By: Judd Livingston
The last few weeks we’ve been talking about what the ladies can do to attract the marrying type. A lot of the emphasis has been on how guys have changed over the years and what women can do to avoid falling in with men who aren’t on their wavelength. We’ve been blaming the guys. It’s because of their changing needs and wants that women are having a harder time. And I still believe that to be true. For the majority. But there is a minority of women out there, and I hate to say it, who are totally bringing this upon yourselves: you’re sabotaging your shit.
What constitutes “sabotaging” a relationship can be up for debate. Is holding out for what you want at the expense of a relationship ‘sabotaging’? No. It’s knowing yourself and your wants and needs. Is having unrealistic wants and needs ‘sabotaging’? Absolutely. But even then, there’s more to it, as always. Really, in my books, it’s quite simply the inability to recognize one’s own flaws, meditate on them, and then change. I’m talking about learning from your past relationships, which most of us do; constantly trying to grow and change and learn. Unfortunately, the small percentage of women who are making this mistake are most likely so deluded, they won’t think this applies to them. A bit of a Catch-22.
I had an interesting conversation with a friend yesterday who was telling me about a few dates she had a while ago. She said the guy had stopped calling after date four, and she knew it was because she’d come on too strong. Then she said, and here’s the important part, that she tried to figure out why she had been so aggressively pushing this guy towards something so serious so early. For her, she admitted, she had come on strong out of her own fears. She was still fresh out of an old relationship and part of her was nervous about not being able to land a partner again (something we can all understand), and her self-esteem had taken a bit of a beating in the break-up. She realized that she was trying to get this new guy to commit in some way to help boost her up and make her feel safe and stable in her ability to snag a long-term relationship. She also realized that if she had embarked on a relationship with this guy, it would’ve been built on false pretenses The coupling would have been about fixing her issues rather than getting to know each other and share experiences, etc. This process is exactly what Saboteurs don’t do: they don’t admit their true motives to themselves and they don’t change. This woman went out and avoided relationships while she dealt with developing her independence and self-esteem to the point where a man wasn’t needed to supply that for her; then she was able to focus on discovering relationships which were about the relationship, rather than her issues.
There are many ways to sabotage a relationship, but I think that we can boil it down to two interconnected points: unresolved issues and then a misunderstanding of the timeline of relationships. That’s a pretty broad statement, but if we were to truly examine all the reasons why, we’d be here for days: low self-esteem, daddy issues, fear of being alone, fear of being a cat lady, commitment issues, etc. There’s a million reasons, but they’re all connected by that thread of being unresolved and largely suppressed, which means they persist. Then we start turning to relationships as panaceas. But we want to fast forward past the uncertainty that is the beginning and move straight to the comfortableness that is the middle in order to feel safe, stable and loved. This, in turn, causes a normal guy, who’s romantic timeline is set to standard, to freak out. Not because they’re afraid of commitment, or because they’re not into the woman, but because this is a huge red flag that she’s going to be completely needy and will have loads of baggage. Or, the opposite happens; a relationship is brewing, and yet the Saboteur is trying in vain to keep things as light and non-committal as the first few dates. After 3 months, you shouldn’t be interacting the way you did at 3 weeks. Progress needs to happen.
The unfolding of relationships happen as it does for a reason. You can’t expect a guy to start texting you or calling you everyday after only a few dates. If he does, that means he probably has issues too. The evolution of a relationship is a wonderful thing and it shouldn’t be pressed. We all have that friend: the one who is constantly making stupid mistakes; chasing married men; dating guys twice her age (or girls ten years younger than him if it’s a guy); or pining after guys who straight up say they are not in the place for a committed relationship. And we’re there for her when she’s miserable and wondering why things never work out. And we know, but we don’t say, that things don’t work out because she needs to deal with her shit. That stuff that, to paraphrase Rocky Balboa, is still in the basement. Instead, we say stuff like “You’ll find someone who appreciates you for you,” and hope they catch the hint. But we’re doing them a disservice because they start to believe us. And then, after being dumped for demanding their new ‘boyfriend’, of all of 3 dates, to text/call them every day, they say, “that’s who I am, and I’ll find someone who appreciates that about me; my intensity and my honesty.” What they should be saying is “Fuck. I’m crazy for expecting that new guy to behave like someone I’ve been with for five months… I need to deal with my shit…”
The truth is we’ve ALL been that person. And that’s okay because it’s something you need to experience so that you can learn from it. But usually that happens once or twice, and then we get it and deal with our shit. I went through two distinct phases myself: first, I was overly cloying. I wanted a serious relationship immediately, which didn’t make sense because there was no emotional base on which to build it. And later, I did the opposite, and tried to keep the relationships from being too serious, usually ending them as soon as the “what are we doing here?” question popped up. But I didn’t repeat these patterns. I saw them, understood the motivations behind them, and changed. If you haven’t dealt with your shit, do it now. How? Pretty simple: honesty. Be honest with yourself. How? Write in a journal; talk to a friend; or be real and start seeing a therapist. And be honest with her/him.
When I was 19, my aunt was dating a wonderful German man. He and I were talking one day and we started discussing the differences in our cultures and one thing he said really stuck with me: “I don’t understand why there’s so much shame associated with psychotherapy in North America. In Germany, if you’re not going to a therapist, that’s a red flag. We don’t use them only for traumatic life events, we use them all the time, like you go to yoga; it’s preventative for us. We learn how to deal with things before they even arise. We talk about the good days as well as the bad. It’s just so confusing that you North Americans don’t see it that way.” I went looking for a therapist that very same day and have been seeing him ever since. And my German friend was absolutely right. But there’s another difference in culture that we didn’t mention that day, and it may be the reason why we, as a culture, don’t take advantage of therapy: we don’t like being honest with ourselves. For therapy to work, you need to bring the questions up, and you need to talk and work things out. Your therapist only knows what you tell her, so the burden is on you.
If therapy is too intimidating, get your very best friend over and open a bottle of wine and say “Seriously, tell me what you think I’m doing wrong and why you think I’m doing it.” And listen. Don’t say a goddamn word. Take notes maybe. And when she’s done, hug her, tell her thank you and don’t talk about it for the rest of the night. Mull it over for a week or so, then get back together with her and tell her what you think.
Start taking stock of all your past relationships and try and ask yourself what you did wrong in that relationship, then ask yourself why. That’s the key question. Why? What were your motivations? Start thinking about ways to satisfy those motivations outside of your romantic relationships. One friend of mine told me that she built up a strong support network of people who were not romantically connected to her at all, so that she wouldn’t be putting any of her baggage on her new partners. Try and appreciate the development of a relationship through all it’s stages. Understand that the point where comfort and support come into play usually doesn’t happen for a while and if you need it now, you’re not in it for the right reasons. Don’t be afraid to take time off dating.
There’s this huge push, and I know a lot of you who want kids are racing the biological clock, but the reality is that a healthy relationship is better than a hasty one. I know someone, and I’ll preface this by saying it’s an extreme example, who’s decided she needs a child and has been dating a man for less than two months and she refuses to have protected sex with him in the hopes of getting pregnant. She would rather get pregnant with someone she barely knows (although I’m sure she’s convinced herself he’s “the one”), than wait for a while to make sure he’ll be an adequate father, husband, etc. Slow down. Relax. You have plenty of time. Plenty of time to take a break from dating and to figure yourself out and then to get back in. If you do that, your relationships will be much more gratifying. Look at it as a term paper you have due. We all know that if you put in the research and plan your arguments before writing, it will result in a better paper and probably a better grade. Whip it off last minute and, well, at least you didn’t fail. The real scary thing is, a lot of people don’t realize they’re sabotaging. If you haven’t been in a serious, committed relationship in several years, you’re probably doing something wrong. If you routinely go on dates and then the guys bail on you, you’re probably doing something wrong. On the flip-side if you end things with almost every guy you date, something’s up. It’s not that hard to find someone you connect with, unless you’re trying to avoid connections.
The take home here is that sabotage can only be avoided through honesty, truth and growth. Be honest with yourself and actively try and grow. This may sound hippy-dippy, but we should never stop trying to make ourselves better people. It should be a constant process, a journey.