06 Dec HUGE HARD REALIZATIONS INSTALLMENT #3: What You Tolerate Will Continue
You’re out shopping and spy this adorable, perfect pair of nude, patent leather kitten heels that will look so fucking fly with this skinny jean + cashmere sweater combo you’re dying to wear on Saturday.
And they’re on sale, and you really want them…
But they pinch your toes just the tiniest amount. Ouchies.
You have a super long second toe; it’s basically E.T.’s finger escaping from your flip-flops. Your shoes be like, “Big toe phone hooome,” lolz! Anyway, it’s not a big deal but you typically need a little more toe room than other stubby-footed folk.
But these shoes are just so close to perfect…you walk up and down the store wearing them, checking your tootsies out in the mirror, thinking things like, “It’s not pinching that badly. I can suck it up and get over it. They’ll probably stretch. I’ll use blister block. PLUS THEY’RE SO CUTE!” The toe-crunchy-ing is annoying…but maybe tolerable??
So you buy the shoes, take ’em home, wear them to the party, and what happens?
Your toes blister like gaht-damn Natalie Portman a la “Back Swan” and you’re practically limping by 11pm, forced to spend $37 on a Lyft because the thought of walking to the subway makes your feet cryyyy and you feel stuuuupid because you should’ve known they’d be too tiiiiiiight but you liked them so muuuuuch!
And now the cute, flawed shoes sit in your closet as a relic of your poor decision making and refusal to accept that you have a long spindly toe and it’s fine, really, you just should’ve known better.
Replace “nude patent leather kitten heels” with “this amazing guy I like so much who has these one or two reeeally difficult flaws” and you’ve got the majority of relationship struggles on the market today.
You tell yourself you can tolerate the toe-pain, just like you tell yourself you can tolerate his inability to express his feelings, or his consistent wake-and-baking, or his lack of affection, or his looming credit card debt, or his dog that poops in the apartment that he doesn’t clean up after.
But just because you tell yourself you can tolerate something, does that mean you can?
And just because you agree to tolerate something, does that mean it’s going to get better?
Tolerance is a funny thing, especially because people act like it’s a good habit to get into.
“We need to learn tolerance,” they say, especially when it comes to our differences. We must be tolerant of those who think differently, act differently, live differently, we must tolerate them because they exist and we exist and we need to get along. Sure, maybe, but can I ask you something??
Do you want to be tolerated?
Especially in the context of a loving, committed relationship, do you want someone who’s going to look at you, your flaws, your quirks, and go, “Well, I guess I can tolerate this…”?
Do you want to be tolerated or do you want to be accepted?
Do you want to be tolerated, or do you want to be adored?
When you really think about it, being tolerated doesn’t sound so appealing, does it?
Yet a lot of us do a lot of tolerating with others.
Especially with stuff that is really, super-duper, irking us. And the challenge becomes that whatever you tolerate, continues. (And in my experience? What we continuously tolerate tends to only get worse, and eventually tears us up.)
Tale from the crypt:
I’ve shared before about the Ivy-league do-gooder I dated in my mid-twenties who was honestly a great great guy, but just wasn’t the greatest of BF’s.
The biggest way this manifested itself was that he would frequently say he would call/text/be in touch…and then wouldn’t.
He meant to call, it just slipped his mind. He really wanted to text, but he got distracted. He was totally going to pick me up from work, but FIFA was on and then he got a call from his buddy in Colorado and before you know it? It was nine at night. Whoops.
But I liked him a lot and yeah, he was an all-around good guy. And he would apologize and make it up to me by like, making me dinner and shit, but the flaky communication just wasn’t getting better.
And fuck, I really wanted to be tolerant of it, and of him. He was busy and going through a crazy time professionally, and I admittedly have a lot of needs. So I could be flexible, right?
The problem remains that WHAT WE TOLERATE WILL CONTINUE.
And this whole “whoops-I-dropped-the-communication-ball” habit was something that was not just making me a little peeved…it was driving me fucking nuts. I felt neglected and not prioritized. I felt like everything else in his life came first and I came fifth. I felt like he wasn’t thinking of me, didn’t care about my feelings, didn’t value me the way I valued him, and took me for granted.
Note: It doesn’t matter if it was his intention to make me feel these things, these are simply the feelings that resulted because of his actions. Consistently. And because of my willingness to be so damn tolerant, these feelings persisted and amplified and became the ever-present emotional soundtrack to our relationship.
We did this song-and-dance together for about a year until we came to the eventual no-duh conclusion that we weren’t a match, at least not at that point in time. He couldn’t give me what I needed, my frustration had reached an all-time peak, and we’d be better off parting ways.
A YEAR OF TOLERANCE. THAT’S WHAT I GAVE THIS MAN.
Now because everything always works out just as it should, and blah blah blah “love & light” and what-not, I regret none of this! And clearly, I needed to go through it to learn this important, huge, hard, realization:
YOU MUST QUESTION WHAT YOU TOLERATE. BECAUSE WHAT YOU TOLERATE WILL CONTINUE.
And if you are tolerating something that is causing you consistent discomfort, pain, and hurt, that shit isn’t just going to go away.
Insisting to yourself that you can be tolerant, and you can deal with it for now, and he says he wants it to be different, so even if it’s not different now maybe someday it could be different, this self-enforced tolerance will eventually make you feel a little crazy, and then the crazy will get worse.
Telling yourself you can be fine with the fact that he hangs out with his ex all the time even though every part of you feels insecure/jealous/not okay will only work for so long.
Trying to be cool about his chronic over-drinking because you don’t want to be a stick-up-the-ass girlfriend and he promises he’s going to “get it under control” has a shelf life.
Thinking you can get over the fact that he’s an absolute slob despite throwing up in your mouth every time you see the pizza boxes piling up on his couch when you come over will eventually cause you to lose your shit if you don’t challenge your sweet-seeming desire to be a little more tolerant.
I say “sweet-seeming” because again, do you want to be tolerated by your partner?
Do you want someone who’s merely “putting up with” you or your habits?
Or do you want someone who can completely, wholeheartedly accept and say YES to you?
If your answer is no, then why are you doing this to someone else?
I encourage you to start accepting your intolerance. Start naming and owning what consistently peeves and hurts you. Admit (to yourself, and then to others) what you just. can’t. live with.
And if you’re not sure, ask yourself—“Can I live with this?” If the answer is no, don’t pretend otherwise. Don’t try to tolerate something that you know in the long run is going to cost you your sanity and turn you into the girlfriend from hell.
We all have things that piss us off and peeve us and make us feel quasi-terrible in relationships, and it’s fine to claim it. In fact, it’s an act of self-love, fairness, and empowerment.
“I’m insecure about your ex, and it’s not getting better. I wish I could change it but I can’t. I’m sorry, but it looks like this isn’t going to work.”
“Your drinking habits are never going to be okay with me. I tried to make it okay but it’s only going to lead to more arguments and frustration. I can’t live like this.”
I see far too many women (especially self-aware, self-help focused women) trying to become these enlightened, chill, “I CAN LEARN TO BE FINE WITH ANYTHING,” one-size-fits-all girlfriends and good sweet lord, it’s a recipe for disaster.
No one is fine with anything! And the key over the course of your single life is to get dialed in and clear on what you know you’re actually not fine with, and what you honestly cannot live with. And then stop tolerating that stuff.
To the best of your abilities, please do not deny your honest needs and personal truths. Tolerate less. Accept yourself more.
You don’t have to be unkind about it (“Your apartment makes me want to hurl; you’re living like a college freshman but you’re a 31-year-old Google exec—wtf.”) but if you’ve expressed your discomfort/hurt/frustration, and things have continued to sorta suck, you have to be honest about your intolerance.
“I hate saying this but I can’t deal with how messy you are. I just know in the long-term it’s not going to work, and I don’t want to become a nag to you.”
Because then, one of two awesome things will happen:
- He’ll express no desire to change, or be very defensive, or make weak excuses, or accuse you of being prissy/needy/difficult, in which case you double-down on your intolerance and declare BYE BOY, thank you for helping me here. (Then you go cry. Because it will hurt and suck.)
- He’ll snap-to very quickly and agree that it really bothers him as well, and he’d honestly like to do better. Can he have another chance? At which point you talk about it and sort out what that might look like. (I’m a big fan of one or two chances, but after that you’re just over-tolerating.)
The THIRD MOST DIFFICULT OUTCOME lies somewhere in the middle.
He’ll own it, but also think you’re being a little unfair, and not want to break up, but also not commit to making a change, and then not follow through, but feel really bad about it…then he’ll try hard for a week but eventually boomerang back to bad habit X or irksome behavior Y.
I wish I could say this third option usually works out well and that harmony abounds eventually, but that’s not usually what happens.
And the real challenge in all this is that yes! You will really, really like someone! Maybe even love someone, because they’re 80% great! But dammit – they have these 20% habits and qualities that you simply cannot tolerate on an emotional level! Whether you like it or not!
And in most of these situations it doesn’t matter how much you like/love them, how awesome their 80% is, how great of a human they are, how bomb the sex is, because your frustration and pain and intolerance will (whether you want it to or not) emotionally outweigh the good stuff.
And this is a completely individualized, personal thing! Your intolerances will be unique to you! How fun and snowflake-y and annoying is that?
I once had a client who kept meeting great guys that she really liked, who also had terrible table manners. They burped, they slurped, they held a fork like a five year old. She’d try to be tolerant and patient and eventually tell them how the burping/slurping/forking/finger-licking really bothered her, but it just wouldn’t get better. It was driving her cuckoo-banana-pants.
She came to me because she wanted me to, I dunno, perform some kind of hypnotherapy that could make her care less about a guy putting a napkin in his lap? Instead we experimented with her being a little less tolerant of someone’s shitty table manners on DATE ONE. And if some guy’s eating style wouldn’t fly at a White House dinner? Say sayonara, sister.
Now you might read that and think, “Jeez, really?! She couldn’t just get over that?? That seems extreme. If I met a really great, amazing, man I’d be able to deal with something like that.”
Well good for you. Have her leftovers. But I’d bet any sum of dollars that there are things you cannot tolerate that she’d be completely fine with.
For my client, simply admitting and owning her intolerance, and not wasting time on poor-mannered fellow felt so fucking liberating. Mosty because she wasn’t trying to change them or herself from day one. And it didn’t take long to find a really great guy who also knew which fork to use.
In general, what bothers you will continue to bother you unless you both find a workable, consistent, solution, or…I dunno, you get a lobotomy of some kind? And those are expensive.
The alternative, to admit that you can no longer tolerate a certain behavior/quality/trait, and decide it’s likely best to cut your losses, while this choice sucks giant donkey balls in the moment? Over the course of your lifetime it is the much easier choice.
Further committing to, shacking up with, getting engaged to, marrying, having children with someone who cannot give you what you need, or whose habits and ways of being (however unintentional or justifiable they are) hurt you and leave you feeling dissatisfied, is a much more painful and difficult choice.
So consider: What have you tolerated in the past that you really shouldn’t have? And what are you currently tolerating?
And what if you decided to admit to yourself that you’re not wrong for being bothered, you’re not wrong for feeling hurt, you’re not wrong for finding it intolerable, in spite of your best efforts to go with the flow or be more flexible/accepting.
What if it doesn’t matter if he’ll change, or if it will get better, because the fact remains that right now? It’s just awful. It’s kinda eating you alive.
Admit it. Own it. It’s becoming intolerable.
Right now, in this precious present moment, you’re driving yourself crazy trying to figure out this thing that you probably don’t need to figure out, because sugarplum? The writing is on the wall.
What you tolerate will continue, unless you can own your intolerance, accept your feelings, and admit that trying to force yourself to accept this person or this relationship as-is, in this moment, is not good for either of you.
You deserve a love that feels easy. So does he. And it might sound crazy, but try to trust your intolerance. Start facing your own music. Own what you can’t accept.
It makes sense. It’s the simpler choice. And it might suck, but in the long run? It’ll set you both free.