Ever notice that your girlfriend’s who couldn’t care less about finding “the one” wind up with great guys and their romantic relationships just sort of fall into place without much thought? Then there are girls like me that somehow by way of love find themselves putting in all the effort and essentially becoming their boyfriend’s therapist/mom/best friend/life coach. How does this happen? Why do the girl’s that care so much find themselves exhausted by their relationship history? If you think falling in love is emotional quick sand, keep reading.
First off, I’d like to say I’m not pathetic and I’m not a door mat. In fact, I know exactly who I am and what I want and… I hold out. In dating, I was terribly picky, painfully…picky. But! Once in a while, aka every 2 years or so… I’d meet a fella that blew my mind, knocked my socks off, yada yada and then…I was all in.
Suddenly you meet this person and your thoughts turn to, how do I keep them in my life? How do I avoid screwing this up? They are so perfect for me, made for me etc. Maybe, like me, you’re so tired of meeting people that are close but not quite “it” and when you find that thing, that feeling, that person that you’ve been looking for, you quickly become a giddy, digging puppy that just wants to save his treasure for a rainy day.
I think we are all familiar with that moment when you realize you’re “all in”. It’s when you find yourself silently thinking, “oh crap” I really like this person, I’m totally invested and I barely know them, now what? What do I do with all this intensity inside of me? How do I play it cool? I think everyone handles it differently and let me get this straight, this is not just a thing that happens to girls, it happens to everyone. Rest assured? No, probably not.
My version of “playing it cool” has never been all that cool. I’m a pretty obvious person. I do not have a poker face and I’m terrible at hiding the fact that I’m actually quite hopeful or excited about even a new friendship, let alone “lover” (yes lover, I happen to love that word, you’ll get used to it, keep reading). I was very anti dating games when I dated. If I liked someone I wanted them to know and I showed them by being extra good to them. One would think that this had served me well. It didn’t.
I will now air my dirty laundry for the world to read.
So when I liked a dude… this is how it went down. I’m not clingy in terms of needing to keep tabs on someone. I don’t text, call, email round the clock or even daily. I’m relatively confident and assume that if they are hanging out with me, they like me and so I don’t worry about the nights that we aren’t hanging out. I don’t need titles or labels. I know enough about love to know that a label isn’t keeping anyone. I also don’t talk about babies, the future or my family. Even though all my friends think I do. I don’t! I wait until we’re in love, at least! 😉
Okay, this is where apparently, I went all wrong… for years!! Ugh. This is incredibly embarrassing to me so I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
- My schedule somehow becomes completely flexible
- I travel to them
- We spend more time at their house than mine
- I’m down for whatever, any type of food, any show, any movie
- I often lose site of my own many passions and interests that I could drag them along to
I’m wildly sympathetic/ understanding
- If they have a busy schedule I make their whole life easier outside of work
- If they are terrified because of a past heartbreak, I tip toe around it
- Something happened in their childhood and I read books to figure out how best to deal with it
- I become their counselor
- I ignore my own fears and pain to help them take care of theirs, in fact, this by far is the most dangerous thing I did
I’m excessively thoughtful
- I make 5 course meals, favorite pies, cupcakes
- I buy house ware things for them, sheets, towels, pots/pans etc
- I throw huge birthday parties for them
- I compulsively clean their place for no particular reason
- If they like my hair a certain way, I wear it like that
- If they like an outfit, I wear it again and again and buy more like it
- If they say they love me in a particular color I buy more of it
I’m quick to forgive and forget
- I don’t want them to feel bad too long and it’s clear that their sorry
- I’d rather focus on the good because at the end of the day… I love them
- I suppress all those inward thoughts of second guessing the relationship
- I’d rather move on and get back to the happy, cozy moments
All of the above are my embarrassing truths. Then I read this bitch book when I was in the midst of losing the man I loved. Let’s just say, I wish I read this book before my very first kiss 15 year ago. It made so much sense and I was doing pretty much everything that chapter by chapter they were telling me not to do. Here are the reviews from 944 other readers. It’s legit.
So… here’s what I thought I was doing and what it was conveying:
I thought by being accommodating and working around their schedule, needs and desires that I was showing them that I was kind, giving and able to put others first. In reality, I was showing them that my work wasn’t that important to me, that friends were a small part of my life and that I don’t really have that many opinions of what I like or want. I was also giving him full out permission to take advantage of my time by scheduling dates on the fly and canceling last minute. I remember one guy always wanted to eat at Italian restaurants and truth be told, I get bored with pasta, rice, tomatoes and cheese. I wanted Indian, Thai, Japanese. But I went along with it because he was so busy and I knew this was his only free time… let’s just say, we never made it to Indian food. When you accommodate too frequently in dating, you stop being courted. You also become too convenient and thus, boring. This happens in long term relationships too. If you never come up with anything new and are too willing to always go with the flow, you’re both going to get bored. I assumed that because my career was fulfilling, my friends mean a lot to me and I am full of opinions and interests that they would know that. But how would they know that? You can tell someone that you are a vegetarian but if you eat a burger in front of them, they’ll have a difficult time believing you.
I was so wildly sympathetic and understanding because I loved them and I cared about their heart and their fears. I wanted them to know that I was not like their exes and I that I would not hurt them in that way. This by far is the most exhausting thing I did. I too was terrified of getting hurt but focused my energy on their feelings. Maybe subconsciously I thought that if I could help them with their fears they wouldn’t hurt me. All I know is that in most of my relationships, love become a full time job. I became a psychologist/girlfriend. Every time. I read more books and articles than I read in school. The problem is, I told my feelings, my fears, my instincts to shut up and proceeded as if I didn’t have them. You can’t listen to your gut if you duck tape it and lock it away in the closet.
Okay… now, what this conveys to them is that they have all the permission in the world to make decisions about your relationship based on their last relationship or their relationship with their parents. It gives them the right of way to pull back, shut down or experimentally be “all in”, because you’re “safe.” But safe doesn’t keep people interested and safe doesn’t pull us out of our shell. Basically, you are giving them permission to let fear guide and shape your love story. There should always be a point at which sympathy melds with reality and you say “listen, I’m not her, I can’t promise anything but I can tell you that I want to invest in you but only if you invest with me.” Then, you are encouraging your partner to get out of his head and into your relationship. Also, you get to stop being his life coach/therapist and just be his girlfriend again. Also, if you are willing to wait… you will wait. Stop being so willing. Stop being so understanding. It’s honestly not even good for him. We can worse case scenario life and especially love all day long. At some point we must risk.
I think I thought that by being thoughtful, I was showing him that I was the world’s greatest girlfriend and would someday be the world’s greatest wife. Instead, I was courting him. Initially he was courting me and putting in all the effort and then one day I realized I liked him as much as he liked me and I started doing all sorts of little things to show it. This all sounds lovely but the whole biology thing plays a part. Men don’t want you to make it easy on them, they want to do a little work to win your affections, your admiration etc. The harder he has to work to get you and keep you, the more interested he becomes in you. Which is exactly why those guys you aren’t into keep pursuing you… think about it.
The example in the book is nothing short of genius, though at first it made the feminist in me cringe. Basically a man goes out into the woods to hunt for a moose. It is cold, dark and wet and the man has to put all his skills to use to catch this moose, it takes hours and the more he thinks about it, the more attached he is to the process and to the moose. He then shoots the moose, ties it up, drags it through the woods, ties it up on truck and drives home with the biggest smile on his face. He’s proud of that moose, he put in time to get that moose and he can’t stop calling all his friends to tell the story of the hunt and to tell his family how impressed they’ll be with moose. He skins it himself, portions out the meat, wraps it, freezes it and goes so far as to mount the head to his wall. He wants the world to know about this hunt, about this moose. Now imagine it this way, exact same moose conveniently, shows up on his door step dead. He opens the door, looks at the moose and quickly rushes to figure out how best to get rid of it.
Why? It’s the exact same moose, same weight, same fur coat and the dude is hungry and totally capable of skinning it, and cooking it. It’s because the journey, the process, “the hunt” is what made the man value the moose so much in the first place. The hunt is the thing that makes guys get involved emotionally, not the moose itself. What’s even more interesting is that it doesn’t matter how scared they are, how cold it is outside or how dark and mysterious the night may be, they will put themselves out there for the love of the hunt. You could be the rarest, most difficult hunt around but if you show up conveniently on his doorstep with an apron and lace panties he won’t know it.
I was quick to forgive because I dated guys that beat themselves up far more than I would have. I dated “good guys”, and took pride in who I chose. I also think that when you have fully invested yourself in someone for any length of time, you want it to work and if you get hung up on the little things it’s not going to. But, when you’re quick to forgive it tells someone that you’d rather be with them at their worst then be alone. It gives them a free ride to say or do little things that hurt you, or change nothing at all. You show them all your cards and teach them your standard. I used to forgive quickly because I was taught that forgiveness is important and that when you hold resentment it hurts you and builds walls between people. I definitely didn’t want that. So I forgave, I would even find myself comforting my partners guilt over the exact actions/words that affected me. How crazy is that!?
What I later realized is that by always being so forgiving, I was causing these “good guys” to self punish themselves in their own heads. They would feel bad on their own and wonder over and over why I was so quick to let it slide. I of course thought I was being a saintly, loving girlfriend with a wonderful capacity to forgive. They were looking at me like I had 3 heads and thinking I had no standard of self respect or worth or thinking I was so sweet and deserved better than them. Either way, they were spending a lot of time feeling worse about how they treated me and being around my ever loving ways was actually making them feel guiltier. The hardest part is that I was basically over loving them and it made them question whether or not they loved me as much as “I deserved.” That level of guilt and shame undealt with also breeds resentment and emotional distance. You don’t want to hang out with someone that reminds you of your worst qualities. Basically it breeds everything but happiness, pride and giddy love. This is the thing that makes guys say, “I love you but I’m not in love with you” or “You deserve better.” What’s interesting, is people always say that men look for the qualities of their mother in a mate and we all assume this means cooking dinner and nurturing but it also means that they want a woman that holds them to a standard. They want it! They even crave it. It makes them feel more comfortable. If you’re mad at them about something, be mad and then forgive them. It’s easier to be be forgiven by someone else than by yourself and it’s good for them to experience another side of your love. A hot minute in the dog house is a good reminder how wonderful the regular house is.
This is a condensed version of what I learned from this amazing book with a horrifically terrible early 90’s front cover. It probably seems like a lot of work but is the exact opposite. Essentially girls like me stop having to navigate, over analyze and invest so much.
My aim now is to find more balance, create more boundaries and keep my standards in place. It makes life so much easier. I basically just stopped telling my fear, pain and instincts to shut up even though I thought they were inconvenient and annoying and now I let those things guide me. If I’m hurt, my husband finds out right away. If I’m exhausted or feeling vulnerable, I don’t try and overcompensate. If I want to be courted again, or be dotted on, I pull back emotionally and physically. If I’m bored with the same ole thing, I explore something new myself and if he’s interested, great. If not, no big deal.
So essentially, if you feel like you’re doing all the work in your relationship, throw your hands up and in a non emotional way, tell them that you’re exhausted and you’re not going to do it anymore. When you do this, you tip the scales.
Please feel free to write below. I learned a lot more than this from that book and others and I’m happy to share. I truly wish I had learned all of this sooner and my hope is that wonderfully genuine girls and guys everywhere get the love they deserve.
Love to you,
- Afraid of forever (lesstalkingmorewriting.wordpress.com)
- Most-Important Relationship Advice You’ll Ever Get (For Men): “Don’t Let Her Tame You” (kennyspuathoughts.com)
- 8 Ways to Ruin a Relationship (believeandbailar.wordpress.com)
- The Dos And Don’ts Of Being In A Relationship In Your 20s (agegapdatings.wordpress.com)
- Stupid, hopelessly romantic heart! (icedgold2.wordpress.com)
- Always the Rebound, Never the Girlfriend (becomingbradshaw.com)
- Dating can be therapy (or how I figured out I have a yen for men with addictive personalities) (wealthysinglemommy.com)
- The Post-Divorce Online Dating Guide by Hayley Hofbauer (ginnykim.com)
- Advice for Guys on the First Date (pearlsintheroughblog.wordpress.com)