I was all annoyed and frustrated on Wednesday. I was having a bad day at work and I was tired. What made things even worse was that I made a promise to Julie to cook for her that night. That’s usually something I look forward to but my frustration at work was causing me to look at this as a chore. I was already tired, why should now have to do this extra thing? I wanted to cancel it, I wanted to tell her “let’s go out to dinner instead” but I was afraid. She’d be unhappy, she’d be upset with me breaking my promise and ruining our dinner. What could I do? How could I change our plans without causing a mess? It was moments like this one that had ruined some of my previous relationships. Well, not specifically moment like these but the general way in which I handled them.
I wanted very much to make Julie happy, but the plan for the night was one which was making me unhappy. Seemed like I was screwed either way. If I tried to figure out some other plan, she would be unhappy. If I pretended to be ok with the current plan, she would pick up on it and then we would both be unhappy. I could call her up and tell her how annoying and frustrated I was at work and hope that she picked up on it and suggest a different alternative I suppose, that’s what I would have done in the past, but I hate having conversations like that. It reminds me of the way I used to act and how destructive it was to my relationships.
My Sad Little Story
One of the things I used to struggle with is my desire to make everyone around me happy. Sounds a little silly does’t it? After all, why would this be a problem? People love being happy and I love happy people, sounds like a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, I didn’t do this the right way and it causes no end of problems. For example, if a girlfriend asked me restaurant I wanted to go with, I would think to myself “well, I can find something to eat at pretty much any place we go to so we should pick something she likes” and I would answer with “whatever, you decide.”
It felt so good to say “my desires don’t matter, you decide.” It felt like I was caring and loving and really interested in giving her everything she wants. However, the reality was, I was being a total ass. When I was passive like this, I did two things wrong, I’m was giving up my power and I forced my girlfriend to do my work for me, both of which caused irreparable harm to a relationship.
Giving Up Power
When I tell people “you decide”, I’m telling them, “my wishes aren’t as important as yours”. That’s very different from “I want to make you happy”. A relationship is one between equals, where both have a say in what’s going on. When I say “you decide”, I am giving up my power. If I do this again and again, I will get my partner used to the fact that I am powerless. I will create and reinforce the view in their head that I have no say, I am not an equal partner in this relationship and I am incapable of making a decision. No one wants to have a relationship with someone like this. A person with no power is a servant or a slave, and what’s the fun in that? Even in D&s relationships (and if you don’t know what that is, look it up) the sub never really gives up their power. It’s a voluntary exchange of power that’s usually temporary and can be ended at any time. So in general, forcing your partner to ignore your desires over and over is a bad thing. You’ll eventually end up resenting them for not caring about what you want when it was you who taught them to not care.
Forcing Them To Do The Work
The other bad thing you do when you make this kind of statement is forcing the other person to do work you don’t want to. Remember, they care about you just as much as you care about them (and if they don’t, what the hell are you doing in this relationship?) They want you to be happy. When you say “you decide” you’re actually saying “you pick something we’ll both be happy with because I’m not willing to”. That’s what I’d be doing if I called up Julie and talked about how stressed I was. I would be putting the burden of changing plans on her.
Luckily for Julie and for me, I’ve learned my lessons. Instead of a long and torturous conversation or a long and stress filled meal, I texted her with “I’m a little stressed and don’t feel like cooking. Is that ok?” and she (the awesome woman that she is), replied with “Yep, let’s go out?” and we went out and had a really fun night (warning: German beers will knock you on your ass!). No stress, no mess, just a little bit of honesty between people who really care about each other.
See, I don’t want to spend time with people who are either powerless or who force me to make their decisions for them. If you’re going to be part of my cult, I want you to be someone who’s willing and capable to express their opinion. Sure, you don’t need to be an ass about it. For example, me texting Julie with “I’m stressed, F#$% our dinner and if you don’t like it, too bad!” would probably be less than productive. That would be too aggressive, which is just as bad as being too passive.
Still, I don’t want to spend time with someone who won’t let me know what’s on their mind. What about you? Is there someone in your life you’ve been giving up your power to? Is there someone who’s forcing you to do all the work? These kinds of actions may have the best of intentions behind them but they’re horribly destructive in the long run. So Speak up, say what you think, say what you want and tell the people around you to do the same. Don’t be aggressive, be assertive, but speak your mind.
You’re an interesting person and I want to get to know you. I don’t want to guess at what you want, I want to be told so I can reply back with what I want and then we can figure out a way to get what we both want. Believe me, that’s the way life should be. (As a bonus, once you learn how to be neither passive nor aggressive but simply assertive in stating what you want, you will have the most awesome sex EVER!)
Speaking of which (the stating your wants part, not the sex part), I want to hear from you. I want to know what you want. I love getting emails from readers about anything from their dreams to their problems. I’ve truly enjoyed the emails and connections that have been pouring in since I made that first cult post and I want to keep it up. If you’re willing to share some of your thoughts and dreams on this blog, please let me know. I know it’s scary but it’s also quite liberating.
Postscript: It occurs to me that this is exactly what GK meant when he talked about “leading” in regards to dating. You can’t just sit at the bar and expect the other person to make all the moves. You have to be willing to lead, to suggest, to come up with ideas. Sure, you may be shot down and you need to be open to that, but you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t make that first step.