You know what I love about Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose? Pretty much everything. *grin* But I especially love this entry. Because it is damn true that it is much easier to come to this struggle from a place of strength and being in a good relationship is a place of strength.

It’s got to be a GOOD relationship, though. Nothing like a bad relationship to tear you down and make life even harder.

I know this because I was in a bad relationship and now I am in a good relationship. I know that when I was in my bad relationship not only did my self-confidence crumble like a dried out bit of mortar in the wall of my self-image but I didn’t have the energy to speak up.

And that is half of what kept me in that bad relationship. No confidence to leave, no confidence to demand better, no confidence to question the things I was hearing that were tearing me down in the first place.

Being in a bad relationship locks you into a nasty cycle.  And bad relationships rarely start out bad so you don’t even realize what’s happening until you wake up and realize that you are in the middle of that self-hating mindset that you thought you’d left behind. Well, you realize it if you’re lucky. Then you can, hopefully, build yourself back up to the point where you can fix the relationship or get out of it or do whatever you need to do.

And should you wind up single, you have to face the messages, and they come in waves like high tide, that say not only are you a disgusting person for being fat, you are a worthless woman because you are not in a relationship.

Being in a good relationship gives us a buffer. It’s a wall that prevents the waves from reaching all the way to us and dragging us under, though the water of it all still splashes up on us sometimes.

What we need to figure out is how to break out of the notion that women must be in a relationship to be worthwhile. In the meantime, if you’re single, you don’t HAVE to be in a relationship to be worthwhile. If you’re single, and you want to be in a relationship because you love the human companionship that is awesome. If you’re single and you want to be in a relationship because you think you’ll not be complete or worthwhile as a human being that is a bogus message fed to you by this society we find ourselves negotiating.

And being in a relationship just to make yourself feel better won’t make anything actually better. It will serve as a stopgap, if that. You won’t feel any better where it really counts – in your own head and heart.

We need to build a breakwater for ourselves, a better way of protecting our hard-fought self-confidence than giving in to the notion that we are worthless without a man at our side. That’s not only sexist, it’s heterosexist.

Of course, all of this is much easier for me to say. I’m in a good relationship, a really good one. I wish I had a better answer.

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  1. Posted May 22, 2007 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Oh man…I’ve an urge to ask about writing a guest column on this very subject.

    Granted, I can’t really do the bad relationship/good relationship comparison (I’ve been pretty lucky, all told), but I could speak to how a good relationship can completely change your view of yourself, your body, your talents and accomplishments, and everything that makes you you. Because I’m going through all that right now, and it’s rather glorious.

    Er, sorry. Didn’t want to be too forward. You know where to find me if you want me, though.

  2. Elusis
    Posted May 22, 2007 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Her column made me cry because it perfectly expresses the frustrations I feel about my ongoing journey to OK-ness. I don’t NEED to be in a relationship. But I WANT to be, and I am tired of not being, and I am tired of being the only defender of my OK-ness a lot of the time. I am tired of having to do all the work of Liking Me Just The Way I Am.

    Is there an RSS feed for her blog, do you know? I am scanning the site but not seeing anything.

  3. Posted May 22, 2007 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    TR, this is an awesome response, and thanks for the love. The feeling is entirely mutual, darling.

    Elusis, I SO know how you feel. And it stuns me when people get into good relationships after long periods of singlehood and/or bad ones, and just seem to forget that feeling. Right before I met my guy, my constant refrain was, “You know what? I am TIRED.” Your comment rings a big, huge bell with me, even though I’ve been in a good relationship for a year now. I’m sending you good thoughts.

    And the RSS feed for my blog is next to where it says “Shapely Prose” in the sidebar. Thanks for reading!

  4. Meowzer
    Posted May 23, 2007 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I wish I could say I had that sprinkling of fairy dust that would give me great self-esteem just because a great guy loves me. That hasn’t been the case with me, though. I think I just need to be reprogrammed entirely, little tweaks to the code ain’t gonna do it. But YMMV, of course.

  5. Kate217
    Posted May 23, 2007 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    I am tired of being the only defender of my OK-ness

    Elusis, thank you for that. It so perfectly sums up my position that it’s positively eerie.

  6. Madge
    Posted May 24, 2007 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    Elusis, i know the feeling well – not needing to be in a relationship, but just WANTING to be.
    I felt i was ready and wanted to be in a relationship so badly that i settled for the first taker (big mistake), who quickly turned into a condescending and patronizing jerk. Some highlights include him telling me that i could use a ‘few laps on a treadmill’ and the favorite ‘are you really going to eat that’ and ‘how can you possibly be hungry’. Nice, huh?

    What i’m getting at is: i understand the wanting to be involved, but trust your instincts and believe in your self and your ok-ness.

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