Lately I’ve noticed myself getting angry with men I’m getting to know. The causes can be varied: he doesn’t call when he says he will, he doesn’t call for weeks then acts like we talked yesterday, he gets too fresh too soon, he doesn’t honor my stated boundaries, he makes assumptions without checking them out with me.
I hear myself saying — generally in my mind afterward — “You can’t treat me like that.” Sometimes I speak up in the moment, but sometimes I don’t know how to say what’s on my mind without sounding accusatory. Or sometimes I haven’t articulated my feelings or thoughts until after the incident.
It is easy, I notice, to blame him: “How dare he..,” “How could he…,” “How could he think that what he said/did would be acceptable?”
However, the more I mull over what happened and who’s to blame, I notice the blaming fingers go in both directions. Yes, a midlife man should know …. But if you’ve dated only a few women after your 20-year marriage dissolved, your “appropriateness” gauge might be a little rusty. Perhaps I’m giving men more slack than they are due.
But let’s give them this slack for a moment. We can come back to vilifying them later. 🙂
When I look at the situations, even when I spoke up, I am complicit in the problem. I am really angry at myself — at least in part — for not being more firm in my boundaries, not voicing my expectations up front of what was and wasn’t acceptable, or not immediately saying, “That’s not cool,” or “We’re not going there,” or “I’m not ready for ….” Most of my midlife women pals are assertive, clear and confident communicators, but we can also send mixed messages. Women are socialized to not make waves, to foster peace and harmony, to not make anyone feel bad.
All of these attributes can be positive in the right circumstances. But they can also be detrimental — especially if the man is manipulative or abusive. When we don’t stand up for what we want, we get angry. Usually that anger is focused on the other person. But we should accept that part of that anger should be at ourselves for not taking a stand for what we want.
Have you noticed upon reflection that your anger, at least in part, is caused by something you should have said or done but didn’t? How have you learned to not take all the blame, nor blame it all on him, but to share it?