Don't Be Like Me and Make the Mistake of Being Too Nice

Kerry Kerr McAvoy

It cost me self-respect

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I heard from my ex recently. He emailed and asked for a large sum of money. Not hundreds of dollars, but thousands. Mind you, we’ve been divorced for over a year. This guy exited the relationship much richer than he entered it — and me much poorer.

Surprised, I reminded him that we had no marital or familial connection, to which he responded he needed three times the amount he just asked for. What?

I think he was implying I should have been grateful that he didn’t ask for more. The whole situation was ludicrous. I blocked him.

Why does he think he’s entitled to my money? What relationship dynamic would have created this expectation? Mind you, this man is a philanderer. By using that word, I’m being kind. He’s a serial cheater. He burns through women like a frat boy goes through cans of beer at a tailgate party. I have no idea about the number of women he was involved with during our two-year marriage. Couldn’t I see this guy was trouble?

Flattered by the Attention

Looking back, there were subtle signs. I’m embarrassed to admit that his good looks bowled me over. I couldn’t believe someone as handsome as him would want to date someone like me. Sure, I’m talented, intelligent, driven, and well-educated, but I’m not hot. All my life I’ve heard I’m “cute” and “sweet.” Sexy, smokin’, or hot are not words used to describe me. For the most part, I’m okay with this.

Back in college, one of the girls who lived on the same dorm floor was drop-dead gorgeous. She had ash-blonde hair, long legs, slender curves, and a beautiful face. An American beauty. She rarely dated. Not because she wasn’t interested, but because guys were too scared. Yet, I’m sure there were no end to the catcalls and other shit she had to put up with. Being hot is a burden I don’t particularly want.

Yet, I would like men to see me. All of me. Not for my body curves or a number on the bathroom scale, but for me. I can’t shake the feeling like I’m still that chubby, dorky-looking twelve-year-old. When a good-looking guy notices me, I’m grateful, as if I’d been undeserving of his attention.

On the other hand, people notice my ex, especially women. When he walks into the room, there’s a visible effect. A stir would go around the room.

Sometimes I ached when I looked at him. Not with sexual longing; I was moved by his beauty. I couldn’t believe he found a middle-aged, overweight woman attractive.

Signs I Missed

So, while dating, I ignored the cracks that began to appear in my ex’s image. The way he needed to be in control. His inconsistent efforts to stay in touch. Something was off. Although I couldn’t point to one specific thing, he didn’t act like someone who was all in. Looking back, I realize he was never in love. Oh, I think he liked me enough, but he never adored me or couldn’t live without me. I don’t think he ever had that mysterious feeling you get when you know this person is the one.

Instead, I was flattered that he had picked me, and I did everything I could to make him love me more. I bit my tongue and put up with his abuse when I shouldn’t have. I went out of my way to be accommodating. I did too much, tried too hard, and looked away too often. I made myself small and unassuming, hoping he’d notice. I hoped he’d find my niceness adorable. That he’d see these sacrifices and appreciate me. The patheticness of what I just admitted horrifies me.

Compromising Too Much Doesn't Earn Respect

I learned too late that relationships don’t operate like a math equation. People don’t respect us for giving too much of ourselves away. Just the opposite. They scoff and abuse us for being excessively compliant. The more I gave, the more he took. Why not? I made it easy. He must have thought I was a fool.

Near the end of our relationship, we were both hungry and stopped at a store to pick up a few groceries. As we walked through the aisles, my ex found the items he wanted — soda, chips, peanuts, and a bag of snacks that I disliked. I mentioned that I preferred another flavor. He ignored this and walked to the front of the store to pay. All the items in the basket were his favorites, nothing for me except for some soda.

I complained again.

“Next time, we’ll look for the brand you like,” he said.

This was the man who, during our ten-day honeymoon trip, became upset when he discovered the resort didn’t carry the right type of popcorn. It offered theater-style, but not microwaveable. He looked everywhere for it; he spoke to the kitchen staff and the concierge. He even convinced the hotel to bring a microwave to our suite. He finally paid a private driver to take him into the nearest village. He came back upset and empty-handed.

But it was okay to leave the grocery store that day without a bag of snacks for me. My hunger didn’t matter.

Now a year after our divorce, he’s still asking for more.

We Often Get What We Accept From Others

I’ve learned a painful lesson over the past few years. We get what we are willing to accept. I got bad behavior because for too long I put up with it. We signal we don't think we are worth more whenever we accept emotional leftovers.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be in another long-term relationship. Right now, I’m too busy for one. But I do know this: I will never again contort myself to gain or keep someone’s love.

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Psychologist, Kerry Kerr McAvoy, Ph.D. writes about dating, healthy relationships, narcissism, and various other mental health-related issues. She is a mom to three grown sons. Loves to swim, snorkel, and read, and enjoys traveling. She lived in the Caribbean for two years. For her monthly letter http://bit.ly/3bCXEnc or to listen to her podcast https://bit.ly/3qiklRC

Austin, TX
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