Friday, January 9, 2015

Post-divorce dating mistakes: Why only the bad guys seem to stick around.

Well, unless you're just addicted to the glamour and danger
of the bad guy . . . but that's another story.
"I'm treated so badly by bottom-of-the-barrel men, so what hope can I have of a chance with someone better?"  Statements like these have been coming up a lot as I coach my clients, and it goes straight to my heart, because I used to believe this, too.

My advice is:  Don't judge the good guys by the kinds of men you may have been meeting lately.  Don't think that if guys who should be lucky to have you treat you badly that you don't even have a chance with someone better.

And, with compassion for yourself, please just notice that the men you have been meeting and sticking with have a lot to do with who you are at the time they meet you.  Let me explain.

When I was first divorced, and starting to date, I was already feeling pretty worthless and shaken up because of what my ex-husband had put me through.  First, I dated a mentally unstable man who was spiraling out of control.  I stuck with him for a while because I remembered him from years ago, before he was diagnosed as bi-polar -- back when he was a charming, successful businessman.  I held on to that fantasy of who he used to be until I was hit on the head with a virtual brick of recognition that this guy was quickly headed down the drain.  But, it took a couple of months for me to see past the mask to the reality.  Once I did, I was shocked at my self-deception.

Next, I became engaged to another relatively successful man, and even before I said "yes," skeletons were coming out of the closet.  But I continued to sweep his skeletons from the closet to under the carpet.  Because I kept in front of me the image of who I thought he was, and not the reality that he was showing me.  I wanted to live the life of the socially respected wife of a man who wasn't an under-achiever like my ex.  So, I stayed with this guy as he tested me more and more.  I finally had the courage to break off the relationship, but when I didn't find anyone else whom I really loved, I allowed him back in my life.  More than once.

It took me awhile to learn that, not only has the dating game changed a great deal from when we were young, but there's another important factor as well.  (Actually, I could write a book here, but, let me just pick one point to share.)

We've all heard the adage, "We teach people how to treat us," but many of us don't pay attention to how we present ourselves to potential dates.  (And, how we present ourselves tends to reflect the agony and self-doubt that's on the inside.)

When a divorce is still fresh, and we're still feeling off-balance, we tend to attract partners who are similarly out of control in one way or another.  We may be meeting good guys as well, but they don't stick because they see red flags on the very first date with us.

Here are a few of my post-divorce dating mistakes.  Do any of these sound familiar?
  • I realized that I had regaled men with stories about what my ex-husband had done to me.  (Male-think:  Wow, wonder why her husband cheated?  Maybe she wasn't good in bed?  Or maybe she has a terrible temper, or . . . ?  There must be something wrong with her.)
  • I would mention how I had been determined to be so fair in my divorce that I left with practically nothing.  I wanted men to know that I wasn't a money-hungry barracuda. (Male-think:  What an idiot!  She gave her ex an easy out, and now this woman would be my financial burden?)
  • I had also talked about the valiant struggles I was going through with my business at the time -- actually making wry jokes about how one thing after another was failing in my life, and how brave and strong I was to keep going in the face of all this.  I wanted them to know that I was a person of character.  (Male-think:  This girl's trouble.  I'm a man, so I have lots of choices at this age.  I can easily find a better deal.)

I could go on.  It sounds pretty harsh, but this is how guys talk and think -- even the good ones.  I know, because I have many men friends, and I've been the only woman in the room enough times to hear what men really say.  All I have to do is bring up the topic of dating, and then sit back and listen. 

A man can be a knight in shining armor.  For the right woman only.  And he's not looking for the damsel in distress -- beware if he is.

Here's my point:  In so many of my coaching calls with clients, the number one thing they need is to be taken step-by-step toward getting their lives in order to become (and own that they are) attractive, loving, powerful women who are easily able to see their beauty and embrace it.  No apologies for being the prize that you are.

I say to my clients:  Sure, keep dating, but you'll be hitting the same kinds of walls until you become the person who naturally attracts the kind of man you want to have.  In fact, you'll know that your radiance is shining brighter as the men you meet rise in quality.  When you recognize a good one, he'll stick around, wanting to show you that he is worth your time.  (Learning to recognize the good ones is the subject of another story, but I often assist on this in my coaching, too.)

But, I'm not a dating coach.  I'm a divorce recovery coach, who gets you to the place where you're ready to meet the man of your dreams.  My job is to assist my clients in feeling better and more confident every week.  When that starts to happen, topics of conversation on dates won't betray you as a pushover or victim.  Because that pushover won't even exist anymore.

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