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.

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