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A Beautiful Brunette was After my Man so I Pulled a George Costanza!

contrary action

This isn’t Margo. Margo is more beautiful than this shrub.

We’d had a really loving date. A lot of hand-holding, neck-nuzzling, lingering kisses. I was saying goodnight when I noticed a cloud cross his face. “Um, I don’t know why,” he said, “but I feel guilty.”

Uh oh.

I’d been dating Mr. Cruelly Handsome for six months. Six months of some rather fiery passion, but also six months of knowing there were other women stalking the periphery and occasionally breaching my perimeter.

“Why?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, “because tomorrow I have plans with Margot.”

Margot. A tall, slender, yet buxom drink of Brunette and my worst nightmare.

Mr. C was dating Margot when we met and was, ostensibly, swept off of his feet by moi. Of course I didn’t know he was dating Margot as, I’m sure, she didn’t know he was dating me. I thought he’d given her up for good, but recently he’d mentioned that she was back in his life as a “friend.”

Sigh. I wasn’t a lesbian, yet I wasn’t sure even I could keep my hands off of Margot if we were alone too long.

Everything inside of me wanted to do what I always did when I was in painful relationships with non-commital men who wanted to be “friends” with other women/knockouts, which was to knock him out. To get angry and make threats. To cling and beg. To throw myself down El Rio de Desesperación!

But I’d been working a 12-step program for several months by then and I remembered an interesting phrase I’d learned there, which was Contrary Action.

The idea behind Contrary Action is to think about how we would normally react in difficult situations and to do, well, the contrary.

Or, as George Costanza so indelibly demonstrated, “Do the Opposite!”

There’s a saying, AND I WISH I KNOW WHO SAID IT FIRST, BUT I DON’T, that goes like this, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

By then I knew that getting angry and threatening only affirmed for Mr. C that I was going to smother him and he should run into the other woman’s arms. And I knew that begging and pleading only repulsed him.

But, more importantly, reacting in those ways always made me feel as if I abandoned myself and made me ashamed of myself. And in that moment, more than anything, I wanted to end the conversation feeling good about myself.

So I took Contrary Action.

“Maybe you feel guilty,” I said, “because your connection with Margot isn’t a friendship, it’s romantic. And maybe you feel like you might cheat on me if you hang out with her. But there’s nothing I can do about that. The bottom line is, you have to decide for yourself the best course of action.”

And then I said goodnight. And I was okay. I think you could have knocked both of us down with a feather.

An hour later, as I was just drifting off to sleep, my phone rang. It was Mr. C. He was calling to tell me he’d cancelled his plans with Margot for the following day and all I said was, “Okay.”

What can I say? I was in the zone. I’d gone Buddha.

I’m not suggesting that my Contrary Action changed Mr. C permanently. It didn’t. Cheaters are gonna cheat and eventually that’s what did us in.

But for that moment I understood that I didn’t have control over my man’s actions, but I did have control over how I responded to them. And that it was possible to respond in a way that left me with Peace and Dignity.

Have you ever done a George Costanza and reaped positive results? We’d love to hear!
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Tags assigned to this article:
12-step programcontrary actionGeorge Costanza

5 comments

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  1. Cheryl Nicholl
    Cheryl Nicholl 5 March, 2015, 10:05

    I’ve been recently betrayed by a family member. My instinct wants to fight back, but I’ve decided to not engage. The beauty of this non-action is that the inevitable results of this family members actions will lead to a sad and messy result for her, and all I have to do is – nothing. Genius.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 5 March, 2015, 12:38

      Miss Cheryl, I’m impressed by your restraint. I can still react too quickly when people are being Asshats, but I inevitably regret it later. I try to tell myself that I should take any action until I’ve had time to let my anger-fueled adrenaline ramp down and to try to get some perspective. BTW so happy to see you here and with your red hat! xoxo S

      Reply this comment
  2. Reticula
    Reticula 9 March, 2015, 18:20

    Contrary action. I love it. And yes, I have taken contrary action before. One time that comes to mind happened years ago when my family was visiting my former mother-in-law and her highly opinionated old husband at their home in southern Missour. While we were eating dinner he made a racist comment. In the past, I would have argued with him, but I had recently had an epiphany about arguing with racists. I’d learned that doing so lets them think they actually have a valid side to defend. So instead of arguing with him, I simply said, “If you make another racist comment like that in front of me or my children again, we will leave and we won’t come back. None of us want to hear that.”

    For a few seconds it felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. My sister-in-law looked like she was about to burst into tears. My MIL might have had a small smile on her face, but she kept her back to us. Her husband didn’t say a word. He ate his dinner quickly and went outside to smoke a cigar, slamming the door behind him. I didn’t defend myself to anybody.

    Later he came in and acted like it had never happened, except for one difference: He never made another racist comment in front of me again. And we got along much better after that. Contrary action in action. Thanks for putting a name to it.

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  3. nickname
    nickname 12 August, 2015, 22:06

    Albert Einstein said ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’.

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