Thursday, May 17, 2012

Loyalty & Responsibility

Most of the Nice Gals I know who regularly end up with Not-So-Nice's have two things in common: they are a) hugely responsible and b) tremendously loyal.

Those are supposed to be good qualities, so why does this tend to lead them into trouble? I think it's a result of the imbalance in how we value the time and emotional lives of men and women. I also think that the more traditionally "vaunted" qualities a woman possesses, the greater the likelihood she will be abused.  Hear me out.

No matter if both partners in a relationship are working, the woman is generally still allocated the responsibility of maintaining the home and providing the nurturing for the emotion lives of everyone in the household. Thirteen year old daughter is crying hysterically about her hair? Dad "can't deal with it" and leaves an equally-exhausted mom to absorb the emotional deluge. And she's still going to have to cook dinner and fold the laundry because otherwise it won't happen. Why? Dad's on the computer, or "cleaning out the shop" (a euphemism for "avoiding my familial responsibilities").

So mom's blown out and goes to her partner for solace and comfort. But he doesn't "do" solace and comfort because he's a dude, and our culture says dudes don't do emotions. Oh but they do! Let's say the fam is headed to watch son's baseball game. Dad's driving ('s one of those "jobs" that men pretend is chivalrous but is actually an indicator of control issues) and someone cuts him off in traffic. Hells bells! He is fired up, screaming and yelling, cursing, endangering the lives of his passengers as he swerves and clams on brakes, cursing and paying attention to nothing other than his perceived opponent in this modern-day joust. Guess whose job it is to calm him down? Momma.

And when does Mom get filled up? Who takes care of her? Why she does of course. And if she decides to engage in some self-care, you can bet her phone is blowing up the whole time with 1,000 questions that could be summarized as "When are you coming home to take care of everything?"

So things are imbalanced: mom/female partner is automatically responsible for more than her fair share. And our Nice Gals (since they take their responsibilities seriously)  exceed expectations for their behavior, as they do in every area of their lives (they're NICE, dammit). To what result? My hypothesis is that when a woman takes responsibility for her man, his responsibility "muscle" atrophies. And atrophies. And atrophies. Until, at some future date he is drinking too much, surfing the web for porn, playing video games designed for children and not going to work on time (if at all).

So what does Nice Gal do? She takes on more responsibility. She has to make up for his income/absence/emotional abandonment And she does and she does until she cannot anymore. You know those bedraggled women you pity who are in horrible relationships yet they STAY? You know all that vitriol and disgust thrown their way? Stop it. Those women are tremendously good and strong people. I believe that they're making a mistake, but you have to acknowledge the sheer goodness and toughness that keeps them going. I am in awe. I am also pissed as hell that these tremendous resources are being so thoroughly misused.

The other aspect to why she stays is loyalty.  Another vaunted quality that gets her in trouble.

So let's think about a woman who acts the way the patriarchy says women behave: fickle, weak, irresponsible, flighty, frivolous and undependable. She doesn't have these problems of imbalance, because her man has got to go to work, or they starve. She's out spending money on pedicures with her cell phone turned off and having a ball. Ladies, we've been sold a bill of goods. We work extra hard to be that Nice Gal which plays right in to their hands.

Stop being so nice! And loyal!

Here's an excerpt from the awesome book "Sociopath Next Door" that summarizes the phenomenon in a way that sends chills down my spine.

The perfect victim, from the sociopath’s point of view, is the person who is smart enough and capable enough to do him some good in the world and who is also fun to manipulate… Another good person to manipulate is someone of high character, because that is also fun for the sociopath. On the other hand, the sociopath doesn’t want this person to be so savvy that he or she will immediately see him for who he is… This can be accomplished by looking for someone who is very, very loyal.
Martha Stout

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