Do you know the ‘no’ test? Ladies should. Early in a romantic relationship, and especially as the relationship ‘lands’ at a time when conflict begins to rise, a lady should ensure she is able to say ‘no’ when she feels like it. Not to be nasty, of course; but, if she cannot be herself, what use is there being yoked to a man—and be who he wants you to be without you being who you know yourself to be and need to be for yourself?
So, the ‘no’ test is important in every relationship—for both parties—so both parties don’t lose themselves in some toxic liaison with forever consequences, i.e. codependency!
But the ‘yes’ test is just as important.
The ‘yes’ test is all about asking a seasonal question—lingering on the question for a season. A length of time. Can I say ‘yes’ to the rest of my life with this person? With all I know of him after dating him over a year. (Perhaps asking this question deep into the second year will prove more effective.) If you don’t even get to this point—in other words, the relationship is untenable before this point—good! You haven’t wasted your time.
Even though we live at a time where there’s far more ‘enlightenment’ about equality and fairness in relationships, what is surprising is also on the rise—the opposite spirit of narcissism. And even in younger people, younger men, it is surprising how attitudes to women haven’t changed in a sector of our society. It’s just like the perennial problem we have with racism. Or Islamophobia… and every other Phobos. In some quarters attitudes have not changed.
Ladies, please take counsel. There are men out there who will be positively charming, who will sweep you right off your feet, just like has never happened before to any woman (oh yes, it feels this way for just about everyone!), but give it time and a darker side may well rise. The more charming he is, the more connection initially, the more of a surprise it is when the dark side rises.
There is only one hope for men like this: for me it was the Twelve Step Program nearly 16 years ago. I had to learn something very profound; a learning that took a few years investment. It has paid handsomely. It wasn’t so much that I disrespected my wife (though I had!), it was more that I could not be honest with myself. A program of recovery teaches you to be honest with yourself. Man, you reading this, if you feel it’s her that’s being nasty to you, work out whether it’s you starting it or whether she’s safe—if she’s not safe, then get out. But if you’re starting it, stop! Accept your contribution to the conflict, own your behaviour, including your anger, and do not be violent!
Narcissistic men don’t want to set the example in repentance—actually, correction; they cannot. Ladies, if you’re in a relationship where there’s even a sniff of abuse—and please think beyond physical or sexual abuse into emotional, verbal, spiritual, financial abuse and neglect—look narcissism up. Do your research. Narcissists cannot stand being called narcissistic. They will explode or get you back or throw it back at you (or all these and more in stereo!) if you even mention the word ‘abuse’. But a guy who can transact with these terms—who can see his fault—who is honest and quick to own it—this man is a keeper.
The ‘yes’ test is this: can I truly say ‘yes’ to everything about this man—given what I know now, i.e. it’s not about your hopes for him to grow—for the rest of my life?
Forget about your hopes for him to grow. Growth is a future thing. It is not a now thing.
If his behaviour is to change, it will take at least a year of seeing it consistently before he has any credibility. Most of all, his attitude must change. He must, like every other adult person, take his own responsibility. If you can, he should too.