We live in a Post-The Game world and regardless of whether or not Strauss renounced his ridiculous tactics as “objectifying and horrifying” the world he exposed is still alive and well. There are pickup artist communities crawling all over the dank crevasses of the interwebs. And the notions fostered within those communities ooze out into the world, wreaking havoc and leaving broken people in their wake.
One such notion (by my estimation) is the starter girlfriend. Tracy Moore explored this concept for Jezebel in great detail a couple years ago. It appears to be slightly different from the traditional starter wife upon whose back the husband builds a fortune and a brood of children only to leave her behind for his young secretary. It appears that the starter girlfriend doesn’t help build fortunes or families, but egos. She’s the not-quite perfect girl who the guy settles for in an effort to build up a sufficient amount of confidence before moving onto perfect girl.
There seems to be a multitude of problems with this concept. From the male side of things, these issues are fairly obvious. He’s using another human being for his own gains. Women become nothing more than tools to a happier end. Even after dumping the starter girlfriend, he’s going to use the permanent girlfriend or wife. The ends might be different but the means aren’t. He’ll still view his wife as someone who is responsible for his happiness. Someone who must fit his idea of perfect at any given time and if she doesn’t, what is there to stop her from becoming the starter wife?
With this established, it makes little sense to me that any woman who goes from the starter girlfriend to the ex should see this as anything less than a dodged bullet. The examples of women crying “starter girlfriend” after the relationship ends, tend to sound more like “it didn’t work out and I need to try to make sense of why while also giving myself credit for someone else’s happiness.”
These claims of “I taught him to be a good boyfriend” or “good at life” in some cases tend to read as bitter diatribes from someone who is upset that their significant other moved on quickly while they’re still managing to pick up the pieces. Which, let’s be fair, I completely understand, when you love someone and they check out without an ounce of grief, it sucks. But how arrogant is it to suggest that you carved a sensitive, caring person out of a neanderthal? Especially given that most of these relationships seem to happen in our early-to-mid 20s. We all grow and improve a great deal during these years and staking claim to someone else’s success during this formative time hardly seems fair.
I understand the frustration. I spent a great deal of my dating life on fixer uppers. One went on to get married almost immediately following our relationship. Others burned their way through a multitude of girlfriends. And some are single to this day. I could argue that I poured my energy into improving these men, because I did. However, few of them left better boyfriends as a result of my efforts. Maybe that just means I was a bad starter girlfriend. But I promise you it wasn’t for lack of trying.
I just think it’s a little simplistic to immediately blame the breakup on his own selfish needs or usury. It’s also a little dangerous, because it might prevent you from taking a hard look at the root issues. Issues that may get in the way of you and your permanent dude. One being that you just might be addicted to fixer uppers. Another being that you hold onto the idea that these guys were right for you and the only reason it didn’t work out was because he had graduated from your relationship class. In doing this you ignore lessons that might help you move onto a perfect relationship of your own.
One might argue that the men I dated before I got married were nothing more than starter boyfriends. Because each one of those relationships taught me important lessons about what I need out of and what I need to bring to a healthy relationship. Some lessons were learned by way of aversion therapy and some ended simply as “that aspect of his person really worked well for me, I want that in different context.”
Now, I’m not denying the existence of these creepy dudes who seek out the starter girlfriend. There are plenty of predators in the dating waters, the starter seekers aren’t the only ones. But you can’t avoid them completely. You just have to do your best to learn what to avoid in the future and chalk it up to life lessons. Just, you know, make sure they end up on your do not marry list next to Dane Cook fans and professional online poker players. Fortunately, if the rumors are true, they aren’t going to commit anyway, so it should be an easy bullet to dodge.