About four months ago, I started dating a man who is great in many ways, but has a few idiosyncrasies that I am not sure are “deal breakers”. To start, the term “deal breakers” is actually his; and in fact, he has a list of them ranging from smoking to whether or not a woman wears nail polish (he does not like either).
Once a week “Irwin” attends his “Boys Night Out”, which consists of a drop-in at the local pub. Most of his male friends attend once a month, since they are too busy to attend every week, but Irwin insists on attending every week so he “doesn’t miss anyone”. During baseball and football seasons, Irwin “plays” in a fantasy league (complete with a giant trophy for the winner!) that also meets once a week, bringing his evenings out to two nights a week; sometimes three, when the seasons overlap. I’d have no problem with this if Irwin did not take issue with me spending one Saturday night a month with my girlfriends.
Irwin insists that “Saturday night is date night”, but he never takes me out on Saturday night because it interferes with his TV viewing. Saturday night is his night to catch up on all the shows he DVR’d during the week while he was out with his friends. He tells me he would prefer it if I were there with him, but I really don’t like the shows he watches - shows like Criminal Minds and SyFy type stuff. However, if I want to see him on the weekends this is usually my only option. He has also tried to get me to delete my Facebook account, but that is where I drew the line, since it is how I keep in touch with my social circle (as opposed to fantasy sports and bar nights).
Another thing I have noticed is that Irwin can be very generous while being very cheap. If we go out to dinner, he will insist on footing the entire bill, but then complain about the cost of the meal. He also refuses to pay for things he feel should be free, like valet parking (which is free, but he refuses to tip the valet) or parking in general. We recently missed the entire first period of the Bruins game because he insisted on driving around until we found free parking – in Boston! Just as with dinner, when I offered to pay for parking so we would not miss the game, he refused.
Irwin does have his good points – he is sweet and gentlemanly, and treats his mother well – all of which are things I look for in a man. He has made it clear that he will only get serious with a woman he considers marriage material, which is why he has not asked me for a commitment yet; but at the same time he has told me he could never get serious about a woman who “plays the field”. He is constantly contradicting himself like this, so why am I so hesitant to end this relationship, Tazi-Kat? I recently asked him what kind of woman is the kind of woman he considers marriage material, but he refused to answer me because he didn’t want me to try and “mold” myself into his “perfect woman”. A part of me wants to leave…but a part of me wants to rise to the challenge Irwin has placed before me. What to do, Tazi-Kat?
P.S. I have already changed Irwin’s name to an alias, but I doubt he will see this letter. He does not believe in surfing the Internet or the use of social networking sites, like Facebook (where I found your column), so feel free to be as honest as possible.
Dear Irwin’s Girl:
After reading through your letter a few times, it would appear that Irwin enjoys having complete emotional control over women, which is a form of abuse – and that, dear lady, should be a “deal breaker” for you!
While I can understand why Irwin might not want to date a woman who smokes, I am curious as to what his problem with nail polish is. As far as I know it has never been associated with cancer or other health concerns, the way second-hand smoke is. To make the wearing of nail polish a “deal breaker” sounds like Irwin wishes to control your physical appearance. As for his social schedule – Boys Night Out, fantasy sports, and TV night – that is for him to keep, just as your social schedule should be yours to keep. The fact that he tries to control your social schedule is also bothersome.
Irwin’s attitude towards money is especially telling. You say he will insist on paying for dinner, and then complain about the cost of it. It sounds as though he is trying to guilt you into staying in as opposed to going out by subjecting you to negative commentary about the cost. The refusal to allow you to pay for parking – and going so far as to miss a full third of a very expensive hockey game – has absolutely nothing to do with finances. Instead it shows a need for complete control over the situation at hand, and perhaps over you. Remember, you were in the (presumably moving) car with him, unable to leave in spite of your desire to park and get into the arena.
Irwin has not asked for a commitment from you, because he will only get serious with a woman he considers marriage material; discourages you from seeing other people by informing you that he could never get serious about a woman who plays the field; and refuses to let on where you stand by evading your questions about what kind of woman he considers “marriage material”. I can see why you might consider this a challenge issued, because this is how those who mentally abuse reel in their victims: starting by playing hard to get, then breaking them down emotionally and mentally; leaving the victim in question of his/her own habits and behaviors, in order to mold them into the person they want – someone who is completely subservient to them.
I would suggest you walk away from Irwin now, without making excuses about the holidays being so close – because after the holidays comes Valentine’s Day, and after that whatever other special occasions that can be used to guilt you into staying in this unhealthy relationship. Please write back to me in a few months to let me know how you are doing!