I am not a man basher and I have no time for women who are (as much as I am not a woman basher and have no time for men who are). However, I have witnessed far too many men attempting to undermine their partner or steal their thunder… and, having been on the receiving end of it myself, I know exactly how destructive it can be to a relationship. Any man who regularly indulges in this behaviour needs to remember that, ultimately, he will pay the price. And why? Because she will either cave in and become a shadow of the woman she once was (just to keep the peace) – or she’ll come to despise his selfishness and weakness and leave him behind.
Now, make no mistake about it, this behaviour is not harmless – it is insidious. It often begins in a small way and when it isn’t over the top it can slip through the net. However, once it starts it tends to spiral – which is why it must be nipped in the bud as quickly as possible. And even initially supportive men can become the crushers of their partner’s aspirations and achievements. Let me give you an example. She wants to make something of herself; she embarks on a fitness programme and commences studying for a degree – whilst continuing to work and earn money. At first he is encouraging, and in return she encourages him to explore his own potential (because he says that is what he wants). However, it becomes more and more clear that the better she does the worse his attitude becomes – until he eventually admits that he is worried that she’ll leave him behind. She discovers that he’s been up to dubious behaviour behind her back – his excuse being that he wants more attention… whilst he’s sitting on his backside talking about the stuff he’s going to do someday and watching her make his life easier in every way possible. She’s single now and he’s sorry. End of.
Another example. It’s her shining moment – she’s worked long and hard to reach this point and it is her big night. What does her partner do? Sulk, and announce that he needs reassurance. Right there, in the middle of it all. Reassurance about what though, is the question? And why now, tonight? He spoils the evening she has worked so hard for – whilst denying that he has. The thing is, he is a nice guy and he does love her. But he’s also insecure and her success causes him to feel inadequate. Which is his problem, not hers. She’s chosen to push herself, even through bouts of illness, and to pull herself along when the going’s gotten tough. He’s made different choices – and she shouldn’t be punished for that.
I remember my ex husband throwing his dinner, including the plate, into the kitchen sink, whilst yelling at me that I think I’m ‘someone’ now that I’m writing a small column in a weekly newspaper. It wasn’t even a big deal, and I didn’t do it for long because I was supposed to answer the world’s problems in a few inches of print space, whilst being severely limited in what I could say by a nervous editor. It was an accusation that came out of the blue but had obviously been really getting to him. Thinking about it, I have no memory of my ex ever being proud of me in any way. He continually wanted to be top dog and if his behaviour was ever questioned, the first reaction was always “stop trying to f*****g control me!” I did once ask, “if you’re so controlled how come everything is my job?” and he didn’t have an answer. He even stopped saying it – temporarily, at least.
I have known women whose partners have refused to look after the children when they want to have an occasional night out with friends. I have known others who have been promoted at work – and all of a sudden their partner starts talking about having another baby. Or accusing them of placing their job ahead of the family. I have produced consultations for women in which I can see that if they follow their ambitions their partner will be supportive… but only up to a certain point. And I have urged them not to put themselves on the backburner in order to keep the peace and to satisfy an insecure partner. Because that is what it all boils down to: insecurity – and lack of drive. And the assumption is that the woman should come down to his level, rather than him rise to hers. Sadly, there are women (usually of the older generation) who support their sons when they are exhibiting this repressive, controlling behaviour – because they themselves have never yearned for anything other than everyday life. And so the aspiring partner is made to feel wrong and selfish – and she either miserably shuts up and puts up, or she rebels… and eventually leaves.
Of course, I have seen women subject men to this, too, though it does tend to be more of a masculine approach. And the men I have seen struggling with this problem have all seemed very depressed. Also, I imagine that it goes on in same sex relationships, too. Regardless of gender, when all is said and done, it is a power play – a selfish desire for control. And it can kill love stone dead.
The world of online dating is also rife with this misogynistic ugliness. I know of many, many gorgeous, intelligent young women who have discovered just how difficult it can be to meet a guy who genuinely isn’t challenged by an ambitious female. Oh, they start off by saying all of the right things – but eventually it becomes clear that they don’t really like it and off they go… in search of the fantasy bimbo who doesn’t expect actual conversation (unless it’s about him), and who isn’t more successful than they are. I have been told several times about the dick-pics (what??) and the introductory statements, such as “I want to f**k you.” Oh wow, stay away girls – this stud is mine! On the other hand, I am sure that there are plenty of guys who have been left broken-hearted by cruel divas… but probably not because they sent them unrequested vagina pics (ah yes, those good old double standards). Men who are secure within themselves and therefore not challenged by an ambitious female do exist – but maybe they’ve all already been snapped up! And, I like to think that those who have had to learn the hard way (by losing the woman they claimed to love whilst doing their best to hold her back) have changed their mindset and attitude. Maybe for every hundred potential matches that ghost an intelligent woman when he realises that constantly talking about himself isn’t enough to have her eating out of his hands, or that by sending an unrequested picture of his genitals isn’t going to lead to anything other than being deleted, there will be one who is genuinely worth getting to know. But who has the time and energy to sift through that frustrating, grubby, bottomless bran tub?
Having said that, online bad behaviour is one thing; resenting a partner’s achievements and ambitions is a far more serious crime. And unless our insecurity is genuinely the result of our loved one’s attitude and actions, it is our own problem to solve – not theirs. Our mental and emotional state is our own business and it is up to us to take the appropriate steps to make it more healthy – if that is what is required. With help, of course; no man or woman is an island. However, first of all we have to admit that we have a problem. It isn’t acceptable to want to rain on our partner’s parade because we feel inadequate or insecure (unless of course they are deliberately making us feel that way). And denying that we are doing so when we know full well that we are (and we do know), is adding insult to injury. We shouldn’t try and drag them down to our level; we should either aspire to their level… or find a partner who wants less from life and therefore doesn’t challenge us. As I said at the start, I am not a man basher (I don’t even consider myself to be a feminist – at least not in the modern understanding of the term) – I just can’t stand seeing smart, hard-working women with ambition and vision being treated as if they are the ones with the problem… especially when they start to believe that maybe they are. NO, ladies, NO. Don’t buy into it. Let him p**s or get off the pot (or fall into it… up to his neck)!