How I stopped objectifying the men I was dating

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I objectify men. Or, I did. I don’t mean catcalling them on the street (I’ve done that though, sorry) or taking them home for a good time and calling them an Uber as soon as I’m done with them. What I mean is this: I frequently viewed men as possessions, objects undeserving of free will who I need to control.

I never liked guys. I mean, they were fun to flirt with and I had a lot of guy friends, but I didn’t actually fall for them frequently. You know, like real feelings.

But when I did, I Swimfan-out. I was Fatal Attraction not fun to date. On the rare occasion that I did like a guy, I became obsessed with him. You know, 64 weeks back on their cousin’s Instagram page obsessed, staring at my phone willing it to ring obsessed, texting all day and night, changing my personality to con them into falling in love with me kind of obsessed.

I based my own happiness off the attention or inattention of men—my ability to change them, be their first priority or get them to bend to my will. And if I didn’t get the attention I needed or thought I deserved? I’d flip out or dispose of them.

Enter fuckboy Jared. I was obsessed with Jared, but Jared ran on Jared time. Jared would make plans with me and cancel them and sometimes Jared would show up at my door without plans at all. Jared didn’t believe in monogamy and sometimes Jared would text me constantly for weeks and then disappear for days at a time.

Jared was the first boy that I could not control. He was the first boy that I could not manipulate. And it literally drove me insane.

Some of the most famous philosophers have said that good dick will drive you crazy (Confucius?) and, good lord, it did. But you know what, thank God it did. A fuckboy lead me straight into my emotional bottom. One that forced me to examine my own faults and priorities, reaching a conclusion: I objectified men. Surprising, I know.

Quite literally, I was viewing the men in my life as objects that I possessed. They were not entitled to their own experiences, feelings, opinions or schedules. Not just Jared, but all of them. If the men I was dating didn’t accommodate my needs at all times, I would completely flipped out. I hated not being able to control them. This was never going to work for me. You can’t control a person, and you shouldn’t want to.

It was time to stop.

I swore off dating for a month and cut off romantic relations with all men in my life—sometimes you have to make short-term sacrifices for some long-term benefits. I kept a journal. A 30-day detachment diary. The intention was to observe and report my own feelings and behaviours when it came to men to see what I found out about myself. Here are some snippets. A lot can happen in 30 days.

“I want to know who he is spending his days talking to now that he isn’t spending his days talking to me. I want to know who he is having sex with. I want to know if he sleeps at their house or not. I want to know if they are funny or if they’re just pretty and I want to know if he pursues them or if they pursue him or if they have any connection at all. I might be spending a lot of time thinking about girls that don’t exist.”

“I checked his fucking Instagram and his follower count is up, but when I check who he is following, it is out of order? Like not new to last. So now I can’t tell what new people he followed. This is the worst.”

“Tomorrow I’m taking a friend to get an abortion. I’ve never had to do anything like that before. I can tell that she is sad and scared and I’m honored that she asked. I went to the 99 cent store and bought her a bunch of gifts: cheap candy, temporary tattoos, a bell she could ring whenever she needs me. It’s times like this when I realize there is so much more to life than longing for a boy who doesn’t like me back or isn’t emotionally mature enough to express it in the ways that he should.”

“I went to the Botanic Gardens and spent the entire day just walking around. I’ve never done that before. I bought an annual pass afterwards. Never realized I liked this stuff.”

And what I realized…

I was crazy, obviously. Also—I was addicted to men. Addicted to checking their social media, addicted to getting them to hang out with me, addicted to telling them what to do and addicted to thinking about what they were doing. Once I took that all out of the equation, I had a lot more time to focus on myself—on my career, on being a good friend, on becoming a better person. The beginning was hard and felt unnatural. Then I finally started getting to know myself. Eventually, after a 30-day withdrawal, men stopped being a priority. On most days they still aren’t. When it comes to dating, it’s important to remember: We’re people, not pawns.