Among other shows, I’ve been listening to the television show Sports Night. In the mid-to-late second season, two characters end their romance. Natalie scored tickets to some VIP-only club that was opening and she wanted Jeremy, her introvert boyfriend, to go with her. Jeremy reluctantly agreed to go, but spared no quarter in expressing his distaste for such events and the people that attend them. It goes downhill from there.

A few years ago I went to an awkward outing with my ex-girlfriend Julie and her then-current boyfriend Tony. Julie scored some rodeo tickets and Tony wasn’t much in to the rodeo, to say the least. Julie insisted that Tony go and, much like Jeremy, he went only with the condition that he not enjoy himself and express his opinion on this matter in regular intervals. I didn’t know about this little arrangement or else I would have passed on the whole thing.

It’s easy to line up with Julie or Tony (or Natalie or Jeremy) depending on our view of VIP clubs, rodeos, boys, girls, and whichever side of the situation we’ve been on. Ultimately, though, this is a mutual problem in my view. It is actually a sign of a relationship in which both parties are putting their needs before their partner’s, resulting in the ultimate lose-lose situation. Every relationship consists of individual interests as well as group interests. From time to time I like to watch anime and Clancy doesn’t. Clancy enjoys the outdoors and backpacking, which isn’t the sort of thing that I would do on my own. Whether or not the uninterested party partakes in their partners interest is best determined on a case-by-case basis.

For instance, were I in Jeremy’s shoes my stance would be similar. Not my thing, don’t wanna go. Couldn’t enjoy myself if I did go. Would ultimately drag whoever I was with down with me. It would be unavoidable. As such, it would honestly make little sense for me to actually go. Indeed, my partner shouldn’t even want me there. Not only because I might bring her down (even if I wasn’t trying to) but also because I would be completely unhappy throughout the entire thing. In healthy relationships, something like that ought to matter. Natalie offered Jeremy the chance not to go, but she made it clear that she would give him a hard time about it.

Upsetting your partner is unavoidable from time to time. Sometimes it is avoidable but you can’t avoid it because you’re just too angry or upset and that happens, too. But trying to bring your partner down because they’re not doing what you want them to (unless it’s something that needs to be done, of course) is cancerous. Backpacking may not be my thing, but it’s not enough not my thing (as clubbing would be) that I would refuse to go. In fact, I want to go because it would make Clancy happy and that would make me happier than making her go alone even if it meant that I got to be doing things that I would rather do.

In cases where we are going somewhere we’d rather not be for the benefit of our partner, part of going is being as good a sport about it as possible. Tony won no points with his behavior at the rodeo. Point-wise, he honestly would have been better off by refusing to go. In wanting him to go to the rodeo, his enjoyment (or his attempted enjoyment) is implicit in the deal. If he’s not going to try to enjoy it, he does nothing by going except waste everybody’s time (and prevent me from enjoying it in all of the awkwardness).

By the same token, Julie should have seen it coming. Tony isn’t a hard person to read on things like that. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Tony flat-out said that he would go but wouldn’t enjoy himself. Either way, she knew he wasn’t going to have fun. But still she insisted that he go anyway. I don’t know if she thought he would change his mind once he got there or that he somehow owed it to her to be a good sport. In any case, he didn’t need to be there. She and I could have gone on our own or she could have taken someone else. There were no social expectations. But she got too caught up in the way it should have been (a boyfriend takes his girlfriend to the rodeo) that it ran their relationship ashore for a week or two before things settled down.

On a sidenote, I had absolutely no use for country music prior to meeting Julie. None. It was things like going to the rodeo and watching CMT where I changed my mind on it. I went into it with a much better attitude than Tony and both I and my relationship with Jullie were better off for it. Though perhaps that gave her unrealistic expectations with the more stubborn Tony.

Category: Coffeehouse

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2 Responses to Ignoble Concessions

  1. Spungen says:

    You know, I know this happens but I just don’t understand it. There aren’t many entertainments I couldn’t find a way to enjoy if my husband were interested, and vice-versa. Of course, he likes opera, and I hate romance movies, so maybe we don’t have the normal areas of conflict.

    I’m pretty elitist, but I could find a way to enjoy a rodeo, sheez.

    I think sometimes it’s not about the event at all, it’s about control. One person wants the other to submit, the other wants to rebel. Refusing to attend events is a passive-aggressive way of dissing the person.

    I also think a lot of women think it’s a matter of status to have a man on their arm everywhere they go, even to activities where a man’s presence clearly wouldn’t add any value, like shopping for herself. I find myself in the definite minority when I shop alone, even unglamorous shopping like at Target for baby crap. Most other people would prefer to drag the whole family along. Why, when you can stick the man home with the baby (or woman) and get it done twice as fast with no hassle?! Some men do like to shop, but a lot more don’t, and I’m always hearing these guys complain that their girlfriend/wives consider that their weekend “together” activity.

    Today a friend and I decided to set our husbands up for a Superbowl date so we could go shopping together. Had that not worked out, though, I’d have willingly attended a Superbowl party and found a way to enjoy myself.

  2. trumwill says:

    I dunno. There are some things that I don’t think I could ever enjoy doing, no matter how much I loved the person that I was going with. Loud techno dance clubs come to mind. But I would look for every possible way to enjoy myself before giving up. Heck, I even found a zen watching Freddie Prinze Jr. romantic comedies per Julie’s interests.

    Clancy and I are both people that need space, so that helps us avoid some of those pitfalls.

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