“I don’t get it,” they’d say. “Why don’t you make your partner do stuff?”
I’d furrow my brow. “Make them? What do you mean? This is a grown person we’re talking about. I’ve made my wants and needs clear, and they’re doing what they do. I’m not sure what else there is to do, short of leaving.”
“Well, you should be meaner to them. Yell at them,” they’d suggest.
And every time this would confuse me. They’d insist that if only I were more of a bitch that I could get my partner to be more responsible.
“But I don’t want a relationship like that,” I’d say.
This would sometimes be met with astonishment. “I don’t know,” one former friend said to me. “I kind of like having an excuse to go off on my husband.”
And I never quite understood this. Because I don’t like being mean. I don’t like the way it feels. It’s exhausting and takes a ton of energy for me. Energy I’d much rather spend in other, more constructive ways.
Plus, I grew up under the thumb of a very mean misanthrope. Someone who operated just like this. And it generally made life miserable for the rest of our family.
I escaped from that situation when I could. But until then, I survived it. And while I did, I promised myself I’d never be like that. I didn’t want to be in a home where I felt like I had to yell at people and be mean to get my way.
I’d rather be alone than in a situation like that.
And as it would happen, that’s eventually how it went. I’m no longer with the person that everyone told me to be mean to. But am I all alone? No, I’m not. Instead, I’m with someone who is responsible even when no one is yelling at them. And I am the same way back.
Anyway, it’s something important I learned once upon a time: If you need a mean partner, then I’m not for you.
I can set firm boundaries when I need to, but if I’m expected to scream to get my point across, then that’s a relationship I want nothing to do with.