Four years ago I started dating a really nice guy who I liked a lot. He was good-looking, sweet, intelligent and very gentle. Almost everything about our relationship was perfect.
Within weeks we were living like newlyweds, cooking each other late-night dinners and having conversations that lasted from sunset to sunrise with our naked bodies intertwined.
I was happy.
He was happy.
We were perfect.
Or so I thought.
Until one day, the illusion that was our ‘perfect relationship’ came crashing down under the unforgiving microscope of time and my sudden realization.
We were planning a weekend get-away trip, a constant in our monthly agendas. Being two western expats living in China, traveling and exploring gave us a sense of completion and purpose. But, it was always me planning what to do and where to go.
Now I know the previous statement makes me sound like a control freak, but let me clarify—I always asked him where he would like to go and what he would like to see and do, but he always replied by shrugging his shoulders and saying, “You choose. Anywhere we go together I will be happy.”
That sounds sweet right? Almost as perfect as I thought my relationship was. But within the repetition of that statement, lay a great flaw, one that ultimately consumed our entire relationship: my boyfriend was a wuss.
Now men, hear me out before you grab your pitchforks and boycott my words—I am all for sensitive, kind, loving men—they’re fantastic. But I am not referring to those men here, instead I am talking about the men who never take charge, men who always leave life’s decisions up to other people, men who lack the confidence and self-esteem to voice their opinions and assert themselves—those are the men I am referring to.
My boyfriend lacked confidence—the kind that can only be established by asserting it. He was afraid of making decisions. He was insecure and unsure of himself. He was not in control of his life.
At times I imagined us living in prehistoric world, vying for daily survival. I knew I would live, but would he? No. I almost always envisioned him being snatched up by a limp, half-dead, starving dinosaur and I found myself so turned off.
I wondered how I had never noticed this before. Had I been so blinded by appearances and expectations that I was oblivious to his Achilles heel?
The crack in our foundation existed long before we were even able to root ourselves into the surrounding surface, although we had talked in depth about our future and what it would look like.
Once, we were on a day trip planned by me, and an hour after our arrival it was pouring outside and freezing.
Our scheduled day trip tour was interrupted by the weather, and we had nowhere to go. We weren’t dancing in the rain, or holding each other in a café drinking lattes, no—instead we were defeated. I was sick of always planning everything with him limply following along. I decided we should just go home on an earlier train and no shock here– he agreed.
We went to the train station hoping to use our tickets on the next available train. Neither one of us spoke fluent Chinese. Mine was basic as best. His was intermediate and improving daily. He had studied Chinese for three years before moving to China, I studied none until I arrived.
Once we got to the station he refused to approach anyone. “No, let’s just wait for our train, it’s only nine hours away” he said while cowering in a plastic seat. The cold plastic shell represented more than a shallow place to sit.
“No! I want to go home. It’s raining. Our entire day is ruined, everything I planned wasted. Please ask someone if we can exchange our tickets,” I pleaded in between shivers.
“They won’t let us exchange them Tash. Let’s just wait. It’s not that long. You planned this. Didn’t you look at the weather?!” He replied defensively as if I was a professional meteorologist or travel planner he had paid as a tour guide. I stared at him in disbelief as my feet went numb from the freezing rain. “Can you please ask them if we can get an earlier train?” I begged again.
“No! Let’s wait.” He insisted, stubbornly annoyed by my question.
“Fine, I’ll go ask how to exchange the tickets myself.” I replied, undeterred from his helplessness.
I limped forward, with my numb feet dragging behind me that smelled like a pile of cow manure (spoiler alert: I wasn’t wearing socks). I could see the disgust on the train attendant ‘s face as I walked toward him. He was probably wondering what bad vibes he swallowed that day to be approached by such a smelly gwai lo (white devil).
“Ni Hao!” I said proudly, in my most convincing Chinese accent. He glared at me un-amused trying not to acknowledge my presence as his nostrils flared in the other direction. I spent the better half of the next 20 minutes trying my best to ask him if we could change our tickets to an earlier time as he held his hand over his nose and looked on in confusion and bewilderment clearly not understanding my request.
Finally, after what felt like hours of tortuous foreplay via charades and my broken Chinese, we were given tickets for the next train. I felt confident and proud, regardless of my stinky feet and smeared make-up.
“Eww your feet really stink.” My boyfriend said to me as we boarded for our train. The train he could have gotten us on in five minutes or less while I spent more than 20 minutes trying to organize our departure. The train which– if we had waited for our original seats– would have come 9 grueling hours later.
“You stink.” I snapped back, annoyed by his lack of regard for our situation and our relationship in general.
I began to feel like his parent not his partner, and I quickly realized he was not invested in me nor our relationship. Instead, he used me as a shield, to protect him from facing himself.
I ended things after our trip. I wanted a partner who would be an active participant in the relationship, not a passive one waiting for someone else to do all of the work and make all of the decisions.
So men, here are a few pointers on how to stop being a wuss and start being a desired man:
1. Assert yourself
Know who you are, and be happy with the man you see in the mirror. Let go of your insecurities- they don’t serve you. If there are personality flaws making you unhappy, find ways to fix them. For example, if successful women easily intimidate you, find ways to be more successful yourself, doing whatever makes you happy.
2. Be Independent
Have friends outside of your significant other and her circle of friends. Spend time alone, and enjoy doing it. Remember, if you don’t want to be alone with yourself no one else will either.
3. Have An Opinion
Without bringing your own ideals, thoughts and passions to the table you become a passive observer and a boring boyfriend. Color outside of the lines, be open to new ideas, and be open to sharing your own.
4. Stop Being a Pushover
This goes for both life and relationships. Being a pushover isn’t sexy. Ever. Pushovers almost ALWAYS get taken advantage of and then dumped. Women like to be challenged, and any men who let women walk all over them will not be seen as an equal in the relationship.
5. Don’t Expect Her to be Your Mom
Expecting your girlfriend to play Mommy for you is just plain weird. Don’t have her make all of the ‘should be’ joint decisions. Don’t expect her to do your laundry, cook you dinner and clean up your messes (once in a while is okay, as are shared chores, but this should never become an unappreciated expectation). If you have mommy issues that are making you insecure and unable to be an equal participant in your relationship then work them out with your mom. If that isn’t an option, find the root causes of the issues and set them free.
Ultimately, the key to harvesting a successful relationship is by first establishing a successful self. Figure out who you are. Ask yourself the tough questions like, “what makes me happy?” “Who am I?” “What do I want out of this life, this experience?”Find your own happiness and live it. Don’t wait for a woman to save you. Instead be the yin to her already completed yang.
Be confident. Be kind. Be adventurous. Be passionate. Above all, be your true self.