If He Can't Handle You At Your Worst, Maybe Stop Sucking So Much


During my tenure as a bumbling, stressed out single living in NYC, I started dating this cool dude who conveniently lived half a block away from the restaurant where I bartended at the time. I would head over to his place after work, we would snuggle and watch Netflix, eat Oreos and play chess, or just bone, and I would frequently vent vent vent my face off at him.

If something was stressing me out, if I was in a bad mood, or some A-hole had pissed me off at the bar, I wanted to talk about it, and talk through it, and unpack it intensely.

And he was so patient, understanding, and supportive...

Until my consistent complaining and face-venting began to take its toll.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I was making my relationship, and this poor cool dude, my personal dumping ground.

I was (unconsciously) treating this guy as if he was an emotional landfill. I showed up at his door with a truckload of issues and feelings, and I expected him to welcome it with open arms. To take care of it. To take care of me.

Because he was "my person"!

And when you have your person, you get to be whatever annoying, awful version of yourself you want to be, and your person will still love you and cuddle you and Oreo you and make it all better. Right?

Isn't that what relationships are for? Isn't that what that stupid Marilyn Monroe quote about handling-me-at-my-worst-deserving-me-at-my-best is all about? Isn't that good advice??


Poor Cool Dude got frustrated. He couldn't make me feel better. He couldn't solve my problems. Sometimes he was tired at the end of the day and didn't want to counsel his stressed bartender girlfriend off the crisis-of-the-day ledge.

And when he would indicate that, I would get frustrated and resentful because I felt unloved by him. And un-listened to. And I would get all high-and-mighty-Marilyn with him. Clearly, he didn't deserve me at my best!!!

(I completely acknowledge that I was basically a terrible girlfriend for most of my twenties, and have since apologized to most of the men who were patient enough to put up with me. Yeesh.)

Then some light bulbs started going off:

While my romantic relationships were frequently tanking, my platonic friendships were consistently thriving. Hmmm...I wonder why?

Probably because if I was hanging with one of my gal pal besties, I wouldn't make all of my issues, her issues.

I might vent for a minute or two about the A-hole at work, or express a bit of frustration, but I would quickly pivot to, "Anyway, let's not ruin dinner. What's going on with you?"

Yet with my guy(s), I was FINE with ruining dinner. I didn't even see it as ruining dinner; I saw it as quality relationship time. I saw it as bonding. I saw it as intimacy-building.

Lesson I learned the hard way that I'm happy to give away fo' free: Being your most downer, difficult, negative self is not a recipe for relationship satisfaction.

Treating a person (any person!) like a vessel for your woes, or acting like you're allowed to say/think/be whoever you want to be in any given moment, and still be unconditionally accepted, loved, appreciated, and valued, is cray-cray.

Do we all have icky imperfections? Unfortunate weaknesses? Flaws? No duh.

Should we foist our imperfections, weaknesses and flaws onto our partners? Or give ourselves unlimited permission to act like our suckiest selves because they signed up to love us? Aw hell no.

If you want to ruin a relationship, go ahead and "be your worst". Bring all of your ugly, unhappy, negativity with you, make no apologies, take no responsibility, don't take care of yourself, and watch how people recoil in frustration and fear. I did this for years, so I know better than most how those cookies will crumble.

If you want to nurture and support your relationship and be a decent partner, learn how to step out of negativity, quell the complaints and criticism, and take responsibility for managing yourself.

Look at other, thriving relationships in your life (even if it's the relationship you have with your boss, maybe), and notice who you are with that person. How do you show up? How do you behave? What are your expectations? 

And what would it be like to bring that version of yourself to your dating life, or your next dinner out with someone special? Would you be more patient? Understanding? Less self-involved? Less critical?

It sucks, but most of us have learned entirely incorrect and unhealthy patterns of behavior for cultivating healthy romantic relationships. And we shortchange ourselves from experiencing ease, connection, and joy with "our person" when we forget ourselves and act like quasi-assholes.

By the time I saw the err of my ways and began to learn better ways to manage my emotions and take care of myself on a daily basis, the damage in my relationship with Poor Cool Dude had already been done.

But the blessing in that shitty disguise is that I now get to be more of my "best self", and less of my quasi-asshole self, more often, in all areas of my life. And Poor Cool Dude and I make better friends than Oreo-Chess-Lovers, anyway.

Do not fall into the trap of believing that unconditional love equates to unconditional suck-age. And maybe stop taking Pinterest-style advice from iconic but unstable starlets of yester-decade. Now that's a recipe for relationship success.