The Walk Away

This came up on Facebook recently, and I was surprised how many people it resonated with. It’s also come up a lot in conversations I’ve had with friends lately. So.

The walk away is the most important tool in your dating repertoire.

I realize that can sound cold. Or even manipulative. It isn’t.

You need to be able to walk away from a bad situation. You need to be able to walk away from someone who mistreats you, or even just someone who is bad for you (without intent to mistreat you). In either case, you need to know how to walk away. And yet the instinctive response for a lot of people is to cling harder. To hold on harder, in hopes of fixing things by sheer force of will. That doesn’t work

One guy I dated didn’t want to hold hands with me in public at an art event he’d invited me to, because another girl he was dating was going to be there, and he hadn’t told her he was dating other people, too. I could have gotten insecure and put up with it and tried to please him. It would have made me miserable, though. So I didn’t.  I told him no and not to call me until he got his act together. And I walked away.

He never called. And that’s a good thing. Because I would have been miserable dating him.

In another situation, a guy I’d been with for years couldn’t set boundaries with his family. Boundaries I needed. I should have walked away then, but I held on for another 6 months or so, before realizing I needed to walk away. He hadn’t mistreated me. Arguably, he didn’t do anything actually wrong. But I was very unhappy and it was only getting worse.

Here’s the thing, if you walk away from bad dates and bad relationships, pretty soon you start having good relationships. The ones you’d miss out on because you were trying to make it work with Mr. NotRight. (Or Ms.). The times someone treats you the way you want, you stick around.

You stick around when someone respects you, and shows affection in a way that works for you (let me tell you, the dude who tried to show me affection by scooping the cat litter when all I wanted was to be held? Not a winner). 

So, when someone tries negging you, (“You’ve got an hourglass figure. I’ve always prefered waifs, myself,” or “Most people wouldn’t be into you, but I like you,”) — walk away. When someone needs you to always drop what you’re doing to pay attention to them (“Why are you always gaming? I want you to go see a movie you won’t like but I will and I can’t go alone, because my time is clearly more valuable than yours”) — walk away. When someone blames you for all their stress — walk away. When someone demands you magically read their mind and then gets upset when it turns out you aren’t telepathic — walk away. When someone is a rude jerk to you — walk away.

“But,” some friends of mine have protested, “what if they’re really awesome and I won’t find anyone better?”

Okay, no. If someone treats you poorly you can definitely find someone better. And I’m not saying to bail on a relationship the first time you have an argument. Arguments are unavoidable. And we all behave badly from time to time. The thing is, the good ones? When you walk away, they realize, “Oh, shit. I fucked up,” and then they walk toward you. Now they know you won’t put up with bad behavior, so they stop doing it. Or at least genuinely try to work on it.

Do not–I repeat– DO NOT use the walk away as punishment or manipulation. That’s stupid. And counter-productive. You overdo it, and you’re the asshole. That, however, is an entirely different conversation.

Walking away doesn’t guarantee you’re going to find the love of your life. It doesn’t guarantee that life will be puppies and kittens and rainbow skittles, either. But it does give you a much better chance of finding the kind of relationship you want. Yes, you may be lonely for a while. It’s not the worst thing in the world.

Every relationship I’ve had since I learned the walk away has been better than the one before. Sometimes exponentially better. It’s so noticeable that my entire family has commented on it. At one point my mother even said, “Wow, I like this boyfriend a lot. I can’t wait to meet the next one if this doesn’t work out.”

So please, please, please, please, please, if you’re dating someone who treats you poorly, or criticizes you endlessly, or takes you for granted, or kicks your cat, walk away.

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