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What ‘No Drama Relationship’ really means

Avoiding too much ado about nothing

Jeffrey Denny

A recent Sunday New York Times essay complained how men on dating sites such as Bumble and OKCupid were seeking “drama-free” relationships, calling it a “ridiculous fantasy.”

The essay quickly devolved into womansplaining how these men, mostly Millennials, are shallow, hollow, shameful husks of self-actualized, decent human beings. Guys want to avoid real life where drama happens, can’t deal with real emotions, and don’t want real relationships that might rival Blanche and Stanley in “Streetcar.” Or whatever their divorced parents had.

This new male no-drama quest, we’re told, is mostly old-school sexism. Even this generation of “woke” blokes is hoping for compliant, cheery Stepford f*ck buddies whose sole goal is to please their men.

The co-founder of Feministing is quoted, “I think there are unrealistic expectations put on women to be accommodating at all times in their relationships.” The men are “signaling to others that they’re someone who’s incapable of witnessing and honoring another person’s feelings.”

The no-drama quest may simply reflect Millennial exhaustion from dealing with their anxious, emotionally fraught and fragile peers who demand safe spaces, put their feelings uppermost, and whine about their “pain” not from a torn Achilles or cancer but from hurtful un-woke dorm cafeteria workers who culturally misappropriated chop suey.

Who wouldn’t tire of overly dramatic friends, dates or mates who are oversensitive to air, water, food, politics and personal “triggers” — slights against their agency real or imagined, intended or clumsy, clueless or misinterpreted? None who experienced the actual stress, discomfort and danger facing peers serving in a war zone, humanitarian mission or a police or firefighter unit?

(Before this characterization triggers anyone, I’m extrapolating what Millennials write and post about themselves.)

But let me offer a Boomer’s take on “no-drama relationships.”

At 62, after a range of relationships, some involving couples counseling, I think it means no needless drama.

No self-indulgent Shakespearean sound and fury about nothing that tortures the people we care most about and who care most about us.

I’m with “No Drama Obama.” He was hardly AI with machine learning. He cried in public and by all accounts expressed his emotions but in a preternaturally peaceful, healthy, constructive way. Or a sense of humor, humility and humanity. No screaming at staff who were trying to help and excusing that it was presidential stress. Certainly not venting dark, disturbing resentments in angry unfiltered pre-dawn amygdala hijack tantrum tweets like his successor.

To me, a no-drama relationship means:

  1. It’s not ok to blurt or rant hurtful things to your mate because you “had a bad day/commute/call with mom” and you’re “just being real” and expressing “how you feel.” And you “have to be completely honest” and “tell it like it is” like “how we did in my family.” It’s not ok that you’ve avoided therapy because you have to be yourself — “do you” — and loving you means accepting who you are, warts and all.
  2. Getting those warts looked at and treated by a medical professional.
  3. Not tormenting your mate by reacting to every little negative thing daily life brings. Like casting a pall over date night because the waiter acted snitty when you acted snitty because he asked for your drink order before you had a chance to pore over the bespoke drink specials like a Talmudic scholar as he waited. Then you asked “how actually locavore” was the locavore thyme in the bartender’s specialty vanilla, pepper and thyme martini. You’re “allergic to thyme that’s not farm-to-table within a $5 Uber radius,” you express in a huffy way, not hearing how it must sound. Or cognizant that your tormented date is paying for your $15 drink and $180 dinner. This is before the amuse-bouche minefield.
  4. Not expecting your mate to empathize/sympathize/listen when you get into bed and go on and on, past midnight when he/she needs to be up early for work, about how your boss is trying to get you fired. Just because you filed an HR complaint over boss’s mansplaining to get him fired and take his job because you’re smarter than him and deserve a promotion and salary bump after 12 weeks of amazing work. Why is your mate sleeping as you express your feelings and not being supportive?
  5. Not yelling at your mate to “man up and grow a pair, for f*ck’s sake!” when he won’t fire his subordinate for insubordination when the real issue is mate needs man up and grow a pair in your relationship. But you lack the tools or interest to talk about that in a loving, constructive way. Deep down you know it’s sexist to say “man up and grow a pair” — and confusing if mate identifies as a woman — but why should you have to be the bad guy and say what’s obvious? You’re the victim here! But it’s not cool to play the victim card in a healthy relationship until you need to.
  6. Not melting down and dis-inviting mate’s family and friends to your wedding for the simple yet overpowering reason, “I can’t even.” You sense they don’t like how you’re torturing your mate with your drama, so why should you have these f*cking haters at the most important f*cking day of your life?
  7. Not declining sex for 900+ days (“I can’t even”) since Trump took office because he said something stupid, mean, clueless, racist, sexist, divisive and horrible each and every one of those 900+ days. Just man up, grow a pair and break up if you’re not into it, for f*ck’s sake.
  8. Not getting a call from the police because your mate was out with “the gang” and got wasted and in a car wreck while having sex with an office crush/horrible boss at 90 mph. Mate blames the incident on an unhappy drama-free childhood with a father who was incapable of witnessing and honoring another person’s feelings, and a mother expected to be accommodating at all times in their relationship. Just like Feministing warned about.

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer

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