Help me stop becoming a man-hater/bitter ice queen
June 6, 2014 9:20 AM   Subscribe

I used to be a soft, sensitive, hopeful young woman but too many knocks is making me feel hard, and it shows. I am too young to feel this way, help me figure out new thought processes to prevent this from getting worse.

I am becoming increasingly angry. Generally. I am not someone who is violent or rude to strangers or my friends, that's not what I mean... but any time I become friendly with a man and it doesn't work out my brain immediately says "yeah, well, he's a man, DeadFlagBlues, what did you expect?". Any time a man does absolutely anything at all that is not to my liking I chalk it down to his gender. I know this is ridiculous, and dangerous. I am creating a space in my brain where I am the defender, and men are the enemy. I am becoming increasingly abrasive, distrustful and HURT. I can't let my guard down anymore. If I meet a man I like, I regard him with contempt. It's bizarre.
I worry that this will stand in the way of any future chance of happiness I may find with another person (well, who am I kidding - it is definitely going to get in the way). I am 30 years old and all of my relationships have been with the wrong kind of men. I'm one of those types that, once in love, turns into a bit of a door mat I guess so I tend to attract bullies, even though, outwardly I'm very confident, self-assured and 'tuff'. No idea how this happens but it hasn't helped my attitude any obviously, even though I've been in therapy tirelessly trying to figure out what the fuck is up with that.

It's all very counter-productive because I don't want to be single for the rest of my life. I *want* a partner eventually. I have been single for two years so this does not seem like a large ask. I think whats added to my bad attitude is I have been on online dating sites for nearly 5 years off and on and have, as you do, crossed paths without a lot of time-wasters/liars/flakes and now when I'm on there I just grunt at them all. So I deleted my accounts, but then I wasn't meeting anyone ever! I work with women, I study with men that are 10 years younger than me, and the community groups I'm apart of are also full of women. I figured it was worse believing no men exist than despising them so I reactivated my accounts.

I work hard to keep my life full - I play the drums and the guitar, I exercise, I see a therapist, I have friends, I study, I work... but underneath it all, I'm burning and just getting hotter, and hotter and hotter.

Also worth mentioning is that most of my friends are actually male so it seems to be localised to men I don't know/have dating potential. BAH.

Has anyone else experienced this kind of anger and disappointment but been able to pull it back and change it around? Or have any idea of things I could do to make me feel more positive about the dating game? I am usually a pretty resilient optimistic person... but I'm turning into a fucking arsehole. And no one wants an arsehole, except their own.
posted by DeadFlagBlues to Human Relations (21 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
One major thing missing from this question: why are you so angry in the first place? The answer to that question will guide how you approach solving this.
posted by zug at 9:33 AM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you read a lot of sites like Imgur and Reddit, to name but two, that seem to have a higher than normal level background levels of men putting women down? Or even more female leaning sites that promote an "us vs them" attitude. I found when I spent a lot of time on those sites, even when I wasn't intentionally looking for comments or posts that put down women or made men the enemy I found myself becoming angrier and angrier at men in general. The best thing I did for my mental health was to stop hanging around those sites. I read only carefully chosen sub Reddits and avoid Imgur like the plague and find my attitude to men is slowly improving. For some reason a few assholes (and to be fair women can be assholes too) just seemed to taint my whole world view and most of the men I actually meet are nice and kind and just muddling through like the rest of us. Turning down the static helped me see that again.
posted by wwax at 9:36 AM on June 6, 2014 [11 favorites]

I was kind of where you are a few years ago. Here are my tips:

- For every knock and every fall, learn something, and know that each time it happens you're learning more about who you are, what you want, and what you need from someone else. I didn't always "find the joy" as Buddha might have told you to do, but I could always find a lesson to take with me.

- Also, find the funny. If my single years gave me nothing else, they gave me some damned funny stories. Me and my housemate used to compare bizarre/hilarious dates we'd been on. You can never have too many of these, I swear. And laughing at the situation is better for the soul than getting angry at it.

- Finally, remember that if you and a guy are not right for each other, it's no-one's "fault". You seem angry with yourself for "being a doormat" - are you translating that anger at yourself into anger at others, because it's easier? Stop blaming yourself, there's no blame needed. Most of us get through a bunch of crappy relationships before we find a good one - to veer into cliche, it's a feature of life, not a bug.
posted by greenish at 9:42 AM on June 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Zug - good point. I think the overwhelming issue I have is a mix of rejection from men I do actually open up to ("Fuck that bastard") and also meeting or coming across men who seem to objectify women or can't have a conversation person to person without including a sexual innuendo in every statement. Its disgusting to me in a way that I can no longer just brush off. I want to destroy him instead.

Wwax - I am going to unsubscribe from most of my subreddits right now. Awesome suggestion.
posted by DeadFlagBlues at 9:45 AM on June 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

"I'm one of those types that, once in love, turns into a bit of a door mat "
This is the crux of your discontent. If you lose yourself when you're in love, you'll will be unhappy, even if you're dating Sir Galahad of the 21st Century. Loving someone who loves you does not mean that you give up all autonomy, all choice, all of your crankiness or dislikes or preferences. I would suggest that you take a look at yourself, perhaps with the help of a therapist, to find out why you think that to keep your love, you have to subjugate yourself.
Wanting to please your partner is a good thing, but pleasing another person at the expense of your own peace of mind and sense of self is not.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:55 AM on June 6, 2014 [10 favorites]

Well, I am not exactly the world's most foremost expert. But some things I've found to be true:

1. Sometimes some people (including men) legitimately do hurtful, crappy, bad-person things. This is totally their fault and they deserve to be disliked for it. Telling yourself to "calm down" and "it's nothing" in those situations is counterproductive. It is quite possible that the problem (at least part of it) actually is other people objectively being hurtful to you, and it isn't just in your head or caused by anything you've done to invite it. Bad things sometimes happen to good people and it's unfair.

2. I am a subscriber to the school of "feel your feelings." Feelings are physical, instinctive responses to situations; I see no good in suppressing them. Let them wash over you and out. Really get in touch with them, experience them, and then let them go. Trying to have no feelings or put off dealing with them has never worked well for me. I might even try writing down how you feel in detail and then ripping up the paper, or something like that, for the catharsis. Making art or music also works pretty well.

3. I hate, hate hate this cliche, but "it happens when you stop looking" has been kind of true for me. Well, it's both true and untrue. For me, I try a decent amount- I get dressed up, I go out, I have an okcupid profile. But, for example, I ended up meeting a guy through a friend of a friend at a party. He later found me on okcupid and sent me a message even though my inbox was full and I had basically given up on okcupid. I was feeling really bummed and down about dating when I happened to get that message and it definitely was the last thing I expected. So, the fact that I had an okcupid account, that I was going out and meeting people definitely factored into that success, but it wasn't as "direct" as I expected it to be. This is pretty typical, I find. The main thing is that you keep going out and doing things and meeting people; some of it is just a numbers/time game. Taking some mental health breaks is okay, but don't give up totally. Basically, you need to strike a balance between "doing everything you can to put yourself out there" and also "letting some of it be up to fate."

4. Date guys who are into you. Sounds really obvious, but I find there are two types of guys in the world, those who are into me a little more and those I am into a little more, and that I just kind of know. For example, if I'm the one asking "can we be exclusive" if I'm the one texting first, etc. - I just know it's no good. If he's asking all the stuff I would be asking, before I even think to ask it- then I know it's going somewhere and he's serious. You'll recognize it when you experience it, because suddenly the guy will be doing all the things you did before- showing interest in your childhood, whatever. It's a really nice feeling. He'll just kind of be there. You won't be wondering every five minutes what's going on- you'll just know before you think to ask.

5. Men are just people. Flawed, human people. They come in all varieties and can be very different from each other. The more men I meet/date, the more I realize this. Try not to think of them as some monolithic entity. Men are raised in different cultures, different families, etc. and they don't all think alike. Maybe you need to branch out a little more, if you have one "type"?

I hope this helps at all.
posted by quincunx at 10:00 AM on June 6, 2014 [17 favorites]

have you considered doing a vision quest?

the desert is ideal, but basically, anywhere you can be way out of sight of people for several days minimum, as long as it takes. leave your phone behind, take your guitar. safety is a paramount consideration "can i still walk out of here if, for some reason, my car doesn't start?"

i would also suggest that what you describe is the perfectly normal, natural consequence of getting older. you could write a song about it.
posted by bruce at 10:27 AM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was going through this last year and I basically said fuck it and decided to give up looking for a relationship and have some casual fun instead. This attitude change created less expectation for the other party as well as for myself. Funnily enough, the second I switched gear, I met a person who is now my SO, who was also not actively looking for a gf at the time. I know it's a lot easier to say in hindsight, but one advice I would've given myself back then was to just chill out and not take things so seriously. Don't think of the "bad guys" as bad men, just as bad people.
posted by monologish at 10:29 AM on June 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't want to be single for the rest of my life. I *want* a partner eventually.

I think drilling down into this might be useful. What is it about having a partner that appeals to you: someone to hear your deepest thoughts, a relationship that builds a long-term history over time, the various physical aspects, etc. And ask yourself if you are currently able to get some of those needs met a la carte from family members, friends, FWB, etc. That might bring you back into wanting a partner eventually, instead of feeling like the next guy who doesn't want to partner with you is preventing you from getting those needs met at all.

There might be some aspects of male privilege coming into play, because there really are certain things that all women have to deal with that no man can ever fully relate to. And what helps there, is to direct the anger at society and systems that keep men unaware of their privilege instead of at the individual men.

One thing that helps me is to read about and talk with friends about their non-straight relationships. When a same-sex relationship is going well, it's not because they're doing a good job of fulfilling societally prescribed gender roles in which he's a good man and she's a good woman. That process of getting to know each other as individuals and not as representatives of a gender just seems clearer to me in the same-sex context.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 10:41 AM on June 6, 2014 [9 favorites]

> meeting or coming across men who seem to objectify women

If we repeatedly subject ourselves to any injustice, without the accompanying action to change it, we will become bitter. If every day I view images of people dying in third-world countries from thirst, and I cannot help the clean-water cause, then I would grow jaded about resource consumption and wealth gap.

You could avoid those men and cut off conversations as soon as they make the first objectifying statement and minimize conversations with them. Also, you may feel better if you contribute to the cause to help women. You could be a mentor in a Big Sister / Little Sister program, or volunteer for a charity that helps women, or campaign for Hillary Clinton or other powerful female figures. Then you'll feel powerful, and not like a victim.

> rejection from men I do actually open up to ("Fuck that bastard")

When you look back on these relationships, when was the earliest sign that they would act like a bastard? When I look back on my dysfunctional relationships, the signs were there from the first month. I just thought I could accept the issues, when in fact I could not. Were there signs from the very start that you noticed but didn't treat as dealbreakers?
posted by cheesecake at 11:27 AM on June 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Perhaps a thought process for the anger is to think of the recent Santa Barbara killer, to know "I don't want to walk any further into his madness". (I'm not suggesting you would, I'm suggesting that the example can pour cold water on those emotions)

Has anyone else experienced this kind of anger and disappointment but been able to pull it back and change it around?

Yes. A lot of us have been there. As Dan Savage might say, it gets better. There are awesome people who will like you, it's just hard to find each other :)

One thing that can work - make the decision to let your guard down, knowing that people might hurt you, because you've decided that you're strong enough to soak that cost in exchange for the ability to let the right one in. You don't have to jump right into that if you need to heal first, but I think it's a good goal - to reach a place where you feel confident enough in yourself that you don't need your guard up. That you can see fresh wounds as "at least I'm doing something right".
posted by anonymisc at 11:32 AM on June 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Awww. Hugs to you. You've been hurt, you wanted some tenderness and then more shit happened. It adds hurt on top of hurt.

You're protecting yourself so as to not get hurt again. I know that feeling.

Ever heard that saying, sarcasm is the refuge of the hurt idealist? That's what your question reminded me of. A crusty exterior is the refuge of a hurt softie.

So you know that in general people turn away from anger and in general are empathetic towards pain. So instead of making men the target of your anger, you can express your pain. To yourself. To your friends. Cry it out. And then maybe consider the possibility that while these men caused you pain, not all men cause you pain; and furthermore what happened is in the past, and new people will bring new and different experiences.

It sounds like you have lots of guy friends. Can you build on those relationships? I built a number of good friendships with men that helped serve as models for other kinds of relationships with men. My man-friends were great support and gave great advice when it came to dating, and life, and I felt (and continue to feel) how much they care about me and value me as a friend. I allowed myself to feel how much they loved me. It helped me with my dating fatigue. Good luck!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:39 AM on June 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Poor is the man whose pleasure depends on the permission of another.

― Madonna

From what I have read and experienced, it is super common for men to view sex as being all about their own needs. I have read quite a lot of stuff which suggests that a great many men really are not that good to their sexual partners. I have heard normal, "nice" men badmouth Players for giving women what they want, like that is some sort of morally depraved thing to do. This seems to be a value that runs pretty deep in society -- that men should want sex, women should want love and there is something horrible about a woman wanting sex and having sexual needs.

Another generally true thing is that women tend to be much more oriented towards emotional attachment as a prerequisite for getting their rocks off. Men seem generally much more okay with casual sex as a means to meet their needs. Women seem much more not okay with that.

When I was younger, I was you and the crux of the issue for me was basically sexual frustration rooted in "you just can't get there from here." I needed the emotional piece in order to get satisfaction and I was just not getting it. Long term sexual frustration turns me into a really pissed off, bitchy person.

I did find men who were willing and able to address my emotional needs so I could get my sexual needs met and that largely disrupted that cycle of anger. I still find I require regular relief in order to not go back into that dark place of being mad as hell at all men and unable to reach out for what I need and they are the solution to my problem and, oh, god, it's a train wreck.

But I will suggest that may be at least one of the pieces of the puzzle here for you. If you can find some means to find adequate sexual relief, that might help you stop being just mad as hell about MEN! For me, that's basically the ticket.

Obviously, YMMV. But that was my answer.
posted by Michele in California at 11:46 AM on June 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

I am becoming increasingly angry... Any time a man does absolutely anything at all that is not to my liking I chalk it down to his gender... I am becoming increasingly abrasive, distrustful and HURT... I worry that this will stand in the way of any future chance of happiness I may find with another person (well, who am I kidding - it is definitely going to get in the way).

Fear. What am I afraid of? What are the real boogeymen under my bed?

For me, some of the fears that were/are way up there are: Loneliness, rejection, fear of what you think of me, being laughed at, made to feel less than... and so on.

After a series of life events where I was lied to and cheated on, along with feelings of being dismissed and rejected, my view towards women as love interests went from some delusional ideology (think: John and Olivia in Grease) and degraded into an awkward, silent misogyny.

Anger is often an automatic response to fear, and hating what I fear enables me to feel as if I have some control over it.

As anger is the reaction I must root the problem out from its source: The fear.

It's not as if I were physically terrified of women or just being in a relationship, but for me, it was cacophony of fears and perceived threats to my emotional state which came along with it. I wanted a "good" relationship so incredibly bad; "good" being some Made for TV, rom-com, perfect relationship, where I met every expectation they had, and they met every one of mine.

Furthermore, I felt that I wouldn't ever be totally complete until I was in love and actively being loved. Placing this type of importance on every relationship I was in and knowing that the other person is a wild card in this plan, (although I spent years from time to time as a single person) this always seemed to place me in an automatic position in which I felt I must put up defenses.

The more relationship issues came up, the more I felt a hopelessness rise. A self-fulfilling prophecy of failure of my part and theirs.

Until I discovered that the real problem wasn't them, it was ME.

My delusional demand from the universe of an overwhelming, constant love, which took no effort or caused no frustration or pain, where my every complaint was understood, and my every graciousness was reciprocated was just.. well... nuts.

My fear of ruining that special opportunity, or missing my chance entirely... my terror of some person who is actually thinking God-knows-what having that type of influence on my happiness... my anxiety at feeling pitiful for having these types of feelings... That's what I hated. Not them.

So, I worked on the fear. It is diminished, manageable, a quiet murmur now. And the irrational anger went right with it.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:51 AM on June 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Wow.. can so relate, I do think some of the 'baggage' issue is just about clocking up the years... but for sure does it start to feel very heavy. It sounds like you have been horribly kicked around and gone into an angry defended place.. who can blame you?

I had a very bad dose of this to the point where I started labelling random passing men (dare I feel the slightest physical curiosity about them) as 'bound to have done/be doing x/y and z' I could see I was really quite losing the plot with my overgeneralisations and being grossly unfair.. but some wounds run very deep. This by the way was a stark contrast to other feelings I had had towards men at another tough time when I would see these big, protective looking strangers and just want to go and curl into their arms. I am still icy, I'm not going to lie to you... if I see an attractive man.. I kind of don't even look again.. I swing through all kinds of craziness about 'one day I will have to 'make do' with the only one who'll have me... to avoiding even thinking about that slice of life. Another reason I just stay the fuck away from it all.

BUT.. heres the good news...

There are subtle shifts.
I have met brilliant and kind men who have been very good to me in incredibly difficult situations - these men, each one of them, has a place in my heart forever.
I do understand intellectually that I have learned what I don't want.. (the chemistry avec bad boys can still be there.. may always be but I can pull myself away even if it doesn't feel natural to).

My suggestions would be this -
Get yourself 'the betrayal bond'.. go back to the first betrayal .. probably a parent that set you up for your important battle against this crap
Spend time with those good men in your life.. this can be a real comfort I think
Try a trip to a CODA meeting (be cautious about getting too sucked in and be warned not everyone can be what they seem there, as anywhere) but listen to men who've been fucked over by women for some perspective.

I sometimes find partner dance (eg Salsa etc) safe physical contact that takes the edge of celibacy. Massage can be good too.. we all need human touch. I dunno about casual sex.. is sex with a random really going to have a good greatness:crapness ratio? I will never forget a chat I had with a very promiscuos gay male friend (500 partners). I asked him how many people it had been really good with.. really worthwhile.. his answer? One.

Sex has become a very big deal to me now and I personally would want to feel very safe and secure with someone to share that with them. At this rate I might have manged it by my 87th birthday ;)

Hugs to you.. give it time and time again.. life is long
posted by tanktop at 1:15 PM on June 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Have you let yourself feel (and feel and feel and feel) and work through the anger you may be justifiably holding about past relationships? Anger is a normal healthy reaction to having someone violate your boundaries, which it sounds like you're saying you allowed to a high degree in past relationships. I wonder if some of the anger that's currently bubbling up is anger from those relationships that you didn't let yourself feel or express then.
posted by jaguar at 7:35 PM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, I can see where men are "the enemy" comes from when all the ones you meet to date turn out to be jerks. I try to remind myself that not all men are jerks--I know some nice ones married to my friends, some nice ones at my volunteer job, etc. Yeah, all the "good ones" might be taken and all I'm finding are jerks to date, but not all men are totally evil. This might be easier for you to think of when you focus on your guy friends.

I can't really help you on the dating front because I don't do it myself, but if you're in "men are the enemy" mindset right now, looking for more of them to date is probably not a great idea. Especially since uh, lots of the bad ones are single for reasons. Maybe a middle ground would be to take up some kind of male-dominated hobby--NOT for the purpose of meeting men to date, but to associate with some hopefully nice ones. If you meet someone to date, it's a bonus.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:02 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's not you. You've done nothing wrong. Your question is a good example of how therapy is kind of victim-blaming in that it puts all the "work" on the hurt person, rather than the person who is doing the hurting.

It's NORMAL to become bitter and angry after being repeatedly hurt. It's NORMAL to become increasingly frustrated when legitimate needs are not being met. It's NOT normal to expect people to be able to stay soft and sensitive after many knocks.

I know this kind of sounds like a non-answer, but you seem kind of down on yourself for not being able to just "get over" people treating you badly. The blame lies on whoever is treating you badly, not you.
posted by Violet Hour at 12:27 AM on June 7, 2014 [8 favorites]

It is normal to be angry when mistreated, yes. That anger can drive you to make the changes you need to protect yourself and reinforce your own boundaries, which is why anger is healthy and helpful.

It is not very useful to become bitter, to hold onto the anger (either by suppressing it or expressing it unproductively, like getting angry at an entire gender), and to get stuck.

You might find Dance of Anger helpful, in that it talks about how to use anger productively to make your life better rather than either ignoring it or expressing it in ways that just reinforce one's own powerlessness.
posted by jaguar at 1:08 AM on June 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you ever talked to your platonic male friends about your dating life? I find that surrounding myself with platonic male friends who have healthy relationships/relationship habits/gender progressive values/etc. helps me be reminded that while there are a lot of predatory douchebags with male privilege, there are plenty of male allies to be made too. And you can date a sane male ally, and they are out there!

I still have a lot of anger over some past negative dating experiences, and I have been triggered recently. I become filled with rage when a male date controls my actions, or manipulates me into circumstances I did not consent to. I launch into battle mode and rage at them and at everything else. I still would rather pick rage over feeling helpless (because I am incredibly wary of sitting back and letting escalating emotional abuse happen), but I *still* wish I could conserve my energy and just exit the situation.

But because I do have male friends that I can talk about these things to, and they understand me and validate my concerns, this anger doesn't become overly generalizing. Instead, I just remain angry at the individuals who *did* put me in unsafe situations, and at the systems that continue to allow these fucked up gender dynamics to take place.

Yes, therapy is a fantastic idea. You should figure out how to unpack your fear, and so you get its benefits without it emotionally exhausting you. For me, it was easier for me to become calmer but still decisive once I acknowledged that yes, I can take care of myself and I don't need my emotional alarm systems to be on overdrive all the time and giving me false positives.

I think that in order to be less tense and angry when it comes to dating situations, you have to get to the state where you trust yourself enough to let go of that anxiety, because you know that you have taken good care of yourself, and you will continue to do so.
posted by Hawk V at 9:38 AM on June 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

stop and remember:
1. 95% of people you meet are not a good match in the first place
2. for the remaining 5% timing and other things have to be in place in order for it to work out in any meaningful way. when it doesn't work it's because it's not a fit, not because one of you is a bad person.
3. give people the benefit of the doubt in initial interactions. because you'd want them to do the same for you. this goes for online dating also, even though of course use your instincts and common sense with that.

maybe some of the growing anger is from an increasing sense of powerlessness? don't feel powerless here. you have power, in the sense that you can decide how you want to be treated, and only interact with people who treat you that way (easier to do with dating than with people at work or even platonic friends). when someone passes your boundaries (or fails to meet one of your minimum standards) you have power because you can say, this is not for me, i am done, no thank you. you are protected by your good judgment and you don't need the rage to protect you.

some of the anger might also be motivated by fear. if your fear is that you will be mistreated, remember you are free to protect yourself from that behavior, so you don't need to be afraid of getting hurt right now. if your fear is that you will be alone because it's been a couple of years of being single, sit down and experience aloneness more often in a mindful way until it's something you savor rather than something to be afraid of or angry about.
posted by zdravo at 5:44 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

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