There is a new wave of standing up for ourselves as women. From workplace harassment to less than ideal partner behavior, we have turned into a force to be reckoned with as we establish the boundaries of what we are willing to put up with from men. When a man acts out of turn in a relationship, we are emboldened by our girlfriends to “walk away” and to “ditch him!” When we are sexually harassed at work, we are encouraged to report the bad behavior with full support of the company. We are taking a much-needed stand against bad behaviors. We are strong, we are resilient, we are independent…
But are we too intolerant? Regarding workplace harassment, I am ALL about men getting held accountable for their sexist and derogatory actions. This think-piece isn’t about that portion of intolerance. Let’s not tolerate any of that noise. But what about interpersonal relationship interactions? At what point does our stand against less than desirable behaviors from our partners become less communicative and understanding of another’s past experiences and difficulties communicating and become more of a complete shutdown and unwillingness to communicate how we wish to be treated? How do we find the balance between understanding and empathizing our partners’ behavior and respecting our own damn selves? How do we find a reasonable line of what we tolerate without becoming the most independently lonely sex?
It is no surprise to anyone that men and women experience life differently, and thus our communication and desires are completely dissimilar. That isn’t bad; there is a polarity in how couples balance the dark and the light, the turmoil and the calm, the strength and the softness. We are different, and different isn’t bad. But what isn’t different between the sexes is that each has past experiences and traumas that have shaped the communication styles and expectations of an interpersonal relationship. If one partner is bad at communication, are we supposed to “ditch him” and walk away? Or are we supposed to help them communicate and teach them how we need to be loved? Where is the line?
I am telling you right now that physical and mental abuse is 100% a line that all women should stand against. For example, stonewalling, or a partner’s unwillingness to communicate, is cruel and abusive. But what if it isn’t stonewalling? What if the man wants a few days to calm down and process his emotions? I believe that if a man comes to you a few days after a conflict occurs and is willing to speak about what happened and how to fix it, then a few days of RESPECTFUL silence about a topic is completely acceptable. Women tend to rush to solve a problem, and men generally want to ruminate and gather all of their thoughts and feelings without being pressed by a stressed woman. Can’t we find an area where we can understand each other’s points of views and respect each other’s desires to resolve a conflict without society telling us we should immediately walk away from the relationship altogether?
Finding a balance between being a doormat and being intolerant of behavior is a difficult but necessary process of having long term relationships. Conflicts will arise in every relationship. I don’t believe the new movement of complete intolerance without communication and attempts at mutual understanding and growth is very helpful towards building and experiencing healthy long term relationships. Do I know the exact line? No, and I am constantly learning my own.
And girl friends, let’s be less quick to jump to “ditch him” when our friend is regaling her woes about how her partner communicates or handles situations. We can be supportive of our friends without encouraging them to leave a situation that is merely uncomfortable. As long as two people are trying and growing in a relationship, we can support this discomfort.