For today, a parable, told in the form of one of my embarrassing, failed romances.
For the purposes of this story, I’m going to call this man “Sleeping Bag Man.” The reason is that when he moved to the state I lived in, he was waiting for his furniture to arrive so I brought over a sleeping bag that we used to sleep on the floor together. Even though the relationship fizzled fast, I didn’t want to leave him with nothing to sleep on so I left the sleeping bag over there an extra two months until I had to go retrieve it as an excuse to see him (more about why this was a terrible idea in a moment).
I met him over the internet and talked to him quite a bit. He was new to my city and had set up his plenty of fish profile just before he got to town. He was in the military- very fit, tall, dark and handsome. He seemed sweet and caring over the internet and on the phone. I was excited to meet him.
We made plans to meet up for our first date and everything seemed to go along fine. I dressed up a little, trying to strike a balance between hot and not trying to hard. He wore a red T-shirt and jeans.
The T-shirt said “Smile If You Want to Blow Me.” I dismissed it and tried to reserve judgement. The date went along while he largely talked about himself. He seemed nice enough but did spend a considerable amount of time staring at my cleavage.
Finally, he brought up the red elephant in the room.
“Do you like my shirt?” he said, with the sort of excitement usually reserved for a kid on Christmas.
“It’s interesting…” I said.
“I have a collection of funny T-shirts! This one is my favorite,” he beamed.
“Oh, nice!” I said reluctantly. I thought “oh wow, so there’s more where this came from.”
We eventually finished eating and left the restaurant.
As we stood in the parking lot, he told me he was very impressed with meeting me. I hoped he would call and ask me out again. Looking back, I shake my head that I was so easily flattered and able to blow right past the terrible shirt decision and the cleavage gawking, thinking that we should DEFINITELY go out again.
And call he did. We went out a few more times over the next couple of weeks. Eventually he told me he wanted me to be his girlfriend. I had some looming reservations about the whole thing, namely that our conversations were super boring and he didn’t really understand my sarcastic sense of humor. No matter, I enthusiastically agreed.
I hate to admit it but at that time, I was just happy to feel wanted. Dating had been pretty frustrating up to that point and I was freshly out of a long relationship. I think I was more excited about the idea of having someone to be with than the actual guy.
Once I agreed to be his girlfriend, things started to careen downhill at an alarming rate. I started to realize that not only was the sex terrifyingly bad, so was his judgement. He had no qualms about criticizing what I was wearing, what I said or little things I did. He regularly requested that I wear certain pieces of clothing. He managed to do the requesting in a very flattering way, so I did what I could.
Then, after four solid weeks of hanging out daily, he just stopped communicating with me altogether. To this day, I have no idea why. I called once when I realized I was experiencing the fade, and left it at that all while wondering WTF had happened.
During this time, I left my sleeping bag at his house while I secretly hoped that he would see it and feel obligated to finally call me. I remained hopeful for two months when I finally caved and called him on Super Bowl Sunday because I figured he would probably be home and distracted. I was also darned curious. Surprisingly, he answered the phone and I went right over (that I did this still makes me cringe).
I didn’t press for an explanation and somehow he talked me into staying for the game. I left his house that night, HOPEFUL that we could repair things *facepalm*.
Not shockingly, I never heard from him again.
Whew. Now let’s talk about the things I did that made this process longer and more uncomfortable in the long run. It’s easy to mud sling and make the problem belong to someone else, but harder to examine the behaviors that you used to perpetuate the crappy relationship.
You can either bemoan the fact that you attract weirdoes, or you can try to make the weirdo cycle shorter and stop attracting them altogether. Here is what I learned from this failed, embarrassing, hapless relationship.
5 Glaring Relationship Mistakes I Made In This Situation
1. I acted like a total doormat.
I cringe so hard when I think about this relationship because I never spoke up when I was being disrespected. I didn’t speak up after he disappeared. I didn’t EVER SPEAK UP. Not only did I not speak up, but I continued to remain hopeful after he pulled a Houdini disappearance and tossed me crumbs.
If you don’t respect yourself and actively require it from your mate, no one else will.
2. I was way, way too fast to accept criticism of myself.
Instead of letting him go when he showed me my feelings weren’t important, I stuck around for weeks, hoping it would improve. Now I know better. People are on their best behavior (the best they can give you anyway) in the first 3 months of dating them.
Men who don’t seem to give a shit about your feelings, DO NOT GIVE A SHIT. Not only did I try to go back for more, I didn’t defend myself when I was criticized. I let myself be picked apart and accepted crumbs of admiration rather than requiring better treatment.
3. I continued in the face of extreme sexual incompatibility.
I TRIED to have sex with sleeping bag man. The thing was, he was hung like an elephant and it seriously hurt, to the point where it was like shoving a sleeping bag through the eye of a needle. No amount of me being ready or foreplay could help. It was awful.
The very first time, he just ram rodded it in there and kept trying to go even though I was obviously in pain. My reaction could not be mistaken for happy moans. I actually said “this hurts.” He tried to continue on, undaunted by my cries, until I pushed him off me and said “this is not going to work like this.” One should not ever have to jam their knuckles into their sex partner’s ribs to get them to stop. This is just plain wrong and to be avoided at all costs.
Not only did I think that trying again was vital, the next two times were pretty much the same. Eventually I just gave up entirely and tried to tell myself that sex improves over time as you get to know each other, blah, excuses, blah.
The seeds of bedroom compatibility are really essential. Sometimes there are glaring and serious reasons why your sex life with one person just can’t be as amazing as with another person. If you’re yawning, actively avoiding getting down and saying things like “chocolate is better than sex,” it’s time to take make a serious effort to spice things up and/or make a change.
4. I didn’t retrieve my stuff promptly when it wasn’t working out.
I have always had a weird, guilty feeling about grabbing my belongings from the wake of failed romances. It’s like by removing all of my items, I’m forced to face the cold finality of “It’s Over.” I’ve had to stop leaving my stuff with exes for too long while secretly thinking “I’m sure he’ll look at my sleeping bag/book/earmuffs and want to see me to get them back!” No, this is not the way it works. This only happens in the movies if at all. Mr. Ex won’t see me and suddenly want to ride off into the sunset together while I’m retrieving my shampoo.
Get your mutual stuff sorted out right away after you say or hear “we’re done.” Your sleeping bag/furniture/chia pet/shared bank account should not be used as an excuse to see anyone or a reason why they are still on your mind. I’ve had this hammered into my mind more than once. If he wants to see you, he’ll try and get your attention in a real way.
5. I didn’t run after the “Smile if You Want to Blow Me” T-shirt.
On the surface, I convinced myself that I would be shallow if I didn’t accept a second date based completely on his appearance even though it was nagging at me. The thing was, the shirt was a CHOICE on his part. I wasn’t upset about say, his hair cut or something physical. The shirt was his billboard for the evening.
While some people would get a chuckle out of the shirt, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it said a lot about who he was. As I got to know him better, crass and inappropriate definitely described him. Sometimes the finer details are not small things. Pay attention to them.
Each time I’ve had a failed relationship, I’ve made an effort to think about what I did to contribute. As a result, after each failed experience I’ve learned something big about who I was, what I wanted and what didn’t work. This is critical! It’s never a bad idea to go back and think about your part. This does not mean you’re absolving anyone else of their own bad behavior. You are just making things smoother for next time.