A DOORMAT BY ANY OTHER NAME

After witnessing the collapse of yet another friend’s long-term relationship, I wondered what all these women had in common.  Aside from shouldering the lion’s share of the work involved, it seemed that all of them were exceptionally giving and tolerant women.  Strange, then, that they were assigned the unfair moniker of fickle.

We gathered one night to discuss our mutual woes.  It was ironic that even after bolting, they were still concerned with the welfare of everyone else but themselves. 

“My priest says I’m going straight to hell if I don’t take him back.  Do you think he’s right?” 

I couldn’t help but laugh.  Only a celibate man would have the balls to make such a statement.  I asked her if Father Flannigan knew about her husband’s infidelities.  She confessed that he did, but advised her that since a man’s needs were so much greater and important than her own, she’d best turn a blind eye for the sake of the children.  Savvy advice indeed.  Of course he failed to mention than if she contracts HIV from her wayward husband, the kids will have to do without a mother. 

“I don’t want to be a single parent.  The kids need a father.”

Lots of guilty tears accompanied that one.   It seemed ironic that despite her remorse, she didn’t realize that for the last 10 years she has been the defacto parent while Mr. Right travelled the world.  She was absolutely correct; the children do need a father.  I suggested that she go out and find a suitable one immediately.

“I’m terrified of being alone.  Isn’t the devil you know better than the one you don’t?”

Sure, if you don’t mind selling your soul.  I couldn’t help but wonder why she rued leaving her alcoholic boyfriend.  Did she think she could love him into sobriety?  I thought that after his third DUI, she would finally gather the courage to leave.  Pity she waited until he actually broadsided another vehicle.  Now she can add the guilt of a stranger’s injuries to her list.

As the self-blame fest continued, it seemed odd that the shortcomings of their (now former) partners were not mentioned.  It seemed that no matter the circumstance, each woman assigned herself the responsibility of failure, a choice eagerly endorsed by their errant lovers. 

“Greg’s telling everyone that I had a nervous breakdown.”

Of course he is.  That way he’s completely excused for his behavior, assumes none of the responsibility and is free to commit the same blunders with another woman.

“Marv told the kids that I’ve become a lesbian.”

When all else fails, try character attacks.  If it works on the campaign trail, it can work for any resentful dumpee.  Just describe the opponent in the worst possible light and then feign innocence when questioned.   Simply blame those tear-filled, late-night calls to her girlfriends for any misconception, and walk away.  It doesn’t matter if her reputation is besmirched.  This is war! 

Now logic dictates that these behaviors are co-dependent.  A clear-thinking woman would notice it and make the necessary changes to keep her sanity.  But what of those who are so caught up in fixing others that they don’t even know the damage wrought to themselves?  My grandmother once told me that if you don’t want others to tread on you, you must stop acting the doormat.

Maybe it’s time to put the welcome mat into storage.

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