Last week’s Shrink4Men articles, 22 Things to Teach your Son about Women (or Not) and Fathers and Mothers: Teach your Children Well, Including your Sons, discuss what we, as a society, teach and don’t teach boys and young men about women and intimate relationships. Our society seems to be solely focused on teaching boys that they must always respect women and “treat them like princesses.”
We neglect the fact that not all women deserve respect (especially if they’re abusive toward loved ones) and that unless a woman was born into the House of Windsor, she’s not royalty. Furthermore, there seems to be a disproportionate amount of material about how men should treat women with love and respect and very little equivalent material regarding how women should treat men with equal love and respect.
Instead, there are articles and books about how to get your man to propose, how to get your man to treat you like a princess, how to take control of your relationship, how to train a man applying the same principles one uses to train a puppy, and, of course, how to screw your man out of all his assets. There are two people in a relationship and both deserve respect and to be treated well. Abusive, entitled and cruel women don’t deserve respect; they deserve contempt and a wide berth.
Recently, a reader sent me the following videos from iCarly, a tween television show, which I find appalling. If this is what we’re teaching children about intimate relationships between men and women, we have a serious problem.
Here’s a starting point for what we ought to be teaching boys and young men about women and relationships:
1. Beware of women who wear their victimhood like a designer gown. There’s a reason this red flag is at the top of the list—it’s a really big red flag. Professional victims are often she-wolves in sheep’s clothing and young men should know this. Professional victims play upon your sympathy and other caring qualities. Eventually, they will use your compassion and sympathy against you.
If a woman tells you on the first date, conversation, email, or text about her abuse history, put your guard up. I don’t care how hot she is or how sorry you feel for her, put your guard up. Being gang raped by the football team at the age of 15 is not, I repeat, not first date conversation material. Neither is, “My dad and/or brother molested me” or “My ex-husbands/ex-boyfriends used to beat me/cheat on me.” In fact, a woman who does this shouldn’t even be considered healthy girlfriend material. It shows an utter lack of boundaries. You want a woman with healthy boundaries and that means no inappropriate early disclosures.
These Too Much Information-Too Soon confidences are warning signs, big ones. If a woman has truly suffered these events, they’re incredibly painful memories loaded with shame, anger, regret and sadness. A healthy woman doesn’t bring these issues up with some guy she just met on MySpace, Facebook, eHarmony, Match, the gym, or a bar in the early getting to know you stage. Think about it. If you had suffered similar trauma, would this be the first thing you’d want a potential girlfriend to know? Of course not.
If a woman blithely tells you about her alleged abuse history within minutes or days of meeting her, you should be alarmed. Ask yourself why she wants a stranger to know these things about her. All you need do is observe your reaction to this kind of information. Do you feel sorry for her? Do you want to protect her? Do you want to fix her? Do you want to show her that you’re “not like all the other men” who wronged her? Do you feel obligated to sit there and listen to her? Do you feel obligated to invite her on a second date?
What you should feel when a woman trumpets her victimhood so early in the process of a developing relationship is violated and unfairly burdened. Essentially, she’s foisting an inappropriate obligation onto you. “I’m a victim and now you know I’m a victim. You’d better be extra careful with me. You owe me special treatment because I’ve been hurt. Anything I may do to hurt you is because I’m a victim and, therefore, doesn’t count. If you hold me accountable for my hurtful behavior, you’ll be victimizing me, the real victim, all over again.”
Healthy people focus on the present and future; not the past and how their lives have been ruined and will be forever ruined. Here’s the thing, once you disappoint someone like this, which is inevitable, you’ll be the villain and she’ll ceremoniously don her victim mantle. This isn’t a potential relationship candidate; it’s a potential life sentence.
Before I get hit with “you have no sympathy for abuse victims” comments and emails, let me clarify some things. First, I publish this site because I’m trying to help individuals who have suffered abuse. Second, abuse victims need to do a lot of work to heal and move past their trauma. An individual who was truly abused and has done the hard work to heal themselves does not want to be seen as a victim. They don’t bask in their past trauma. They don’t use their past trauma as date bait. They don’t use their past victimization to avoid taking responsibility for their bad behavior. They don’t use their experiences as an excuse to hurt, control or abuse others because they know firsthand what it’s like to be hurt. It’s the last thing they want to do to someone else and they certainly don’t want their abuse history be the first thing people know about them.
A woman or man who uses their abuse history as an excuse to abuse others as an adult is just as bad as the individual(s) who originally hurt them. They were victims as children and are now abusers as adults. In my book, when they abuse others in their adult relationships, they lose their childhood victim status. Period.
2. Beware of women who display a general contempt or hatred for men. This one seems like it should be obvious, but sometimes the most obvious red flags are the easiest ones to miss. If a woman you’re attracted to regales you with monologues about what jerks all her ex-boyfriends are, how “all men are the same” or “men only want one thing” or “all men are liars and cheaters,” you need to understand something: This includes you, too!
She may tell you that you’re different or special in the early days of your budding romance, but your exemption card from the “all men are sh*t” belief system has an expiration date. Trust me, you won’t be exempt from her hatred or contempt for anything with a penis for very long. When you inevitably disappoint, anger or hurt her, you’ll be treated like just another “lying, cheating, controlling, loser, bully, wimp, and user man.”
This is especially a red flag if you’re looking for a woman with whom to raise a family. Do you want the potential mother of your potential son to be someone who believes all or most men are duplicitous, lying creeps? Do you want her to raise your future daughter to hate all men and to believe that no man can be trusted, including her own father? If you don’t think this can happen, just read through the comments here on Shrink4Men and father’s rights websites. It happens all too frequently.
3. Beware of women who live high on the hog without any visible means to finance their luxe lifestyle or women who always expect you to pick up the tab. This denotes a basic sense of entitlement, selfishness and an inevitable case of hostile dependency. It also means that should you marry and divorce, she’ll continue to expect you to foot the bill for her *LIFESTYLE.*
No healthy, self-respecting adult expects others to pay his or her way through life without contributing something in return. If she wants to be a stay at home mom while the kids are young, that means taking care of the home and kids without acting like a martyr or pretending that she “sacrificed” her “career dreams” of reaching the top of the corporate ladder with her Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. If a woman expects you to pay her way just for the privilege of being with her (i.e., occasional or infrequent sex) without giving anything else in return for the money you spend on her, she does have a career and it’s the oldest profession in the book.
4. Beware of women who don’t let you have your own feelings. This is so important. I can’t tell you how many men I work with who are in relationships or were in relationships with women who do this. People in relationships hurt each others feelings from time to time. Being in a healthy relationship requires communication and you both need to be able to communicate when you’ve hurt one another and be heard.
If you tell your girlfriend she’s hurt your feelings and she responds by: a) denying that you have feelings, b) minimizing your feelings (e.g., you aren’t really hurt/are too sensitive), and/or c) turning the focus onto her feelings and how she’s really the injured party; just break it off. Don’t waste one more second of your precious time on her. When a girlfriend responds in one or all of these ways, the message is clear: Your feelings don’t matter and you don’t matter. You exist to serve and make her feel good about herself and nothing else. If she can’t acknowledge you as an equal being, that your feelings, beliefs, opinions and rights are just as important as her own, she’s not looking for an intimate relationship; she’s interested in a service relationship. One guess as to who the servant is in this equation.
Please check back in a few days for Part 2. If you would like to share warning signs or lessons we should be teaching young men based upon your own experiences, post them below.
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Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.