Friday 24 November 2017

Tanya Sweeney: 'Us women put up with too much maladjusted behaviour from men'

Tanya Sweeney: Anti-depressants have probably saved my life.
Tanya Sweeney: Anti-depressants have probably saved my life.
Amy Schumer's new book has revealed some dark secrets about past relationships

Tanya Sweeney

After the famine, a feast: I've waited months and months for Amy Schumer's book - written after a reported $8m book deal was inked - to arrive on Irish bookshelves. And the time is nigh. I'm happy to report that, in the main, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo is all we could have wanted; bawdy humour, salty confessions and approximately zero s**ts given.

Yet in among the riotous stuff, are some tender moments of reflection. And one essay in particular in the collection will likely strike a chord with many women.

Amy Schumer's new book has revealed some dark secrets about past relationships
Amy Schumer's new book has revealed some dark secrets about past relationships

Writing about an ex-boyfriend she names as 'Dan', Schumer admits, with the benefit of hindsight, that the relationship was an abusive one. Schumer was in her early 20s, and mistook his anger for passion.

"I thought no one would love me as much as he did," she wrote. "I believed he was just as passionate about me as I was about him, and that if I did a better job of not making him mad, we'd be fine. I really felt he loved me. And I really loved him. I think somewhere in the course of our relationship, I started to confuse his anger and aggression for passion and love.

"I actually started to think that real love was supposed to look like that. The more you yelled at each other, the more you loved each other. The more physical and demeaning it got, the more you were really getting through to each other. And the more I was willing to stand by him, the more he'd understand that I truly loved him and that we should be together forever."

Well, when I read this, a chill passed through me. It brought me right back to those early relationships where I knew less than nothing. I was transported to arguments with ex-boyfriends where things were thrown, doors were slammed and tears (mine, mainly) were spilled. And much as I hate to admit it now, Amy is right; those moments were among the most horribly thrilling and enlivening of them all.

The line between passion and drama is so gossamer thin that even the smartest and most well adjusted of women have confused the two. Add a hefty dose of charm, as all potentially abusive male partners tend to have, and a woman is walking headlong, albeit unknowingly, into a living nightmare.

Many young women believe that abusive relationships are the domain of older, married or cohabiting young women. Yet it's younger women, aged 16-24, that are most at risk of dating abuse.

In Ireland, 60pc of domestic abuse starts before a woman is 25.

And it's a phenomenon on the rise, according to Women's Aid. Figures show that of the 16,000 disclosures made through WA's services, around 10,000 of those are in relation to emotional abuse.

But of course, it's near nigh impossible to tell if this is happening to you. In the past, I've put tensions boiling over to 'an adjustment phase'. I swooned at how possessive another boyfriend was being. "I hate it when you wear make-up," he whined. Did I think he was being controlling? Did I heck. I was just glad I'd found someone who (ahem) loved me for me, flaws and all.

Amy's confession got me thinking, in a wider sense, of just how much maladjusted behaviour some of us women let men away with. This doesn't just happen in emotionally abusive relationships. The game-playing, the ghosting… find me a woman who hasn't despaired at a man's plain lack of respect.


One friend, let's call her Sarah, had been embroiled in a disturbingly toxic relationship this time last year. The man in question, let's call him 'Ben', had initiated sexting and Skype sex, and my friend duly played along. He was emotionally withholding, which only served to fan the flames of Sarah's interest.

Ghosting is a modern dating issue
Ghosting is a modern dating issue

Even when Ben admitted to being in another relationship, her infatuation was undimmed. Eventually, he ghosted her. In the following months, she still pined for him (we, her friends, slightly awestruck at her commitment). And then she met someone else and found herself in a healthy relationship with someone who not only loved her, but respected her.

This week, Sarah and I had dinner, and she admitted that Ben was texting her again, and not in a particularly pally way. She had told him of her new relationship, and Ben seized every opportunity to put her new beau down. Worse still, she let him.

"It's okay, I'm the one in control now," she responded, not altogether unconvincingly.

Not even the unconditional love of a great guy would show Ben up for the toe-rag he was. There was something about Ben - control, power, ego - that had her careening back towards him; a helpless moth to a flame.

The bald truth of it is this. While abuse in a relationship is never, ever a woman's fault, some men will treat you as badly as you allow them to. Niceness, consistency and unconditional devotion may seem boring after a lifetime of drama, passion and anxiety, but when you've found it, that's when you know you've really hit the mother lode. After that, believe it or not, everything becomes brilliantly unpredictable.

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