Over parts one and two I’ve been discussing the age old tradition of women standing by their men. It’s not that I’ve got anything against being loyal and loving to men, or sometimes having to stay when they’ve let you down, but I find that women who talk about standing by their men often stand by men…who aren’t standing with them. This societal expectation that women should stick like glue…even when there’s nothing to stick to and it’s greatly unappreciated or even unacknowledged, means that we’ve been taught that it’s a woman’s job to commit.
If you’ve been reading Baggage Reclaim for long enough, you’ll know that relationships are the sum of two people. When one person is trying to be the heart and soul of the relationship, it will flounder, because for a relationship to have a decent chance of lasting the distance and you both being happy within it, you need two people with both of their feet in the relationship.
Many women, however, are getting to find out that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink from the fountain of commitment.
This expectation and assumption that we must stand by men is incredibly dangerous, because in teaching women to stand by their men, the onus is on us to do the hard work and commit whilst waiting for the men to decide if they’re going to catch up and join us.
This is why red flags will be ignored, boundary crossing is the norm, and women end up losing themselves by laying themselves on the sacrificial alter in the hope that one day they’ll be a big pay off.
A lot of things have changed about relationships in the past ten years even, and technology has really impacted on the ability for us to make connections both on and offline, but also how much of a distance we can keep from relationships – I have written before about the use of technology for lazy communication in relationships.
In the ‘olden days’, before there seemed to be this sudden desire for there to be no boundaries, expectations, or commitmment in relationships, if you stood by your man, there was a strong likelihood that one day the (cough) dog would find its way home…
Now, I have come across thousands of women who have stood by men only to be left high and dry when he takes off elsewhere.
Online dating and the modern notion that there are plenty of fish in the sea means that you have even less likelihood of your loyalty being appreciated.
Standing by your (broken) man is a code phrase for ‘kick me’.
It says, ‘I will love you unconditionally even though you may not be in this relationship the way that I am in it, and I will have absolutely no boundaries so that you get to be you and I get to lose myself trying to accommodate your whims’
It says, ‘No matter what you do, I’m going to be there’.
It says ‘I’m afraid to try to do better myself because I don’t even know who the hell I am anymore as everything is built around you’.
Stand by your man is a code phrase for settling.
You don’t hear people who are in healthy relationships having to talk about or explain that they are standing by their man. You also don’t hear men going on about standing by their woman. Why? Because they’re not ingrained with the same social messaging as women, but also, certain types of men just assume you will be there anyway, because, like, that’s what women do – note my sarcasm…
I am all for love, loyalty, respect, care, trust, care and all that jazz, but as I keep telling you all, we don’t live in an ideal world and we mustn’t keep subscribing to the frickin fairy tale.
In an ideal world, kindness would beget kindness. You’d love someone, they’d love you back. You’d love someone, they’d behave with a modicum of decency.
But deciding that you love someone and want a relationship with them doesn’t come with an IOU for the recipient where they automatically reciprocate in the way that you expect, and it also doesn’t mean that they’ll be committed and behave as someone would in a loving, healthy relationship.
If you stand by a man who is committed to you, loves, trusts, respects, and cares about you, whilst also being respectful of your boundaries, your emotional investment is a good investment.
However throwing love at someone who doesn’t love you back or doesn’t behave like someone who loves, trusts, cares and respects you, even if they talk a good game, is a bit like ploughing more emotional money into a bad investment.
If you stand by a man who is not standing by you, you’re alone.
Standing by your man when there is either no relationship to stand by or the relationship has issues that may render it unlikely to get off the ground puts the guy on a pedestal.
If you stand by a man who you have put on a pedestal, the balance is dangerous as he is looking down on you.
The man that gets stood by doesn’t learn about consequences. Instead he learns that you will be there regardless and so unless he has a divine intervention, he actually has no impetus to change. Change is pretty damn difficult for the great majority of us and if there is no genuine motivation to change, we won’t – we take the easy route.
Many women assume that being loved is a reason in itself for the other person to change. But if the person doesn’t recognise or acknowledge it, but more importantly want and value it, why the hell will they feel the desire to change?
If there are own insecurities and fears are bigger than any feelings they have for you, they won’t change.
We may think that in time they’ll see it, but maybe they will…or maybe they won’t. There’s nothing to say that if they do change that it’s your love they’ll want.
Choosing broken men is partly about healing ourselves. They finally do and give us what we want, we feel infinitely better about ourselves. But choosing a man that doesn’t want to stand by you and with you but still standing by him says a lot about him. At some point you have to ask yourself how much of what you’re standing by is an illusion? Either betting on the potential or hoping that he’ll maximise brief qualities that he’s exhibited.
If your relationship has boundaries and there is love, trust, respect, and care, it is a hell of a lot easier to stand by someone through the good times and the bad because you’re together. It’s not about being happy clappers all the time because that’s not real life, but some people don’t want to be fixed, healed, or helped, and the reality is that if you had better self-esteem, some of the behaviour that you stand by would be completely unacceptable making the relationship a non-starter.
A reader recently said to me that she separates the behaviour from her man, i.e he is not the behaviour, but at some point you need to put the sh*tty behaviour with the man and put two and two together and make four and realise that with one, you get the other.
We’ve really got to start connecting the dots in our relationships and making choices, even when they are painful because until we believe that we deserve better, we don’t act like we deserve better and back away from poor behaviour.
Instead of standing by your broken man, part of your healing is learning to stand by yourself.