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One evening while walking home through the busy streets of Manhattan, I overheard a couple in the midst of a heated argument. They were about 500 feet away from me on the opposite side of the street, but they were so loud that I could hear every word. “Alright then,” the woman said. “Go ahead and act like a b***h a**! That was a real b***h a** move!” Then she turned on her heels and stormed away. I could tell from the tone of her voice (and the amount of force her high-heels wielded on the concrete) that this woman wasn’t just angry, she was literally disgusted and fed up. Her distaste was palpable. The fact that she used that two-word phrase to describe her companion and his actions told me that she had been let down one too many times and that she had lost all respect for her partner. In my gut, I knew that relationship was over and strongly suspected that in that moment, she knew it too.

I don’t know what exactly they were fighting about, but from my own experiences with men who fit the description of that phrase, I can bet that it had to do with some variation of him not truly showing up and doing his part in their relationship. For example, maybe he was unreliable. All talk and no action. Too much flash and no substance. Gave too many excuses about why he couldn’t meet her halfway. I can empathize with her because I too have had my fair share of moments of clarity when I realized that the only one who was really present in my relationship was me. She was smart to have walked away.

Believe it or not, when dating, it’s really not that difficult to figure out if you’re in a chronically lopsided relationship (where one person is much more invested/interested in the relationship/person than the other). All you have to do to figure it out is pay attention to actions and patterns of behavior, not words. As the dynamics of lopsided relationships play out over time, it creates a situation in which women typically end up doing more than their fair share of the work necessary to contribute to a relationship’s success. Some get so caught up in “making it work” that they altogether lose the expectation that the man hold up his end of the bargain. They cast their own needs aside, and in doing so, contribute to such a man’s belief that his mere physical presence is enough. Worse still, this is detrimental to a woman’s self-esteem.

Yet so many waste valuable time, energy, money, and opportunities fighting for men who prove over and over that they don’t care about them or the relationship, or that they simply just don’t care enough. And what is even more disturbing is how hard some of us will fight to be consistently rejected. We don’t stop to consider what it is they are truly fighting for and whether or not it has any real value.

When dating, don’t lose the expectation for reciprocity. Don’t be a willing and active participant in the erosion of your self-worth. If you determine that the person you’re with isn’t truly with you, do yourself a favor and find a way to walk away.

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