“He’s just not that into you” started as a phrase on Sex and the City, and then was made into a movie roughly a year after I got married. I remember watching it on a flight. As the different vignettes of relationships played out, I winced. I recognized myself in Ginnifer Goodwin’s eagerness to be in a relationship, and felt Jennifer Connelly’s pain and reluctance to end her marriage. I’d only been married a year, but saw too many similarities to my situation. It hurt.
How many of us left marriages where our spouse was outright neglectful? There were no date nights unless we put in all the work of finding the babysitter and arranging the restaurant. We’d dress up to go out, and he’d wear jeans and a t-shirt. Flowers only came once a year, we had to buy our own Christmas presents, and he’d give us unsigned birthday cards.
Beyond the romantic needs, we just plain didn’t have a partner. No one to share the chores, or help with the kids, no one to dream with and plan a future together. I felt unsupported in my career, and yet when I talked about switching careers somehow, it never fit his plan. The loving men we’d married turned into distant strangers.
Fast forward through a divorce, and we’re back on the dating scene. We’ve read the self-help books, repeated the mantras and taped affirmations to our bathroom mirrors. And yet…
How many of us have read posts left by other women in divorce support groups and winced?
He called and texted a lot at the beginning, but now he’ll go days without getting back to me. He used to plan the best dates, but our last few dates have been on the couch with Netflix. But he’s good with my kids.
That’s right; we left marriages with men who just weren’t that into us and have repeated the same pattern.
It’s a painful thing to acknowledge within yourself – that you might have more work to do post-divorce. Being lonely is hard, but we always deserve better than men who treat us like an afterthought. And if we are arguing with ourselves, attempting to convince ourselves to stay with a man behaving like this, or asking strangers on the Internet to weigh in, we know the answer. He’s just not that into us, and it’s time to move along.
I also think that many of us get hung up on the “kids” thing. Society has told us that divorce is a failure (psst, it’s not!). We’re broken and damaged, and our children are liabilities. Therefore, if a man we meet post-divorce is willing to “put up with” our baggage and children, we should tolerate neglectful or disrespectful treatment.
This view of our children is sexist. Want proof? Read how single dads are praised online for doing the bare minimum. Their care for their children is seen as proof that they’re loving and have their priorities straight. Not carrying baggage.
Having the courage to exit a bad marriage, or make the best of someone else’s choice, reveals that we’re strong and resilient, not damaged.
Men that do not make you a priority are never worth your time. Men who engage in submarining, popping up into your life for a week or a month, then diving back down under the ocean and disappearing for a while, aren’t treating us with respect.
Our time is valuable; after all, we have careers to manage, futures to plan for, and children to raise. If we are actively looking for a relationship, rather than just a booty call, then it’s time to be honest with ourselves.
A man who puts no effort into pleasing you and yet expects you to be available at his beck and call needs a therapist, not a girlfriend. If you’ve had fights, and have discussed what needs to change, is he working on it? Or did he just try for a week or two and then go back to his usual ways? Are your communication needs met? It’s one thing if he has to travel for work and tells you ahead of time that he won’t be able to chat or text much for a week, it’s another if he just goes dark.
These aren’t fun questions to answer, particularly if it’s your first post-divorce relationship. But we’ve already been through the fire of divorce. We can handle whatever life throws at us. Jennifer Connelly ends the movie by leaving her cheating husband and starting a new life. In one of her last scenes, she’s happily redecorating a new place. The message is clear – leaving a man who’s just not that into us opens up space in our lives for fresh and beautiful things.
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