I stay in bad relationships because I like to prove people wrong. Of course, I don’t realize that this is what’s happening at the time. When I think about some of the less positive relationships I’ve been in, though, I realize that this is definitely the case.
The only woman I’ve ever dated, The Girlfriend, had so many hang ups that centered on my not being “gay enough” for her. Regardless of how much I showed her I cared about her, she was concerned that I was going to leave her for a man. My feelings for her didn’t really matter, no matter how many times I explained how I felt–that I was attracted to her exactly as she was for exactly who she was. It didn’t have anything to do with whether or not I was previously or still attracted to men, at least for me. But eventually the desire to show her those feelings became something else, and the competitive side kicked in.
Instead of saying, “Listen, Girlfriend, I really love you and care about you, but if you can’t accept who I am, I don’t think this is going to work,” I would say or do whatever it seemed would make her feel better. I didn’t lie to her–I told her how I genuinely felt at the time. But in hindsight, those feelings might not have been motivated by our happy relationship, and that relationship became not so happy for me.
What did I feel the need to prove otherwise? Was I really convincing her of anything when the reality was that we simply weren’t right for each other, and these arguments were just symptomatic of that problem?
This is. . . not an isolated event. The Grad School Boyfriend was often verbally abusive. Among his favorite lines were “you said x to every guy you’ve dated!” or “If we break up, you’ll just go back to being a slut and sleep with the first guy you can.” These weren’t one-time comments but frequent insults flung at me while inebriated. But I stayed with him to prove. . .that I loved him? That I wasn’t a slut? That he wasn’t the same as every other person I’d ever dated?
This is, simply put, a horrible practice. I didn’t prove anything. No matter what I said, it didn’t assuage his concerns or ease his paranoia. Instead, it just made me miserable. I was constantly trying to prove stuff to him because he was insecure and needed to be reassured, but any reassuring just led to more questions and more insecurity.
Sometimes, these situations lead to sacrificing who we are, and especially when that shouldn’t be the end result. I’m a big believer that the people in a relationship should grow and change together, but one person should not do all of the changing just to satisfy another person. With The Grad School Boyfriend, things became “I’m going to become who you want me to be in order to prove to you that I’m not who you think I am.” Why did that ever sound like a good idea?
This isn’t something that will be changed easily, unless I figure out how to identify it when it’s happening. But I can say that this isn’t healthy, and if one person is constantly proving anything to the other person (who, in return, is proving nothing), then things just aren’t going to work out.