What’s she got that I haven’t?

There’s a phenomena that is often discussed in 12-step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous and such-like), known as “better-than-worse-than”. In other words,  most of us, particularly those of an addictive disposition, are constantly summarizing our value in regards to other people: am I better than that person or worse?  A recovering alcoholic I know tells how, at the nadir of her addiction, she could be lying in a gutter, in a pool of her own vomit, and still look up at somebody and think “I’m SO much better than you!”

Most psychology modalities recognize some element of the need to find our place in the hierarchy. Even our birth-position within the family is seen by some as being significant. And, of course there are arenas where a certain jockeying for position is de rigueur: the bitchy corridors of high-school; the workplace.  But generally, as adults, that hierarchy  only exists in our own heads. And the evaluation of our place in it is often unconscious.

I think that nowhere is this more piquant than in the romantic/sexual arena. After all, when we are in the job of attracting a mate, whether a life-partner or a quick upright in the disabled toilet,we are fundamentally putting ourselves out to judge and be judged: Do you want me? Do I want you?

This human foible (if foible it be), has recently loomed large for me. I met Fred* a couple of months ago: charming, intelligent, witty, well-educated (although these days, just “educated” jumps the bar…). We had a substantial amount in common. We actually went out on proper dates like real grown-ups. And we had pretty intense, damn fine sex. Although this was all casual, and both of us were still sometimes dating other people, it had an affirming regularity to it.

Then a few weeks in, he informs me that one of his other casual lovers, is a married woman who (and I quote) “doesn’t like to share”. Cue crickets. The upshot of this bit of data was that I was to be discreet about our shenanigans, least married woman finds out. No prizes for guessing whether I was impressed with this or not. Being of a curious nature, I dug around and found out a little about married woman. Not what I would have tagged as “his sort”. Discretely spoke to a mutual friend (I live in a small city…EVERYONE is a mutual friend!) and his comment was “I can’t think of two more different women.”

Of course, I understand that we are all attracted to people who are, at least superficially, different. There are times when I fancy a bit of rough; times when I want to be wined and dined by a suit; times when I want a tradie with a big heart and a cold beer. So I could understand his finding  her attractive. I just couldn’t comprehend how he could capitulate to a woman who did not share his intellect or interests. I mean, when I met him he was reading “I, Claudius”, for fuck’s sake. Was she better in bed than me? Did she feed his ego? Did she have a detachable pelvis???

And this lead me to thinking about past men in my life. The ones who had flitted through on a casual basis and then ended up firmly ensconced in relationships that left me bemused. What constantly fascinates and frustrates me, is how often these men seem to end up happily pussy-whipped. When I meet them they appear to want a woman who will be an equal. They seem to enjoy the intellectual partnership, freedom and autonomy that I offer. And then I “lose out” to a woman who is needy, possessive and (to put it bluntly), lower down the intellectual food-chain.

It is at this point that I have to stop and take stock. Once I have got through the “what’s she got that I haven’t” tantrum, and I’ve done my weeping and wailing, I come to an uncomfortable realization. For me intellect, humour,  banter and shared cultural-capital are absolute essentials for a relationship of any substance. So when I meet a man with whom I can explore those elements, I’m thinking “he might be the one”. What I continually fail to remember is that, although the object of my affections may be enjoying all that stuff too, for him, it’s NOT essential. In fact, it may be positively off-putting in terms of anything long-term. Just as for some men, kink is something they only indulge in with casual flings and not with “Ms Right”. What these “other” women offer is clearly something psycho-emotional that doesn’t resonate with me. Game over.

Rejection can make us unreasonable and bitchy. I see it in myself, and I certainly don’t like it. As I get older (and possibly wiser…), that phase lasts for shorter and shorter periods, and I more quickly move into the evaluation stage. But the sting can still last. Old, childhood hurts are phenomenally raw when poked in the right place.

So I think that, for the sake of our psychological health, there is nothing wrong with a cathartic “What the hell has that stupid bitch got that I haven’t???”.

Then pick yourself up and get on with being fabulous.

*Not his real name.




9 thoughts on “What’s she got that I haven’t?

  1. this is a really interesting piece Trace! I’d never heard about the “better than worse than” thing before! I find it interesting too that “intellect, humour, banter and shared cultural-capital” are a wonderful litmus of shared values, yet they can also be used as defense mechanisms to protect our vulnerability. “What’s she got that I haven’t?” ultimately him. Men are open in their need for women, mostly through their sexuality, are us women as open in our need of men? We all need to be needed on some level, it makes us value what we bring to the equation. If we judge the neediness of others as worse than, are we pushing away our own need as well? and if so are we appearing autonomous and not open to partnership? who knows. Loved this piece chica! Its got my sunday arvo grey matter ticking xxx

    1. Thanks Shazzy! Yes, you’ve give me some food for thought as well. I certainly think there is much to what you say: my independence could be seen as a barrier to getting closer. As you say, we all need to be needed, and I’ve lost the art of presenting need as a gift. You’re phenomenal, girl. Shalom and blessings to you xxx

  2. Being a definitely middled-aged man, who found himself dating after his second wife “fell out-of-love”, I want to weigh in, at least from my perspective…..

    I’m 61, BTW, financially sound, in great shape, reasonably good looking, etc. I’m also retired.

    I dated a lot after my last divorce: Young women, women my age, New Agey women, devout women, athletes, gold diggers, women who have ghosted me, crazy women, beautiful women, not so beautiful women, professional women, women who ride Harleys, ad nauseum. I slept with nearly all of them and never, ever had to ask for sex. It got real tiresome and expensive so I gave up. Focused on my passions and my dog.

    My period of inward focus gave me a chance to shed all of the expectations that had defined me. All my life I have been a husband, a father, a provider, a protector, a grandfather, an employee, an employer, a generally all-around, responsible adult who found himself living alone with a dog (I really like this dog). None of these roles fit me anymore nor does it feel like all my efforts engendered any loyalty from former spouses. However, all my life I’ve been doing this for someone else-wives and children. It’s what you’re supposed to do, right?

    I am alone now but most certainly not lonely. I have my friends, my band, my art, my community involvement, and my dog….

    I also can tell you what I want from a women;

    1) Reasonably attractive. Many women around my age have gotten really fat and that doesn’t do it for me. I have to want to see you naked in my bed before I’ll go any further. Chalk it up to shallowness or chalk it up to biology….or both, but that’s my conclusion about myself. Most the the women I’ve dated are within my age range range. I just can’t relate to a woman who is the age of one of my daughters. I don’t care how cute she is. I really do hike, kayak, and spend a lot of time doing physical stuff and I expect any potential partners to at least keep up and not die of a heart attack.

    2) Make me feel good. This doesn’t mean on-demand sex or giving me money, it simply means that I’m happy in your company. It means sharing a kitchen or interesting conversation. It means having a sense of humor and adventure. It means not trying to mold me into something. It means loyalty. It means good manners. It means trustworthiness. It means being playful and flexible.

    Again, I need to qualify the following by stating that this is my opinion only.

    Every woman that I’ve met so far has had a list of requirements with about thirty more “must haves” then I have and it’s really irritating. I try to approach a women to qualify them as girlfriend material. The women I’ve met so far, are looking to disqualify….even in their 50’s and 60’s when you would have thought they would’ve learned.

    Secondly, what I’ve learned is that women I’ve met so far, all treat relationships the way a man treats a job. The loyalty is there as long as the current needs are being met. The urge to find a better deal is always present even if it’s not being acted on.

    Third. I know many men who are utter assholes. They drink, they drug, they’re unfaithful, they commit acts of violence, they lie, they’re lazy, etc. They need to be out of a woman’s life. They’re no good and toxic and you’re not gonna fix ’em. These guys are actually in a minority. The rest are trying to do the best job they can but still, they get dumped for some unexplicable reason or reasons. I know this sounds like I’m a bitter old man, but I have to acknowledge the experiences of men around me who were bushwhacked by their soon-to-be ex wives with a divorce petition when they thought they were doing the right thing. It kind’ve makes you go “Whoa. What just happened here?”

    The numbers don’t lie. Nearly 80% of all divorces are initiated by women. Only 16% of those are justified. The rest are a result of what? Boredom? I fell out of love? There’s someone else that gives me the tingles?

    Fourth. I want to feel like I’m the number one in your life. Not your friends. Not your grown kids. Not your mother. Not your career. Sounds selfish, don’t it? What I learned is that things like marriage vows, loyalty, and commitment for some women is situational and acceptable as longs as the current needs are being met.

    Most guys are romantics at heart. Some of have learned to be cads and players (fun but like I said, can prove expensive and tiresome)

    My take on the other gal is that she made him feel good. She’s meeting a need that he has and he’s meeting a need that she has.

    BTW, I’m being courted by a doctor who brings me food and makes me feel good.


    1. Thanks Roger, for taking the time to post such a lengthy comment. Always good to hear another perspective, although I think you have taken the title of my post too literally, and used that to colour the way you have read the whole thing, thus missing my point.
      I find it very interesting that you have this (rather strange) statistic, that only 16% of divorces are “justified”. Not sure what that means, since “justification” in this context, is a purely subjective concept. And why does someone have to “justify” their divorce??? Since marriage is a choice, then divorce, too, is a choice. There is no moral imperative to stay married, unless one is highly religious.
      But best of luck with the cooking doctor…she sounds like a keeper! Let’s hope she doesn’t “get too fat”.

  3. Tracey,

    Thanks for your response….

    Again, this is my opinion.

    By “justified”, I mean the substance abuse, infidelity, domestic violence, etc.

    Your right, all things are a matter of choice including marriage and divorce however……I do think it behooves both partners to do whatever is humanly possible to maintain the relationship. Too often, that decision gets made without any consultation of the other person and no effort goes into trying to fix the problem and they get blindsided. Men do this too. Alas, that’s the romantic in me and I do realize that it’s often a fools errand.

    I’m worried about “me” getting fat.


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