The Asshole With A Thousand Faces

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Unfortunately, I’m a nice guy. I don’t know why this curse has befallen me while other guys are lucky enough to come from a bloodline of jerks (my bloodline is mostly kind and thoughtful people). Such is my fate. I'm not imbued with the power of emotional indifference; I don't have a talent for seeking out and abusing women; I do not extract sexual riches from those with low self-esteem.

My power is being stupid enough to care.

This whole week has been an exercise in that stupidity. One-by-one the beautiful women in my life – friends, of course – came to me wondering why men insist on treating them like shit. A flurry of stories involving emotional and physical abuses, betrayal, lying, and cheating were presented to me from the mouths of teary-eyed women who have lost their sense of strength and independence.

The major beats of their stories were all the same:
  • He seemed so nice at first
  • Things got serious
  • He started to abuse me & now I hate myself
The only variations were in the details of the men (their career, and psychological dysfunction), to what degree the relationship was serious (how long they had been together, co-habitation, etc.), and what brand of abuse was being dealt. One other constant was clear: all the women believed the abuse was their own fault. Either they were dumb, pathetic, naive, blind, fat, ugly, etc. – imagine any negative thing a woman can say about herself, these women said it.

It wasn't the first time I'd observed these similarities. The fact is these stories have been the same since women started coming to me for council. The male villain is archetypal in nature. He seeks out a specific brand of female: those who require love and attention without knowing how to love themselves. By posturing in a way that showcases false Alpha traits he lulls these women into a state of primal comfort, and then he treats them like garbage. Apologies are made, forgiveness is applied, and it starts over. Eventually it gets ugly. If the woman is able to remove herself from it, the man moves on to someone else. If not, it gets uglier.

I have no solution to this. When we require love and attention to an unhealthy degree – that is, to a degree which feeds insecurity rather than simply being an extension of our human need to connect and love freely – it is hard to accept the truth. We see the red flags. We know when a person is bad news. But our insecurities will have us reshape those observations into something softer.  Because they require love even when it's false.

And so she will ask me for advice…

She will describe the man's behavior and ask for the male perspective. Seeing red flags I will issue a warning to be cautious, and she will ignore it. The guy is too clever for that, anyway. He knows better than to be an asshole through-and-through. He postures as a decent guy with "just a lot on his mind," or other such nonsense. She will convince herself that she was "just being a girl." A week later she will come to me in tears, and I will tell her the truth. She will agree that I am right and yet the pattern will continue. Eventually I will stop repeating my advice. She will fill in the blanks with her own theories. She will say hopeful things about what he must be thinking. She will continue to believe he is simply a good man who carries great stress or baggage. I will become sick of hearing the same thing and grow frustrated by her unwillingness to do what is right for herself. Then she will suddenly be fine, and then she will cry, and then she will blame herself. I will tell her that she's worth more than she's capable of seeing right now. But, she isn't ready to accept that, so she will continue to come to me. And because I am stupid I will continue to listen. I will always continue to listen.

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