcissist win. Stubbornly clinging to an arbitrary routine of places and people is not worth it if the price is your peace of mind.

Remember these tactics narcissists use to lure you back in, as well as these preventative tips.

Lastly, for your own happiness and sanity, I would advise that you resist the urge to keep tabs on the narcissist in any way. Most people will find that this isn't even an impulse after the No Contact Detox. For some, however, this isn't the case. Some people have suffered very serious offenses and violations at the hands of their narcissists, which can make it particularly difficult to achieve a sense of closure. It is tempting to keep one eye in the rear view mirror to see whether the universe has righted itself yet and what went around has finally come back around. But the truth is (and this is about to sound corny AF), if you have one eye on your past you aren't fully focused on your future. And you deserve to move on.

Prioritize yourself and move on with your life. Don't get preoccupied with self-defeating ruminations. Don't get sucked into revenge plots. Don't worry about letting the narcissist win.

Forget all about the narcissist. That is how you win.

Also? Nothing pisses them off more. ;)

Helpful Sources for Self Care and Recovery After Being Involved With a Narcissist

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