Read an Excerpt
You probably know at least one Agenda Girl. I certainly have met enough to consider myself something of an expert on the kind of woman who asks me how many children I'd like and if I could ever see myself settling down (and when) during our second date -- or sooner. I once had a woman ask me during the first thirty minutes of our first date if I was ready for marriage and children because she felt like her clock was ticking and she didn't want to waste her time with men who weren't "serious" about dating. Take it from a guy, that is not how you want to start off your first date.
The Agenda Girl is the one who's been planning her wedding since she was old enough to count to ten bridesmaids. Her hobbies include reading Modern Bride and designing her dream engagement ring on adiamondisforever.com. (Don't ask me how I know this!) She secretly seethes with envy every time another friend gets engaged, but is first in line for the bouquet toss at the wedding. She's known exactly how many children she wants as well as at what age she wants to have them since she was fifteen -- unfortunately, she hasn't revised those ideas since. She has a list of requirements for her potential husband that is at least a mile long, although, in case of emergency (e.g. she's twenty-nine and still not married), she will gladly settle for someone who allows her to check her top five boxes:
1 - decent looks
2 - advanced degree in a prestigious profession
3 - steady job in a lucrative field (what's the use of a law degree if you're just going to waste it at a nonprofit?)
4 - good family
5 - ready to settle down
There you have it, everything an Agenda Girl needs for a real, honest-to-goodness fairy-tale romance. And guess what? I can tell all this about her within an hour of our first date. How? Because that is usually how long it takes her to decide whether or not she wants to start grooming me for the role of Mr. Agenda Girl.
Of course, not every Agenda Girl is quite that obvious. Plenty of women enter into relationships with open minds only to find themselves getting hung up on the idea of marriage before the time is ripe -- meaning, before their boyfriend is ready. In these cases, the relationship often self-destructs when the agenda comes to light in the form of premature demands and a relationship-ending ultimatum.
Could You Be an Agenda Girl?
Even if you're nowhere near as extreme as the girl I just described, Agenda Girls come in all shapes and sizes. Answer these true/false questions to find out if the bridal shoe fits...and be honest!
1. T / F I am almost always the one who introduces the subject of marriage and children.
2. T / F I often find myself thinking about what we'll do on future dates during our first few outings.
3. T / F I have actually practiced signing my name using my boyfriend's last name.
4. T / F I feel sorry for the losers, er, I mean women, who are over thirty and still not married.
5. T / F My biological clock sounds more like a ticking time bomb. If I don't have children within the next few years, I'll explode.
6. T / F My first dates are usually a lot like job interviews.
7. T / F If I don't get married by a certain age, I'll feel like an old maid.
8. T / F It is important for me to figure out fairly quickly whether or not I would marry a guy.
9. T / F If my boyfriend didn't propose to me within eighteen months, I would leave and find someone who would.
10. T / F The Rules is my dating bible.
0-2 True: While you want to get married eventually, you are not turning guys off with an obvious marriage agenda.
3-5 True: So maybe you don't have your imaginary babies' names all picked out, but what you do have is a minor case of Agenda Girlitis. Take my word, even a minor case can be a major relationship killer, so read on.
6+ True: You are a full-blown Agenda Girl. Please keep reading to learn how you can stop driving men away.
Two Reasons Why Guys Don't Like Agenda Girls
A premature wedding agenda is such a turnoff that even the worst offenders know better than to reveal their true intentions. Unfortunately, trying to hide the truth from a date is nearly impossible if you don't believe your own story. So next time you're sitting there, spinning some yarn about how you're in no rush to get married -- all the while mentally calculating how long it will take to get this guy to fall for you so you can spring the truth on him -- understand this: Any guy with eyes can see right through your hidden agenda.
I know what you're thinking. And? So what? What is so wrong with wanting to get married?
Absolutely nothing. Again, the problem with Agenda Girl isn't that she wants to get married, it's that she wants to get married to anyone who fits her requirements and will pop the question by the date circled in her meticulously organized day planner. Which leads me to the first reason men don't like the Agenda Girl:
Reason #1: We want to feel special too.
Believe it or not, men have feelings. We want to feel special and appreciated for our unique qualities. We want to feel like we have forged an uncommon connection with the person we're dating. Like we've found something precious and rare -- someone who gets us and loves us for who we are. Unfortunately, it's painfully clear that Agenda Girl doesn't much care how we feel, what we want, or who we are. All she cares about is how we'll fit in with her plan, her dreams, and her life.
Here's how the typical guy will respond to an obvious Agenda Girl. First, he'll feel flattered that you're so obviously into him that you want to marry him. Wow, he'll think, I must be a real catch.
One minute later, that feeling will pass and he'll start thinking: What's wrong with this woman? Why is she so in love with me when she doesn't even know me? What does she want from me? Ah! She's not in love with me at all. It has nothing to do with me. She just wants to get married. Oh boy...not again!
Despite what some Agenda Girls may think, this typical reaction does not mean that the guy is immature or unable to commit. He just doesn't want to commit to you.
Put yourself into our shoes for a minute. After all, women don't have a monopoly on agendas. Guys can be just as guilty. Except in the guy's case, the agenda may be sex, not marriage.
Take a moment to think back to a time when a date's behavior made it quite obvious that all he really cared about was getting some action. Any number of things may have tipped you off. It could have been the way his eyes glazed over when he stared deep into your cleavage. Maybe it was his won't-take-no-for-an-answer insistence that you order that third frozen margarita. Or perhaps you had reason to pause after the fifth time he told you how you're the smartest, sexiest, most charming and beautiful woman he'd ever met. We all love compliments, but if you were able to see this behavior for what it really was -- a full-court press to get you into bed -- chances are the resulting ego boost didn't last very long.
When a guy makes his intentions so obvious, it's only natural that you stop to think, Hmm, I wonder if he says this to all the girls?
Guess what? Guys feel the same way when a woman is working an agenda of her own. No matter what the agenda, the man who is just trying to enjoy your company, go with the flow, and get to know you better is going to catch on. And when that happens, don't be surprised if your text messages start going unanswered.
Reason #2: We want surprises.
Surprise and mystery are at the core of romance. Guys want and need to spend some time wondering, Does she like me too? No, women aren't the only ones who sometimes turn to the Magic 8 Ball. We want to feel emotionally invested, and since every investment involves some risk of losing, we cannot feel invested when you are a sure thing and we are 100 percent certain of your intentions. It just doesn't work that way.
The problem with the Agenda Girl is that she cannot tolerate the level of uncertainty that's necessary for a real relationship to blossom. Afraid of the risks that come with true romance, she prefers to look at a relationship like a job. Except in this case, she's reaching for the diamond ring, not the brass one.
To attain her goal, Agenda Girl sets up signposts to guide her along the road to the altar. Any guy who is dating one of these girls suddenly feels like he's been hired for a new job. And he knows exactly what is expected of him:
1. Friday or Saturday night dates for the first few months.
2. Pressure to stop seeing other people.
3. Drawer space.
4. Those "three little words" before the fourth month. Often followed by the horrifying..."Don't you feel the same way?" response to our silence.
5. Meeting each other's parents as soon as possible.
6. A ring within eighteen months or less. Or an ultimatum.
7. Either marry her and be miserable, or break if off and make her miserable.
Not only does the typical Agenda Girl relationship usually lead to either a breakup or an unhappily ever after, but, as you can see, the journey to the altar isn't much fun for the guy involved. Like I said, zero surprises. We know exactly what Agenda Girl will do every step of the way. If she gets what she wants, she'll be flush with success and giddily lavish us with affection. If she doesn't, we'll never hear the end of it. She'll nag, she'll turn on the waterworks, she'll threaten to leave....She'll make our lives a living hell. Call me crazy, call me immature, call me commitment phobic, just don't call me Ms. Agenda's boyfriend. No thanks!
The Dead Giveaways
Maybe I shouldn't be telling you this, but there are two ways in which Agenda Girls tip us off every time. I am not revealing this information so you can better hide your agenda. Hopefully, by the time you're through with this chapter, and the book, you'll see why you're much better off approaching every relationship with an open mind (e.g. Who knows what will happen? We could end up as a couple, as friends, or even as in-laws!) instead of with a specific goal in mind (e.g. I will make him fall in love with me and marry me). In the meantime, keep in mind that if you are unilaterally hatching a marriage plot, you will almost certainly be compelled to act in one of the following off-putting ways.
Dead Giveaway #1: The Third Degree
"We were set up by mutual friends. I already knew he was great on paper based on what they'd told me -- twenty-nine years old. Went to Exeter for high school. Princeton undergrad. MBA from Wharton. Investment banker. I was so excited, I spent all day getting ready. Hair. Nails. Mystic tan. A new dress. I have to say, I was looking hot! At dinner, the more questions I asked, the better he looked: Apartment in the city. House in the country. Audi TT Roadster (a personal favorite!). On good terms with his mother and father (who, by the way, are both very prominent Boston lawyers). Two past long-term relationships. Tired of the bar scene. All that and a face that wouldn't ruin the family photos. I was ready to marry him right then and there! He walked me home and we hugged and did that whole peck on the cheek thing. Then I never heard from him again. We would have made the perfect couple! What is wrong with guys today?!"
-- Karen, 26, New York, NY
"What's wrong with guys?" Good question. The only thing is I have a hunch that if Karen really wanted to know the answer, she would have spent at least some part of her date getting to know her future husband instead of ratcheting up his list of accomplishments and imagining what their kids would look like while watching his lips move. Something tells me that even with all her questions, by the end of her date, Karen still had absolutely no insight into this so-called perfect man's personality. All she really cared about was that he looked good "on paper" (an expression that, by the way, is universally despised by the guys I know).
Take it from me, I've been in this position more than enough times to know what Karen's date was thinking: Why does this girl remind me so much of those nosey people on my co-op board? Wait a second, I know what she's getting at. She's checking to see if I'm marriage material. She's got her sights on me and I don't even know her yet. Chances are she'll just wind up falling for me and I'm going to end up hurting her. Let's stop this ride right here.
And that's just what the decent guy would do. We'll get into what another type of guy would do later in the chapter.
All I'm saying is, whoa...slow down. Just because a guy has the right car, hairstyle, or college degree -- or even the trifecta -- doesn't mean he is meant for you. He's no dummy; he can tell by your line of questioning and that lovestruck look in your eyes that you're looking to take the relationship to the next level. And if you're an Agenda Girl, you're probably getting excited and trying to move things along way too soon. Then the pressure is on, adrenaline kicks in, and a guy is left with only two choices: fight or flight. Now, if you've heard it once, you must have heard it a million times: Men hate confrontation. So we flee.
Dead Giveaway #2: Laying Down the Law
"I am serious about getting married. And I want my dates to know that right off the bat. So I tell them up front, 'I am not into sport dating. I am looking for a serious relationship.' I am also very honest about what I will and will not tolerate. For instance, I tell them that if they say they'll call the next day, that means the next day. Not the next evening. Not the next night. And certainly not the day after the next. I can't stand flakes!"
-- Mary, 29, Seattle, WA
You could be the most beautiful woman in the entire city, but if you approach the men you meet with Mary's brutally honest, no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners attitude you will only succeed in scaring off the good ones. I know it's only too tempting to rationalize that sort of behavior by telling yourself you're sick of playing games and you want to be straightforward. But please, just for one moment, imagine how you would feel if a guy you'd only known for a week or so told you that he was a one-woman man and he expected a one-man woman, so if you're dating around, well, this just isn't going to work for him. If you're not a little afraid, then I am afraid for you. No grown adult should be told how to act or what to do -- much less by a near-perfect stranger. I don't care how sexy that stranger may be. If a woman doesn't understand that a relationship needs to progress to the next level naturally, she will scare away almost any worthwhile guy she meets. We do want commitment and we do want loyalty, but we're not ready for that discussion after only one week.
During the course of any relationship, be it a romance, a friendship, or a professional partnership, we have to earn the privilege of being able to make demands. But Agenda Girl doesn't want to waste a whole lot of time paying all the pesky dues that go hand in hand with an entry-level romance. Blinded by the glare of her future engagement ring, Agenda Girl cannot see past what she wants, and she will say whatever is on her mind. If the guy doesn't like it, she'll go look for someone else who will.
Most guys I know are only too happy to let her go ahead and do that.
A Date Is Not an Interview
I don't think you can have a more painful experience than a date that feels like a job interview. Or a marriage interview. Or any type of interview, for that matter. The problem is that when you have an agenda, a date often does resemble an interview. How do I know this? Let's just say I've been guilty of my own agendas.
In college, I went on a date with a girl many considered to be the most beautiful on campus. I went out with her with one goal to accomplish: get the girl. Unfortunately, since I was so focused on an agenda rather than trying to get to know her as an individual, the date was doomed. At dinner, I was extremely nervous and all I could think was: This is going horribly. The conversation was perfunctory and I brought absolutely no charm to the table. Zilch. I was boring, nervous, and I don't think I gave a hearty laugh or offered a genuine smile during our entire dinner conversation. Instead I kept falling back on questions that led to one-word answers and my true personality disappeared. Guess how that date ended? A "thanks for dinner," a polite peck on the cheek, and the occasional awkward "hello" on campus until I finally graduated.
After that date, I vowed never to allow an agenda or the interview mentality to encroach upon my dating life ever again. I now approach each and every date I go on with a completely different attitude. This is about pleasure, not business. I'm excited to have fun, to laugh, and to get to know my date, not interview her or be interviewed.
We've all been on the brutal interview date. It usually goes something like:
Guy: So what do you do?
Girl: I'm an accountant.
Girl: What do you do?
Guy: I'm a photographer.
Guy: Where do you live?
Girl and Guy: Zzz...zzz...zzz
Whether you're the interviewer or the interviewee, you can turn things around if you realize this is how your date is going. Rescue yourself (or your date) by taking the following measures:
1. Ask open-ended questions: Asking these types of questions leads to interesting conversation instead of one word answers. For example:
What was your college experience like?
Where did you go to college?
What do you enjoy most about your job?
What is your job?
2. Ask follow-up questions: Follow up any objective question with one that will allow you to legitimately get to know your date. For instance, after you ask him if he has any siblings and he says, "Yes, a sister," instead of simply nodding your head and saying "Ah, that's nice," try coming back with a probing question or two, such as: What is your sister like? Do you get along well? Or better yet, explore his aspirations by asking him, if he could do anything, what would it be?
If, despite a sweet resume, he has no legitimate aspirations or his answers reveal he's a psycho, maybe you should be the one asking for the check. (At least later when your friends ask how your date went you'll have a more interesting answer than "eh, fine.") Regardless, always listen to what he says rather than staring longingly into your future husband's eyes. Don't get ahead of yourself -- you're just getting to know him. And don't forget to have fun!
Behind the Agenda
Anyone who is dead set on getting married before she's even met the right guy probably has a reason for it. Too bad most of the time that reason sounds something like this:
1. Because I'm thirty-three and it's high time. Everyone has their own path to follow. Just because you're a certain age doesn't mean you should be married.
2. To prove I'm not a reject. Many women view having a boyfriend as proof of their desirability. After all, if one guy wants you, you can't be all bad, right? Wrong.
3. Marriage will solve all my problems. Blaming your issues on being single and thinking that marriage is some kind of a cure-all will only ensure that you find a whole new set of complaints after the honeymoon.
4. I don't want to die alone. If you're afraid of winding up alone, it may be wiser to start out by forging some solid friendships before forcing a relationship. A marriage certificate is not insurance against winding up alone.
5. All my friends are married. Being the last single on the block may not always be the most fun position to occupy, but if you think keeping up with your friends' marital status is reason enough to get married, think again.
6. He's a great catch! Just because a guy is all-around wonderful doesn't mean that he's the perfect guy for you. Even if everyone else thinks you've caught the big one, you won't be happy if the compatibility isn't there.
7. I want kids while I'm young. That's great. So did Britney Spears, and look how that turned out. Make sure you understand what you're getting into before you try turning your life into a Norman Rockwell painting.
8. To wear that dress! Go to the store, try it on, take pictures, and then forget it. If this is really a major reason you want to get married, we have our work cut out for us.
The Dangers of an Agenda
Ever hear the warning, "Be careful what you wish for...you just might get it"? Well, working in the ER, I have seen firsthand the damage that an agenda can wreak upon women's lives. The idea that a wedding is an end in and of itself can lead to a great deal of heartbreak when the reality fails to live up to the fairy-tale notion of happily ever after. I have seen women who were so disappointed and depressed once they got the lives they always thought they wanted that they turned to alcohol, drugs, and even suicide as a means to cope, rebel, or escape.
Now I'm not saying that all marriages are bad. Far from it. If both people understand the nature of this serious commitment and what it entails, marriage can be a wonderful thing. But marriage can also feel like a death sentence when it hasn't been well thought out or when two people aren't compatible. I can't tell you how many women have been driven to the brink of despair because they've got the house, the kids, the cars, and the security, but they're still unhappy -- and they don't know why. The fact is, sometimes women who are stuck on getting married may think they know what they want, when in fact they are building their entire lives around a fantasy of wedded bliss. Unfortunately, they forget that a wedding equals bliss only if they are blessed with the right partner.
Don't Date That Guy
The biggest problem with being an Agenda Girl is not that you send most guys packing. If you can believe it, being alone is nothing compared to being with the type of guy who is actually attracted to an Agenda Girl. It never fails -- any Agenda Girl who stumbles her way into a relationship is bound to wind up with one of these guys:
•Mr. Yes Dear: The weak, spineless guy who cannot stand to be alone is a prime target for Agenda Girl. He's boring, and has few ideas of his own to conflict with your agenda. Sure, he's only too happy to jump through any hoops you set up for him, but not necessarily because he loves you. It's because he'd rather go along with whatever you want than assert himself. Can you respect that?
•Mr. I'll Put Up with Anything for Steady Sex: This type of guy lacks all sexual confidence and will stay with you because he doesn't think he can get anyone else to go to bed with him. That, and he's lazy. Sure, he'll be faithful, but if that sounds like the foundation of a beautiful friendship to you, you're selling yourself short.
•Mr. Agenda Guy: He's got the job. He's got the house. Now all he needs is the little woman to produce some offspring and his life will be perfect. Except, it doesn't much matter to him whether or not you two connect on any level other than your mutual desire for a family and a country club membership, so you're almost certainly guaranteed plenty of boring nights, eating dinner in silence in front of the plasma TV.
•Mr. Master Manipulator: These guys are smooth talkers. They're smart and they know exactly what an Agenda Girl is thinking. But instead of being annoyed or turned off by your secret schemes and plans, the Master Manipulator has figured out how to make your agenda work for him. He'll look deep into your eyes and tell you exactly what you need to hear to get you into bed. It may last a few months, a few weeks, or a few hours. But as soon as he's had enough sex, he's gone. Hey, all's fair in love and war, right?
Are You in the Waiting Line?
So many of the women I meet seem to spend their single years in a perpetual state of limbo, constantly waiting for something to happen. For Mr. Right to come knocking. For those three little words. For the proposal. For the wedding. For the children. Always waiting for real life to begin. If this is your attitude, it's no wonder you're not living your life to the fullest.
Take it from a guy....We have a completely different attitude toward our single years. We see this as our time to have fun, to do outrageous things, to live out the adventures that people who are married with children can only read about. We're trying to get all the fun out of our system before we get married so that when we do settle down, we're not sitting around thinking, It's too bad I never got the chance to travel and be more spontaneous before I had kids.
If being single is your favorite excuse for putting off living your life and doing what you want to do, some of the following may sound familiar:
1. "I'd love to go to Brazil, but I want my next vacation to be with my boyfriend!"
2. "Sure it would be nice to invest in home décor, but what if I go to all the trouble of decorating and then have to move out because I've met someone?"
3. "I'm really into cooking/dance/tennis and would love to take a class, but I'm not doing it without a boyfriend."
4. "Sure, it would make sense to buy a condo, but what if I get married and have to sell?"
5. "I could see myself going back to school, but I think I should really be concentrating on meeting a husband."
Now if any of that sounds even remotely like you, then what will you bring to your relationship when you finally do meet a guy you like? After all, before you can start jet-setting around the world and shopping for home furnishings together, you'll have to impress him with your personality, your character, and your life experiences. And that's going to seem like one tall order if you're living your life in limbo. So think about what you're interested in or passionate about and pursue it. If you've ever heard someone talking about a hobby or activity that sounded fun, give it a shot. You'll feel more independent and confident -- and it will show.
Before You Jump Off a Bridge...
I'll admit I haven't exactly gone easy in this chapter. But if you could see the Agenda Girl the way most guys do, you would understand that if anything, I haven't been harsh enough. Please understand that my only goal is to get you to stop putting the cart before the horse when you're out there dating. While having an agenda is great in school and in business, Agenda Girls are their own worst enemies in all matters related to love and relationships. Of course, none of this is to say that being an Agenda Girl is all bad. So before you start hitting yourself over the head with that wedding scrapbook you started keeping in junior high, consider all the positive qualities that you have to offer the world:
•Goal-oriented: The world is driven by focused, disciplined people who believe in reaching for their dreams. And you are just such a person.
•Strong: You have the courage of your convictions. You know what you want, and you go for it.
•Determined: Undeterred by obstacles, you keep trying to accomplish the tasks you set for yourself. A sure recipe for success in life, if not always in relationships.
•Family-minded: You're maternal and place a high value on family. Nothing wrong with that!
In short, there's nothing wrong with you for wanting to get married, have kids, and raise a warm, loving family. That only makes you human. We all want happy families of our own. My only concern is for those of you who allow this desire to become such an all-consuming need that it overrides every other aspect of your personality -- not to mention your life -- and turns you into the dreaded Agenda Girl.
Your Rx: Find a New Agenda
Since you are so goal-oriented and driven, your best bet to overcoming your marriage agenda would be to replace it with an entirely new, more productive agenda. If you become happy with your life, you won't have to be on the constant lookout for the marriage escape hatch. Ultimately, that is what is going to lead you to a good relationship, not the relentless pursuit of a husband.
Finding fulfillment in your work, your friendships, and/or your hobbies will contribute to a happier and more desirable you. Think about it, who's got time to become neurotic and obsessive when so much of her energy is going toward something that has absolutely nothing to do with dating and relationships?
Here are three new potential agendas that will help you forget all about how desperately you want to get married:
1. Employee of the Year: Now, shocking as this may sound, I've met Agenda Girls who have put all their energies into achieving wedded bliss just to get out of careers they hate. I've also met some who assumed that they shouldn't get invested in their jobs because marriage and children would eventually take them away from all that. To quit being an Agenda Girl, you'll have to stop thinking along these lines. Marriage is neither a sure thing nor a Get Out of Work Free card. It's not going to solve all your career and money problems. On the other hand, shaping up your professional life will. You can start immediately by putting in more effort at work for the next year so you can get a promotion. You can also spend your free hours looking for a new job in a field you're interested in or taking classes that will help you land your dream job.
2. Better health: If you make physical fitness a priority, you'll find that you're way too busy taking good care of yourself to spend much time thinking about how you can manipulate Mr. Right into popping the question. So cross off "Get Married" on your mental to-do list, and replace it with "Get in Shape." Improving your health can mean anything from increasing your physical activity to changing your eating habits to quitting smoking. But once you start on the path to feeling good, you're likely to find that it's hard to stop midway. After you've quit your bad habits, don't be surprised if the time you used to spend worrying about being single is now taken up with working out, preparing quality meals, and just feeling all around great about your energy levels and state of mind.
3. Friendship First: Our friendships are practice for the more involved, romantic relationships we forge with our partners. If you're finding that loneliness is forcing you deep into a state of Agenda Girl territory, take it as a sign to reconnect with your friends or make some new ones. Go ahead and put "Become More Social" at the top of your Agenda. Then, start expanding your circle by calling up people you may not have seen in a while and asking them to grab a cup of coffee or go out to lunch together. Remember, the qualities that make you a good friend are the same as the ones that will make you a great significant other.
You don't have to look high and low to find the missing link that will make your life great. You already have everything you need to be happy, be that your work, your hobbies, or your friends and/or family. Once you start working on making the most of what you have, you'll find that you have less time to chase the things you don't. In the end, a man or marriage is not something you should ever chase. In fact, you are most likely to find what you're looking for when you stop chasing it.
Fake It Till You Make It
In this chapter hopefully I've provided you with some reasons to combat your agenda issues for a long time to come. But I wouldn't be much of a friend if I didn't also give some quick tips to help you out right here and now. So even if you're not ready to say good-bye to your career as an amateur wedding planner just yet, here are some immediate, Band-Aid solutions to help you stop laying all your cards on the table and losing out in the dating game:
•Steer clear of these taboo subjects while on a date with a new guy: Your next date, commitment, marriage, and children. Whatever you do, don't be the one who brings up any of these topics. I'm not going to go into any more details as to why. I think I covered all that in the course of this chapter. All that's left for you to do is to take my advice and cut a wide swath around these subjects.
• Tear up your list of must-have qualities in a husband (or at least hide it away where no one will find it!), and write a new list of things you want to do before having kids. Start chipping away at it right now.
• Stop planning ahead. If you catch yourself making long-term plans for you and the guy you just met three weeks ago, stop immediately to consider that you two may very well not make it to next week, much less next year.
• Focus on friendship: Instead of going on dates with the intention of bagging a husband, think about each date as an opportunity to meet someone who may become a good friend or teach you something new. This should help you keep an open, clear-headed perspective.
• Take a three-month vacation from your husband hunting. See what happens when you banish all thoughts of your future wedding, husband, and children from your mind.
Last but not least, do not -- and I mean this -- ever, under any circumstances, tell a guy that your eggs are rotting or that the only reason to get married is to have kids. Got it? Copyright © 2008 by Travis L. Stork, M.D.
Drama Queen Girl
After an all-night shift in the ER, I sometimes fall asleep in front of the TV and wake up to a daytime soap opera. Talk about your drama queens! The Drama Queen Girl seems to think that all the world's an All My Children soundstage. She won't think twice about taking up three hours of her friend's life to discuss her last date. She will devote four or five pages of prime personal journal real estate to the cute guy who smiled at her earlier that day. She can spend hours working to ensure that her text message to a guy she just met is a perfect blend of cute and funny (and she has no problem sending said text to her five closest friends for review before she finally dispatches it to him). She is the woman whose way of saying hello to her dates, pals, and coworkers is "Ohmigod! Have I got a story for you!" She also can't seem to have one glass of wine without dissolving into sobs and sniffles over the great love of her life, the one who got away...five years ago.
In short, she's the girl who you just want to shake some sense into. She's the one who makes you want to say, "Would you chill out!," "It's no big deal!," or "Get over it, already!" Of course, if you did that, she'd probably come back with, "Well, you just don't understand. Obviously, you've never felt what I am feeling." Then again, she may be the one whose messy train wreck of a life you love to discuss with your friends. She certainly makes most of us look like we've got it together. Or, perhaps, you don't know any Drama Queen Girls, because there's only room for one Drama Queen in anyone's life and, guess what? Maybe you are her.
I Used to Be That Girl: Jane's Story
"I used to be a terror. And I had no clue. I always blamed other people. If my coworkers didn't take to me, well, they were just jealous. If a guy didn't ask me out for a second date, well, he was just a jerk. There was always a reason for why I was unhappy and it never had anything to do with me. One day, I was complaining about someone to my friend, and she said simply, 'It's not always other people, Jane.' That clicked for me. I thought, If it's not always other people, then sometimes it must be me. I guess that's what you'd call my Oprah A-ha moment. After that I started making changes."
-- Jane, 28, Sociology Grad Student
The Drama Queen thrives on conflict, passion, excitement, adventure. If she's not experiencing some form of anxiety, she's at a complete loss for what to talk about. Since she lives for attention, being quiet is simply not in her playbook. That would mean letting someone else have center stage and actually having to listen. Can you say...zzzz...zzzz...zzzz? And since in this Drama Queen's mind, listening is not only a bore but tantamount to playing second fiddle, she will do whatever it takes to stay in the limelight. And by whatever it takes, I mean just that -- from drunken screaming matches at the bar to suicidal gestures, Drama Queen Girl will use every device in her arsenal to get attention.
The truth is, there's a big difference between big-talking, swaggering bravado and genuine confidence. That girl, in this case the Drama Queen, is all talk. She can go on all day about how great she is, but anyone with any sense can see that if she really believed in herself, she wouldn't need to.
Could You Be Addicted to Drama?
Tempestuous love affairs, ugly breakups, sorrows drowned in tequila bottles, and reckless behavior tend to follow the Drama Queen Girl around. If that sounds familiar, answer the following questions to find out whether the rest of this chapter is all about you as well:
1. T / F I often exaggerate when telling a story so people give it the attention it deserves.
2. T / F Most of my conversations revolve around the latest catastrophe to befall me.
3. T / F Arguments are crucial in a relationship. If there is no conflict, not only am I bored to death, but I don't have anything to discuss with my friends later.
4. T / F If it's a choice between the heart and the head, I'll follow my heart.
5. T / F I've cried at work many times.
6. T / F I am the life of the party and the most fun to be around.
7. T / F People who criticize me are usually just jealous.
8. T / F I am no stranger to yelling and screaming to get my way or to express my dissatisfaction.
9. T / F I have had a much harder life than most people realize.
10. T / F Usually, I'm the one who is calling my friends. I know they want to talk to me and am sure they'd call me if they had anything to say. They just don't have as much going on as I do.
0-2 True: Sure you have your Paris Hilton moments, but that's probably more due to PMS than a Drama Queen Girl personality disorder.
3-5 True: Uh-oh...looks like we have a problem. You are something of a Drama Queen Girl. The fact that it could be a lot worse isn't to say that it can't be a lot better. So read on.
6+ True: You are such a Drama Queen that you're occasionally even annoyed with yourself. Oh, you're not? Well, let me assure you that everyone around you is. Before you turn the rest of the world against you, read this chapter. You of all people can really use a little self-awareness.
Two Reasons Why Guys Don't Like Drama Queens
As a certifiable Drama Queen, you probably think you are perfect just the way you are. You may even think that your worst flaws and drawbacks somehow contribute to your unique, individual charm. Well, here's a newsflash for you: YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO FEELS THIS WAY. Maybe deep down you know this, or maybe you don't. Either way, it's time to ditch the dramatic funk that has defined your life.
Since you probably value your opinion above all others, you may be tempted to chalk up what I'm saying to jealousy or sour grapes. You may even do what so many Drama Queens do and blame me for your problems. As in, What does he know? He's just calling me a Drama Queen because he can't get an exciting, vivacious woman such as myself to go out with him. Or, Drama Queen? Ha! Doesn't he mean too much woman for him?
Yes, I know how you Drama Queens think...but if it hasn't gotten you discovered by the man of your dreams thus far, the chances of your shtick getting you anywhere in the future are slim. So let's take a moment to understand why any normal, well-adjusted male would run for his life when being chased by a Drama Queen.
Reason #1: You let us down.
One of the most important lessons I've learned in my life is to manage expectations. In other words, if you over-promise and under-deliver, you will disappoint people and they will grow to dislike you.
Unfortunately, Drama Queen Girls don't want to grow on people. You want instant gratification and immediate love. Great at first impressions and awful at follow-through, you blow into our lives full of energy and excitement. By the time your opening act is over, everyone wants to be your friend. But cut to two weeks later and people are rolling their eyes at the mere mention of Ms. Drama Queen's name. It never fails -- there's just not enough substance to back up all the expectations you set up with your emotional, flashy style.
The thing about Drama Queens is that they leave no place for the relationship to go. They'll tell you their life story and pour their hearts out in the first few hours of getting to know you. But after the initial rush of that fast connection, it's all downhill. Since you can't possibly be expected to keep up the same level of intensity over time, the relationship quickly becomes mundane and fizzles out.
Reason #2: You wear us out.
Most of the time, the Drama Queen doesn't become boring because she stops being dramatic, she becomes boring because her act gets old. And the poor guy she's dating, aka her audience, gets tired. Tired of listening to stories about her evil parents. Tired of hearing about the latest arguments with her best friends. Tired of listening to complaints about how everyone at work is out to get her. Tired of hearing about her latest plot to rule the world. Tired of hearing and listening, period. Hey, sometimes we'd like to get a word in edgewise and actually believe you are tuning in to us!
Most of all, though, we get tired of the drama you create in the relationship. With a Drama Queen, a guy always feels like he's walking on eggshells. Anything we say and do can be used against us. In a Drama Queen's life, even an innocent comment can be misconstrued into an insult. If I tell you that I like your new hairstyle, you'll probably pout and sulk because you'll take it to mean that I hated how your hair used to look. If I listen to you complain for an hour and then have to leave to meet some friends, I get called out for not being supportive. Everything is an argument -- talk about exhausting!
Anyone involved with you Drama Queens knows that it's all work and no play. So while you're strutting around thinking you're being fascinating, fun, and the furthest thing from boring, the rest of us are usually just looking for our chance to get off the phone, out of the room, or away from the relationship.
Ten Reasons to Relax -- and Be Happy.
We all know people who seem to think that being (or even just seeming) perpetually tormented and self-absorbed is somehow cool. People who actually seem to work at being unhappy. I don't know about you, but I respond much better to a warm smile, an easy laugh, and a happy disposition. If you need actual, concrete reasons to strive for happiness and drop the Drama Queen act, here are several. Happy women are more likely to:
1. Be promoted at work
2. Be considered attractive
3. Earn more money
4. Be approached and pursued by men
5. Enjoy fulfilling marriages
6. Have good luck
7. Live longer, healthier lives
8. Have more friends
9. Be close with their families
10. Get what they want
And that's not just my humble opinion. In 2005, a University of California, Riverside study found that it is happiness and not just hard work that generates both personal and professional success. What's more, they found that it's not success that brings about happiness, but the other way around! So if you're creating drama that produces negativity in your life, stop. Put a smile on your face and focus on the positive, and pretty soon you won't have to construct elaborate tales or engage in outrageous behavior to get people's attention.
The Dead Giveaways
Where to start? Most dramatic women may as well have the words "Drama Queen" tattooed on their forehead for all the subtlety of their presentation. Run-on sentences, volatile mood swings, and irrational behavior are just a few hallmarks of Ms. Dramarama.
If you fall into this category, maybe you've just recently fallen into this self-absorbed pattern because you're only now learning to get in touch with the emotions you would have been better off getting a grip on back in high school when they were more age-appropriate. Or maybe you're a confirmed Drama Queen who hasn't relinquished the throne in years, simply refusing to take responsibility for your behavior and move on with your life as a stable adult. Either way, you're screwing up your relationships. I promise you that while your friends may tolerate your behavior, laugh at your mishaps, and even pretend to care about your stories, guys will stop thinking of you as someone with serious relationship potential as soon as they catch on to your game.
Dead Giveaway #1: Too Much, Too Soon
"I met Paul at a friend's party and we had immediate chemistry. We talked and made out all night and he called me the following day. It was a true cosmic connection. I was completely head-over-heels in love with him. I was sure that this was the real thing. Then he just stopped calling me. This after we'd shared some of the most intimate details of our lives, and after I told him I loved him. What's wrong with men?"
-- Liz, 33, Los Angeles, CA
I know what you think I'm about to say. But I'm not going to do it. No way. I am absolutely not going to tell you that it is a terrible, horrible, god-awful misguided idea to tell a man for whom you have intense feelings -- and who obviously feels the same way, because, let's face it, you wouldn't be feeling so much if he wasn't feeling the same thing, right? -- that you are in love with him after just a few conversations. That would be stating the obvious, and that's not what this book is about.
What I will tell you instead is that if you are a Drama Queen, not only are you highly likely to act on your emotions, but you are even more likely to overreact. And that scares people!
The thing about relationships is that they work best when two people are on the same page -- thus the word "connection." As a Drama Queen Girl, you have a tendency to act on impulse and without consideration for the feelings of your love interest. Once you do that, the consequences for the relationship can be disastrous. Whether you get angry enough to tell someone that you hate everything about him or get so amorous as to reveal your love too soon in the relationship, you run the risk of spooking your guy straight into the arms of a calmer, more self-assured woman.
Dead Giveaway #2: Never Happy
"Last week, I went out with a man I'd been seeing for a few weeks. The restaurant he chose looked fine at first, but then we had to wait twenty minutes for a table. And when they finally sat us, we were way in the back and the food was just so-so. After dinner, we went to a comedy club. The comedians weren't funny at all, and I wouldn't even dress my shih tzu in some of the things that audience members were wearing. And I said as much to my date. If you have nothing nice to say, come sit by me. That's my motto."
-- Maddy, 36, Chicago, IL
Take a minute to picture the adolescents who are riding puberty's hormonal roller coaster. As you may have noticed, they think it's totally cool to be a little bit annoyed and more than a little bit snotty all the time. Now, give those kids a professional blow-out, put them in some stilettos and a coat of red lipstick, and you're going to have a hard time telling them apart from someone like Maddy, who is clearly a full-fledged, card-carrying member of the Drama Queen Club.
Whiny, surly, and rarely satisfied, drama queens elevate complaining into an art form. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but while you may believe that all this angst combines to make you one tough cookie and a truly fascinating person to be around, you're a lot less interesting than you think.
You may have learned it in junior high school, or from watching one too many teen movies, but somewhere along the way you got the impression that a happy disposition is boring, conformist, and downright fake, while a bad attitude is a sure sign of individuality, intelligence, and coolness. If that sounds about right, keep reading, because you are in desperate need of a reality check.
The truth is, while Hollywood scripts need constant conflict to stay interesting, most healthy, non-drama-addicted people prefer laughter, harmony, and tranquility to anger, tension, and confrontation. So those of us who stopped confusing whining and put-downs for conversation back in high school will stay far away from you, because it's obvious that you're stuck in that ridiculous drama place, and are just not that much fun to be around for those of us who have long since moved on.
Get a Grip!
For most of us, it's easy to be positive in familiar or comfortable situations. Unfortunately, when we experience stress -- say your date cancels after you've already gotten all dressed up, or you're running late and the cashier is taking forever -- some people simply lose their cool. And since Drama Queens are by nature high-maintenance, they are likely to freak out quickly when something goes wrong. Need an example of why you should never lose your cool? A very good friend of mine recently went out on a group date with a woman who actually stood up and yelled at him in front of an entire restaurant because she felt he was not paying enough attention to her. Never mind that he was just engaging in conversation with some good friends that he had not seen in a very long time. After screaming at him, she stormed out of the restaurant. Fifteen minutes later, she returned, crying and telling him that she wanted "to make this work." That was their second date, and, despite his attraction to her, he had to make that date their last.
There are always going to be times when you feel like you just want to snap someone's head off, but that's when keeping a positive attitude is even more important. I know what you may be thinking: "Ha! Easy for you to have a good attitude, Doctor Bachelor. But some of us have real problems. My parents don't understand me. I owe more money than I can make in a year. I can't seem to kick my addiction to Krispy Kreme. And on top of all that, I am bored out of my mind in this podunk town!"
"I'm entitled to be negative/angry/moody/depressed" is the single most common argument coming from those who have succumbed to a bad attitude. But I know firsthand that circumstances don't dictate attitude. I'm sure you can imagine how being a doctor has given me the opportunity to meet plenty of people who manage to keep an optimistic outlook despite some of the hardest situations known to humankind. But to stay positive even in the worst times, you have to practice. Try these tips the next time you feel your good attitude slipping away:
1. Think of their families: The next time you hear yourself snapping at a coworker or waiter because they happen to be acting less than perfect on a day when you're feeling less than tolerant, imagine how you would feel if someone spoke to your mother, father, or brother that way? Talk about an instant check to your conscience.
2. Kill them with kindness: When you're dealing with someone negative, don't get mad, get sympathetic. Here is a person who is obviously in pain and clueless about how hard they're making life for themselves, to say nothing of those around them. They deserve your pity, not your retaliation. It's like your mom used to say: "Don't stoop to their level." And "take the high road." And, oh yeah, "be the bigger person." If you don't, you'll just be kicking yourself later for letting someone ruin your mood.
3. Put a smile in your voice: People who smile and laugh frequently are generally perceived as more likeable and positive. When you smile, you're sending a clear message that says, "I mean no harm." If you're on the phone and would like to communicate a friendly attitude to someone who you may not know, keep a smile on your face throughout the conversation.
4. Don't sweat the small stuff: Even if you're stuck in traffic and about to miss the party of the year, you don't have to give in to frustration. Remember, your attitude is up to you to decide. You can choose to work yourself into a frenzy, burst into tears, and beat your fists on the steering wheel, or you can choose to kick back, turn on some great music, sing to your heart's content, and ponder all the reasons why the Universe doesn't want you at that party. If the traffic jam ever does let up, you'll certainly look more presentable and feel more upbeat when you arrive than if you'd gone with the first option.
5. Look for the light: No matter what's going wrong, you can bet that there's always going to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Dead Giveaway #3: Love Is a Battlefield
"I was involved with Cara for about a year. Although I loved her, in retrospect I don't know how I ever made it that long. Everything was an argument waiting to happen. After only a few weeks together, I began to feel like I was walking in a minefield. One wrong step or word, and bam! I don't appreciate her enough. I don't consider her feelings. I am selfish. I don't love her. I don't know the meaning of the word love. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. Now I look back with a sigh of relief. I am so happy to be out of that relationship!"
-- Jeff, 27, Raleigh, NC
Woe to the poor guy who doesn't pick up on your Drama Queen ways early in the relationship. While many guys figure out what's going on soon enough, some have to suffer a little longer to learn what it is about you Drama Girls that make you so impossible: At heart, you're extremely high-maintenance and don't know how or why to pick your battles.
Admit it. Even the most innocent act or comment can rub you the wrong way. And since you simply refuse to sort through any of your emotions in private or in silence (why bother when it feels so much better to vent?), your long-suffering boyfriends, family, and friends constantly have their hands full.
Men who have had experience with Drama Queens can quickly sniff out what's going on based on your self-centered conversation and your general "God's gift to humankind" persona. If you're not getting what you want, whether it be our attention or our obedience to your whims, man, are we in trouble! And since you're probably not Naomi Campbell and we're probably not your personal assistant, please don't be surprised when we leave before you have the chance to attack us with your cell phone.
The Many Faces of a Drama Queen Girl
Drama Queen Girls appear in a wide range of guises. But while each of you goes to extremes in your own special way, the five most popular archetypes are:
1. The Liar: Embellishments, exaggerations, flat-out lies...why let a little thing like the truth stand in the way of the love and attention you deserve? If you are this type of Drama Queen, you are an actress in the true sense of the word. You'll actually play-act to get approval.
2. The Psycho: Let me guess. If you fall into this category, you have an "I'm okay, you all suck" attitude. After all, "there's nothing wrong with me, it's the rest of the world that's screwed up." You will get mad at the drop of a hat and cry over spilled milk. Literally. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you know those whispers and muffled giggles you overhear from your friends and coworkers? They're about you.
3. The Heroine: You may not realize it, but to hear you talk one would think you had just stepped out of the pages of an old-fashioned romance novel. You paint even the briefest fling as the love affair of the century, frequently suggest that you first met your latest boyfriend in a past life, and truly believe that yours are the deepest, most passionate love stories since Romeo and Juliet. You're always suffering for love, and to be honest, people are getting a little tired.
4. The Victim: Poor you. Life has handed you nothing but one terrible hand after another. Your family. Your friends. Your business partners. Your exes. All have proven to be bitter disappointments. The petty jealousies and self-interests of others along with plain old bad luck have made your life so very much harder than anybody else's. And you never miss a chance to inform people of that.
5. The Diva: Not only are you the most deserving person you know, but you are also the most demanding. You have a list of needs that rivals Mariah Carey's backstage rider, and you're ready to fight for every single one of them. Deep down you believe that compromise is for the weak and feel entitled to get whatever you want. Even if that means starting arguments and threatening to walk out on relationships.
The Scary Side of Drama
So far in this chapter, I've stuck to talking about the lighter side of drama. Since the Drama Queen can turn even the most mundane event into a tragedy, she's annoying to be around but usually relatively harmless overall. The thing about drama, however, is that it has a tendency to get out of control and take on a life of its own. And what kind of a doctor would I be if I didn't speak at least a few words of caution?
Every Drama Queen starts out as a Drama Princess. Like the Queen, the Princess is uncomfortable with the humdrum realities of the everyday and dreams of a life a bit less ordinary. She thinks being hyperanimated is more fun for everyone. So she acts out. Exaggerates. Seeks to dominate the spotlight. But it's one thing to blow things slightly out of proportion because you think it makes your stories more exciting, and quite another to get so caught up in your life's events that you lose all perspective, waive adios to good reasoning, and become a full-blown Drama Queen, completely driven by your attention-seeking impulses.
As you know only too well, it's not easy being a Drama Queen. Acting on impulse -- whether to speak in anger or to buy a big ticket item on a whim -- often leaves you feeling guilty and down on yourself. No wonder then that so often it's the Drama Queen Girls who end up in the ER for:
•Drug or alcohol addiction
The constant breakups, breakdowns, sob fests, and knock-down-drag-out fights can get to be too much for those who don't learn to effect peace and goodwill. After all, one person can take only so much. But, as the saying goes, while God may not give you more than you can handle, it's easy to get in over your head when you're the architect of your own drama. The fact that a lot of the tragedy is self-created doesn't make it any less real. Spend one night in the ER and you'll know that an overly dramatic life can create some very real problems, including those mentioned above. And although I've intentionally been a bit playful while poking fun at the Drama Queen lifestyle, it's only because I truly believe it is never too late to look in the mirror and make some changes.
Don't Date That Guy
I probably don't have to tell you that at first many men are often impressed and attracted to Drama Queens. Your over-the-top personality can be extremely magnetic and you are very aware that you have mastered the first impression. However, after the initial thrill wears off, you have probably found that most guys set their course for calmer waters. With the exception of the following:
•Mr. Drama King: While this guy thinks he's all heart, the rest of the world has pretty much pegged him as a hothead. The Drama King winds up driving you crazy by giving you a taste of your own medicine. He's never met a disagreement he couldn't win, even if that means arguing about the thermostat for hours. Now, I know you think you can dish it out, but can you take it? These relationships tend to go out in a blaze of glory -- to the sound of dishes breaking and stemware shattering.
•Mr. Boring Guy: This guy sees you as the answer to his prayers. He is so sick and tired of his life, yet so powerless to make any real changes, that he turns to you for life support. Unfortunately, if he doesn't sound like he brings a lot to the table, that's because he doesn't. You will quickly tire of his agreeable ways and blind adoration.
Don't Let Me Drum You Out of the Business
I know I've said a lot of discouraging words in this chapter. But as a natural actress, you have to accept that criticism and rejection are par for the course. Please take what I say as constructive feedback, not as a reason to pack up your props and costumes and go home. Not at all. Not with so much talent at your disposal. After all, we've all been overly dramatic. We've all exaggerated.
While you certainly don't want to be that girl -- the notorious Drama Queen who has only to launch into a monologue to get people reaching for their grain of salt -- you should definitely hold on to the positive aspects of your personality that have contributed to making you who you are. I know, I know! After reading this chapter, the last thing you're focused on are your positive attributes, but that doesn't mean you don't have plenty. For instance, you're...
• Energetic: Believe me, most people would kill to have a fraction of your energy and get-up-and-go verve. You can get excited over just about anything. In fact, many of us don't dislike Drama Queens so much as we get exhausted by them. All I'm saying is, just rein it in a little.
• Engaging: There's no denying that people are drawn to you and that you can be a lot of fun to spend time with. You have a great ability to open up to people and get them to reciprocate. Take that engaging personality and combine it with honesty and openness and I guarantee you'll never have any shortage of friends.
• Passionate: You have intense emotions and no trouble showing them. People marvel at how excitable you are and how readily you throw yourself into every new romance, work project, or friendship, and secretly wish they could do the same. Within limits, of course.
So there you have it -- uncontested proof that Drama Queen Girls are actually wonderful, valuable, and exciting human beings. Think about it. While everyone would like to have a fascinating and adventurous life, you manage to impart a sense of drama to your existence no matter what is or isn't going on. No wonder you're the life of the party! Now if you'd only learn how to wield your powers responsibly, people would appreciate what you have to offer so much more. However, if you continue to act as if it's your world and the rest of us are just squatting in it, you'll wind up with little more to show for your love life than one quickly fizzled romance after another. And I know that's not what you really want.
Your Rx: Get Real!
Drama Queens, if you don't want to be that girl anymore, you need to get a life -- a real life, with real events, that won't inspire you to exaggerate or milk every inconsequential detail for its last ounce of drama. Building this life will take some time, but it's not difficult. You can start by:
• Volunteering: What better way to get some perspective on your life than to interact with people who have real problems? You can get a dose of some actual life dramas by volunteering your time at a nursing home, hospital, animal shelter, soup kitchen, or any place else where you think your energy will be felt and appreciated. Focusing on helping other less fortunate people will not only curb your Drama Queen tendencies in the short term, but in the long run, it will help you feel good about yourself and your role in the world so that you won't feel the urge for constant hyperbole.
• Going on a real adventure: Go on a trek in Nepal (or simply start hiking the trails at a local park). Get a group of friends together and take a cross-country road trip. Sign up for a weeklong bike tour. Take up competitive tennis. Check out a meditation retreat. Once you start living your life to the fullest, you'll see that you don't have to dominate every conversation with the stories of your many conquests. Your accomplishments will speak for themselves.
More than anything else, your unique experiences, open mind, and sense of purpose will combine to affirm your belief in yourself, and when you believe in yourself, people know. And, more often than not, they stick around to find out why.
Fake It Till You Make It
My goal is to help you become so content and satisfied with yourself and what you've got going for you that you'll be able to stop pretending to be something you're not and create solid relationships based on honesty and mutual respect. From that point on, you'll be able to approach relationships with a clear head and will no longer look to them to fill your life with the adventure it's lacking.
I know it sounds like a tall order, but I promise you, it absolutely can be done.
In the meantime, you can downshift on the drama pronto by incorporating these tips into your social life:
• Be friendly: Even if you're on a battery of anti-depressant meds, you can still put your best, most drama-free foot forward when you're meeting people for the first time. Smile warmly, make eye contact, and try to come up with at least one nice thing about the person you just met. If the spirit moves you, feel free to pay them the compliment.
• You ask the questions: You've gotten so used to doing all the talking that you've forgotten what it's like to sit back, relax, and let someone else sing for their supper. Next time you're in a conversation, focus on learning about the person you're speaking with instead of telling them about yourself. Steer the conversation toward them with leading, open-ended questions such as: What do you like to do? Where did you grow up? Then let their answers inspire you to ask even more questions. And most important, actually listen!
• Guard your privacy: While I would advise most people to open up a bit more, you, Drama Queen Girl, could actually stand to gain from putting up just a tiny little barrier. Here's a tip: Your first conversation with a new guy may not be the best time to go into detail about the demise of your last relationship or the devastating emotional tailspin that followed.
• Silence is golden: Have you ever stopped to think about whether you monopolize conversations? The easiest way to stop is to start paying attention to how much you're allowing other people to speak. If you're finding that you're doing more than 50 percent of the talking, cut all the way back to 30 percent. You can use the listening practice.
• Take a month off from complaining and telling tall tales. Fine yourself one dollar every time you catch yourself launching into a litany of your problems or hear yourself exaggerating for effect. Stop the self-aggrandizement and just be yourself. It's so much less exhausting. When you've broken your habit, donate that money to charity.
Copyright © 2008 by Travis L. Stork, M.D.