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All the Good Ones Aren't TakenChange the Way You Date and Find Lasting Love
By Debbie Magids
St. Martin's GriffinCopyright © 2007 Debbie Magids
All right reserved.
Are You a Dissatisfied Single?
There’s nothing wrong with being single. Many people are very happy in their singlehood, and that’s what I want for you, too—for as long as you are single. If you often say to yourself, “All the good ones are taken,” “I’m too busy for love,” or “I guess I’m just destined to go through life without a mate,” then you may be what I call a dissatisfied single: someone who is in search of a lasting, committed relationship and is frustrated because she can’t seem to achieve it. I want you to answer the following questions honestly.
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, this book is for you.
I have worked with many dissatisfied singles like you who can’t figure out why they haven’t been able to create the relationship they want, and I’ve discovered that they tend to fall into one of eight styles. Each style has its own behavior pattern that makes it more difficult for a dissatisfied single to find love, although they all share some fundamental beliefs and behaviors that aren’t working forthem. Whatever your pattern is, you are probably unaware of it, but in this book, you will not only learn about it, you’ll also begin changing it and maximizing your chances of achieving the intimacy and commitment you desire.
The Eight Styles of Dissatisfied Singles
Let me introduce you to eight women, all dissatisfied singles, whom we’ll be following on their journey to changing their patterns of behavior and becoming open to love.
The Old Faithful, who longs for the one she can’t have and gets “stuck”:
Rachel, a thirty-year-old physical therapist, is everyone’s favorite go-to gal. Given her friendly and generous nature, it’s no surprise that Rachel has had a number of boyfriends over the years. But there was always something “off” with all of them: either he ultimately decided he just wanted to be her best friend, or vice versa. Rachel is reluctant to date because she thinks no one can possibly measure up to her old flame, Adam.
The Whirlwind Dater, who is busy all the time, and constantly dates whoever she can but has difficulty finding a permanent mate:
Carole is proud to be a successful woman in her own right: She is an events planner for a museum and a well-respected member of the community. A take-charge person, Carole has read all the dating guides and makes sure she has a date every weekend. She was even married once, in her twenties. But now that she has turned forty, she’s tired of “all these wonderful men slipping through [her] hands.”
The Standstill, who has done a lot of work on becoming the best woman she can be, but never dates and has a difficult time relating to men on an intimate level:
All her friends think Julie, thirty-nine, is a great catch: She’s pretty, smart, successful, and a great friend. Julie seems so confident that no one would guess she is secretly embarrassed that she’s never had a long-term, committed relationship, and is scared that no man will be interested in her. She buries herself in work, never letting on how lonely she is.
The Forbidden Fruit Hunter, who gets involved with men who are married, already have a girlfriend, or are still stuck on an ex and therefore emotionally unavailable:
Alyssa, forty-two, a vivacious woman from Long Island, is a little embarrassed that she’s never been married. She once lived with a boyfriend who was still hopelessly in love with his ex, and she has been involved with three men who were either married or living with a girlfriend. Alyssa admits she is deeply ashamed of her behavior.
The Compassionate Rescuer, who always dates the guy who has problems, putting her energy into “fixer-upper” boyfriends:
Thirty-three-year-old Nicole has been dating Jonathan for two years, and she’s miserable and feeling utterly trapped. Jonathan has an excellent record as a salesman and sales manager, but he’s constantly losing jobs, and Nicole believes it’s because he is too angry and sarcastic. Nicole has learned to tread lightly around her moody boyfriend, but she feels too guilty to leave him and too burned out to stay.
The Wanderer, for whom just one man is not enough to fill the void, so she always has a lover or potential boyfriend on the side:
Thirty-year-old Amy’s ready smile and job as a publicist make it easy for her to find boyfriends, and she always has one. Currently, she is dating Brian, a freelance journalist, and says she’s madly in love with him, but she has a dark secret: She is cheating on him. Amy feels horribly guilty, hates her behavior, and is utterly baffled by it—but says she can’t help herself.
The Uptown Girl, who is attracted only to those men with money, prestige, and looks:
Lucy, thirty-five, always dresses to the nines because she feels she’s got to look her best to attract the right man. Her family expects her to marry well, and she’s got a nice boyfriend, Michael, who comes from a wealthy family and has a pretty good job himself. But Lucy is worried that he doesn’t match up to her family’s very high standards of wealth and prestige.
The Runaway Bride, who is good at relationships until asked to commit—then she finds a way to end the relationship, pronto:
Elizabeth, twenty-eight, is sweet-natured, quick to laugh, and has had several serious boyfriends. But as soon as he proposes, or asks her to move in with him, somehow, it falls apart. Lately, she has been thinking a lot about her past relationships, and is convinced that she has ruined her life by walking away from some terrific guys, but says she really doesn’t know what went wrong.
You may feel that one of these types sums up your entire romantic history, or maybe you fit into two or three types. Perhaps as you read one of these descriptions you recognized a friend of yours, whose romantic history has also been an unhappy one. As you read this book, you will learn more about each of these types, discover how these behavior patterns came about, and get practical guidance on how to change them so that you can stop being a dissatisfied single and instead, create a lasting love.
The Challenge of Being Single When You Don’t Want to Be
Many of my clients come to me because they are frustrated by their inability to find a long-term relationship that works for them. Some of these women date a lot, determined to follow the advice of so many dating guides that promise “it’s all about numbers, so just keep your datebook filled.” Some of them have given up on dating altogether, convinced that it’s hopeless. Some get themselves into relationships that fall apart quickly or dramatically. Others have had a long-term relationship—even a marriage—that ended badly, and they are convinced they ruined their only chance for love.
Some of my clients alternate between despair and determination, depending on their confidence level that week. All of them are plagued by feelings of guilt and shame.
Many of my clients genuinely try to enjoy their singlehood and their unattached state. They embrace life with a positive attitude, whether or not they have a date lined up for the weekend. A lot of them have rich friendships, strong relationships with their family, a good sense of community, and fulfilling careers, yet despite the positives in their lives, they experience feelings of shame, regret, and inadequacy about being single.
It isn’t easy to be single in a culture that so values couplehood and marriage, especially when most women do want a long-term commitment. When a leader of the feminist movement that sprang up in the sixties and seventies claimed, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle,” the sentiment didn’t convince many women for very long that they’d be happier going through life solo. When you’re the one who hasn’t gotten married yet, despite your efforts to achieve that dream for yourself, it’s really hard not to slip into believing there’s something wrong with you.
If you’re unhappy with your single status, or starting to panic about never finding the love you want, I promise you that there is nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about, and you are not damaged goods. Here’s the great news: You do not have to spend years in therapy working on yourself before things turn around. If you make the smallest shift in your beliefs and behaviors, it will greatly improve your chances of creating the relationship you want and deserve.
Four Ways of Changing
I will help you to truly understand why you find yourself alone when you don’t want to be, or in a relationship that isn’t working for you. To create the relationship you really want, you will need to examine and make changes in your beliefs, behaviors, emotions, and spirit.
Your beliefs, which are probably far too negative, may actually be driving your emotions. For example, you are waiting for a man who was supposed to meet you only to realize, after a while, that he is very late. You try to call, but there is no answer. Your thoughts—He’s so disrespectful! and He’s never going to show up, because he doesn’t like me or even Something terrible happened to him—probably cause you to feel furious, despairing, or frightened. When he shows up and apologizes profusely, explaining that his cell phone went dead and he got caught in traffic, those emotions fall away very quickly, don’t they? The emotions fade because they were driven by beliefs that turned out to be false.
If you can’t reach the man who is late for your date, you might storm out of the restaurant and call your girlfriend to complain about how he’s treating you. When you learn the real reason he was late and hear his apology, you realize that your behaviors were totally unproductive. I will show you how to stop simply reacting to situations, and consciously decide on the actions you want to take. It’s important to break out of your comfort zone and push yourself to behave in a way that’s unfamiliar, but that you know is healthier for you, because it will start you on the road toward feeling completely natural and comfortable in that behavior. I call this acting as if, because you’re acting as if this way of operating doesn’t make you feel self-conscious and anxious, when it does! I find it’s far more effective to act as if than to wait until you feel totally comfortable with an action and then take it. I would hate to see you turning down a date because you’re nervous about it, or not saying no to a man who isn’t right for you because it will be uncomfortable to do so. Too often, people get stuck waiting to feel different before they change their lives, and I think that is not productive.
Altering your behavior is difficult. It takes vigilance, perseverance, and courage, because many times, changes are painful. At the end of the day, however, the change is well worth it.
While you are acting as if, you will be feeling some strong emotions, so I will teach you better ways to handle them. Instead of repressing your feelings, you are going to experience them, no matter how intense they are, and yet they won’t overwhelm you.
Finally, there’s no guarantee that you will create the relationship you want, because that’s not how the universe works. That’s why I will guide you on ways to get in touch with your spirituality, however you define it, and take a philosophical approach to the unpredictable, baffling, and sometimes frustrating journey toward lasting love.
How to Use This Book
I’ll take you through the process of discovering where you are and why you behave the way you do, and give you the tools to change your behavior and achieve your relationship goal. You’ll start by learning the important skill of uncovering and analyzing your hidden beliefs, which I’ll explain in chapter 2, “Thinking Right for a Change.” Then, by reading the eight chapters on the individual styles, you will begin to see how you, like other dissatisfied singles, are subconsciously following behavior patterns that originated in childhood, viewing yourself through a distorted lens, and having trouble managing your feelings and attaining intimacy. In chapter 11, “Learn New Dance Steps,” and chapter 12, “Build Boundaries and Bridges,” I’ll teach you more about how your family influenced and continues to influence you, and how to start changing the role you play with them—and with your romantic partner—which is hindering you in your quest for a loving, committed relationship with a man.
In chapter 13, “Experience All Your Feelings,” you’ll learn practical ways to manage the strong, challenging emotions you will experience on this journey, and in chapter 14, “Embrace What Is,” I’ll help you get a spiritual perspective on your singlehood that will keep you feeling positive, and will actually make it more likely that you’ll find what you’re looking for. In chapter 15, “Happily Ever After,” I will provide inspiring follow-ups on each of the eight central women profiled in this book, give you guidance on how to write your own success story, and help you to recognize when you’ve finally broken out of the old behavior patterns and are truly open to a loving, intimate relationship.
If you’ve just about given up on your dreams, I want you to start over, by getting rid of the self-protective excuses you’ve made for not finding love so that you can begin thinking positively. I call these excuses red herrings.
It’s human nature to talk ourselves out of wanting something we think we can’t have. If you dearly want a romantic, loving relationship that lasts, but you fear you can’t have it, you have probably come up with many red herrings—that is, seemingly sound excuses for why you are still single.
Red herrings are excuses you create to explain why you are single when you don’t want to be. They are very effective at distracting you from recognizing your hidden beliefs that are very distorted, create painful emotions, and interfere with your ability to form a permanent, satisfying relationship. It feels more empowering to say “I’m just too busy to focus on romance” than to admit that deep down, you think, I’m much too needy for any man to stick around me for long. When you flippantly tell your girlfriends, “All the good ones are taken,” it’s less frightening than admitting your hidden belief: I’m just too emotionally damaged to find a lasting, loving relationship. As painful as it is to think, I’m not thin enough to attract someone, even that red herring is less devastating than the hidden belief, I’m not worthy of love.
Those self-protective excuses can make you feel strong in the moment, but if you tell yourself that you don’t care, because it’s hopeless anyway, your dark feelings of sadness, despair, anxiety, shame, and inadequacy won’t go away—they’ll just be suppressed. Then, the next time a guy you started seeing tells you, “It’s just not working for me,” or you get an invitation to yet another friend’s wedding, those feelings will pop right back up.
Stripping off this top layer of excuses can be a painful process. You may find yourself resisting it, and wanting to believe that you really aren’t sad that you are single and unattached. You may suddenly get inspired once in a while and convince yourself that if you just try again with another personal ad or give your ex-boyfriend another chance, you’ll solve your problems. But you know that’s not the answer. If it were, you would have found lasting, committed love long ago.
I am sure you have tried very hard to find and foster a loving relationship. You’ve gotten your hopes up many times, and have gone out into the dating scene with optimism and enthusiasm, but were disappointed yet again. You might be wonderful “girlfriend material,” but until you move past your red herrings, uncover your hidden beliefs, and start replacing them with more productive ones, your unconscious habit of sabotaging yourself will continue. It’s time to do the work of getting back on track to your dreams.
There seems to be no end to the number of excuses dissatisfied singles make for not having the relationship they want, and yet when you look at them closely, you can see that they just don’t stand up. Here are some red herrings my clients have come up with, and the reasons they aren’t true:
• “All the good ones are taken.” If so, why are there new wedding announcements in the paper every week, month after month, year after year? Any statement that begins with the word all is a result of black-and-white thinking (a type of distorted thinking in which you look at everything as all or nothing). The “good ones” will start showing up more often in your life when you make changes to your internal beliefs.
• “My boyfriends have all been sweet, but their sweetness feels smothering.” If a lover’s attention and affection always feel smothering instead of nurturing and loving, it might be that you are deeply uncomfortable with the attention and affection you want and deserve. When you change your deep-rooted beliefs about yourself, you’ll be able to feel at ease in a relationship with a man who expresses his affection, and you’ll be able to create a deep, emotional connection with a partner.
• “All men have a lot of emotional baggage. . . . All men drink.” All is a sweeping generalization. It is an excuse for why the men you get involved with have these problems. There are men without emotional baggage and who don’t drink to excess.
• “There’s something wrong with all the men out there—none of them can commit!” You could date a thousand men, but if you don’t truly believe you are deserving of love, you will continue to attract, and be attracted to, men who can’t commit, and it will seem as if you’re proving yourself right. When you change your deep-seated beliefs, you will start to see there are many men who are available for loving, committed, intimate relationships.
• “Men aren’t interested in women my age.” There are men who date older women, men who date women their age, and men who date women younger than they are. You can attract someone who is interested in you, no matter what your age. This is one of the most popular excuses used, and those of you who are older would be surprised to know that even twenty-five-year-olds feel this way. Then again, maybe you aren’t surprised, because at twenty-five, you thought you were too young to interest a good man!
• “I’m too busy with my career for a romantic detour.” Even very busy people will make time for dating, but if you are strongly attracted to someone and slam on the brakes suddenly, using work as an excuse, you’re sabotaging yourself. Love is energizing, not draining, so when we really want it and we have the potential to get it, we create room for it in our lives. You may be rejecting potential mates, or you may be creating an imbalance in your life, putting all your energy into work and not following up with men you find interesting, in order to avoid getting rejected. This excuse is especially common because it seems totally legitimate and it can be embraced without shame.
• “I’m too picky—I’m so special (different) that it’s hard for me to find someone I can ‘connect’ with.” You may be casting about for that intangible reason why you’re not connecting, whether it’s that you’re particular about how tall your partner has to be, or you feel your sense of humor is so different that you will never find a guy who makes you laugh, or that it’s impossible to find a guy who can match your dedication to the arts. Those are all excuses; what’s really going on is that, internally, you aren’t ready for that someone you can be truly intimate with.
• “He doesn’t share my intellectual or cultural interests.” Many of the happiest, longest marriages are between people who are very different as individuals and who have very different interests. While you may wish you could change his involvement or interest in something you enjoy, it isn’t enough to make or break a relationship, so it is an excuse for not being open to love.
• “He is not rich enough, handsome enough, or successful enough.” Plenty of rich, handsome, successful men are not capable of commitment, and plenty of plain-looking men of modest means are great catches. You may be looking for reasons not to be attracted to someone who could give you the relationship you want, when the real reason is that, deep down, you are afraid of having it.
Like red herrings, which protect us from our painful hidden beliefs, projection serves as a defense mechanism that protects us from painful feelings. Projection occurs when we take our own attributes that we’re uncomfortable with and convince ourselves that we don’t actually have them, but that the other person does. The most common form of projection that dissatisfied singles engage in is projecting onto their significant other their own inability to be intimate and committed.
We’ve all heard the stand-up comics joke about men who can’t commit, and many of you may embrace the idea that the only real intimacy you can have is with your girlfriends and family, not with a man you’re emotionally involved with. It’s much easier to think that our relationship problems are outside of us. If he has the intimacy issue, you don’t have to look at your own inability to open up to a man. If he is a “commitmentphobe,” you don’t have to think about how deeply uncomfortable you are locking into a long-term, exclusive relationship with any man.
In our culture, women are thought to be the ones who nurture relationships, create the intimacy, and hold the marriage together. We’re supposed to want to be married. If on a very deep and hidden level, you are uncomfortable with being intimate or committed to a relationship, you end up subconsciously projecting that onto the men you get involved with rather than acknowledging the painful truth you suspect: that it’s you who struggles with these issues.
At the core of this projection is embarrassment at not living up to your own and other people’s expectations of you, and feelings of low self-worth that make it painful to look at your role in the relationships that don’t work out. When you get past your excuses and discover your own discomfort about intimacy and commitment, you can start identifying the hidden beliefs that are creating that discomfort. Deep down, you may believe that being intimate opens you up to being betrayed, for instance, or you may believe that if you commit to a man, you will somehow be betraying your parent or parents. If you can find the courage to face your own issues instead of projecting them, you can begin to change them, which I’ll show you how to do.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that he, too, has difficulty being intimate and committing to a relationship. Even so, it’s important to recognize that you’ve attracted a mirror who reflects back to you your own issues.
Sometimes we are surprised by which men we attract or are attracted to, but once we get involved, we realize that our relationship with them feels oddly familiar. All of us subconsciously choose to get involved with men who mirror our issues. This is not always a bad thing, because within your relationship, the two of you can work on your issues and help each other to take risks, stand up for yourselves, or make whatever other changes you need to make. Having the support of someone who truly accepts you as you are makes it easier to deal honestly with your shortcomings. However, when your mutual issues prevent the two of you from accepting, trusting, and supporting each other, it’s a big problem.
If you fear intimacy, it feels right somehow to be in a relationship with a man who, one way or another, has an issue with intimacy. He might fear closeness or try to establish it far too quickly. It’s as if you and he were both given scripts to follow, and you’re playing your assigned roles beautifully. Perhaps he keeps you at arm’s length, and you feel you have to win him over, which makes you feel inadequate—and yet, it’s as if you’ve played this part before, so you hang in there, feeling oddly comfortable in this situation. Or, he comes on too strong and you quickly reject him, because this makes you feel safe and in control. In both cases, you’ve attracted and been attracted to someone who mirrors your issues.
Sometimes in mirroring, you attract and are attracted to someone who isn’t your opposite so much as your twin. You both fear commitment, so neither of you takes the risk to talk about marriage, and each of you secretly blames the other for the relationship not moving forward. Or, neither of you can truly open your heart to the other, and you assume that the other person is the problem, instead of recognizing that you both fear intimacy.
When you begin to face and work through your own fears of intimacy and commitment, replacing them with a faith that you deserve and can achieve the close, loving relationship you say you want, you will find partners who will mirror you—it’s just that now, they will mirror your new comfort with being intimate with and committed to another person. When you can change your unhealthy hidden beliefs, the men who mirror you will reflect back to you your new, healthy beliefs.
What You Can Change
You’ve probably heard the old saying, “You can’t change anyone.” It’s true that you can’t actually change other people, but you can always change yourself. If you’re a dissatisfied single, you have to be the one who changes—not your ex, not the man you’re seeing right now, not the man you’d like to get involved with, but you. It’s not him; it’s you—and that’s okay.
Some of my clients have gone to extraordinary lengths to “fix” the men they’re dating, wasting energy that they should have spent healing themselves of the painful, hidden beliefs that are holding them back and making them feel terrible about themselves. You truly deserve the relationship you want, but you won’t get it until you begin focusing on yourself instead of on him. I promise you that whatever beliefs you hold about yourself deep down, if they are making you unhappy and sabotaging your search for love, you can begin to dismantle them, no matter how long those beliefs have been stuck inside you.
As you begin to change your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, the people around you—the men you’re involved with, your family, and your friends—will respond. Some of them will be unsettled by the new you, because you no longer mirror their issues. Some of them may reject you. Others, too, may be inspired to change, and you will also start drawing into your life people who are attracted to the new, healthier you. You’ll attract and be attracted to men who, like the new you, can tolerate a high level of intimacy, and who aren’t frightened by commitment. Ultimately, you will maximize your chances of creating the relationship you want with the one who is right for you.
I see dissatisfied singles in their twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties, from all walks of life. What they have in common are the deep-rooted, unhealthy beliefs they hold about themselves, which are based in low self-worth.
Some Common Unhealthy Beliefs
I’m not sexually desirable.
I’m undeserving and unworthy.
I’m damaged goods.
I’m damaging to those I love.
I’m too needy.
I’m just not good enough to be loved.
It’s sad, but because of their experiences (particularly as children), many women, at their core, truly buy into these soul-crushing beliefs, whether they realize it or not. In the next chapter, we’ll take a look at distorted thoughts that cover up these beliefs. By deconstructing those unproductive thoughts and replacing them with more positive ones, it will be easier to face and let go of the hidden beliefs that are holding you back.
Copyright © 2006 by Debbie Magids, Ph. D., and Nancy Peske
Excerpted from All the Good Ones Aren't Taken by Debbie Magids Copyright © 2007 by Debbie Magids. Excerpted by permission.
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