It's not you, it's him
August 11, 2019 5:49 PM   Subscribe

My early-20s daughter is going through a breakup and reaching out to me to help her not fall into the trap of thinking it's her fault for not being "good enough" and/or "asking for too much" and other pits of self-recrimination. She had seen this coming a few weeks ago and I shared the "Crane Wife" essay with her and she liked it a lot but I'm looking for essays etc. in a similar but maybe slightly younger feminist female/empowering perspective.

She said my "men are trash" commentary is also helping but hopefully I can contribute a little more than just that to her healing process.

(bf hasn't done anything abhorrent but is waffling with the "I'm not ready/in a position to be in a relationship but please keep being in a pseudorelationship with me until I am" business and daughter is very smartly letting him go rather than accepting not getting her very reasonable relationship needs met)
posted by drlith to Human Relations (13 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
The Case Against Chill is something I've read, re-read, and found helpful at key times in recent years, and sounds spot on for your daughter's situation. Baggage Reclaim's blog might be good, too.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:08 PM on August 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

What a smart young person! Good for her!

It's so depressing when we turn these terrible thoughts inward. But, because we cannot inhabit the other person, we often take these things out on ourselves.

I wish I could find the essay where I read about "asking for your 100%" but I've given this advice often here and it has served me well. If you allow yourself to imagine that you can ask for your 100%–100% of what you want and desire to have happen–and then let the chips fall where they may...which may be a total rejection of your 100% but is usually some kind of compromise, then you often find yourself in a better place. However, we often hedge our bets. We are afraid if the total rejection of the 100% so we ask for what we think we can get. Maybe we whittle our desire down to an 80% or if that's too scary, even less! A 50%. I'm going to guess that her 100% is something like: an active and interested boyfriend who pays attention to her and is excited to spend time with her and is interested in thinking about the future and making plans. It sounds to me like she has (closely, at least) stated her 100% and he has responded with an offer of 50%. Well, that's the hard part, isn't it? I don't know about you, but once I start thinking about what the reality of 50% of my 100% would be like to live it? No, I don't want that.

Another thing that might be helpful is for her to simply respect his agency. By putting her on the backburner, he has made a choice. He might want to think he now has "options" but he's made the choice to make her an "option." So, that is his choice. Respect his choice by accepting it on its face. He will not agree to more than 50% and she doesn't want that. Thank you, boyfriend, for making that clear. I respect your agency and while it does break my heart that you don't feel the same way, I need to clear my space to allow for that person who will meet my 100%...and I theirs.
posted by amanda at 6:09 PM on August 11, 2019 [7 favorites]

First of all, thank you for being a parent with a healthy (if any) role in this!

I developed a mantra sometime in my 20s that I've followed to varying degrees and which still rings true in my middle age: "There is someone out there who has all the stuff you liked about this person, and none of the stuff you hate." This has to be tempered with nobody being perfect and that there may be other things that are annoying about the next person, but I think a winning strategy is to work this cycle until you find someone whose foibles you can tolerate.
posted by rhizome at 6:28 PM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just wrote to someone a sentence that shocked me with its truth: "I cannot force you to like me, no matter how much I like you."
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 6:29 PM on August 11, 2019 [7 favorites]

Just recently read Mark Manson's article: F* Yes or No which argues that you should never consent to a romantic situations where both partners are enthusiastic about the relationship and open to find out where it might go next. Why waste time on someone who is not into you? Instead, free yourself up to meet the person that is actually happy to spend time with you and makes you feel good to spend time with them - the "yes" needs to be in both directions.
posted by metahawk at 6:51 PM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Captain Awkward has some great advice on this.
posted by yawper at 7:48 PM on August 11, 2019

If she's down for a novel, suggest she read Normal People by Sally Rooney (Guardian, Washington Post, NPR, etc.) It's nominally literary fiction, but it's not heavy going at all. You can read it in a day. It's about a young couple (18-21ish) and the mistakes they make. The main guy isn't perfect, but he's better than the other men in the book, and I think the book sends a good message about what kind of treatment a woman (or anyone) should expect. It's also sweet and uplifting and optimistic, despite some dark moments and an ambiguous ending. Just a heads-up: it does present sex as a central (and both positive and negative) part of any relationship, so you may want to read it yourself first, depending on how open you are with your daughter about that.
posted by caek at 8:17 PM on August 11, 2019

It isn't an essay, but when I was in my early twenties and dealing with all kinds of angst and rejection, an older and wiser friend shared a little saying with me:

Some will.
Some won't.
So what?
Someone's waiting.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 9:15 PM on August 11, 2019 [6 favorites]

I really liked the film Midsommar for a perspective on that kind of bastard so many of us have known.
posted by taff at 4:38 AM on August 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Heather Havrilesky's How to Be a Person in the World: Ask Polly's Guide Through the Paradoxes of Modern Life (aka selections from her column, Ask Polly) includes a great piece about this: The Commitmentphobes of N.Y.C. (partial; Google Books, but really worth reading).
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:40 AM on August 12, 2019

The Fuck Yes rule changed my life.

I think Midsommar is a complex piece, but I'm not sure if until you've experienced it you can really grasp what's happening. I mean he's shitty, but I think young me would've been like "well duh just leave". It's definitely a thing you should watch together!

We had an ask last week about this topic from a 30 year old woman. The older perspective and advice might be really helpful.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 6:51 AM on August 12, 2019

Hunger Makes Me is a good one.

“To desire effort from a man, we are taught, is to transgress in several ways. (This is true even if you’ve never had or wanted a romantic relationship with a man.) First, it means acknowledging that there are things you want beyond what he’s already provided—a blow to his self-concept. This is called ‘expecting him to read your mind,’ and we’re often scolded for it; better, we learn, to pretend that whatever he’s willing to give us is what we were after anyway.”
posted by bluishorange at 6:09 PM on August 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry I can't find anything really specifically relevant, but Captain Awkward has lots of great things to say about both healthy relationships and relationships that are over.

Here's the page for columns tagged with Relationships, here's Breaking Up, and here's a column about a commitment-related breakup: "And if that breaks the whole relationship, it wasn’t you who broke it by asking for Too Much. The other person wasn’t ready to give you what you needed."

I hope that helps a bit. My best to your daughter.
posted by kristi at 12:38 PM on August 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

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