Bring On The Bad Guys!

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 9.648% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

If you’re going to date people, you need to get used to being the bad guy.
Not that you should set out to be a black-hatted villain in your relationships, of course.  But as my Momma always said, “If you act like a rug, don’t be surprised to find feet on your face.”* People will, unthinkingly, take what you give them.  If you cancel a night out with the boys to spend it at home with her, she’ll think that the boys couldn’t have meant that much to you.  If hate to interrupt him because he’s blathering on and on and you don’t want to be rude, he’ll think that you’re naturally quiet.
Hence, you need to patrol your boundaries, politely and with a sense of self-investigation, to make sure that people aren’t disrespecting you.
Thing about boundaries is that if they’re violated enough times, and you can’t convince them to stop, then you eventually have to take dramatic action – usually in terms of leaving that person’s company.  And that’s good!  You don’t want to hang around someone who cheats on you, or insults you in front of company, or even just buys a cat you didn’t want and then leaves you to clean up the litterbox.
Problem is, one person’s reasonable request is another person’s threat.  Nobody’s the bad guy in their own story – which leaves you as the villain.  Your “stop insulting me in front of other people” is their “Christ, they don’t know how to take a joke.”  Your “I don’t like cleaning the litter box for an animal I did not request” is her “They hate animals, and are stupid clean freaks.”
And, of course, when you stop seeing them because of things they did, you’re automatically the bad guy.  After all, you left them for some dumb problem nobody else would have cared about!  You destroyed a healthy friendship over something trivial!  I mean, if this was a real problem, they would have fixed it, right?
That means you’re the jerk.
I blame movies for what happens next: you want a sense of closure.  You want that courtroom scene where you face down your enemy, hair wet from the thunderstorm outside, and convince them not only that you were completely justified, but that they should be ashamed of what they did!
Too many people can’t leave without having the story be about them becoming the hero of both people’s stories.  Without their former friend seeing the light, and repenting.
You might as well quit your job and buy tickets at the lottery, man.
So you stay, and you keep fighting in this horrid relationship, and you feel the guilt because s/he thinks I’m bad, there must be something to that, and you wind up in this decaying, ugly relationship with someone who doesn’t respect you.
What’s the solution?
Did you read my first sentence?
Be the bad guy.  Don’t require them to acknowledge your correctness.  Be confident that you know this is disrespectful behavior, and you would feel lessened if you stayed with someone who did that.  Don’t aim for that magnificent sense of closure, because you’ll get it – just not the closure of “S/he agrees with me,” but the scorched-earth closure of apocalyptic battles and eternal enemies.
Walk away.  They’ll think you’re bad.  So what?  Is this their story, or yours?
Be confident that your needs have worth, and that you’re not going to pull the trigger unless it’s that hurtful to you.  Be careful friending new people, lest they wriggle in like this.  And be good.
* – Okay, my Momma didn’t say that.  Nor do I refer to her as “My Momma.”  In fact, I made this up on the spot.  But I was so proud of the way it sounded, I needed to attribute it elsewhere to give it that well-worn patina of “Timeless advice.”

3 Comments

  1. Bethany
    Oct 18, 2011

    Hence, you need to patrol your boundaries, politely and with a sense of self-investigation, to make sure that people aren’t disrespecting you.
    Get out of my head.

  2. Theresa
    Oct 18, 2011

    This is so true. Thanks for posting.

  3. Twilytgardnfaery
    Apr 16, 2013

    Minor point of proof-reading, since you’re looking at using this in the collection you’re going to potentially retool into the book:
    If hate to interrupt him because he’s blathering on and on and you don’t want to be rude, he’ll think that you’re naturally quiet. should, I assume, read If you hate…
    That said, I love your faux-Momma’s advice admission at the end. It’s a good line, to be sure, but I think the caveat at the end just makes it better. That’s probably my slightly warped sense of humor though.

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