TIP #3: Don’t over-estimate your capacity for pain.
Robyn: “I’m a big girl; I can handle it; I knew what I was getting into; I knew he was bad news.” How many times have we heard a friend say something like this? Sometimes we have a false idea that pain and misery are a necessary part of romance, and that if you aren’t willing to risk some pain you’ll be alone forever. I don’t care if you like country music or if you like rap—these ideas are everywhere in popular culture. Actually, over time, if you keep putting yourself in situations that erode your dignity, then 2 things will happen:
1. You will start to believe that that’s the best you can do and that somehow it's what you deserve.
2. You will train yourself to expect poor treatment.
So, instead, remember that this is not weight training—you have nothing to gain from pain. Avoiding pain doesn’t make you weak or less fierce or whatever, it just means you are healthy. Poor choices, women making poor choices—that theme makes for a great novel, but don’t let that thinking rule your life.
[Rikki speaks with Caller #2.]
Rikki: We get such conflicting advice from our friends and from all directions. And what I’m hearing from our callers is that self-love is the key to everything. As women, we are so hard on ourselves.
Robyn: And we’re hard on each other, too. Sometimes those very friends can hold us back a little from romance. Because they have an image in their head of how we should be. Or we can be a little bit possessive of friends, and when we see that they are having success with dating, we aren’t really comfortable with that. Especially if you have a group of single friends and you support each other. Sometimes we have to break away from the pack to have success with dating.
Also, sometimes it helps to bring new female friends into our lives. I always say that if you go to a singles event and there aren’t many men, and a whole roomful of women, then make sure you meet all the women. Because women have brothers, women have co-workers, women can introduce you to other men who you might not otherwise have met. So bringing fresh, new female friends into your life can be very beneficial, too.
Rikki: That’s a good point—bringing new friends into your life, even if just for a season, is important. For that season that they’re there, they truly can make a difference.
TIP #4: Avoid Fantasy Relationships
Robyn: Fantasy relationships can be a common trap at work. For men, liking you and feeling fond of you doesn’t necessarily lead to love. For women, there can be this slow building up to love. Hollywood loves to tell us this story in various movies, because we, as women, eat it up. But for men, typically, attraction has to be there from the beginning. I’m oversimplifying to make an important point, because many women will hang out, being friends with a man, waiting for him to wake up and realize that she’s The One. We see this story played out in movies and novels all the time. This is an unrealistic scenario. For men there has to be a spark from the very beginning. Women waste a lot of time on male friends, waiting for them to realize their love for us, when it’s just not there. Those are wasted months and years. He can like, he can admire and respect you—those are all wonderful feelings—but if there’s not already a romantic spark on his side, then you have to face reality and move on.
TIP #5: We often make the mistake of giving men what we want in a relationship, instead of giving them what they want.
Robyn: This is a theme you’ll hear Steve Harvey touch on a lot, in books like Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man. The way I think of it is this:
Women are happiest and most relaxed in a romantic relationship when…
We are secure. We have the warm and cozy feeling that comes from being reassured that a man loves us. He tells us. He’s around and available, we know where he is. He is an open book. So we mistakenly believe that because that’s what we like, we should give that warm, cozy togetherness to him.
Men are happiest and most relaxed in a romantic relationship when…
They feel a strong sense of personal freedom. He’s not going to be your “project,” where you’re going to come in and take over his life and tell him what to do and rearrange his furniture. Emotionally healthy men enjoy relationships when they’re with a woman who gives them plenty of space and who appreciates them just as they are. When you let men know that you have a life, that you have good boundaries, you’re occupied with other interests, and that you’re not looking to him for constant reassurance, he can really start to relax. You’re like a breath of fresh air, compared with 99% of the other women he has dated. And when a man starts to relax and let down his guard, he can truly connect with you in an emotional way. He says, "Life with this woman gives me a sense of freedom," and he wants to be with you.
Misunderstanding leads to Over-giving
The problem comes in when, as women, we are so overjoyed to find a man we like that we feel the way to “get” him is to start working like crazy—we think we're supposed to do something to bind that man to us. Otherwise we think he might leave and move on to the next woman. And we immediately start giving him stuff. So cooking, showing off our beautiful body, having sex early on, lending him money, letting him move in, helping him with his career—those are just some of the things women mistakenly think will bind a man to us. Subconsciously what you’re doing is trying to create a sense of obligation to bind him to you. We don’t see it that way—we see it as we’re sharing, we’re giving, we’re being nice. But men see right past the “giving” part to the obligation part. Giving so much up front because you want a lot in return. Rather than seeing this as generous, he says, Wow, I’ll never be able to make this woman happy because she expects so much in return. Or, She’s trying to chain me up, and the next thing you know, she’ll be talking marriage. For them, it feels like they can’t even breathe, because we’re so over-giving.
So then this is how we have the situation of a woman complaining to her girlfriends, saying Oh, I gave him everything, I gave him my heart, I gave him my body—I loved him too much. And the girlfriends will all say, Oh yes, what a terrible guy that was, and he didn’t appreciate you and how ungrateful. But actually, those women are misunderstanding the dynamics. And from the man’s perspective, he didn’t want all that. He wasn’t even sure how he felt yet. He just wanted some space and some time to get to know you.
Also: men with abusive tendencies are the ones who expect you to wrap your life around his, and make his priorities front and center, to the exclusion of your needs. By maintaining your own space, your own interests, you will weed out men who want to rule your life, and attract those who want to be healthy, supportive partners.