When friends ask too much and give little in return, is the relationship doomed? And a well-meaning boyfriend asks if he can take a break from daily sexism. We’d love that, too, bro.
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Aren’t friendships supposed to be easy? I have a friend whom I’ve known since we were kids, so I’ve grandfathered her crazy shit in, because honestly I wouldn’t put up with this insanity with anyone else. Making plans with her is a friggin’ nightmare. Example: It has to be early because she wilts by 9 p.m. It has to be gluten-free and vegan and alcohol-free and in her part of town. She’s single, I’m married with kids, and I just need it to be easy. But if I don’t make it easy for her, which is to say hard for me, she thinks I’m being a jerk, that I am letting our friendship go. At this point, I’d kind of like to, except we have too much history. She can be as needy as she can be fun, and yes, believe it or not she can be fun—she’s hilarious. But I need her to meet me halfway and not text me all day and make demands and … you get the picture. I’m already juggling a job and a spouse and a kid, and with joy, I might add, but it’s a lot to get through a day sometimes, that to add what feels like another obligation.
The thing is, I’ve told her she’s got to go a little easier on her friends—hi, me! And she says she’s trying. But I’d like to see her try a little harder. Do I have another futile talk, or do I just put her on ice, or … what? I understand why she’s a pain in the ass, like I said, we have a long history, our parents are old friends, and I know where she gets it, and I love the shit out of her, but, MY GOD, she is not helping my life right now.
It sounds like you already know the answer to your question. Once you are using the word obligation to describe someone, the friendship is over, right? Are you writing to ask me for permission to dump your friend? If so, permission given. Gluten-free and vegan and alcohol-free is too much. Pick one annoying thing, Friend.
You know your friend is too much. And since you’ve been friends for such a long time, you should be able to freely tell her that. Just the other day a friend I’ve known since seventh grade reached out and asked me to get my life right about some bullshit I’d done and you know what I said? “Yeah girl, you right. Thank you for being a friend.” Because that’s how friends respond to constructive criticism from people they know love them and want what’s best for them. If you think you’re going to get a different response than that, then part of you must already think this friendship isn’t as close as it once was.
Maybe what you’re really afraid of is that if you ask for a more equitable relationship she is going to say no. And then you will find out what you kind of already know, that you are not as important to her as she is to you. And that is going to be a painful realization so you are trying to avoid it. I say state your needs clearly like, “I need you to also be considerate of my needs and wishes when we make plans. I can’t be the only person in this relationship who makes concessions.” If she says, “Yes I will come to dinner in your neighborhood and manage to order something vegan and gluten-free from a normal-ass restaurant and if it takes longer than til 9:01pm to hang out with my good friend, I’ll deal,” then cool! If she blows up, or says she can’t accommodate you, or says she will but in that way that you know she won’t, then you have your answer. Having the answer is better than not having the answer.
Alternatively, you could not say anything and just let her fade into being the kind of friend you just invite over when you’re having a party with a big group, and to weddings and funerals and shit. It’s okay for relationships to just change and grow apart. Also, and this is advice everyone can use, the best way to stop someone from texting you all day is to just stop answering their text messages. I guess the nicer version of that would be to say, “I have a hard time answering a lot of texts during the weekday, I may have to wait for the evening or a weekend to answer them,” and then stop answering them. But seriously, just stop. Anyone who sends more than three texts in a row without a response is a terrorist.
You know what to do. As Roxette would say, listen to your heart.
TV might be ruining my relationship.
My girlfriend and I have always shared a love of pop culture, especially television. Our idea of an ideal date is to curl up on the couch to binge-watch our favorite shows–from comedy specials to procedurals that make our minds spin.
Lately, however, TV has become a bummer, and a bit of a cock blocker. It seems every show my girlfriend wants to watch has male-bashing or dystopian undertones that make her either sad and despondent, or furious. I love the acting on The Handmaid’s Tale, but not so much how it typically leads to my girlfriend drinking more wine than normal and wanting to go to bed early–alone. Westwold, which used to satisfy our shared love of sci-fi, now leads to long post-viewing rants on male power (legitimate, but not what I’m hoping to talk or think about before going to bed, hopefully with her). The new show, Dietland, is supposed to be a comedy, right? But her nodding along to terrorists intent on killing off men makes me a little uneasy, as do the interrogating “questions” she has for me afterwards: “You agree that it’s justice, don’t you?” Umm…
Even comedy late night has become a downer. We used to tune in to The Daily Show, Colbert, and SNL for the laughs, but now they’re so over-loaded with politics that they bum me out, and often lead to bickering.
Look, I’m a guy who gets that men are responsible for all the world’s problems. I understand that #MeToo has sparked an awakening in most women. I feel the anger everywhere, not just from my girlfriend, but from women at work, or even on the subway. I consider myself an ally to women. I listen to my girlfriend’s thoughts and fears and complaints. I speak up if I hear another guy tell a sexist joke. I get that the world is burning and we need to stay politically engaged and up on the news. But we all need breaks, and TV used to be our brief escape from it all, something my girlfriend and I shared and took pleasure in, and I miss that.
I don’t want to dismiss my girlfriend’s viewing choices altogether, but how can I delicately suggest she watch some of these shows alone?
A Guy Who Misses Must-See TV
Dear Must Not See,
My dude, WHAT!? You have a problem in your relationship. I don’t know what caused it, but I can tell you what for sure didn’t: the inanimate box in your house. TALK TO YOUR GIRLFRIEND. Find out what is going on with her. It seems like she is going through a difficult time right now, and figuring out which TV show will help her ignore her feelings is not the best way to be supportive.
I know you’re going to hate this response because I am now adding to the list of women on the subway, and at work, and at your house, expressing anger towards you. And I know this is going to be hard to read, so I’m specifically stating that I am saying it out of love and a desire to help: maybe you are getting so much anger from women because you are doing something wrong. I know you consider yourself a “woke” dude and you are aware of the systemic oppressions that women face, and that is great! That puts you in a category above the dudes that don’t understand those things. But you’re still pissing a bunch of women off. So maybe you aren’t 100 percent where you need to be in your allyhood? If even the ladies on the subway are giving you the side eye, the universe is working really hard to send you this message. …Or, and this is far more likely, the women on the subway are minding their own damn business and you are imagining that they are mad at you because a part of you is experiencing some guilt and knows that you can do better. Here’s what is definitely not happening, women are not pointing their free-floating man anger at you just because you are a man. I have many men in my life who are amazing allies who I don’t feel angry towards at all. Then I have a few men in my life who want to be allies but still talk over me in meetings, or mansplain to me, or do other gender-based microaggressions and those are the ones that cause a tiny anger fire in my belly.
I know you feel like a good guy who deserves a break because you speak up when you hear a sexist joke and first of all, thank you, a lot of guys don’t do that. But that’s kind of a low bar when it comes to overturning the patriarchy. You’re asking for a break from hearing about sexism, but here’s the thing about experiencing systematic oppression: women and people of color never get a break.
So when you say, “I just want a break from hearing about the sexism my girlfriend is experiencing” what you’re really saying is, “Even though you have to experience this literally all the time, I deserve a break from just hearing about it.” That’s pretty sexist. No it’s not attacking a woman, or even making jokes about attacking a woman. But it is assuming that you deserve an easier experience than the one that women have. It is a form of feeling superior to women. So when you get tired of hearing about the systematic oppression of women, maybe go to a march, or volunteer for a candidate, or make a donation to Planned Parenthood, or do something that has a hope of helping to alleviate it. That would also give you and your girlfriend something positive you can do together that might help her feel better about the state of things.
Next time you are watching television and your girlfriend turns to you and says, “Yes, don’t you agree that all men should be murdered for their crimes?” press pause and say “Wow, you seem really upset. I’m sorry the world is making you feel this way. Let’s talk about it.” And TALK TO YOUR GIRLFRIEND.
You seem like a good dude who is trying. Don’t ruin your relationship by trying to ignore the hard parts, bro. Also, thank you for the recommendation, Dietland sounds awesome.
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