Recently a friend shared with me how her boyfriend of nearly 8 months ditched her for a period time on their last date without saying anything to her. It seems they were out with a crowd of people and he simply disappeared for a while with another one of the guys from the group. My friend was not really left alone. She was with other people she knew, but she was in a different city about 30 minutes away from her place and dependent upon her boyfriend for a ride home. He was not even in the same location with her for over an hour of the time they were out on their date. When they met back up again, my friend, smart cookie that she is, ended the date and insisted that her boyfriend take her home. He was surprised that she had had enough for the evening and was calling it a night a good two hours before the time they originally planned the date would end.
Surprised? He was surprised that she was not going to put up with his bad behavior as if what he’d done was perfectly acceptable.
Another friend, recently met a man and went out with him for a first date. He showed up dressed in an old tee shirt and a baseball cap. While on the date, this man did not offer to buy her drinks but allowed her to buy his and did not say thank-you. She never went out with him again.
Surprised? Are you surprised that she was not going to put up with his bad behavior?
A third friend went out with a man who was attractive, intelligent, and paid without flinching for the drinks on their first meeting. He went overboard to express his interest in her and to ask for a second date. He told her he’d call her in two days. He kept his word. When he called he suggested they do something the next Saturday, she agreed. He told her he’d call later that week to firm something up. He called at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. She saw the call ring in on her phone, recognized the number and let it go to voicemail. She continued on with the plans she’d made for herself that evening after not having heard from him by midweek. What were those plans? A home pedicure and a quiet evening in…alone. When I spoke to her later about her thinking she said this, “I have better things to do that to waste time on someone who demonstrates such bad behavior.” I asked her what she’d do if he called again? She said, “He won’t, but if he does, it won’t matter. He had his chance and he already blew it.”
Surprised? Was my friend playing games in the way she dealt with the man’s bad behavior? Was she too harsh?
Bad behavior. It happens. Men behave badly toward women and women behave badly toward men. It is not my intent here to point out or villify one sex over the other, but for the puposes of this article, I am speaking mostly of men and their bad behavior with women. I do recognize however, that the relational road is a two way street and both sides get mistreated.
We put up with the bad behavior because we are so afraid of losing the relationship. This is something I have been guilty of more often than not in the past. A guy says he’ll call, then doesn’t. A guy calls at the last minute for a date that evening. Worse, he pulls the typical 11:00 p.m. bootie call. (Now, that I’ve never put up with not even in my college days when it was normal for a date to start at 11:00!) A guy takes a woman out to a party then ignores her the entire evening. A guy spends his time looking over every female that walks by while out on a date with you, his girlfriend, of a year. A guy says he loves you and wants to get married, two years later a date is still not set and he is waffling. The guy says he wants to move in. The scheduled date for moving in comes and goes and he and all his things are still not in the same residence with you and yours. Bad behavior. We put up with it because the alternative in most cases is kicking the guy to the curb. We don’t kick the guy to the curb because that means so many unpleasant things.
It could mean loss of the relationship. If it does, then there go the dreams, the hopes the imaginary future you’d built in your head about all the possibilities you two could have had/done together. It means you now do not get to check the “in a relationship” box on MySpace or Facebook. If the relationship tubes, it means pain and loss and grief and anger. It may mean some lonely nights in front of the t.v. with a box of Kleenex. It could mean some self recrimination as you wonder, “Why on earth did I waste so much time hoping he cared about me the way I cared about him when it was so evident he did not?” It could mean a complete change in living accommodations and lifestyle and standard of living. It could mean so many things that are seemingly worse than just tolerating the bad behavior.
But tolerating the bad behavior is damaging to us. By tolerating bad behavior from anyone, we devalue ourselves and risk losing or crippling our confidence and our self-esteem. No one needs to tolerate bad behavior on the part of a significant other. We also don’t need to respond to the bad behavior with similarly bad behavior.
Bad behavior happens. So, what to do when it does?
Well, to answer this question, one must first be very clear about what they want from relationship and what they will not tolerate. Once one is clear about these things, the rest is fairly easy. Simply do not tolerate the unacceptable behavior. No need to get mad. No need to get upset. No need to waste any time wondering if he’ll change or call or apologize. Just don’t tolerate it. No explanation is needed.
I hate to sound so callous, but seriously? If he’s treating you that badly before you’re in a “committed relationship”, what will he treat you like after? It generally doesn’t improve. Further, why waste any more time in relationship that is mediocre, unsatisfactory, disappointing or just not working? Life is too short and there are plenty of decent men out there ready, willing and able to treat a woman they care about with dignity, respect and integrity.
So, how would I have done each of those scenarios if I were taking my “No Tolerance” approach?
In the case of the first friend whose boyfriend took off for an hour without saying anything to her, I wouldn’t have waited out the hour to find out that he was gone for over an hour. I’d have either asked a friend to take me home or called a cab the minute I found out he was nowhere around. I would not go out with him again. If he called and offered some lame-ass excuse for his behavior (which is the only kind he could offer in such a circumstance) I would politely listen. I would not offer an explanation for my behavior other than possibly to say, “There’s just not much about that entire episode that interested me that much.” No need to discuss. End of call. I would screen any further calls. No tears, no drama, no need. I’m worth being treated better than that. At minimum, I’m worth an explanation and the opportunity to say I want to go home if the plans have changed. Further, I would not have done that to him.
In the case of my friend who’s date showed up for the first date dressed carelessly and who behaved carelessly, I would have ended the date within an hour. Fortunately for her, they arrived in separate vehicles and she was free to leave when she wanted without having to depend upon him for a ride. (I’m a big advocate of doing this if the date is a first date with someone you don’t know very well or if it is someone you are meeting from online.) I would not go out with this person again and I would screen all calls as well. If it doesn’t matter to you how a man dresses or presents himself publicly and if you don’t mind being his bankroll then this behavior might not bother you. It goes back to being very clear about what you want and what you don’t want. The direction I am steering my life, has no room for someone who cannot move fluidly from a nice formal occasion to a tee-shirt and jeans and back again as needed depending upon the occasion. Knowing this about myself, helps me eliminate the would be contenders for my affection that aren’t a good fit, no matter how nice they seem to be. And, no, there’s not much about being someone else’s bankroll that interests me all that much. That’s what I do for my children, not for my lover. I’m not opposed to bringing what I can to the financial table, but he needs to be willing to contribute too.
In the case of the third friend whose date didn’t call until the night of the date, I’d have done exactly what she did and I have on several occasions. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: when a man is crazy about a woman, he doesn’t let her phone grow cold. He doesn’t wait until the last minute to call. He doesn’t give her his number and hope she’ll call him. Again, I know what I want and what I will not tolerate. I want a guy who is crazy about me and a guy who doesn’t call simply is not. He’s not shy, he’s not busy, he’s not unable to call, he’s simply not interested. That doesn’t work for me.
It’s just bad behavior and I have already used up all my bad behavior moments in this life. They’ve all been spent on past relationships, enduring very bad behavior when I should have been moving on and enjoying my life. Instead, I allowed myself to experience a great deal of misery and pain which I could have avoided by recognizing the bad behavior from the start instead of overlooking, ignoring or excusing it. I only have time and energy left in my life to spend on giving the best of me (which is my time and energy) to those who are really truly going to appreciate it.