Stuck In The Middle With You

Well. That was fun.

Unless you’ve been in a coma for the last couple of days, you know about the World Vision hiring/not hiring the gays thing and the emotional wasteland that remains in its wake. Progressives and conservatives alike lost their ever lovin’ minds. Conservatives were filled with absolute rage – while progressives were doling out rallying cries and e-high fives. Fast forward 24 hours and those feelings reversed.

It was quite a thing.

God knows it’s not the first time an emotionally charged issue has inspired such a clash of ideology and it certainly won’t be the last. There are powerful voices on both sides who know how to get to heard.

But what about the rest of us? Those of us who fall much closer to the middle. Where’s our loud voice? Where’s our super blogger? If ever there was a silent majority, the not-a-conservative, not-yet-a-liberal is it.

Why is that?

I’m thinking it has a lot to do with fear.

Fear of being called lukewarm.

Fear of disappointing family, friends, pastors.

Fear of letting go of decades of theology that you’ve realized isn’t what God intended at all.

Fear of the world not being flat.

Fear of losing business connections in the Christian music industry that sometimes pay a lot of bills.

Was that last one too specific? Oops.

Let me take care of at least one of those for you right now. Fear of being called lukewarm. In a word, bullshit. Those of us in the middle are not lukewarm. We are peacemakers. We are observers. We admit we do not have all the answers. We live in the struggle. We love hard. And we do our best to see people. There is a lot of humanity in the middle.

We may not be first to the front lines, but we sure as hell aren’t lukewarm.

Still, we are quiet. It could be fear. It could be sheer exhaustion from constantly playing emotional and theological ping pong.

It could be because we feel alone.

We are always wondering what we can or should say and who we can or should say it to. But I think I have an idea.

Everyone likes to be asked what they think, so let’s start asking. Let’s begin conversations. Let’s attempt to find others in the middle while still listening to and learning from those on the ends.

My parents are conservatives. Pretty straight forward evangelical Christians and they are full of wisdom. I’m old enough to stop telling people how old I am and I still learn from them. My brother-in-law is a raging liberal atheist and I adore him. I do not get to where they are going when I explore the same questions they are considering, but I’m glad to have them along as part of my journey. Even though our faiths, or lack thereof, look very different, there is enough grace and respect for everyone.

Being in the middle isn’t so bad. There is a very nice view of perspective from here. We are less concerned about being right and more focused on being content. But do not mistake that for complacency. There is passion in the in-between. We just don’t feel driven to be the squeaky wheel. We’re more like the oil.

Maybe someday we’ll find our super blogger. Maybe we will quietly build bridges that lead us all back to the Family table. Maybe we’ll get bolder. Maybe we should make peace with our desire to not draw battle lines.

Maybe we should stop being afraid.

What say you? What causes you to hold your tongue or rethink that tweet?

 

Yeah. You didn’t think I’d post a title like that and not leave you with some Stealers Wheel, did you?

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When Saying “I Love You” Means Getting A Restraining Order

ENOUGH

Setting boundaries with someone close to you is super fun.

That is if you think conflict and hurt feelings are super fun. And if so, WTF?

STORY TIME!

A friend of mine has a complicated relationship with her father. She has a highly scheduled life, he hops a plane and shows up at her door with exactly zero warning and stays for a week. She’s brutally honest, his version of truth is whatever sounds most impressive at cocktail parties. Then there’s that thing where he turned a blind eye to my friend being emotionally abused by her sister because that’s no fun to tell at cocktail parties.

Ah, family. Good times.

His last surprise visit resulted in my friend locking herself in her room for three days. She didn’t pee for over twenty hours. No en suite bathroom. Total bummer. Why such drastic measures? Well, aside from the unexpected call to come get him from the airport, he spent twenty minutes explaining to her how clever he’d been about lying to her her whole life.

And if you think I’m going to leave you hanging about what he lied to her about, you’re absolutely right. None of your business, y’all.

I guess you’ll just have to trust me that it’s a doozy.

I don’t know what he thought he was going to happen, but if it was having his daughter try to throw him our of her house for three days? Mission accomplished.

When she and I ended our conversation, the restraining order hadn’t been filed yet, but she was seriously considering it. With the full blessing of her mother, by the by.

Sometimes the people who are suppose to be our protectors, our most trusted place to land, our confidants, our unconditional love, totally shit the bed. And that betrayal is profound. It is deep. It can be life-altering.

That’s when you have to say, “enough”.

But, that’s the easy part.

The hard part is putting “enough” into practice. To cut someone that close to you out of your life hurts. A lot. And the desire to cave because “maybe it will be different” is a powerful thing.

But you can’t. Because it won’t.

That doesn’t mean it will never be different. It could, eventually, if that person does some hard work to fix the busted and proves it.

But Sharideth! He said he was sorry!

So what? They all do. You have to remember that an apology is only placation if there is no real change behind it. If you never do hear an apology, that’s easy. Bye bye.

Protecting yourself is not a crime. It’s healthy. Not just for your own peace of mind, but also for the protection of current or future relationships.

And that hole left behind by the person who took a dump in your heart? Fill it with people you actually can count on. Create your own family of friends who have your back. Those who understand your value.

Don’t mourn what you don’t have. Raise a glass to what you do have.

Let’s face it. Some people suck. Hard. Surround yourself with those who don’t.

What say you? Ever had to cut someone out of your life?

 

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The Case Against Matt Forney

Ya know, I tend to just ignore what I don’t like on the internet and move on because I’m all about happiness and good times and not completely losing my shit.

But this particular little something special has been brought to my attention several times and I should probably address it? Explain it? Stab it to death? Guess we’ll just have to see.

If you don’t know what the Manosphere is, my friend Joy Bennett will ‘splain it to you with the best definition I’ve heard yet:

“Allow me to introduce you to ‘The Manosphere’. They hate women with a passion except that they also want to fuck them.”

That pretty much sums it up. They like to write blogs with delightful titles like “It’s Fat Girl Shaming Month!” and “I Love My Dick and So Can You!” Okay, so I made that second one up, but it’s the subtext of everything these man-children write. I’ve read plenty of it. People send me links all the time but I never post them here or rebut them directly because I don’t want to send traffic their way.

I changed my mind this time.

The Manosphere is full of misogynists and Matt Forney is their king.

His post:

The Case Against Female Self-Esteem

is the reason I’m writing today.

It’s not just Forney, it’s how many are agreeing with him in the comments section. You see, Matt believes “The idea that women should have self-esteem or need it, beyond a low baseline to ensure they don’t commit suicide or become psycho stalkers, is one of the most disastrous social engineering experiments of the modern era.”

In other news, he says strong women deflate his dick.

And I’m sure that^^^^^ is absolutely true.

Forney also seems to believe that strength and vulnerability are mutually exclusive. Probably because he defines “vulnerability” as being susceptible to him and fearful of his rejection.

Weird. Now that I think about it, that almost sounds like the definition of victim not vulnerable. And by “almost” I mean “absolutely”.

I have to admit it’s been a struggle to gather my thoughts after my head exploded from reading Forney’s piece so I’m going use bullet points to organize my response.

Also, to take the edge off of wanting to use actual bullets.

  • REAL MEN LIKE STRONG WOMEN – Cliche´? Duh. Of course it is. Doesn’t make it any less true though. When I met my husband, my insecurity nob went to 11. I was vulnerable in the way that makes Forney all tingly. But my man, Craig, wasn’t having any of it. He taught me to be strong. To look people in the eye. To say no. Even if that no was directed at him. He’s proud of the Forney-dick-deflating woman I’ve become. Because he’s a real man. Boys like Forney and his sticky minions, who want women insecure and afraid, are cowards. They can’t fathom happiness with a strong woman because they think it will make them weaker than they already are. They subjugate out of fear of being subjugated.
  • STRENGTH AND VULNERABILITY ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE – A woman can be strong while still being open and trusting. I see it all the time. Just because she’s willing to take a bite out of your ass if you cross her, doesn’t mean there’s no softness or concern for others or willingness to concede when she’s the wrong one. A man who recognizes that knows the real prize is in partnership. It’s in being with a woman who is strong enough to hold him up when he’s weak and soft enough or “vulnerable” enough to not make him feel like less of a man for leaning on her.

What Forney and the rest of the Astroglide-of-the-month club are missing is that a strong woman is a real man’s biggest fan and advocate. She makes him feel invincible not because he’s dominating her but because she’s supporting him.

I realize all of this will have exactly zero effect on those in the Manosphere. The toolbox who wrote the Fat Girl post will probably grab a tube sock and go back to the big girl porn under his bed.

Yeah. I said that.

And Forney? Who knows. I honestly don’t care.

What I do care about, what I have always cared about here at AWGTW is healthy relationship. I want strong, loving, reasonable men to choose strong, loving, reasonable women. I want mutual respect. I want matching rocking chairs when you’re 80. I want those who are into ren faires to find each other, share a turkey leg and make awkward family photos I can enjoy on the internet.

I don’t want women to be afraid. To be used. To be insecure. To be victimized by the likes of Matt Forney.

And neither should you.

I have no intention of becoming the internet police. Because exhausting. And annoying. And exhausting. But in this case, I had to say something. Women who are insecure and vulnerable need champions not predators. Let me be very clear. Men who pursue women who are weaker than they are, who they can mold and manipulate into their twisted version of womanhood, are predators. Not the apex kind. The “To Catch A” kind. A champion is a man who sees a woman who is his equal and THAT is what excites him. The challenge. The knowing he will never be bored. The understanding that she is only going to make him stronger.

Okay. I’m done now.

What say you?

Related:

Miss Insecurity

When Two Good People Can’t Make It Work

funny-girl-crying-breakup

This blog post was born like so many others I’ve written…in a bar.

I had just finished having my ass handed to me in trivia when I found myself in conversation with a guy I barely knew. This happens to me a lot. It’s cool. I don’t mind. It’s like a live Dear Sharideth where I walk away wondering what I said and if I just ruined someone’s life. No big.

I’ve gotten in trouble here on AWGTW for not giving women the benefit of the doubt enough when it comes to the crash and burn of relationships. And that’s true. I haven’t. But I do know it’s not always the girl’s fault when things go all Breaking Bad (RIP WW), except for all the times it is.

I kid. I kid.

The primary reason I haven’t spent much time on her side of the trauma is because this has been mostly a blog for dudes. But I want to include both sides this time.

Both good sides.

The guy I talked to after Trivia Apocalypse 2013 was a good guy. He was only 8 days out of a relationship that lasted a year and a half. And according to him, she was a good girl. They were both hurting because the relationship didn’t make it. So what went wrong? Two good people who treated each other well couldn’t make it work? Oy. The world is doomed.

No, it isn’t. And I’ll tell you why.

Sometimes you need more than just decency to make a thing go right. He pursued her. He listened to her. He spent time with her. He invested himself. He recognized her value. He knew she was a good girl, a keeper even, and made a real effort to be all the things a boyfriend should be. He spent a year and a half waiting to fall in love with her.

But it never happened.

He loved her in the way that way you love anyone who has become important to you. But that…thing…that I-can’t-wait-to-be-with-her-again thing, never happened for him. He wanted it to. His previous taste in women was admittedly awful. She had everything that made her an in-it-for-life partner. He wanted that.

He just had to accept that she wasn’t his lifer.

The good news is he now knows what a healthy relationship looks like and won’t settle for less. And they are both free to find all of it with someone else.

Two great things that just don’t go together.

Brushing your teeth? Awesome! Orange juice? Delicious! Drinking OJ right after you brush your teeth? Worst thing to happen in your mouth ever. That’s kind of what it’s like. Sometimes two good people just aren’t a match. The reasons can be as numerous as when awful people are involved.

But it doesn’t make you somehow flawed. Which is the big question that gets agonized over when a good but not right relationship ends. “What is wrong with me that I couldn’t make it work with this amazing person?”

Nothing.

Nothing is wrong with you.

That amazing person wasn’t YOUR amazing person. You both deserve better than being settled for.

Yeah. I’ll say that again.

You both deserve better than being settled for.

Don’t you think? I know I do.

Two good people. One failed relationship. It happens. You just have to do what this guy did and learn from it. It’s a rare gift when you get to walk away from a relationship and have positive feelings and lessons to take with you.

You got close. Real close. Pretty soon, you’re going to nail it.

What say you? Ever been in a good but not right relationship that didn’t make it? What did you learn from it?

P.S. You know what does go with orange juice?

Vodka.

The Wisdom Of Keanu Reeves

quote-falling-in-love-and-having-a-relationship-are-two-different-things-keanu-reeves-152292

If you had to add “Right, brah?” to the end of that quote, don’t worry. You’re in good company.

Taking relationship advice from Keanu Reeves is a no brainer. His brilliant work on Point Break should be enough to give him all the credibility. Which means you won’t be surprised when I agree with him.

Being in love and being in a relationship ARE two different things.

They can coexist with the same person but they can also be mutually exclusive. I am in love with my husband most of the time. I am in relationship with him all of the time.

Calm down. I’ll explain.

Being in love is a feeling. An awesome feeling to be sure. All warm and squishy and sigh producing. However, as my husband is known for saying, “You know the thing about feelings? They’re not real.” Feelings ebb and flow. God knows some are more rational than others. But always…they end. Without exception. They may start back up again, they may not. They may go dormant, they may cease all together. It really doesn’t matter how they end, the important part is that they do. Know why? Because regardless of what kind of feeling it is, maintaining it at any level is exhausting. None of us have the energy to run on feelings all the time. Have you ever met someone who tries to do that?

Yeah.

*shudder*

Now before you tell me I’m wrong or have the emotional range of Bender from Futurama, let me tell you something. I was that person. And I was damned difficult to be around. I didn’t make a single decision that wasn’t emotionally based and it made life pretty awful for me. I had two speeds. All the feelings and unconscious.

I know. Ugh.

Being in love feels delicious but being in relationship is what’s going to see you through. Relationship is bred, nurtured and grown over time. It becomes the bedrock for success. It is so much harder to shake than feelings. There is more to lose because of what’s been invested.

Keanu, bless his heart, got it right.

Even in the low points of my marriage (Yes, Craig and I have them too. You should try being married to me.) there is relationship. There is that common denominator of “we’ll get through this” because we have come to understand what it means to actually love someone. It’s just…more. It’s something that translates into determination to do right by the other person. It’s love without the “being in”.

Do we still get those warm and squishy feelings about each other? Sure. Have you seen my husband? Yum.

But at the end of the day, at the end of a really shitty week or when we’re old and wrinkly, there is relationship. There is knowing what you have is lasting. It is active. It is real.

What say you?

P.S. Feel free to load up the comments section with Keanu quotes if you want. Party on.

Dear Sharideth, How do I not lead her on?

hes-just-not-that-into-you-

Hi Sharideth,
Wondering about your thoughts on ways to kindly communicate to a friend that you are not interested in them. You know, like when you have a pretty good hunch that they are into you, and you kind of secretly enjoy that validation, also know that its not going to happen and have been strung along before and have vowed to reduce the overall douchebaggery in the world and thus never to do that to others?
It seems like the direct approach is a bit presumptuous, but the indirect approach could be even worse.

Yours,
Not A Douchebag

Dear NAD,

I commend your attempt at reducing douchebaggery. After you do away with leading girls on, can I suggest you go after a ban on deep Vs? Also, big thumbs up for admitting you like the validation of her admiration but aren’t going to use her for it. I think I just heard a collective swoon from my lovely lady readers.

Honestly, this one is hard for me to answer because I don’t know what kind of girl you’re dealing with. Is she the kind that will stay your friend for years in hopes you’ll come around? Because that girl is more common than you think. Is she the type that will get the hint when you ask her advice on asking another girl out? Is she into you but also not going to wait around for you because lame and she’s too confident to do that?

If she’s the first, you have to stop hanging out with her. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s the only way. Any attention from you will be hoarded as hope.

If she’s the second, great. That’s easy. Letting her know you’re pursuing someone else, even a nonspecific someone else, will do the trick. Specific is better though. That way she doesn’t do the girl thing of twisting it her brain to think you’re getting her advice on how to ask her out.

What? Don’t get mad at me, ladies. We’ve all done it.

There’s also a possibility you can keep the friendship with no weirdness, but that will be up to her. If she stops interacting with you, let her go.

The third is my favorite. She’s decided you’re someone who she’d like to have along in her life, but has embraced her own self worth enough to not need you or wait around for you. She may end being one of your best friends and a true confidant. Just let her know you appreciate her friendship. She’ll get it. She’s also the one you could straight up tell you only feel friendship for if the subject comes up. She can take it.

Under no circumstances, no matter what kind of girl you’re dealing with, do you tell her you want to meet someone like her. That sounds like a compliment to you, but trust me, no bueno. That will either make her desperate for you because you just don’t realize yet how much you love her *sighgaspOMG* or it will make her want to cut your nether regions to ribbons.

Oh so sincerely,

Sharideth

Ladies, what would make you understand you are kindly, but firmly friendzoned?

Forgiveness, Deep Breaths and Moving On

 

What-does-the-Bible-say-about-ForgivenessWell, the internet has been a’ragin’ about forgiveness this week. Why we should forgive. Why we shouldn’t. Who’s worthy of it. Who isn’t. How much apologizing is enough apologizing? What if an apology is never offered?

If you want my opinion, and of course you do, the only question to answer is the first one.

Why we should forgive.

The other questions range from muddying the waters to a steaming pile of emotional BS.

If you’ve ever been alive, someone has wronged you at some point. Unless you live in one of those shows designed to hypnotize toddlers. Which would obviously be awesome. Or terrifying. Whatever. But if you’re reading this, the likelihood that you have been personally offended, used, abused, treated poorly in any number of ways, is about 100%. Even the best of people make mistakes and cause pain. Then there’s the worst of people who do it intentionally. Gross. We don’t like them.

But we should probably forgive them.

WTF Sharideth?!? Why would you say that?

Oh, I have reasons. I’ve never left you hanging before and I ain’t gonna start now, my darlin’s.

LIST TIME!

Reasons to Forgive

  1. Mental Health – This is a big one. And it could end up causing some raging controversy in the comments but I’m going to say it anyway. Forgiving those who have wronged you, no matter what form that takes, is a critical step in emotional recovery and future healthy relationships. If you continue to carry the resentment, hatred, grudge around with you, it will spill over into any potential happiness you might find in the future.

    Let me super clear about something though. You are NOT required to trust that person again or include him/her/them in your life. Forgiveness is not inclusion. It is letting go of poison that could thread it’s disgusting way through the rest of your life but not relinquishing healthy boundaries that keep you safe.

    Forgiveness is not for them. It’s for you.

  2. Because you want to be forgiven – If the chance that you’ve been hurt is 100%, then you having hurt someone is probably at about 99.9%. We’re humans. And humans are fallible. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. Buncha dumb dumbs, that’s what we are. And each of us has probably found ourselves on the receiving end of forgiveness. But expecting forgiveness without offering it seems pretty self-centered to me. Extending grace is one of those things that definitely has a habit of coming back around when you need it. Call it biblical, call it karma, call it Darlene, I really don’t care, just understand that it’s important.
  3. Because you want to move on – It is time. Wake up tomorrow feeling a little lighter, a little more hopeful, a little less bummed. Whatever it is you’ve been putting off because you’re stuck in past pain, go get it. Grab on to something new and awesome and let it lead you away from the old and not awesome.
  4. Because you need to like yourself again – Forgiving yourself can be one of the hardest things to do. No one is better at making you feel awful and unworthy than yourself. My friend…let it go. We have all done things that we’re not proud of. All of us. No one is exempt. Take a deep breath in and exhale the need to continue to punish yourself. Then do it again. And keep doing it until it’s gone.

I feel like there is one more thing I need to talk about but it doesn’t really fit on the list.

Not receiving forgiveness when you have sincerely asked for it.

Unfortunately this is all too common. You understand you hurt someone, you asked for forgiveness…and were denied it.

Ouch and ouch.

Before I move on, I want you to understand that I know this looks very different when it comes to situations of abuse. In that case, forgiveness is going to definitely fall in #1 on the list for the abused. If you were the abuser, you may never know if you’ve been forgiven and are probably going to have to live with that.

Anything less than abuse though and you will eventually have to stop seeking forgiveness from them and move on. No matter how sincere the apology, some people are going to want to continue to make you pay. And that is so not cool. Read back over #4 and let it go. You do not have to continue to beg.

At some point it stops being your wrong doing and becomes theirs.

Yeah. You heard me right.

Protect any future relationship you might have by forgiving wrongs of the past. Whether you have to forgive someone else or yourself, do it. Let it go.

What say you?