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If The Shrew Fits...

Every woman I know complains about fighting with her boyfriend. The battles range from irritated bickering to terrible screaming matches. I’m worried because my boyfriend and I have been together a year, and we’ve never had an argument, big or small. In fact, we seem to be the happy couple other couples hate because our relationship seems so perfect. Does being really happy 99 percent of the time mean we aren’t dealing with issues we should be?

--Too Good For Our Own Good?

A lot of women in relationships hear that “love is a two-way street” so they run out in the middle of the night and put up signs on both sides of the street that read “my way.”

No, women aren’t to blame for all the misery -- just more than their fair share of it. According to my mountain of mail, the single biggest relationship hell-maker is women who think men will double as falsies for their flat self-esteem. Instead of flailing about in hopes of getting a life, then getting someone to share it with, these women simply get a guy who’s already got a life, then attach themselves to it like a sucker fish on a whale. This saves all their unused personal growth hours to be funneled into more gratifying pursuits, such as combing the mall for deeply discounted shoes and telling the guy why he can’t go drink beer and make man noises at the sports bar. Ah, love. Well, at least that’s what these women call it -- probably because “love” goes over better than “I’m the queen and he’s the peasant who must bend to my will.”

Men are simple creatures. Give the average guy a hamburger, a naked girlfriend, and a wide-screen TV, and he’s happy. Throw in a Universal Remote, unfettered access to his friends, and time alone to use, fix, or stare at mechanical objects, and he’s delirious with joy. Sounds pretty simple, huh -- find a good guy, let him be, and he’ll probably be good right back? But no, even blissed-out girls like you can’t leave well enough alone: “Why am I so happy? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with us? Do you think we’re too perfect?!”

Not to worry -- it’s easy to be miserable like everybody else. Just throw your sense of self off a ledge, then turn your relationship into an endless list of demands because you feel powerless unless you’re “winning” a giant power struggle. Keep your boyfriend on his toes by telling him you love him, then treating him with the contempt you’d normally reserve for a fleeing purse-snatcher. Demand total honesty, then torch the paint off him when he tells you so much as the date or the time. In no time, you’ll both be storming around the house heartily despising each other. By then, he’ll have learned the secret saying of all beaten-down men: “What she doesn’t know won’t hurt me.”

If this seems like too much work, bringing unconditional loathe into your life, just keep doing what you’re doing -- probably acting like a rational human being (rare among women, according to men) and using your powers of observation for the greater good. For example, take a look at your boyfriend’s business card. Unless it says “Minds Read, $5 A Lobe,” he probably can’t guess what you’re thinking. Should it happen to be something negative (“Do you know how stupid you look in those plaid shorts?”), remind yourself that men and harsh micromanagement don’t mix, and motivate with The Power Of Positive Ego Massage; i.e., “I can’t help but jump you when you wear your black pants.” If you’ve picked a guy with half a brain, he’ll get that you really, really want him to remove (and burn) the plaid shorts, and he’ll love you for letting him know without eviscerating his dignity.

Contrary to the “wisdom” found on self-help shelves, a happy man isn’t one with a “yes, dear”-ing wife-a-tron, but one who’s smart enough to hook up with a woman who’s happy alone (but happier with him). These people find happiness in making each other happy. This doesn’t take the soul of a saint. In fact, you might talk to the rest of the world as if it had just dropped a giant dresser on your toe. You simply make a pact with yourself to never say a cruel word to the one you’re with. Remember “The Boy In The Plastic Bubble”? Think “The Relationship In The Plastic Bubble.” Like “The Boy,” you’ll have visitors bringing news from beyond the zip-lock; for example, what’s wrong with your boyfriend’s friends according to their girlfriends (everything, including how they breathe). This should be enough to remind your boyfriend how lucky he is to be encased in plastic with you -- a woman who stays up nights worrying that she’s much too happy.


Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.