Are You a Jesus Girlfriend?

Have you ever wondered how your boyfriend would eat/have clothes without you? Have you frequently been told by dudes how "perfect" you are for them, followed by "I don't know how you put up with me"? If so, then you might be a Jesus Girlfriend.
Publish date:
July 5, 2012

Have you ever wondered how your boyfriend would eat/have clothes without you? Have you frequently been told by dudes how "perfect" you are for them, followed by "I don't know how you put up with me"? Have you ever explained to your girlfriends that you're still with him because "he's got such a good heart"? If so, then you might be a Jesus Girlfriend.

I spent five years or so as a Jesus Girlfriend myself.

It goes like this:

You are a pretty highly functional female. You perhaps have an education, you certainly have a stable job, and you consider yourself to be easygoing and fun. You might even love specific, old school non-standard girl activities like sports, video games, poker or horror movies. You meet a dude who is charming, lovely, and perhaps a little rough around the edges -- his socks don't match/he can't get his career off the ground/he owns one fork/he's been hurt before.

The dude never explicitly asks for it, but as you hang out and connect, you realize that if he just had a little push, he could really get his shit together. You email him links to art shows looking for submissions. You guys go to Target together and buy sheets. You're blissful. "Baby", he tells you, "I don't know what it is, but it's like you were made for me. I've never felt like this before about anyone."

And by then, my friends, you're a goner. A Jesus Girlfriend goner.

Now you're spending the next three to four years of your life with a dude that you are perfect for, without ever considering if he's perfect for you. Then one morning you wake up and realize that the biggest thing you're getting out of the relationship is the bittersweet joy of facilitating another person's life. And that's when you leave.

It's a sad story, but not an overwhelmingly sad story -- you wouldn't see it on a Lifetime movie starring Judith Light, for example. But it's a shame nonetheless, because what we're doing is stacking the commitment deck in our favor -- if he needs us for survival, he won't ever leave, right? RIGHT? We don't trust that someone would want to be with us for just our company and decide to throw in some concierge services as insurance. We go all Jesusy on the dude with the sweet cover of being a supportive girlfriend, and what's worse, we're so busy with that task that we completely and totally ignore ourselves. And I gotta tell you, fellow "shit together" ladies, let us never be so arrogant as to think that we don't need to continually be growing and evolving ourselves.

The reason we're slow to catch onto this as being harmful to us is because a) it's a relatively new phenomenon -- in the past, the dudes we wanted to reform were actively shitty "bad boys" (some of us are still there) who exhibit clear warning signs that they're no good, and b) being a Jesus Girlfriend is not harmful as much as it just doesn't help us. And every relationship you're in should be a two-way street of support and adoration and backrubs.

I wish I could say that I figured this all out on my own, but sadly, for me it took a combination of therapy and meeting my husband, who only wanted my help with "where to find cool shoes". He was a fledgling comedian when we met, and when I looked up open mics for him to try, he was like "Ummm, I don't want a life coach, I want a girlfriend". I immediately panicked and started questioning everything, wondering how I would possibly get him to stay with me if he didn't need me, and slowly, slowly, I allowed myself be completely unnecessary and thereby totally essential to this man.

I then took the extra credit step of taking all my Jesus Girlfriend energy and pretending that I was dating myself, emailing myself little bits of advice and places to pitch like someone with a fractured personality. I found that I just like having projects, and never considered that I could be my own project.

So if you find yourself in a Jesus Girlfriend relationship, don't freak -- it doesn't have to spell disaster. Just start pulling back a little on the life support and start injecting it into yourself or into volunteer work (you know, with organizations who actually do need your help to function). You might find out that your relationship didn't have as strong a foundation as you thought, but you might find untapped reserves of shit-togetherness in your man that will cause you to look at him with new eyes. New eyes that are more focused on trying out weird fun sex stuff with him than with making sure he has clean shirts.