發文作者:Albert Tzeng | 2007/01/26

Advices for Female Friends and My Discontent

I came across a list of advices titled " for my female friends,"  which I found valuable but not necessarily agree. I posted it along with a critical note on the facebook and attracted some extended discussions. Here in this post I include the original list, my critique, and the subsequent discussions between me and my friends.

The Original List: “For My Female Friends"
– If a man wants you, nothing can keep him away.
– If he doesn’t want you, nothing can make him stay.
– Stop making excuses for a man and his behavior.
– Allow your intuition (or spirit) to save you from heartache.
– Stop trying to change yourself for a relationship that’s not meant to be.
– Slower is better.
– Never live your life for a man before you find what makes you truly happy.
– If a relationship ends because the man was not treating you as you deserve then heck no, you can’t “be friends”. A friend wouldn’t mistreat a friend.
– Don’t settle.
– If you feel like he is stringing you along, then he probably is.
– Don’t stay because you think “it will get better.” You’ll be mad at yourself a year later for staying when things are not better.
– The only person you can control in a relationship is you.
– Avoid men who’ve got a bunch of children by a bunch of different women. He didn’t marry them when he got them pregnant, why would he treat you any differently?
– Always have your own set of friends separate from his.
– Maintain boundaries in how a guy treats you.
– If something bothers you, speak up.
– Never let a man know everything. He will use it against you later.
– You cannot change a man’s behavior. Change comes from within.
– Don’t EVER make him feel he is more important than you are… even if he has more education or in a better job.
– Do not make him into a quasi-god. He is a man, nothing more nothing less.
– Never let a man define who you are.
– Never borrow someone else’s man. If he cheated with you, he’ll cheat on you.
– A man will only treat you the way you ALLOW him to treat you.
– All men are NOT dogs.
– You should not be the one doing all the bending… compromise is a two way street.
– You need time to heal between relationships… there is nothing cute about baggage… Deal with your issues before pursuing a new relationship.
– You should never look for someone to COMPLETE you… a relationship consists of two WHOLE individuals… look for someone complimentary… not supplementary.
– Dating is fun… even if he doesn’t turn out to be Mr. Right.
– Make him miss you sometimes… when a man always know where you are, and you’re always readily available to him – he takes it for granted.
– Never move into his mother’s house.
– Never co-sign for a man.
– Don’t fully commit to a man who doesn’t give you everything that you need.

Albert’s Reflecitons

Honestly all these wisdom-like verses read to me like a mixture of great insight and dubious myths. Dignity, independence, and a sense of security seem what are to be guarded. But what seems at stake is an over-emphasis of calculation and self-protection that runs against the formation of mutual trust and anything more profound.

True, I know there’re a lot of awful men out there and it’s advisable that women should be wiser in this regard. However, it’s not hard to imagine another set of golden rules for males advising them how to deal with women to protect “their dignity" (sometimes power domination admittedly). And the emphasis on the two sets of beliefs would be like the cold-war-style dignity-race in the expense of the essence of love. The morel likely outcome for who ever read this chart as bible would be that she did win her dignity, but end up all alone.

Love! What is love? Love is not something like the careful calculation of what you should offer according to what you’ve got. Love is not a resource you can either give or get. Love is neither about “wining someone you worth" as the market-like metaphor suggest. In some regard love is unconditional. And it is not rewarded by how much love you can “earn" from the other party, no, but rewarded by the very fact that you choose to care and to share with someone unconditionally, with which the determination and devotion lift your life to a different level of existence.

In short, some of the quotes read like witty technical advice of how to safeguard your self-esteem in the complicated love game. But they lost the sight of things more fundemental. This relfeciton applies to both gender, not restricted to female.

PS. There are also some contradictory statements. For instance, many of the passages seems to suggest an active, courageous self-image of women. Yet the very first two line, by portraying men’s intention as something beyond women’s reach, in effect put my female fellows in an awfully passive position.

Discussions on Facebook

Victoria Wrote:
Albert- very interesting note! I have yet to make up my mind about the quality and efficacy of the information that the main article gave, I think that all to often women are really hurt by men becasue they believe that a man in their life will change some of the deeper and fundamental problems in their own lives. hummm, it was nonetheless a very interesting article. all the best

Albert Replied:
Though I wrote the comment trying to make a different point, I admit that this list may sometimes help to rescue some female friend who suffer from over-submiting themself to man (to the degree of losing the love for self). I don’t think that’s golden rules but they definitely are a good list of questions to provoke thoughts about eveyones’ attitude.

Victoria wrote:
I’m just not sure, maybe.I’m a bit of a cynic, and maybe a few experiences have meant that i dwell firmly in the ‘all men are bastards’ camp (present company and that of the men folk of socioogy excluded) I do think that the origional article is valuable- though how one guards one’s heart from being seriously infirmed is quite another question. In my case I believe that the phrase ‘get thee to a nunnery, girl’ resonates- and m,ay be the only sure fire remedy…anon

Albert replied:
I though the short paragraph i wrote last night (pretty late then and i mistakenly lost all the content once in cut-n-paste operation so i actually retyped the whole note in a hurry) may somewhat place myself wrongly in a “anti-this-list" camp. Actually i do find it valuable. If i do not find the original article valuable i would not even bother posting it on my space. All i want to do except sharing it on my site is to point out some of its restriction.

In reality I think all of us had to endure a phase of water-testing with each other which may run up to years. And at this stage a sense of balance between considering my partner and caring for myself is essential. (And this is how this list is valuable).

But to step forward, there’s a point beyond which a relationship should be lifted from the comparing n calculation ground. It’s a point of comittment, of ocurse from both parties.

My major concern here is that, I’ve seen so many friends who falled into the vircious cycle of always believing “I just meet the worng one" and “the next will be better" without the willingness to make further efforts to change. Too often when a crisis arise, both sides are merely waiting the other side to take the responsibility to solve, and the result is noone stand out…. both think finding a better one may be easier. Not a few of them end up solitude (mostly female, a social fact that put women in a very disadvantaged position because many men can find a partner as late as in their 40s).

But i do know.. not to give up to easily AND not to waste time on a hopeless relations present a very tricky dilemma. All I want to point out is… while many people treat “CHOOSING the RIGHT partner" as the most-important thing in love, my experience was, far more efforts is needed in “LEARNING to be together…especially before the passion dies." How to handle negative emotions, how to negotiate power relations, how to adjust temporal conflict, how to reach a consensus about career goal and family issues… all these need attention more than merely choosing a better one.

And the last thing is.. people do change. I’ve seen several playboy turning to be the dream husband. I also have seen the good-boy friend type partner evetually decide he need more excitement than he dared to have. So careful choosing does not garantee good prospect.

Re-reading my first note with a clearer mind. I found there’s lack of clarity and the problem of apealing to some utopistic vision. That are my faults. I hope this extended note helps make my points clearer.

Lars wrote:

This note has caused some debate around the place. Basically, I think the list has good advice for the broken hearted. The debates around it, however, reveal a way of thinking about the relationship between oneself and others that is really pervasive.

The idea is that the self-contained, independent self is strong and brave, where as being dependent on others and investing parts of yourself and your happiness in others is seen as weak and cowardly.

Being weak is the human thing – noone should be given a hard time for not having a successful face in all situations – the emotional range we have also gives vibrancy and intensity to life.

With this in mind, the strong – the unhurt – or the brave, are the ones that can afford to go for love, to invest their happiness in other people. It´s a gamble. I admire it in other people, but i have stopped demanding it from myself.

Being self-contained is a defensive measure, not something that comes out of strength.

Maud wrote:
oh yes Lars how eloquent! The strong the brave and the unhurt!Go forth and love each other! I cant believe this note has caused so much controversy, and i do agree with most of what Albert says (intelligence and emotional maturity shine through his comment) although i have to say i lean on Victoria’s side more although thats not strictly speaking the all men are bastards camp but the all men are ‘useless emotional fuckwits’ camp! A nunnery though what a good idea? I certainly would have achieved more things in my life if it wasnt for the distraction caused by men.

Victoria wrote:
Lars- we have had this discussion a few times in the past. I fully agree that bottling up emotions isn’t a strength- that it is stronger to have loved and lost and dealt with all the emotions that come part and parcel with that. However- once one has suffered the pain of being hurt do we not want to protect ourselves by building up a wall around our true self? Also, can we ever revert to that state pre-hurt? Can we ever be carefree when we have been hurt? And what do we do if we have (albeit inadvertently) hurt others? OOOh the perils of love!

Lars wrote again:

Vic – yupp, we have had this discussion several times, and I have tried to include some of the very good points you have made. I tried to express much the same as you do in this comment (and thus slightly different to they way I have expressed it earlier.)

Victoria writes:

“However- once one has suffered the pain of being hurt do we not want to protect ourselves by building up a wall around our true self?" I agree entirely! I think people misunderstand what I say because “strong" is such a positive word. I do not think we should always do strong things – and thus protecting oneself is often the right and human thing to do. We come to respect people because of their strengths, but love people through their weaknesses.

It´s more the language that talks about giving something up for someone else as something weak that I object to.

Maud wrote:
Vic- you talk of a ‘true’ self- doesnt sound like the true postmodernist i thought you were? surely we’ve all abandonned that floored and outdated misconception of the ‘true’ self?

Albert Concluded:

Yesterday afternoon i sweared to myself not to spent more than one hour a day on facebook-related things anymore. And this morning i returned only to find…geez, what a livily debate party here!

Lars – I like your formulations but the first note does lack some clarity. When i first read I could ‘guess,’ with limited confidence, you are objecting to stressing too much on ‘strength’ (which has a similiar role as the ‘dignity’ in my note). Yet the ending sentence, which seems to place you back in the pro-strength camp, just made the message more elusive. But the second note..wow.. “We come to respect people because of their strengths, but love people through their weaknesses." What a quotable phrase!!

Vic – Yes we were never be able to return to the state of pre-hurt. I mself had hurt others as well as got hurt too… all the memories- with regret and sadness, just made me a different man with a scarred and aged mind.

But isn’t it the nature of life? We journey through a kinds of incidence, intended or accident, glad or sad, with hournor or with regret, that we kept on writing a narrative of ourself, of how we turn to be the way we are now. Nostalgia of our uncantaminated, pure, past is soooo popular, but i think it’s popular because in some sense it’s not all that possible. Life is about a series of farewelling…farewelling to our childhood, our loved toys, school-day friends, ex-s, and in the end the bodily life.

The wall, yes someitmes we need to build up defensive wall. But for me it’s like bandage or walking stick after we got injured- it’s aimed to be removed or abandoned, hopefully, after our wound is cured. Sometimes the injury is so bad…. then we might need some sort of rehabiliation, a process that is so painful just because we are asked, or forced, to drop the protective devices. But in the end it pays off.

Maud- First thank you for your sweety compliment. I know “maturity" is a nice word for “pscyhological oldness." 🙂

Honestly i do not consider me, lars or victoria are really standing in different “sides." We were just took different roles so that the discussion can unfold. Most of the time, what we can afford to write is only a sketch of some aspects of how we cope with our daily reality. It’s not comprehensive nor accurate. And a lot of seemly conflict only exist in the discursive level- it exist mainly because of the way we phrase, and the way we organize our argument. (Just like your jokingly comment on Vic’s ‘true-self’…) In real life, I tend to believe that we have much more similarities than this seemly contested discussion might suggest.

And at last, you certainly would have ‘achieved’ more things in life if it wasnt for the distraction caused by men. But isn’t these ‘men-caused distractions’ another form of ‘achievement’ that you can bear with you in your life? ^_^

Maud Added:
My ‘men-caused’ distractions as another form of achievement…Mmm thank you Albert that is an interesting idea, i shall cherish that thought in times of uter despair and alienating pain. I like the idea of the bandage to be eventually removed i’ll hold on to that as well.
Judy Lin Added:

hmm…interesting discussion going on. I really enjoyed reading the responses (maybe because I am currently going through a rehab process …). Albert you are right about having to say goodbye to exs and saying goodbye can be such a difficult process, especially if you still have to see the person quite often due to work/ classes/ or simply because your just living across the street of each other (argh).

Anyways, if it doesn’t kill you it only makes you stronger. Not all relationships have happy endings, but than we all learn something through the process (feeling a bit too young to comment…). Sometimes it makes us wiser. Sometimes during the process of being with that person leads to self-discovery.

and yes…relationships can be a distraction that sometimes may blind us from other important things. (I guess it is a two way process though, it is likely the other person has suffered distractions as well while in the relationship.)

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