Introduction: The Way You Always Wanted Things to Happen
For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.
RAINER MARIA RILKE
What is a Surrendered Single? And just what is she surrendering and to whom?
A Surrendered Single recognizes that if she wants to attract the man with whom she can develop intimacy, she cannot control relationships. She cannot determine who asks her out, how he'll do it, when he'll call or e-mail, or if he'll commit to her. A Surrendered Single may have unwittingly been trying to control, manipulate, and force relationships previously, but no more.
She doesn't hunt for Mr. Right she attracts him.
She's purposely quiet on first dates so she can learn more about him and stay with her own feelings and intuition about what he reveals.
She relinquishes her checklist of qualities she thinks she requires in a man. Then she acknowledges that she can be blissfully happy with an imperfect man and that she will definitely be lonely without one.
Surrendering is about following some basic principles that will help you change your habits and attitudes about dating. It is terrifying, because at times you will feel vulnerable. But the results are grand: Your fears will melt. You will discover amazing, available men. You will feel adored. You'll stop going it alone.
You will find intimacy with a good man.
SURRENDER CONTROL, FIND YOUR FAITH
There's a constant in romance: You can't control when, where, or how you fall in love. You can't even control with whom you fall in love. The chemistry and mystery of love are unpredictable.
Every story of how couples first met includes the element of a pleasant surprise. They didn't expect to meet their mates then or there. Not on a Wednesday. Not at the paint store. Not over nachos or during the seventh-inning stretch at a baseball game.
Marla didn't intend to fall in love with her friend's coworker, but now they're happily married with a baby. Had Jessica known she would meet her future husband at the gym one day, she probably would have put on lipstick before she left the house. Sarah didn't anticipate meeting anybody at all for a while after breaking off an engagement, but mutual friends of the man she would later marry introduced them.
These women did not expect to find their soul mates when or how they did. Whether they knew it or not, however, they did have faith that somewhere in the universe was a man who was right for them. They simply had to be open to the possibility of encountering him.
That's all faith is being open to the possibilities.
Maybe you think that's great for other women, but you don't believe that faith which may seem maddeningly elusive is going to win you a great romance.
Having faith means you can let life surprise you. That doesn't mean that we are powerless, only that we embrace the unknown and stop being afraid of uncertainty.
It means liking the idea that the man of your dreams may look and sound nothing like the one you had imagined. Faith means that you keep your door open to dating, no matter how discouraged and frustrated you are, because you believe that ultimately the man who's right for you will walk through it.
For those of us who would like to have control over every aspect of our lives, this is hard to swallow. The unknown is disconcerting. Trekking forward willingly requires faith.
Part of what keeps you single is lack of faith. The other part is fear of the unknown.
WHO'S AFRAID OF DATING?
A person usually has two reasons for doing something: a good reason and the real reason.
Every strong single woman I know rolls her eyes when I suggest that lack of faith and fear are what keep her alone. She doesn't think of herself as scared. After all, she's built a career and a terrific circle of friends, stood up to dozens of men, and perhaps even raised a child alone. She is capable and hearty. What's more, she's through with "having faith" because it hasn't done a thing for her (or so she thinks). In fact, the very word is disconcerting to her. Truth is, her faith is as out of shape as her first little black dress and as worn as the fabulous heels she bought to go with it.
This is understandable. When we believe that something will happen but have no control over whether it does, the possibility of disappointment looms. What could be more disappointing than believing he's out there but never finding him? We'd be faced with thinking that there's something wrong with us.
To protect herself, the single woman does a funny little sidestep. She goes into the world with good intentions to find someone who has all the characteristics she wants in a partner. She makes a list of these characteristics by starting with what she knows will meet her parents' approval and what her friends will like. Unfortunately, her list is now both restrictive and irrelevant, since it has nothing to do with her own desires.
Each potential suitor is measured against his ability to fit into her complicated jigsaw puzzle of the perfect guy.
Of course, nobody fits.
She thinks she feels hopeless that there's "no one out there," but really the terror of risking her heart keeps her from acknowledging that any man might be right. Her good intentions cover her fear and keep her from having to muster up a critical ingredient for finding love: courage.
Nobody wants to have her heart broken, so it's sensible to want to protect yourself.
At the same time, repeatedly searching for a partner and never finding one feels awful. Since trying to control potential suitors by comparing them to a checklist guarantees you'll end up empty-handed, surrendering means throwing out that checklist and giving yourself a chance to attract the unexpected.
When we surrender, we relinquish inappropriate control and override the fear underneath so we can have the thing we crave the most intimacy.
CONTROL AND INTIMACY ARE OPPOSITES
If you've been dating off and on but never stay in a relationship for long, you may be telling yourself that you've just never met the right man. Chances are, your fear is preventing you from standing still or being quiet long enough to find out if the men you date might be right for you. Perhaps your fear of heartbreak propels you to elicit affection, reassurance, and commitment to assuage your insecurities. Maybe you feel safer being physically intimate than emotionally vulnerable and so you relegate potential relationships to short-lived sexual flings.
This is all about control.
If you haven't gone out on a date in a long time, you might be telling yourself that men just don't approach you, when really you've been trying to control who asks you out. Maybe you've been so focused on a man who shows little interest that you're missing out on other opportunities to date. Avoiding eye contact with men, refusing offers for blind dates, and running off before a guy has a chance to get your phone number are examples of trying to protect yourself with control.
Maybe you're in a committed relationship and wishing your boyfriend would shape up in some way be tidier, make more money, enhance the romance, or propose. It's easy and tempting to be the armchair quarterback of someone else's life, but it's in taking responsibility for our own happiness that we make ourselves available for an intimate relationship.
No matter how you try to control the prospects and relationships in your life, the result is the same: Loneliness and exhaustion set in where tenderness and romance belong.
THE RECIPE FOR LONELINESS AND EXHAUSTION
After I published my first book, The Surrendered Wife: A Practical Guide to Finding Intimacy, Passion, and Peace with a Man, single women asked me how they could find an intimate, passionate relationship. These women, like me, recognized their tendencies to dominate and manipulate, and they identified with my message: Control is the enemy of intimacy.
These single women hated to admit it, but their urge to control left them feeling the same way I had felt while trying to dictate every aspect of my marriage: exhausted and alone. I realized that the solution for singles seeking love would be the same that it was for wives craving intimate marriages: surrender and find the romance and emotional connection. I started a Surrendered Singles workshop in my living room to help women apply the principles of surrendering to attracting the right man. (You can learn more about workshops in your area by calling 1-800-466-2028 or visiting www.surrenderedsingle.com.) Surrendering is a powerful way to foster intimacy, and I watched thousands of women heal their marriages by relinquishing control of others.
I could see that the competent professional women who came to my house on Tuesday nights were afraid. "I'd rather have two broken arms and two broken legs than have a broken heart again," one woman said. I saw that they had been trying to manage their fear by staying in control. They tried to control who approached them. They tried to control how their dates behaved. They tried to prevent heartbreak by looking for and finding some insurmountable obstacle to compatibility with perfectly good men. They even tried to deny that they wanted to be in relationships in the first place.
They did all of this because they felt vulnerable.
MY FAVORITE DEFENSE
For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe.
By definition, vulnerability makes you feel exposed, and therefore afraid. I understand this particularly well because I, too, was once terrified of vulnerability. My favorite antidote to it was control. I felt safer if I thought I could manipulate the outcome of every situation.
Women who try to protect themselves with control have suffered disappointments in the past. Maybe you've been through a tragic divorce or watched your parents split. Perhaps it was something less dramatic, but also painful, like having your first love break up with you for another girl. Such hurt prompts women to erroneously believe that we can prevent all future heartache if we manage everything properly.
Of course, it isn't so. First, the only thing that you will get from trying to manage the people around you is the guarantee that you will never find intimacy. Second, there are no guarantees against heartache. However, surrendering makes heartache much less likely. In chapter 21 I show you why this is so.
I almost ruined my marriage by "helping" my husband decide when to take a nap, how to get a bargain in Mexico, and which guitar amplifier to buy. Behind this control was fear: that he would be tired and cranky, pay too much money, or buy an amplifier that cluttered our house. The threat of almost losing a relationship that had once made me so happy propelled me to learn how to surrender to accept that I couldn't change anyone but myself, and that trying to change my husband was not only wasting my time but also killing my marriage.
I also discovered that when I changed myself by becoming more vulnerable, my husband responded to me differently.
Vulnerability makes us approachable and attractive, because it's a gift to the person we're with. It's an unspoken compliment that says, "I trust you to be gentle when I put down my armor. I feel safe with you." When someone gives me such a gift, my instinct is to be tender so as to reassure her that I understand the honor. Vulnerability will draw me to someone in a way that appearing invincible never could. That's because I identify with the humanity and authenticity. To appear perfect is to keep up your defenses, which means others can't see and love the real you.
Once you have someone's empathy, there's only one way for them to respond: with compassion.
When we surrender control of who pursues us and how he does it, we clear the way for the relationship we always wanted.
THE POWER OF A WOMAN
One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don't come home at night.
Women often protect themselves from disappointment and vulnerability by flaunting their independence. How many times have you thought, I don't need anybody to take care of me or I can handle this? Strength is attractive, but hard-nosed independence sends a "get away" message.
This masculine persona can be effective and appropriate in a work environment, where forcefulness and toughness get the job done.
But you have another side to you the feminine side that's soft, tender, vulnerable, and receptive. That part of you wants to be taken out to dinner, walked home, asked about, thought of, caressed, and just plain taken care of. It's the part of you that relishes feeling protected and cherished. These are undeniable feminine qualities. Since femininity is what men are fundamentally drawn to, those are the qualities that will attract a man who's right for you. Surrendering means acknowledging that you are a woman, with a feminine mind, body, and spirit.
Taking a feminine approach to dating means that when you leave the workplace (or even when you're interacting on a social level in the workplace), you turn off your ambition and your bossiness, and you relax into your feminine grace. You have the power to magnetize men with your manner, your scent, your body, and your voice. These will serve you far better in the dating arena than a know-it-all attitude or toughness.
Revealing your feminine qualities allows a man to show his strengths, too. For instance, when you let him treat you, you give him the opportunity to demonstrate his generosity and ability to please you. This makes him feel proud and happy to be with you. If you dismiss his offers in the name of self-sufficiency, you reject him. If you try to one-up him or even the score, you're competing with him as if you were one of the guys, instead of luxuriating in the adoration and affection he offers because you are a woman. Now because he feels superfluous, he wonders why he should bother trying to do anything for you.
Pleasing a woman makes a man feel more masculine and good about himself. Men want to see your soft side so they can show their strength. By being feminine, we allow our man's masculinity to shine.
Men and women really are infinitely different, and you'll enjoy the foil of his masculinity to your femininity if you surrender to both.
James Thurber wrote, "I love the idea of there being two sexes, don't you?"
"SURRENDER" REALLY IS THE RIGHT WORD
Eventually I lost interest in trying to control...to make things happen in a way that I thought I wanted them to be. I began to practice surrendering to the universe and finding out what "it" wanted me to do.
The word surrender frightens some because it calls to mind losing a battle or spinelessness. But in interpersonal relationships, surrendering is simply acknowledging that sometimes the only thing I can change is my attitude, and that doing so has a profound effect on everything else. Making "surrender" your mantra is much shorter and to the point than saying to yourself, "Stop trying to dictate who comes into your life and what he'll be like and when he will call."
The basic principles of a Surrendered Single are that she:
- acknowledges her desire to attract and marry a man who's right for her;
- lets go of the idea of a perfect man;
- receives compliments, gifts, help, and dates graciously whenever possible;
- takes responsibility for and focuses on her own happiness and fulfillment;
- relinquishes control of the pace of the courtship;
- strives to be vulnerable;
- honors her desire to be married by ending dead-end relationships;
- checks for safety before she risks herself physically or emotionally.
A Surrendered Single is:
- open where she was guarded;
- optimistic where she was cynical;
- feminine where she was tough;
- gracious where once she fended for herself;
- respectful where she used to feel superior.
When a single woman surrenders, she doesn't try to manipulate a man to express his feelings, devotion, or commitment. She knows that would render his words meaningless. It creates the same kind of tension and frustration as when you twist someone's arm to do something rather than letting him decide when and how he wants to do it. She refrains from making ultimatums, nagging, criticizing, and correcting the man she is romantically involved with. She knows she can't improve someone else, and that trying to do so will cost her intimacy.
Instead of indulging in negative thinking about men and dating, she knows that there are both pleasures and risks involved in discovering an intimate relationship.
A Surrendered Single lets go of the negative beliefs she's been holding on to like a security blanket, such as:
- There are no good single men out there.
- I'm too old to attract someone.
- Dating is too much trouble.
At first surrendering will feel awkward and frightening. But so what? No one ever died from these feelings. They're trivial compared to the payoff.
Copyright © 2002 by Laura Doyle
Chapter Two: GIVE UP THE IDEA OF THE PERFECT MAN
One who looks for a friend without faults will have none.
Do you size up every man you meet against a mental checklist? Do you have requirements regarding age, education, income, previous marital status, background?
It's time to surrender your checklist and accept an imperfect man.
You can be blissfully happy with an imperfect man. You will certainly be perpetually lonely without one.
YOUR STANDARDS MAY BE TOO HIGH TO LEAP IN A SINGLE BOUND
Maybe the man of your dreams has green eyes, curly dark hair, and towers over you. Perhaps he's a successful businessman with a private airplane, or a family man who wants to live on a ranch. You may meet someone who fills your bill exactly.
More likely, your beau will touch your heart and impress your mind, but in some ways he won't be quite what you expected. That means you won't necessarily recognize him when you first see him, especially if your search is limited to someone who meets all the criteria on your list.
If you approach dating with a mental checklist, you might pass up the cute guy who works at the bookstore because he doesn't seem upwardly mobile enough. You would have to turn down the friend of a friend because you've heard he's a slob. You would decline dinner with a coworker because you've sworn off office relationships. Now you and your checklist are staying home on Friday night because nobody made a high enough grade to date you.
Or maybe you'll go out with practically anybody once, then decide to stop seeing him because he slurped his soup, kept every piece of junk in his garage, or was three years younger than you.
If you find you're breaking off budding relationships, not dating at all, or just generally dissatisfied with the available pool of men, you are waiting for a perfect man.
Make a list of all the available men you know and those people whom you have dated. Why have you chosen not to go out with the single men in your circle? Have you discouraged a friend from fixing you up with someone she thinks you might like? Who decided to end the relationships you've had? Why did you decline a second date?
Write down your answers to these questions. See if you find patterns that reveal the ways in which perfectionism made you pass up good men.
A CHECKLIST IS A SUIT OF ARMOR
The great soul surrenders itself to fate.
LUCIUS ANNEAUS SENECA
As we all know, no one is perfect.
There is no such thing as the perfect man. So if you're holding out for the perfect man, you're actually avoiding intimacy probably because you're afraid even if you don't realize it.
A checklist is a suit of armor that protects you from having to face your fears, even if you are dating and saying you want to share your life. Maybe you suffered a painful breakup or divorce, so you're afraid to go through that again. Maybe your first boyfriend died unexpectedly in a car crash, so you can't bear the thought of being left alone again. Perhaps you are tenderhearted and feel that you just aren't up for risking the potential pain of giving your soul and not getting the same in return. The sting of heartbreak leaves a stubborn imprint and tempts us to try to control our lives to protect against it ever happening again.
By holding on to the qualities you want in a man, you are setting up an unrealistic expectation. As long as it's never met and it won't be you don't have to risk your heart. Keeping your checklist is a way to stay invulnerable.
Surrendering means acknowledging that you can't exert control by dictating the qualities of an acceptable future mate and still find the love you crave. It requires changing your attitude toward the men around you instead of complaining about your circumstances.
Whatever the reason for your fear, it's important to face it. Your fear is keeping you lonely, and your checklist is allowing you to hold on to your fear. Until you're willing to walk past that
apprehension even if your heart is pounding and your palms are sweating you will never experience a man's total adoration of you. You'll never experience the emotional connection, companionship, and physical passion of a committed relationship unless you're willing to look an imperfect man in the eye, feel that fear, and keep going.
That's exactly what this book will show you how to do.
FINDING OUT IF YOU'RE LOVABLE
Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.
Have you ever had a girlfriend who seemed to avoid men and then complained that she never met anyone? On some level she was afraid. For such a woman, it's second nature to make a list of the things she doesn't like about a potential partner. He has a paunch. He never wants to discuss his feelings. He won't tell his mother he's too busy to help her. He did drugs ten years ago.
Diana thought she was open to all kinds of men and completely available until she started ticking off the reasons she wouldn't date men even once. "One lived too far, another was too young, another had a five-year-old, another came on too strong, another one " She stopped abruptly.
As Diana was saying these things, she realized she had probably shut out some great guys, so she tried to explain: "I'm just trying to make sure I don't waste my time when nothing's going to come of it," she insisted. "It's so awful to get your hopes up about a guy you're not compatible with."
True enough. But you can't know that until you go out with him.
Although Diana thought she was just being practical, she realized that her true motivation was trying to avoid ever feeling disappointed again.
She made a decision on the spot to let go of her ideas about
her perfect man. She stopped trying to control who would walk through her door. She surrendered to the possibilities.
Then a man who was both too young (forty-five to her fifty-two) and lived too far away (240 miles) contacted her through a dating service and asked her out. They clicked, and he told her how glad he was that Diana had responded to him this time.
"What do you mean, this time?" she asked.
"Last time I contacted you, I never got a response. But I decided to try again, and this time you responded," he replied.
Being willing to accept a less-than-perfect man doesn't mean you're going to commit to just anybody. It's fair to know that there are things that you absolutely can't tolerate in a potential mate. You should have standards. For instance, if your children are raised and you're not willing to be a mother to young children again, then it's fair to eliminate men with custody of their small children as potential dates.
But sometimes standards are a façade for a ridiculous screening process that's meant to protect you from having to open up to a man. Then those so-called standards keep you alone.
When you're finding something wrong with every guy, there's a very good chance it's because you're afraid you'll never reach that point where your lover knows you completely and still finds you absolutely desirable. You're afraid that you're not lovable.
Each of us wonders whether there's someone in the world who will actually put up with us and commit to us for life. Diana, who knew she wanted to have a husband someday, was especially afraid of dating younger men because her last boyfriend had made it clear he would never marry someone her age. Since there was nothing she could do about that, she felt that she was destined for rejection, especially from younger men. She worried that she would get involved and attached, only to be let down again.
No matter how certain you are that no man could love you if he really knew you, you are no different than every married person who once feared the same thing. The wonderful thing about a romance is that even the most dejected parts of us begin to heal in the warmth of adoration and cherishing from someone who is absolutely crazy about us despite all our quirks. The incredible thing about falling in love is that your lover thoroughly adores you yes, even you, especially you exactly the way you are.
Despite the wounds from her last relationship, Diana found the courage and strength to date men who seemed interested, even if they were younger. "After all," she explained, "how do I know how old my true love will be?"
NO NEON SIGN WILL POINT TO THE ONE
Until you go out with a man a few times, you won't know if you're going to enjoy his company or be impressed by his mind. Nor can you possibly know if he's somebody you can trust. Before you commit to him, you have no idea what it's like to be in an exclusive, intimate relationship with him.
We all wish we could know instantly whether a man is going to be the one, break our hearts, bring out the best in us, be hopelessly unfaithful, or make us laugh well into old age. We'd like to be able to look at him and just know. Or at least be certain by the end of the first date if he's it.
If we could tell right away, it would take a lot of the fear (and excitement) out of dating. We could proceed only after we knew we weren't going to get dropped. The trouble is, you can't know.
No neon sign will flash when your future husband passes you on the street.
That means it's necessary to risk our hearts at least a little in order to find out if a man in front of us is someone we could love madly.
This is no small thing for those of us who are scared of being abandoned or rejected. I know this because I too was terrified when I was dating. Out of fear, I dismissed men. I looked hard for "reasons" to stop seeing the man who would later be my husband. I remember finding fault with him for sending me a thank-you note after I'd made him brunch. I said as much in front of Candace, my best friend.
"That's kind of wimpy that he sent me a thank-you note, isn't it?" I said warily. And, on some level, I also thought he must be desperate. Only a desperate, overly polite mama's boy would send a thank-you note.
"Wimpy?" she responded incredulously. "No, it's not wimpy. It's very sweet."
I wasn't used to sweet so it made me uncomfortable.
Luckily, despite my terror and my suspicions, I knew Candace was right. I took a deep breath and reframed my perception of the card, borrowing her wise perspective. It worked. I didn't blow him off when he asked me out again. I kept agreeing to see him. Eventually I realized that there was nothing hopeless about this man.
Finally, what I feared most came to pass. He saw me with bed-hair, endured my worst PMS, and learned that I viewed check bouncing as a normal part of cash-flow management.
I not only survived after exposing my soft underbelly to this man, I gained the sweet acceptance and adoration I'd craved. I learned that the only way to have the thing I most wanted and feared was to stay the course to keep seeing him, despite my pounding heart and shallow breathing.
GET IN THE HABIT OF HANGING IN THERE
If you're like me, you'll find yourself wanting to run away from promising relationships and thinking of dozens of "logical" justifications for why you should.
However, if you make yourself stay, the rewards will be great. Most important, even if you date a few men who really aren't right for you, you will start to build the muscles that give you the strength and perspective you'll need to keep auditioning men.
Ultimately, the training will pay off: You will attract a man who, though he isn't perfect, will be right for you. This won't just be anybody who loves the real you this will also be somebody with whom you are also impressed.
Of course, none of that will happen unless you decide to hang in there even if he talks with his mouth full, hasn't balanced his checkbook in three years or God forbid sends you a thank-you note.
CRUMPLE UP YOUR CHECKLIST
Making a commitment to stay the course in a relationship despite minor irritations is frightening. It means there's no valid excuse to stop you from committing to an imperfect man who's perfect for you.
But it can be tricky, too. How do we know which imperfections to overlook and which to run from?
Now that I've watched thousands of wives transform lonely marriages into happy, intimate relationships, it's obvious which problems are insurmountable and which are just part of life's little irritations. There are certain types of men you'll want to avoid committing to: practicing addicts, physical abusers, and men who can't be faithful. For now, crumple up that checklist and throw it away. As it turns out, what makes a man a "good guy" has absolutely nothing to do with whether he works in a law firm or drives a tractor.
Contented couples know this already. They also understand that if they had married someone else, they would have had a different set of problems. They remember vividly the moment they realized they were two of the same kind. They call it falling in love.
In other words, feelings of attraction, and the love and romance that follow, are beacons for helping us find someone we match. This person will not be perfect, of course, because no one is. He will, however, have some fantastic, interesting qualities and characteristics that balance well with yours. You can either lament about what attributes he doesn't have or celebrate the ones he does.
Surrendering means accepting all of his qualities, and trying to improve only yourself.
Just as he may have to accept that you talk to your mother every day, exaggerate from time to time, or rarely arrive somewhere promptly, you too will have to make concessions.
Having confidence that someone who knows you inside and out loves you anyway will more than compensate for those small irritations.
There is an imperfect man who is perfect for you, too.
Copyright © 2002 by Laura Doyle