His and Her Two Cents on Dating and Relationships: Looking For Love in All the Wrong Places

We all know someone, a good friend or family member who chooses the wrong partner over and over again. From a distance we can see it unfold, but they seem to have a blind spot in their own patterns. We also know people who have relationships and can’t understand why they would choose that person. Some have relationship after relationship in which they choose the same partner with a different name and some choose someone who is a direct contradiction to their values. Why so many people settle for a partner who does not meet their needs? Why do women tend to sacrifice what they want and need in relationships? Why are they afraid to speak up and ask their partners for what they need? Why do men appear uncaring and disrespectful? Why do both men and women create the same patterns over and over?

1. Archaic Gender Roles

She says…

He says…

In tradition passed down from generation to generation, a “good” wife/girlfriend/daughter did whatever the man in her life asked or expected of her. While this has softened over the years, I think many women still hold on to some of these core beliefs. Many women feel like they are nothing without the approval of a man in their life. Sometimes, that means that they will settle for treatment that they do not deserve. They will allow someone to disrespect them out of a sense of duty or obligation. It also means that they will settle for a man who does not meet their ideas of a suitable partner and any man will do. This also means that they will shape themselves to be whatever that man wants to gain acceptance and hold his attention. How many of you know or have been the girl who changes who they are to be with someone? You may change the way you dress or behave. You may give up hobbies or music you like to impress someone or fit more easily into their lives.

Men are just as guilty of this destructive behavior as women. In addition, they continue to promote the archaic gender role financially. Even with the increase in successful women in the workplace, society as a whole is still promotes men as the bread winners, regardless of any success a woman may have. It goes beyond social conditioning though, which is the most difficult aspect to overcome. There is scientific evidence that supports that it is part of our genetic makeup that men should be the providers and women the caregivers, but we also perpetuate the cycle by socialization. There seems to be a never ending cycle of women wanting a bread-winner on whom they can be dependent, but then feel frustrated when they are not treated as an equal. Men, on the other hand, feel pressured to be the bread-winners, then tire of the pressure of constant dependency. This creates a cycle of disrespect. A review of dating profiles proves that even successful women want a man who makes more than they do.

 2. Low Self-Esteem

She says…

We are all shaped by our experiences. Many women never learn to develop a sense of self worth outside of the approval of those around them. As children, we can be told directly or indirectly that our worth is based on how we behave or the extent we sacrifice for others. Even well meaning parents reinforce messages that damage self-esteem. How many of you were a “good girl” when you put everyone else’s needs before your own or shut your mouth to keep the peace? The media also plays a part in this because we are bombarded with messages telling us that we would be happy, beautiful or more successful if we only bought their products or looked like the women in their magazines. We begin to believe that we are not enough. With low self-esteem, we unintentionally attract people who will exploit this. Like a predator senses prey, people who want to control or manipulate us can sense our low self-esteem. By becoming involved with people who do exploit our vulnerabilities, it continues to deplete our self-worth further.

He says…

Again, social conditioning is a huge part of the issues in relationships between men and women. As children, men are also taught that they can only be accepted if they display a disproportionate amount of machismo by failing to acknowledge or display emotions outside of anger and use sexual conquests as a badge of honor. A man’s ego takes a hit when he (at a young age) dares to show his softer side. As men get older, the term “whipped” comes into play if a man shows any care or concern for his partner. Add to that the “bad boy” complex that seems to be a never ending fantasy for both genders to fulfill. The collective result is that men suffer from esteem issues, just as do women and feel the need to overcompensate by building a façade to protect their emotions. To the outside world, this can look like an uncaring man who is only out to satisfy his own needs with little regard for how he affects others.

3. Daddy Issues

She says…

It is cliché, but it can definitely be true. Women who do not have healthy attachments with a male figure as they grow up, tend to have difficulties in relationships with men throughout their lives. When we don’t form secure attachments as we grow up, we do not “complete” certain stages of development and we have insecurity in our attachments in our subsequent relationships. From infancy, we work through stages of development. If we have caregivers who are emotionally unavailable or rejecting, we will likely struggle with attaching to people in the future due to trust issues. We also subconsciously try to “complete” this developmental stage which is why we tend to have patterns in the partners we choose for relationships. Just like when we learn to walk, we fall down and keep trying over and over again until we master the task.

He says…

Believe it or not, men have daddy issues almost as much as women. It goes back to the genetic coding within every human being. Even those who fight against it still display remnants of something that is a core part of the human makeup. Dads teach their sons to be “tough” and to avoid crying. Sadly, mommy issues develop from there as well. Traditionally, dad goes off to work all day at a job that he dislikes for one reason or other while mom stays home for any number of reasons. Dad develops a sense of entitlement to do as he pleases since he takes care of his family. In today’s generation, there seems to be an increasing lack of commitment. This is also evidenced by the number of times adults change career paths or employers or the alarming divorce rate. The self-help industry has boomed, resulting in halfhearted attempts to fix oneself, giving people a sense of entitlement and impulsivity. “Since I’m not getting what I deserve, I’m moving on.” There is little in the way of people taking the time to learn how to set the expectations for what they deserve and owning the responsibility to follow through with those expectations. One chance and done has become the standard.

 When women struggle with these issues, she will likely put in all of the effort in the relationship and allow her partner to get away with little, if any, reciprocity. She will tend to do things they don’t want to do like get involved physically too soon or overextend herself to her own detriment. She will feel undervalued and unappreciated, but not feel confident enough to ask for what she wants and deserves. When men struggle with this, they tend to do only what they must to keep their woman off their backs, feel the need to “conquer” to prove their manhood and their desire for their woman, and repress their emotions.

 By building self-esteem and establishing boundaries, we will find appropriate partners that are willing and able to treat us the way we deserve to be treated. Like most people, most relationships are incomplete, like an algebraic equation, where one must solve for “X”. In these relationships, there is more than variable which must be solved, ultimately making the equation impossible unless both people work through their own issues to identify and change these dysfunctional core beliefs. When we are complete and healthy people, we choose partners who are a compliment to our lives instead of choosing someone to fill a void. If we are healthy mentally and emotionally, we will attract people who are as well. Only when we are able to effectively address these issues and focus on what we want and need, we are able to cultivate healthy and satisfying relationships.

Written by Michelle Lewis, LCSW and Jeremy Cid, CPC, CRC of Always Opening Doors. © 2012. All rights reserved.


Out of Kilter

Read this and just had to share.
“We don’t need to change as much about ourselves as we think we do to find someone special. It’s about finding a match, not finding someone perfect, and vice versa. “
This sums it up very nicely. You should never lose the essence of who you are in a relationship. Take the blocks that you have used to create your own life and find someone with whom you can share those blocks and make something even better.

Laughing cow in France

This post was written by my dear blogger friend SD, from Four is a family.
It got me thinking about Mr Nice -why, yes, I know, what a surprise-, and the idea of what was, or wasn’t meant to be. I have been regularly torturing myself with the notion that if I’d done this, or not said that, perhaps, we would have stood a better chance. Of course, the idea that it wasn’t meant to be is so much more comfortable than the feeling I have somehow failed.
Relationships are tricky things for most of us.
It would be lovely if the early ‘honeymoon’ period of a relationship could last forever. None of the warning signs would lead to actual problems. Our past wouldn’t catch up with us. Real-world problems wouldn’t intrude on the bliss. Storm clouds would stay on the distant horizon. Our kids wouldn’t…

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Train Your Partner

In my previous post Why Do We Argue?, I explored the very basics of why people argue. To summarize briefly, it is because we all have our own set of experiences from which our core values and our views of the world are created. Because of that, we also each have our own way by which we feel and show love. I mentioned before that I love “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. Other influential books that I have read are “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie and “Why Men Love Bitches” by Shari Argov.

It was the combination of these three books that helped me write the third in my series of couples events, which is a lecture series that allows couples to interact with one another and other attendees while they learn how to improve their own relationships. As a quick aside, the thing I love most about being a relationship coach is how the focus of coaching isn’t to understand the “why’s” of the things that are happening. That requires too much focus on the past. While it is beneficial in specific cases, for couples looking to improve the level of fulfillment in their relationships, looking at the present and how to move forward is much more productive. That is what coaching is all about – looking at the present and at what needs to change in the future to meet your vision of a happy life.

To attain that satisfaction in your relationships – ANY relationship – we are each responsible for educating those with whom we are interacting of what we desire in the relationship to find that fulfillment. In other words, we have to train them. Some people get offended at the mention of being trained. I, for one, happen to like the idea of being trained. Maybe it’s because of my military background. Or perhaps it’s because of my seemingly insatiable thirst for knowledge. Whatever the case, I enjoy being educated, especially when it comes to the woman I love.

Men can be dogs, so train us like one.

Men are often stereotyped as being dogs. I agree with this stereotype, so I will use the comparison to explain how you can train your partner to reach a higher level of satisfaction in the relationship, and how your partner can train you.

A dog, by nature, is not inclined to sit and shake your hand on command. In most cases, the dogs are taught how to do so through positive reinforcement and repetition. You tell Sparky to “sit” while you are pushing his hindquarters down. You do this, each time giving him praise when he stays sitting and reward him with a treat. After a few more times, Sparky has learned that when you say “sit”, you want him to put his butt on the ground with his forepaws extended downward, putting himself in a sitting position. When he does that, you make all this fuss and give him some Yummy-Goodness of the type that will put a smile on your doggie’s snout.

You managed to teach a member of your family the behavior you want him to display in specific situations. Men and women can be trained the same way. It requires time and a lot of effort, but the results it will yield are well worth it. It is hard, at times, to ignore less than desirable behavior. Like a dog taking a poop in the middle of your living room floor, some negative behavior has to be addressed. But also like Sparky dropping his load onto your floor, it has to be done at the time of the incident. Otherwise, the lesson is lost and he (read: we) will not fully comprehend what was done wrong. But the next time Sparky goes potty outside, clap your hands, give him a lot of lovin’ and maybe even a little doggie treat.

I don’t need to provide a detailed list of incentives to get your partner to display the desired actions. Use your imagination, based on what you know (or learn) about what motivates them. Dogs are motivated by attention and treats. A man may be motivated by a new sexy lingerie, where as a woman may be motivated by flowers delivered to her office once a month. That brings me to one more crucial point. This technique only works if both people have the desire to please the other person. As heartbreaking as it might be, if your partner does not show any indication of doing what it takes to show you the behavior you need for fulfillment, it may be time to consider finding a partner who does have that desire. You can only train a dog, or human, who has the desire to be trained. But the responsibility is yours and yours alone to let your partner, friend, colleague or whomever what it is that you want and need. If you have a hard time answering that question, begin by asking yourself what makes you smile. If that doesn’t start providing some answers, take the love language test in Mr. Chapman’s book to give you some ideas.