I’ve spent ten years in relationships with men who were as supportive as cement shoes and eleven years trying to figure out what was wrong with me.
I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. I was quick to commit, quick to move all my stuff out the way to make room for “his” stuff, quick to spend more time thinking about what would make “him” happy instead of figuring out what made me happy. And then inevitably, unhappily, I’d realize “he” was earth-bound: subject to the laws of physics and expectations of a conservative and myopic society. My subconscious would rise up and I’d start fighting back for every inch of territory I’d so easily relinquished months before.
Even then, I could be convinced, over and over again, that my dissatisfaction was better sublimated into acceptance of the status quo and that my ambition for freedom was repulsive and incendiary. I was “selfish”, “unrealistic”, and “out of control.”
I would say, “All progress depends on the unreasonable [wo]man!” and “he” would say, “You’re crazy!” I’d say, “Your life is the fruit of your own doing!” and “he’d” level up in a new video game. I’d suggest getting high off Henry Miller’s lust for life and “he’d” rent White Chicks.
And then I’d curl up on the couch with “him” instead of writing. I’d spend my weekends at the bar with “him” instead of travelling. I’d make a tiny sacrifice every day because I’d weigh that person against everything I’d ever wanted to do with my life and think, “None of it matters if I’m not with him.”
Yet it’s the same story I hear over and over again from friends and friends with friends going through the same thing. It’s all too easy to get caught up with someone who doesn’t understand why “good” isn’t good enough for you—especially if you’re a woman.
Eventually, I learned the long, hard, slow, and painful way that being single would be easier than trying to make my life revolve around someone who didn’t share my values and goals. It started with realizing that whatever else former boyfriends had done wrong, they weren’t bad people just because they didn’t want to give up their jobs to write and travel. And I wasn’t a bad person for wanting that, either.
I can’t make anyone else fit into my dream, even if my dream is the world. But if I missed out on it because I spent more time making sure my ambition didn’t get in the way of “his” need for affirmation (for “his” worldview) and admiration (of “his” middling accomplishments), I had no one to blame but myself.*
How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself? -Anaïs Nin
Even at their least insidious, relationships can make it harder to figure out what’s important to you (your values) and how to create a life based on what’s important to you (your goals). It’s hard to get out of a bed at 5 a.m. when your favorite person in the world is being all warm and gorgeous in it. It’s easy spend the night cuddling on the sofa instead of writing. It’s easy to go for dinner, then drinks, then sleep in, then go to Bed, Bath & Beyond instead of training. And only one of you has to want to take the night off or sleep in for the other one to have trouble making a plan out of his intentions.
I feel like I beat the system by finding someone who is completely on the same page. We’re committed to creating a future together and we literally work on it every day. I got the teammate I wanted all along just as I was learning that it was a lot easier to take on the world when I didn’t have to fight against my partner, too.
If you find yourself in a bad situation, just leave. You won’t, because love feels a lot like oxygen when you’re in it, but trust me: You’ll be happier if you make the decision to go after what you want instead of letting someone hold you back because they don’t share your vision.
Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. -Mark Twain
It takes a lot of confidence to say, “I’m better off without you.” And a lot of work to make it so. But you’re worth it.
*I think all of this totally changes if you have kids. I have nothing else to say about that.