by Louise O’Brien

As I, and the rest of the calendar-abiding world, begin a new year I have established some male prototypes and warning signs with which to spot them that should be applicable to everyone’s life. They should be – but truthfully they are gleaned from a year of pain, shame, betrayal, heartbreak and comic displays of dramatic, emotional turmoil that only a breakup can provide an individual with. Therefore, they are intrinsically personal and probably only applicable to other similarly disturbing matters of the heart. But I came to the conclusion, with some help from a friend, that “on every street in this world there is a woman going through what you are going through right now.” So I could be doing some good here. Mostly this will probably turn out to be therapeutic and self-serving. Oh well, you’ll get over it. Pull up a chair, girlfriend and let me tell you what I know.

At the beginning of a relationship, there are certain tell-tale signs that spell out in no uncertain terms RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, WOMAN. This man is destined to hurt you. He may not want to, he may not know he is going to do it. He may feel bad about it once he’s done it. But, as my grandmother used to say, surely as God made little green apples he’s on the path of destruction. First stop – your self-esteem.

This man will tell you you’re what he’s been looking for all his life – and he will tell you this within the first weeks of the relationship. His intensity is intoxicating. You will think this is romantic and sweet. You will be impressed that a man in this day and age can come to grips with his feelings – and so quickly. You must be something pretty special. As he’s liable to tell you, you’re the first girl he’s been able to feel this way about. He didn’t even know he was capable of such emotional attachment. Can he see you tonight? Will you stay over till tomorrow morning? You have things to do – that’s okay, come over when you’re done. Spend the weekend here. If you have plans that don’t involve him, expect a phone call. It’s understandable – the poor dear can’t fall asleep without you beside him. Can’t you catch a cab to his place? Sure, it’s two in the morning and you have to work tomorrow but he NEEDS you.

This is a man who can’t be alone. He suffers from a need complex because he has been alone with himself and he’s come to the conclusion that he should never be alone with himself again. He doesn’t like himself very much. But he really doesn’t want you to know that. He would like to mask his inadequacies with your lovely and attentive presence. He will make you feel like his savior, his salvation. He never knew that someone else could provide him with the support and sustenance he needed just to make it through the night. Probably the most attractive thing about you is your ability to take care of yourself – and therefore him!

The Big Protector
He knew you were the one when he realized what a strong woman you were. A no-nonsense gal. Someone with a good head on her shoulders, bold and irreverent. Totally able to stand on her own two feet. That is what he was looking for – his ideal woman is someone who doesn’t need him. Yet.

Why won’t you let him be the one to make your problems disappear? Of course you can handle things yourself. Of course you don’t need his shoulder to cry on. Of course you’ve been living life on your own two feet for a long time and you’re good at it. He just wants to show you an alternative to all that. You’re worth so much more than you know. Why won’t you let him take care of you? Bring you soup when you’re sick, give you back rubs, tell you how to best invest in your company’s 401k plan, plan your weekend, tell you which top looks best with that skirt? He just wants you to know that you are his baby – his and only his.

Then the phone calls start. You’ve given yourself over to him. You want to spend more time with him – it’s nice to feel loved and protected. You haven’t felt that way since you moved out of your parents’ house and started taking care of yourself. You call him a lot more than you used to. You make the priority of your day checking e-mails he sent you and calling him at work to tell him you miss him. Around this time, you’ll notice his phone calls to you tapering off. That fiery, independent woman he met a couple of months ago was sexy. This chick is annoying and entirely too needy.

The Offer of a Lie
There are many theories on how to handle it when your man lies to you. You ask where he’s been and he looks up at the sky as he attempts to come up with a suitable version of the truth. He could tell you he was at a strip bar but chances are he’ll tell you it was a strip mall instead and in his head at least he told you part of the truth. But what you may not know is that there are sociopaths living among us, whom many of us have slept with, who will outright offer you a lie for reasons unbeknownst to even themselves.

He will look across the table to you at dinner and tell you he’s never felt this way before. He will send you a rambling e-mail at work to tell you he can’t get you out of his mind, you make the past seem like less of a mistake because it led him to you. He will look into your eyes during sex and swear that he hasn’t even been able to look at another woman since the first time he touched you. He will tell you that you are his reward for doing everything right. He’ll tell you he thinks he’s falling in love for the first time in his long, lonely life.

His reason for all of this bullshit? It inspires a helluva reaction from you, dear girl! You are much more emotive in bed, you suddenly want to show him how much you care about him, you treat him like a god. Not every man who says these things is lying. But, there are the few and the proud who take great pleasure in their ability to mold their woman to respond the way they want to. The poor girl never finds out she’s with a derelict until she catches him in bed with her best friend and it turns out they were having an affair for months. These rascals are hard to catch before they do their damage. They are usually much too slippery to get a hold of. Chances are once they’ve had their way with you, you won’t be able to trust any men for a good long time. That might not be a bad thing.

I am not a man hater. I swear. But when I look around I notice more and more that women in my life are naive and ridiculously attached to the wrong men. They let these vultures prey on their hearts. What winds up happening is they do get hurt and for some inexplicable reason they feel like less of a woman when it is over. Somehow or another, his shortcomings as a partner, his insensitivity, his lack of sincere emotions makes his girlfriend feel like there must be something wrong with her. Chances are there isn’t. But that is by far the worst crime he commits. Because he’s already moved on to the next girl and she’s left with more emotional baggage than she had at the beginning of the relationship. So if this article helps some woman feel a little better, as is often the case when people realize the universality of the human experience and therefore they are not alone, then I did something good. Mostly, though, it was just a way for me to tell my ex-boyfriend to go to hell.