Thursday, January 24, 2019

She's Never the One

It’s becoming a pattern, if not a habit. People write to advice columnists and fail to include enough relevant information. Thus, it always feels like flying blind. For those columnists who cannot see past their noses, this does not pose a problem. For the rest of us it does.

Today, a woman who apparently does not know better, writes to New York Magazine columnist, Ask Polly, for advice. She wants to know why each of the men she has broken up with has immediately found “the One.” What is it about her that makes her the stepping stone and never the One?

It isn’t an uninteresting question. Since we know nothing about her, beyond her age, and the fact that she has been traumatized by these break-ups, it is difficult to say. We do not know what she doesn’t have or what she has that points men to better women, women she says are more amazing than her. 

For the record, I have doubts that the issue is who is more or less amazing. Men do not marry the most amazing girl they have every met. And they do not think that they are marrying the One.

For all we know, the woman's experiences with men might just be happenstance. Since we are not dealing with a very large sampling, we do not know what she is or is not doing that causes men to make better choices the next time.

She explains that she has been traumatized by these breakups. In truth, most women are traumatized by breakups. It’s the reason why it’s better to marry younger than older. Conventional feminist wisdom suggests that an older more established financially independent women will have an embarrassment of choices, but the 36 year old letter writer is alone and isolated, presumably with her biological clock running down.

We do not know whether she is seeking true love, whether she put career ahead of relationships, whether she wants to marry and have children. We do not know what she is bringing to a relationship and thus cannot surmise why men who break up with her immediately go out and find the women they want to marry and have children with. We do not know anything about her work or career, about her family or friends, or about any of the details about the men she has met.

As for bevy of exes, she sees them all as male personae, not as prospective mates. Whatever makes you think that they would want to play that role in anyone’s life.

But, her issue, somewhat appropriately, involves the question of how it happens that she is wrecked and traumatized by these breakups, to the point where she cannot see clearly or straight, while her male exes seem not to be similarly encumbered. Why does she feel broken while they feel empowered? Why is the spell she casts so easily broken?

In one sense she is simply telling us that  a man and a woman do not have the same experience of a broken relationship. For a woman it is most often a crippling trauma, one that causes her to go into trauma avoidance mode and thus to lose faith in her judgment. For a man it seems to be an opportunity… especially when he feels that he has been liberated from a burdensome girlfriend.

By behaving like a liberated woman she has managed to ruin her psyche and to show men how to choose an appropriate spouse… which meant, someone who was not like her. Again, we do not really know whether or not it was mere happenstance, but clearly these men did not see her as marriage material. And once they had a taste of non-marriage material they might well have discovered that they wanted to find a woman who was marriage material.

Anyway, without further ado here is the letter, in its entirety:

I’m 36. A long time ago, my first boyfriend, of six years, met the love of his life (fast forward to three-plus kids 15 years later) within a week after we broke up. I had ended it. He was extremely doting and spoiled me rotten, but we had good childish reasons to end it. He was totally adoring, however, which really messed me up for future standards of male regard. He and his new wife built this beautiful, creative career and partnership together. After he moved on, I was left feeling utterly disposable, unable to trust love cues, and really jealous of the “new” girls — plural because this became a motif for me. I met a couple more guys in sequence who met the love of their life right after meeting me!

So I began to think I was cursed, a stepping-stone, unlovable, giving these guys the confidence they needed to meet The One. Their partners all happened to be outstanding, successful women, so it made me feel as though there is this unstoppable force of amazing women ready to snatch every decent, single man. This is a form of female toxic incel thinking, and I make myself sick. I am disowning myself, projecting my ass off, and yet I can’t look past the evidence. I am very lonely and haven’t been able to open up to men because of this. Please help me!

Easily Replaced

Naturally, Polly misses the point. Because if she didn’t miss the point she wouldn’t be Polly. You would think that at age 36 Easily Replaced would have gotten over the notion that she needs to find the One, or that she can be the One. She gives us no real sense of wanting to be a wife.

So, Polly believes that it’s misperception, that ER needs merely to repeat to herself that she is amazing… in order to be amazing. According to Polly ER should revise her perception of herself, because she has total freedom to do so. Since Polly is seriously challenged herself she does not understand that the way we see ourselves derives primarily from the cues we receive from other people. See Tasha Eurich’s book, Insight, for the details.

So, Polly writes:

Once you see clearly that we’re all living in our own little terrariums of perception, though, you’re free to spruce up your own moist, stanky environs however you see fit. You are the one person who gets to define how amazing you are. You are in charge of what works for you. When you do what works for you, when you fertilize your little plants and check on your snails and make yourself happy, guess what? You are amazing. Full stop.

Since Polly thinks that other women are snatching ER’s boyfriends, we are happy to note that such is not the case. Other women are snatching up ER’s ex-boyfriends, men that she broke up with or who broke up with her.

And when you tell stories about how much LESS THAN the next woman you are, how you keep being upstaged by scary predatory ladies ready to snatch your doting boy out of your (somewhat ambivalent) hands? That makes you feel like a wilty plant in a desiccated terrarium. You aren’t watering your little buddies. You’re letting your snails go hungry and starve. You’re punishing yourself.

It’s very hard to be amazing when you spend most of your time punishing yourself. I think you should ask yourself why you’re so into these narratives about how you lose and lose and lose. I think you should ask yourself where your shame really comes from. Because it started before you met any of these men. Your inability to open up isn’t caused by these dudes. Your inability to open up is caused by your fixation on this bad story: “These men and their perfect partners prove that I will never be enough for anyone.”

Being a shill for the therapy culture, Polly wants ER to look into her past to discover where the shame comes from. And she believes that ER needs but to rewrite the narrative, to tell a new story, in order to open up to men. That will require her to ignore the signals that the world has been sending her. She would do much better to change her attitude toward love and marriage, to stop thinking of the One and to start thinking of the practicalities of making a life with someone. If she wants dating advice she could do a lot worse than to thumb through a book called The Rules.

Since we do not know how ER behaves on dates and in relationships, we cannot really say whether she is driving men away or is simply boring them to death. If we did we might offer some recommendations for new behaviors.

In truth, ER is terrified about the prospect of opening up to men. It need not have anything to do with her past history. It might be about her inability to process trauma. It might be about her unwillingness to be a wife. It might be that she is unwilling to take account of the signals that the world is sending her, because she has been so traumatized that she is totally self-involved and self-absorbed, dedicated entirely to shielding herself from new trauma. After all, if she stops dating entirely, she will erase the risk of being traumatized by yet another relationship. Might I mention that if she dates a man who has been divorced she will not find herself in the same position.

Her problem is how to get out of herself, not how to get into her own terrarium. Her problem is to reach out to other people, not how to retell her story.

Someone should have recommended a new set of social skills and developing more better friendships. By now she must come across as desperate. She is probably placing too much pressure on her relationships... since that's all she seems to want to talk about. Thus, time to develop some new friendships or to undertake some new social activities. Time to remove some of the pressure and to cease worrying about finding the One.


David Foster said...

"In one sense she is simply telling us that a man and a woman do not have the same experience of a broken relationship."

Actually, I think the trauma level usually has a lot to do with the breaking-up. The person making the breakup decision usually has much less than the one broken-up-with.

Sam L. said...

"Every day in every way, I'm getting better and better." But not for ER. Is bummer.

Anonymous said...

I've wondered this myself, and I'm a guy. I've conjectured that it was because they learned from the experience how to pick "the one" or how to prosecute a relationship so that it would be "the one", while I did not.