Monday, December 28, 2009
Guest Post: Change Your Mindset, Not Your Man
CHANGE YOUR MINDSET NOT YOUR MAN
Learn to Love What’s Right Instead of Trying to Fix What’s Wrong(Adams Media 2009)
Many women are disappointed, frustrated, and despairing about their relationships with men. Growing up with Sleeping Beauty, Barbies and romance novels, we don’t realize how the happily-ever-after myth contributes to our relationship misery and failures. My book is the message I needed as a young woman-- that there is no substitute for growing a self and creating a full passionate life, that a man can’t possibly be your fulfillment. It’s hard on the guys when we women want what they have not been socialized to provide. They’re prepared to do the heavy lifting and make money but when we ask them to be sensitive and attuned to our many emotional needs it naturally makes them defensive and angry and they often conclude that there isn’t any way to please us. The conflict comes from trying to get happiness, validation and love from your partner when the only one you can change is yourself!
My book spells out exactly what it takes to find contentment with your normally flawed and imperfect guy the way he is. Complaining and even couples counseling can be disastrous if fixing him is the goal. Your thoughts and stories may be helping or hurting you. I show you what it takes to lead by example when you are the one with more relationship skills and needs and have been socialized for relating. Everything from the best therapies, what I’ve gained from my own life, and what my courageous and beautiful clients have taught me is here. Finding your authentic self and the power to accept the things you can’t change will make you a more confident person and a truly loving partner.
FIND CONTENTMENT WITH YOUR NORMALLY FLAWED MAN AS HE IS
1. He doesn’t have to change for you to be happy.
Expectations of romantic love since girlhood have fueled our disappointment with men. We have been socialized to believe in and want a deep connection with a soul mate. Many men were taught to be tough, ignore their feelings, and channel energy into work, so it’s not their fault that they aren’t as attuned to us and as affectionate as we want. It’s natural for the rush of excitement and chemical attraction to wear off after the honeymoon. All relationships take work. It’s not like the movies where finding the right one is the only requirement. Believing that your happiness depends on him and his behavior makes you a victim instead of an empowered woman.
2. All attempts to fix him can make it worse.
I suggest a reminder note “let him be as he is” to help you stop the tugging and pouting that we all do to get more attention since it’s likely to make things worse. Men are highly sensitive to criticism and often tune out when they feel attacked. Couples counseling works if both partners commit to change but too often it’s the woman enlisting the help of the therapist to make him be the way she wants. If a man succumbs to his partner’s demands and lets her control him, she may lose respect for him, so it’s a good thing if he is able to maintain his sense of himself.
3. What you believe and say is powerful.
It’s not a secret that how you think about your relationship and what stories you tell about your partner will affect your attitude and your feelings and emphasize those qualities you focus on. We know that our beliefs influence our feelings and in turn our behavior. Learning to recognize your thought patterns will help you have more choices rather than function automatically.. Testing your partner’s is something all of us have done. For example, tell him it’s okay to go fishing with his buddies and leave us to handle the garage sale and then make him wrong for not choosing us. We think these test measure his love for us but they really don’t.
4. Star in your own happy life.
Men are more attracted to women when they are happy and fulfilled and seem to tune out when they are a rain cloud of negativity. This explains why when women are blue and need something from their guy he may decide to work late or spend time in the garage. When women star in their own life and make their needs more important often men get a charge from the energy she is radiating. When you value yourself he may see you the same way and be more interested in pleasing you. You will be less like a mother complaining and pointing out his problems and more like an exciting woman who gets what she wants.
5. Learn to rely on your own self support.
Men may become worn down by too much emotionally laden information coming at them on a regular basis. Some men view problems as complaints about them or your life with them and tune out. As mature women we must grow an internal resilient self to weather some of life’s stressors and not depend on our guy for everything. Learning how to support and soothe yourself makes you less needy. Not being super sensitive and taking things personally is a great way to head off hurts. Journaling, music, or exercise helps work through issues and feelings. Being in nature or with pets or treating yourself to physical comforts are other ways to sustain yourself through troubling situations.
6. Help him be more relational.
Accept that his being attuned to your feelings and needs does not come naturally to him. It’s a mistake to insist that he must figure these things out on his own for them to mean something. Prepare him for an emotional conversation by telling him what you need, e.g., I just want you to listen to me; I don’t need advice or a solution. Remind him with posted notes, coupons, and pictures hinting for what you want in the way of gifts or special events. Ask directly for things like a foot or neck rub, taking over for dinner or the kids’ homework when you need help. Avoid pouting and other drama as a way to get his attention.
Sally B. Watkins M.S.W., LCSW
I grew up in a Pennsylvania household with violence and deprivation. The happily-ever-after story was one I clung to in the unheated attic of my childhood room where sleep came fitfully to the sounds of my parent’s battles. I was a writer even then and imagined in poetry my prince just like the one in Cinderella. Like many women I went through much of my early adulthood searching for that perfect someone to love and care for me.
Self help books, therapy, and groups helped me find that person that I am today. I graduated from the University of Maryland at Baltimore with a master’s degree in social work and before that with a bachelor’s degree in education from Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to my twenty year psychotherapy practice I continued to be a writer-- grant writing, personal journals, short stories, essays and writing classes. My published work includes magazine articles and a regular column for a local newspaper. This is my first book, CHANGE YOUR MINDSET NOT YOUR MAN.
I now live in El Dorado Hills, California with my husband Warren. My two sons are grown. I enjoy cooking healthy food, working out, hiking, playing tennis, reading, and sailing in the Pacific Northwest.