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I do not exist to fix you

A few springs ago I was making sex for numerous months with a wondrous gentleman who would later reveal himself to be a lying miscreant. He had many a character flaw, including poor communication skills, exclusively prioritizing his needs, and expressing romantic feelings that he didn’t feel. We had several serious talks about said character flaws and he promised he would work towards altering himself positively. Alas, he didn’t genuinely put in the effort to begin the journey of beneficial growth. He didn’t share my desire for ongoing self-improvement and his pride often prevented him from acknowledging certain issues within himself.

Regardless of his reluctance to reform, he was eager to hear what I thought of him. He sought it out and was thankful when I took the time to explain him to him. One night at a bar he even said, “You know, you’re making me a better person.” I was so flattered to hear this and impressed by my powers of transformation. I was mutating him into a more extraordinary specimen and I thought that meant that I had a great influence over him. “He must respect me,” I concluded. “If my words are shaping his core personality, that’s something else, isn’t it? I’m honoured to perform this duty that I didn’t ask for and don’t really want.”

Now when I think back on him superficially whispering, “You know, you’re making me a better person,” I want to vomit on the suit he wore unnecessarily at casual events. I do not possess the same perspective. When I remember this conversation I yell out loud, “Ah! Fuck you!” I shake my head when I recall smiling, holding his hand, and replying, “That’s nice to…hear.” NICE TO HEAR? Seriously, past Jess? WHY was this NICE TO HEAR? I mean, I know why: I wanted to affect him in any capacity whatsoever and if that meant my feedback about his idiocy was being absorbed into his psyche, then good. Even though it was so incredibly draining for me to constantly explain and elaborate and engage in frustrating serious talks, I assumed this meant he considered me to be a wise, observant person, someone he takes seriously and listens to because he’s falling in mad love with my brain.

But in actuality, he just saw me as his development tool. The human bystander that he used, hurt, crushed and exhausted on his way to glorious improvement, or at least on his way to maybe possible glorious improvement. Of course he adored hearing my important thoughts about his existence because if I analyzed him critically and told him exactly what he needed to do to fix himself then he wouldn’t have to lift a finger. Having me around made things easy. I was his living, breathing, talking, walking moral barometer that explained right from wrong and hit a buzzer when he was being vile and gave him detailed advice on how to prevent his shittiness. When he behaved badly, I was there to slap him on the wrist and say, “Naughty boy!” and point out his mistakes. He wanted me around simply because he wanted free emotional labour that he didn’t return but was happy to take.

He wasn’t the first straight man to brandish me the official development tool. I’ve had several guys arrive with the expectation that I would regard their behaviour, determine their faults, and list them off to their fragile egos. These individuals lacked self-awareness; if they were going to shed their asshole skin for their friends/colleagues/the next woman they pursued, they required a pro bono therapist who they also had sex with to listen, take notes, and lay out a solid path of progress. And when they veered from this path, they needed this empathetic fairy godmother/mistress to inform them of this divergence and give tips for how to get back on track. They may not admit that they hired me for this position, or even be conscious of it, but our interactions indicate that I was their patron saint of complementary guidance/blow jobs.

Instead of these dudes attempting to accomplish personal advancement on their own via therapy, self-help books, dialogue with friends, meditation, or deep self-reflection, they handed off the responsibility of bettering their person to me. When I would tell them that they had upset me for whatever reason, they’d request that I clarify how their repeated actions were still not good. I would spend five hours doing so, and once again they’d declare that I was their guardian angel. Thank goodness I was around to inform them of when they were being rude to anyone and everyone. They were learning a lesson about themselves every single day and were grateful for the education. But that education meant my feelings would be brutally injured by their inconsideration and selfishness. Somebody was gonna get hurt en route to progress, and they were glad it wasn’t them.

Although straight men are defined as “all powerful” by the patriarchy, it seems a good portion of them are incapable of independent self-improvement. There is this awful, sexist, pervasive idea in society that women exist to fix men. That we are their conscience. Their soul. Their softer side. We bring out the best in them in every situation, be it professionally, socially or romantically. We’re told that men can be themselves around us more than they can be around other men. Thus, we are meant to examine them and put lots of time, energy, and emotion into repairing their broken parts. A volunteer female life coach must be present in order for them to learn from their foibles. We have to listen, nod and react empathetically, even when they don’t inquire about our regrets, sadness, anger or heartbreak. The free labour is often not equal in heterosexual relationships. There would be a wage gap if anybody were actually getting a wage.

I have noticed that the number of straight men I know who are in therapy is small. Meanwhile, the majority of women in my life are currently seeing a therapist, have seen one in the past, or are open to the idea of it. Pride is a big contributor to resisting help of any kind and unfortunately men are socialized to believe that vulnerability is synonymous with weakness. Many men I speak to can’t recognize the benefits of shifting the emotional weight from their tired partners onto an actual expert.

Just the other month I was chatting with a man I was casually seeing in bed about how he was feeling down and achieving tasks was a struggle because of his mental health. I’ve had depression and anxiety for years so I understood exactly where he was coming from. I started to suggest that he talk to a professional but he instantly interrupted me to say, “No way. Fuck that. I don’t need therapy.” I attempted to enlighten him about the benefits of it. How he’d likely enjoy the process and find it fascinating and he’d learn a lot about himself that he couldn’t fathom before.

“It couldn’t hurt,” I persisted. You might as well give it a try.”

“Nope,” he replied. “I don’t need that shit. I’m doing just fine.” He then proceeded to spill his insides to me for another hour and ask for advice and request my analysis until I literally fell asleep as he spoke.

Although I am typically gentle with fellow mental health suffers, I found myself getting more agitated and upset by his close-minded attitude. I’m aware that it can take a while to come around to the concept of speaking to a stranger about your problems, but this is such a popular knee-jerk response from the straight men I know. They’re fully on board with handing a woman a thousand-page novel on their inner demons, but they’re not okay with talking to an expert in the field? They’re not okay with picking up a self-book at the library or listening to a TED Talk about anger or reading an article about anxiety? They’re not okay with crying about it to their male roommate or writing in a journal or spreading that emotional weight around? Well, they’re gonna have to get okay with it, because it’s not a woman’s job to provide emotional labour and I am done staying up until 4 am having a one-sided conversation about how I can help fix their issues.

Of course there’s going to be mutual growth in any relationship and that’s what makes human interaction so beautiful and magical and advantageous for all parties involved. We learn from each other and it’s gorgeous to witness. But there’s a difference between healthy mutual growth and toxic unilateral development where the scale is significantly tipped. Then it’s less of a partnership and more of a boss-employee dynamic: One partner consistently works hard at improving themselves and looking inward and striving to blossom into a stable flower and the other partner relies on external effort from girlfriend-teachers and unpaid emotion interns to light the flame of potential change.

Everyone should attempt to improve themselves regardless of outside influence. I’m too busy working on me to also 100% lead the charge on my partner’s advancement. I don’t have the energy to simultaneously fix multiple humans, especially if my emotions are being bruised in the process. And I definitely don’t have the time to do it if I’m not getting paid an hourly wage.

39 Comments

  1. Lori Waltenbury
    March 16, 2016

    Holy shit. Wow. My exact feelings/sentiments. Wow.

  2. Kerry-Ann Cummings
    March 16, 2016

    Get out of my head. Geeze. >_

  3. Lou La Fandango
    March 17, 2016

    SO MUCH THIS! Although I have to point out, when the guy is SO screwed up it doesn’t matter if he is in therapy, that’s only an hour or two in a week after all – you still get all the other hours where he demands all the EL. Plus then he likes to talk to you about his therapy sessions, oh yeah. Ugh.

  4. Jessica Joy
    March 17, 2016

    “I’m honoured to perform this duty that I didn’t ask for and don’t really want.” LOL. yessssss!

  5. Renée Wolford
    March 17, 2016

    This is really interesting thanks for sharing

  6. julianlemarchand
    March 17, 2016

    A well written piece on an important issue! I must say though that I’ve experienced similar situations but with genders reversed. I recognize that this may be less prevalent but it does exist. Also, I feel I should note that most of my straight male friends are in therapy. That may be because I’ve cut the idiots out of my life for the most part. Sadly that seems to be the solution…

  7. BeautiReckless
    March 17, 2016

    shedoesthecity msjessbeaulieu That was me in my last relationship. The emotional labor was exhausting. I never asked to have that position

  8. RebeccaJade
    March 18, 2016

    emmielouli oh yes, related “you make me a better person” etc. When I ended it with one of these dudes I went from angel to devil overnight.

  9. RebeccaJade
    March 18, 2016

    emmielouli ha, I’m reading the linked article and just got to that very line… Sigh!

  10. emmielouli
    March 18, 2016

    RebeccaJade yup!

  11. RebeccaJade
    March 18, 2016

    emmielouli same ppl IME who put you on a pedestal you can’t help but fall off :/ thank god I got out!

  12. RyanOHoro
    March 18, 2016

    hypatiadotca Relevant Internets this morning http://i.imgur.com/hOYvh4K.jpg

  13. bond_alexander
    March 18, 2016

    hypatiadotca This is a great read, but also a hard gut check.

  14. hypatiadotca
    March 18, 2016

    bond_alexander caused a lot of feels for me to. I’ve had partners say verbatim some of the things in there to me :/

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    March 20, 2016

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  16. fembecca
    March 21, 2016

    Seriously, THANK YOU. I’m involved with both a cis-hetero man, and a woman… and I seem to be the only one of the three of us capable of the emotional labor. The gratitude is not payment in kind, and becomes really grating, very quickly.

  17. jessrawk
    March 23, 2016

    meladroite *emotional gut punch*

  18. meladroite
    March 23, 2016

    jessrawk I know U0001f633 Doesn’t apply to G but, take out romance and this applies to work life U0001f4af. No wonder I’m exhausted.

  19. meladroite
    March 23, 2016

    jessrawk or validated U0001f495

  20. PunkRockMomma
    March 24, 2016

    Do tell, have any of your magical therapists diagnosed you with Narcissism?
    That might explain the butt-load of self-important, psychotic “me-me-me” bullshit I just read.
    Because there’s clearly something wrong with YOU. Who in the hell actually gets people in bed, then explains to them how all-wrong they are? How they’re not living life correctly according to YOUR standards? Who doesn’t behave in public like YOU want them to behave? Who doesn’t act in exact accordance of all YOUR desires, wishes, expectations and demands? Who does this sort of thing? Well, I mean, obviously YOU do, but if one of *my* girlfriends told me she was so fed up with the men that she’s invited into her bed being so annoying in not behaving the way SHE wants them to? She’d get told.
    And here’s a thought — just an idea, or in other more blatant terms: a FUCKING CLUE.
    Why don’t you try putting off the sex until you get to know the person? I mean, that is if you want a longer-lasting relationship with them that doesn’t involve you — in your post coital glow — explaining exactly how the poor sucker has to behave to impress you? If they’re so below your highly-decorated, self-help book ornamented, Christmas tree, with the singing therapist angel on top, worthy of pinterest and joyous blogging, station — at least you’ll know it before part of their body enters part of yours. Then you don’t have to impress the world with how completely PSYCHOTIC you are and how men should live to impress you, and do so on their own time, because “bitch ain’t getting paid for trying to make a man fit my expectations!”.
    Which leads me to . . . you keep addressing this ridiculous blog to “Straight Men”. Do you have any idea what would happen if a “Straight Man” wrote the same sort of thing you did here? He would be called an abuser, a misogynist, a chauvinist-pig, an oppressor of women’s freedoms & expressions, et al. He would never live it down. And you are the type of woman who would be leading the charge. Lighting the torches and handing out pitchforks. AMIRIGHT?
    So if anyone needs therapy, honey, it’s you. And if you find yourself between the sheets with a guy you DON’T KNOW, and that you suddenly don’t like? Let him go, ferfuxsake! He wasn’t meant for you. If you do happen to meet a guy you think you could possibly love one day? Try holding off on either the sex, or the long talks about how imperfect he is and how he needs to change. Or you’ll be one very lonely, and I hate to break it to you, but one very unsatisfied woman. Because the poor sucker who does eventually capitulate to all your demands will suddenly be the most un-sexy thing you ever laid eyes on. Why? Because he lacks “strength” in standing up for himself.
    I suggest MORE intensive therapy for you, to help you stop being such a man-hating, unreal expectations demanding, unsatisfied, twat — which is exactly whom you present yourself AS. Could I be wrong? Not sure! But aren’t you glad you are not in my sheets tonight having to hear this? And here I gave you all of this advice for free, lucky girl! And I’m not even going to blog about what a martyr I am for doing so, and what a loser you are for needing it!

  21. Campfire30
    March 25, 2016

    Here’s a tip. When you don’t like someone’s behavior? DATE SOMEONE ELSE.

    You’re welcome. Five cents, please. 

    Jeez Louise.

  22. PaleyBurlin
    March 27, 2016

    this comment made me laugh.

  23. pitterpatter
    March 28, 2016

    As a very broken bisexual man I can say that this… very much applies to me, and is basically the reason I’m single and seeking therapy. Everyone should get therapy, even the bitter, spiteful woman who wrote this. Seriously, fix yourselves people.

  24. Torpedoes Of Truth
    March 29, 2016

    Here is the translation for those of you fortunate enough to have skimmed to the end:

    “My name is Jess Beaulieu.  I like to casually sleep around (and I would be very angry if you judged me for it) but I also enjoy judging others, especially the men I sleep with.  I figure out how their personalities could use improvement and they pretend to agree just in order to keep the flow of sex going.  But if they don’t change quickly or enthusiastically enough to conform to my standards, or if they’re not GRATEFUL enough to me for nagging them into becoming a ‘better person’ (as I see it from my infallible viewpoint) I will get angry and dump them.”
    The narcissistic personality disorder in full display, ladies and gentlemen.

  25. Seriously You Idiot
    March 29, 2016

    @Torpedoes Of Truth It seems like you skimmed to the end and didn’t read the entire article. Or, maybe, you just can’t read.

  26. fabredhead
    March 31, 2016

    This is reminding me very much of the giant Metafilter thread on emotional labor. Everyone should read it.

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0UUYL6kaNeBTDBRbkJkeUtabEk/view

  27. hilacollins
    April 5, 2016

    newwavehotdogs OHHHH MY GOD this is sooooo painful and good

  28. newwavehotdogs
    April 5, 2016

    hilacollins I know! It was like a punch in the gut.

  29. hilacollins
    April 5, 2016

    newwavehotdogs I needed it

  30. Campfire30
    April 10, 2016

    pitterpatter Yes.  not being sarcastic or judgy – this author appears to be suffering from codependency (“how can you treat me this way after all i insist on doing for you?!”) i hope she reads up on codependency and gets help. i used to be this way and i found therapy and self-help books on the subject of codependency and i feel soooooo much better. folks out there who identify with this article — you can feel better. you don’t have to fix everyone.

  31. Campfire30
    April 10, 2016

    hilacollins newwavehotdogs — https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/706540-codependent-no-more-how-to-stop-controlling-others-and-start-caring-for

  32. Campfire30
    April 10, 2016

    You don’t have to fix everyone. I hope you get the help you need.  https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/706540-codependent-no-more-how-to-stop-controlling-others-and-start-caring-for

  33. Campfire30
    April 10, 2016

    “Many codependents, at some time in their lives, were true victims—of someone’s abuse, neglect, abandonment, alcoholism, or any number of situations that can victimize people. We were, at some time, truly helpless to protect ourselves or solve our problems. Something came our way, something we didn’t ask for, and it hurt us terribly. That is sad, truly sad. But an even sadder fact is that many of us codependents began to see ourselves as victims. Our painful history repeats itself. As caretakers, we allow people to victimize us, and we participate in our victimization by perpetually rescuing people. Rescuing or caretaking is not an act of love.” ― https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4482.Melody_Beattie, https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/706540

  34. Campfire30
    April 10, 2016

    @Torpedoes Of Truth It’s literally codependency. It’s very painful, and she needs help to recover. Otherwise, she’ll keep hurting herself and trying to change others.

  35. Only A
    June 21, 2016

    I’m sorry, but after you said “making sex” I couldn’t take the rest of the article seriously. You make some good points about the emotional underdevelopment of many men in out society, but you come off with such a ridiculous, holier-than-thou attitude that it’s impossible to even see your points through your nonsense.

  36. heydebhenry
    July 13, 2016

    Excellent article and unfortunately, hits too close to home. Thank you.

  37. Silko
    August 2, 2016

    I’m only dreaming of someone 1/pointing/confronting me my weak points, 2/giving the opportunity to fix it …

    … because we are all hurt, have personal issues we can all better ourself. Not with the other, but for yourself in respect for the other and yourself.

    I just faced someone running away of our relationship. Even not big issues … but not mature to face ourself our imperfections, our pains.

    Right after the break-up, I clearly understood my part of the issues. I rang instantly a therapist because I was in high need of understanding my pains, how to deal with them and becoming more real with it and towards my partner, towards my relationship.
    I learned a lot last 3 weeks, I did a lot last 3 weeks to show I’m working on it, it’s an issue of me, and I want to fix that for you, because I love you, because I feel safe with you.

    Unfortunately … she still runs away from it, not able to allow this. This hurts more then the break-up itself.

    I wish you were the woman that just gave me this chance to fix me, to better myself … because this is the beauty of a relationship for me … fixing things , giving the other the space. Because also you are having pains my dear (ex)girlfriend. Show them too, fix them too.

    I’m a man, not afraid of therapists. I embrace them, because we are all hurt. As simple as that. Face it.

  38. LuciaRose
    December 2, 2016

    Life has been filled with challenges and most times i had thought of ending it all. Things became worst when I lost my home, family and all to Hurricane Matthew and I became a refugee in my own country, Haiti. The only property I had left was an internet-enabled phone in my pocket. One fateful day, i found one Doctor Zaza on the internet, on Facebook. Someone from the US had testified of many great things that Doctor Zaza had done for her and her family. I contacted him and the rest they say is history.Today i am happily married to a soldier I met in camp, and i am getting my happiness back again. I cannot keep this happiness to myself because i am not selfish. You too can contact Doctor Zaza on E-mail: drzazaspelltemple100@hotmail.com

  39. LuciaRose
    December 2, 2016

    Life has been filled with challenges and most times i had thought of ending it all. Things became worst when I lost my home, family and all to Hurricane Matthew and I became a refugee in my own country, Haiti. The only property I had left was an internet-enabled phone in my pocket. One fateful day, i found one Doctor Zaza on the internet, on Facebook. Someone from the US had testified of many great things that Doctor Zaza had done for her and her family. I contacted him and the rest they say is history.Today i am happily married to a soldier I met in camp, and i am getting my happiness back again. I cannot keep this happiness to myself because i am not selfish. You too can contact Doctor Zaza on E-mail: drzazaspelltemple100@hotmail.com

    ..

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