Karen has a long history of being abandoned or rejected by men. The latest, Greg asked her out four times and seemed really attracted to her. He took her to nice restaurants, opened her door, and even kissed her good night. Then he stopped calling. “What went wrong?” she wondered.
Before Greg there was Henry, whom she dated for eight months exclusively. Wondering where their relationship was going, she asked him to declare his intentions and feelings. He refused to answer, talking in circles and not making much eye contact. Shortly thereafter, he told her he “wasn’t ready” for a relationship and broke up. Six months later, she heard he was getting married to someone else. She was devastated.
Karen focuses far too much on trying to be the right person or acting the right way so that a man will love her. She tries too hard to read men, searching for clues about what they want so she can deliver what they want. When they leave, she views it as a failure on her part. Karen is caught in a dangerous dating trap: denying her true desires.
When it comes to men and dating, what do you want? When you hear that question, does a clear answer bubble up from inside? Or do you find yourself instead feeling confused and unclear? If your answer is something along the lines of “I want to be happy” or “I want someone to love me,” you may not be as in touch with yourself as you need to be. The more broad and vague your wants, the less likely you are to identify when they are not being met. Even worse, over time you may entirely lose touch with your own deepest desires if you focus on trying to be what you think he wants.
There is another, better way to position yourself in dating, one that maximizes your odds of a rewarding and lasting relationship down the road. Consider the following example of clearly stated desires.
I want to meet someone who shares my values, who is marriage-minded, who wants basically the same things I do out of life (marriage, children, a rewarding spiritual life, travel, extended family time, etc.), and with whom I can share a lifelong mutual love. I am not willing to compromise who I am for the sake of being in a relationship—being authentic, true to myself, and looking for that from him are essential. I want deep roots, so rushing into a romance is not right for me. I am seeking . . .
By being very specific about what you are seeking, you set yourself up to know if you have it. If having someone who shares your values is important, then define them, and stick by them. If you want someone who is totally into you, allow the space for him to pursue. When he shows up inconsistent with what you are seeking, you will feel it.
With this kind of focus, you allow the relationship to unfold from the inside out, always being attentive to whether or not it is consistent with your values and true desires. But how do you keep yourself from being in the position in which Karen found herself? Here are three essential personal steps to take before you date that will maximize your ability to define and stick with your deepest desires:
- Focus on increasing the quality of your life without a man. In addition to career, cultivate interests that engage your heart and spirit, whether that is travel, an avocation that is a passion, a give-back such as a charity or mission, or whatever else you can create
- Cultivate close friendships with other women. Since there is no guarantee sticker on any relationship with a man, you need a support system for those times when things go wrong
- Cultivate deep self-awareness and intuition. Mediate. Buy a journal and write in it every day, allowing your deepest thoughts and feelings to bubble up. Studies show that processes like journaling and meditation greatly increase your ability to detect when something is either right or very wrong for you, an instinctive ability that we call intuition.