It was my freshman year at college. My first day on campus, as I wandered around aimlessly with my roommate looking for the dining hall, I walked by a guy who completely took my breath away. It was the first time I had been struck with the “love at first sight” feeling. He nodded his head in acknowledgement and barely cocked a smile, but my heart raced. I had to know who he was. Was he a freshman, too? Where was he living? I had to meet him somehow….
As the months passed I learned the answers to all my questions. No, he wasn’t a freshman. He was a Sophmore, and living quite close to my dorm. We would cross paths on Thursdays while I was on my way to Spanish. Sometimes I mustered a hello, sometimes just a smile. I knew he was in a Fraternity, and at any chance I got, I attended their parties but only to swoon from afar. I just never got up the courage to introduce myself.
Then, one day, one of my friends grew tired of hearing how much I like this guy and while we were out at a local dive bar, she grabbed his arm and pulled him over. “This is Jessica.” she said. “Jessica, this is hot-guy-you-have-been-pining-over-for-almost-a-year.” No, she didn’t really say that. She said his name, which I’ll keep confidential. Hot guy smiled at me, shook my hand, and said, “You wanna dance?”
The rest of the night was a happy blur of events. I was on cloud nine. Hot guy never left my side, ran to fill my beverage, sat with his arm around me, and then walked me to my car and asked to exchange numbers. I couldn’t believe it. I was officially going to date hot guy and this was the beginning of what would be a beautiful relationship….or so I thought.
A week passed after that night and nothing but crickets. I didn’t leave my dorm for fear I would miss his call and my answering machine would fail me (yes, cell phones were for rich people at this point in time.) On the way to Thursdays Spanish class I saw him standing outside Thompson Hall smoking a cigarette with some friends. He saw me and waved. That was it.
That night, I sat around with some girls that lived on my hall and retold the story of the wonderful night I had the weekend before and how crushed I was that I had not heard from hot guy. Then, one of their boyfriend’s who was sitting nearby eavesdropping came over and gave me what would become known as the worst piece of advice I’ve ever gotten. “Call him,” he said. “He’s probably scared to make a move.” Now, I had been told by my mother repeatedly not to chase boys, so this counsel was met with resistance at first, but the boyfriend continued making his case for why calling hot guy would be a good idea.
“He was drinking and he probably isn’t sure that you’re interested. If he was drunk, he probably lost your number. It’s 1996 and girls call guys now and we like it! It takes the pressure off. You’re in control.” And then he finally added, “It can’t hurt.” So, after 10 minutes of convincing, I picked up the phone and called hot guy.
It did not go well.
His roommate picked up the phone and told me to hold. “Hot guy!” he yelled. “Jessica is on the phone for you!” To which hot guy replied, “Who??” The next two minutes were cringe-worthy. Hot guy got on the phone and we struggled through 120 seconds of conversation. Then he told me his roommate needed to use the phone and he would call me back. He never did.
Even though I was crushed by this incident, and no relationship ever materialized between us, hot guy did me a favor that night by not calling me back. He wasn’t interested in me and although it took a while to get over that fact, at least he didn’t feign attraction or take advantage of my infatuation. My dorm-mates boyfriend convinced me that calling hot guy couldn’t hurt, but if he had taken my call, asked me to come over, hooked up with me and never talked to me again, that would have definitely caused me pain.
I might have been spared, but many single girls today fall into “go-nowhere” relationships with guys and the most of the time, it is due in large part to initiating contact first just as I did. They are under the impression that initiating a simple text to someone they like can’t hurt, but truly, it is this small misstep in the “hanging out” phase that can lead to a girl wasting her time with a guy who’s only moderately interested. It can segue into an unbalanced relationship, and the possibility of being used by someone for a mere steady hook-up.
Reaching out over the phone, email, text, instant messenger, or via some social media site when you are just starting to talk to a guy, not only sends the message that you are chasing him, it also robs you of the opportunity to assess if he is truly interested in pursing a relationship with you. I always tell my coaching clients that they need to read a guy’s buying signs, and those signs will tell you most everything you need to know about his interest. One of the biggest signs is, does he text you first after you’ve seen him? If he does, then he’s likely very interested. If he doesn’t, then he isn’t.
It’s easy to accidentally sabotage a potential relationship by doing something you normally would not do if not for cell phones or the Internet. After my epic fail with hot guy, I never called another boy again. And I’m happy to say, that strategy served me very well for all the years I dated. But most girls today don’t get the clear cut “not interested” sign like I did. Relationship have become more ambiguous and knowing when and what to text someone can be as complicated as a Game of Thrones plotline.
If you need help even on the smallest scale with someone you are hanging out with or dating, you don’t need to hire an expensive dating coach and spend an hour on the phone trying to decode a text and craft one back. I offer quick, inexpensive email advice for these small but critical situations. You can write me up to 800 words, allowing you to give me ample backstory, and within 24 hours, you’ll have a response from me about what you should or should not do. Best of all, you’ll have the peace of mind that you didn’t make an impulsive decision that cost you a chance with your own hot guy.
Darcy is a fashion consultant in NYC. Like most people in the fashion industry, she not only works in it, she lives for it. Darcy goes to great lengths to make sure her image is perfect. Every extra penny in her paycheck goes to enhancing her wardrobe or maintaining her appearance. She’s a petite blond with a very outgoing personality; so finding a boyfriend would seemingly be easy for her. But Darcy has been on dozens of first dates in the last two years and none of them have resulted in a second. She is active online and is approached when she is out, but over the last few years a pattern has emerged and the initial attraction she gets from guys never lasts long.
One day Darcy called me in a frenzy.
“It happened again!” She cried hysterically.
“What did?” I asked.
“The guy I went out with last night hasn’t texted me. We had a great time. He was so funny and cute. He even said we should go out again. I don’t understand it. This happens every time I go out with someone! What am I going to do? Everyone around me is getting married and here I am without even a boyfriend. My friend Jackie isn’t even that attractive and she is dating this unbelievable guy! I’m getting older with each passing day and my eggs are going to shrivel up and die soon!”
I reassured Darcy that at twenty-six her eggs were not in jeopardy just yet. I knew that lacking in initial attraction was not her problem, because she was asked out quite often. However, Darcy was losing the interest she did get in a very short amount of time. Something she was doing or saying on the first date was turning guys off so much, they didn’t want to sit through round two and get to know her better.
Darcy was a nice girl with a very attractive exterior. She wasn’t mean spirited or lacking in confidence. But she did have a habit of constantly talk about herself and her life. She also spent a great deal of time comparing herself to everyone around her. This had a big impact on her socially and romantically. She was jealous of her friends who so easily met their significant others. It seemed so unfair that she struggle with love while other people found it so easily. It wasn’t uncommon for her to skip bridal showers or engagement parties. It was difficult for her to act happy for others when she was so miserable herself. Even just seeing a couple holding hands on the street was enough to send her into a tailspin.
Darcy didn’t see her habit to compare herself as a problem. She assumed her lacking love life was due to the fact that she was inexperienced in the relationship department. She had only had two boyfriends in her lifetime, the last of whom cheated on her repeatedly, and the one before disappeared without warning. In her opinion, her inexperience was a strike against her marketability. She was sure that all the guys she went out with wanted someone just a little bit sexier, thinner, and a lot more seasoned.
Before she went on dates, Darcy prepped herself for hours. She spent half the day doing her hair and make-up. Quite often she would texts pictures of herself to her friends asking how she looked before she left the house. When she arrived on her dates, Darcy was excited but also consumed with nervous energy. While she tried to be engaging and personable, she didn’t realize that most of the time she was rambling on about herself. Whenever she did stop and let her date get a word in, her mind churned in analysis of what she said. She wondered how she had come off to him. Did he still think she was attractive? Did she wear the right dress? Who else was he going out with, and was she as pretty? Instead of being present and working to get to know her date, she was on a continuous search for clues that he liked her enough to go out with her again.
Darcy would do a little Internet searching before, after, and sometimes even during, her dates. She would click through the guy’s pictures on Instagram or Facebook looking for any signs of him hanging out with other girls. If he did have pictures with females, Darcy would compare herself to all of them and stress about not being as beautiful. After hours of comparing and analyzing, she always was quite sure her date was not going to call her. And although he never did, it wasn’t for the reason she thought.
“The Curse” of The Contestant (An excerpt from my newest book: This is one of five “Curses”)
The Contestant “Curse” is the easiest to spot. The reason I call them Contestants is because they act as if their entire life is a competition. They spend a lot of time comparing themselves to others, and feel as if they always have something to prove, whether it is to other people or just to themselves. They also thrive on attention from other people. In all of their relationships they view themselves as the “leading role” and anyone else is either supporting or an audience member.
Contestants often vacillate between feeling really good about themselves and extremely bad. If she is having a good day, and believes she is measuring up to her preset standard, a Contestant will have very positive self-focused thoughts about herself. But on days when she goes too long without reassurance or approval, her “Curse” begins to turn those positive self-focused thoughts into negative ones. When that happens, she will frantically begin searching for a way to get attention and give herself a boost. She might post a selfie online hoping to get flattering comments, or text someone she has little interest in, but who she knows will lavish her with compliments. It’s not unusual for a Contestant to collect male followers, or have several virtual relationships going at the same time. The more guys that are interested in her, the better she feels about herself. Most Contestants use men to maintain a happy, confident feeling. This is one of the reasons why they have trouble deeply connecting with one person, and why they are the most unfaithful of all Curses. If something goes wrong with their relationship, they have little problem turning to someone else who will make them feel better. Some Contestants may even keep a side relationship going for no reason other than their thirst for attention is more than what one man can provide.
Guys who date this type of woman find her to be high maintenance, attention-needy, narcissistic, and dramatic. Men who are in a relationship with her find her to be exhausting, moody, and selfish.
Living to Win
Because life is viewed as a competition, Contestants feel happiest when they are seemingly “winning”. At times they might just seek a personal “win”, for instance, getting a certain amount of likes on a post, but often their need to win attracts them to romantic situations where their can be winners and losers. Their Curse confuses love with winning, so it unconsciously seeks out situations where it can put it’s worth to the test.
Darcy, for instance, held on to her last boyfriend for two years, despite the fact that he cheated on her twice, and they broke up every few months. When I asked her why she persisted in trying to work things out with him, she admitted that if he finally decided to be faithful to her she would feel like it would validate her worth because she would be considered “good enough to change him”. She wanted to be “the girl” who was so special he reformed. A Cursed motivation if I ever heard one! She felt if she let him go without accomplishing that, however, it meant she was just the loser who was not good enough to commit to, and the next girl he got involved with would ultimately be dubbed the winner.
Of course, the truth was that Darcy’s boyfriend was a selfish man, who was Cursed himself. He believed he was Superior to women and because of that, he thought he was above fidelity. Committing to one woman was lame and no fun because it didn’t fulfill his insatiable need to always feel like he was dominating something. Because Darcy was Cursed too, however, she couldn’t see this. Instead she spent most of their relationships trying to make herself worthy of her boyfriend’s love. This is one of the Curse’s cruelest tricks. It makes you hold on to the false hope that one day you’ll be enough to change someone, as if your worth has anything to do with them committing.
If you are a Contestant, you might be attracted to people who need fixing because correcting them feels like an achievement. You don’t realize that your motivation to change someone is more for your benefit than theirs. Darcy wasn’t looking to make her relationship work because she loved her boyfriend. No, she was looking to make it work so she could feel like a winner. Is a woman using a man to heighten her feelings of worthiness any better than a guy cheating on her? In Darcy’s eyes, she didn’t see it that way but the reality is she did not love her boyfriend any more than he loved her.
Normal, healthy relationships don’t provide a struggle, and so if you are a Contestant, you might also naturally gravitate to men that are currently in a relationship, or even married. Triumphing over another woman and winning the “prize” of a man’s love is exactly what this Curse wants. Even if you are kept on the side for years, you will have trouble letting go and moving on because you will feel like you “lost” the guy to someone else. Of course, if you do get the guy, and there is no competition going on, you might get bored and restless. This is why Contestants are often in drama-filled relationships. Anyone who is emotionally available and genuinely wants to love you, isn’t challenging. If someone you are dating turns out to be a nice, normal guy, you may find yourself picking him apart, asking him for space, and causing drama to create a win/lose situation for yourself. The guy will have no idea where your hot and cold behavior stems from and might assume you are just afraid of commitment. He may at first play your little back-and-forth game, but if he’s a decent person, your behavior may push him to anger, resentment, and finally, disinterest.
If you seem to always gravitate towards “challenging” guys or situations, you may very well be a Contestant who is just searching for opportunities to win in order to feel good about yourself. Holding on to an unhealthy and unpredictable relationship provides the opportunity for you to have daily wins. If things go well one day, you feel you’ve succeeded in the game. It’s important to recognize the attraction you have to someone may not be anything more than a Curse tendency or preference. It’s very likely is not your real self being genuinely drawn to someone.
Their habit to self-obsess has Contestants tanking in the dating department. Whether it’s getting a guy interested or keeping him that way, The Contestant often sabotages her chances. This Curse has one goal in mind when it sits down in front of a man and that is to “wow” him and gain his approval. If the Contestant feels she has done a good job of impressing, she will deem the date a success. However, she doesn’t realize that while she’s busy thinking of new ways to dazzle her date and gain more interest, she’s oblivious to how the date is actually going.
This was the biggest reason Darcy had difficulty getting second dates. When she sat down with men, she not only talked too much, but she talked about things that were so centered on her own interests and so motivated by her own attention seeking nature that men quickly became bored with the conversation. Darcy repeatedly suffered from the most frequent effect of the Contestant Curse -when you spend most of your time thinking about yourself, you automatically spend most of your time talking about yourself.
If you asked her, Darcy would deny monopolizing any conversations. She knew to ask her dates questions and felt she did a good job inquiring about their lives. What she didn’t realize was as soon as the guy started talking, her Cursed mind immediately related whatever he was saying to her own experiences and opinions. “I have something to say about that!” she thought. Or, “I can impress him with this story!” Before her date could even finish completing a sentence, Darcy would jump in with her thoughts, leaving the guy feeling like she really didn’t care what he had to say. Even though she was going through the right motions, because her intention was coming from a self-absorbed place, she was never fully engaged as a listener, and therefore, never really engaged with any man she went out with. Paying attention to someone else, even someone she liked, was short and fleeting because her mind would always subconsciously wonder back to, “How can I show him I’m interesting”, or, “How do I get him to really fall for me?”
There are Contestants, however, have mastered dating and having guys pursue them. They have figured out how to play “the game” so guys initially fall hard for them. They are good at flirting, don’t answer texts too soon, and they know how to play a little hard to get. But just because they can skillfully maneuver the “getting him interested” phase, doesn’t mean they sail effortlessly into a serious relationship. They don’t. Many find it quite difficult, in fact, because they are only confident in the beginning stages of dating when the guy is in pursuit of them. If the chase slows, even for a brief second, they begin to question themselves as well as the guy’s feelings.
Betsy had a history of 2-3 month relationships. When she reached out to me for the first time it was because she had recently met someone she liked and was worried that his interest was starting to fade. When I asked her what signs she was getting that indicated a loss of interest, she said it was mostly a feeling that she was losing the upper hand. After two months of dating, she felt that her boyfriend wasn’t trying as hard to win her over as he did in the beginning. Even though he was still contacting her and asking to see her on a regular basis, she felt that he wasn’t paying as much attention to her anymore.
Normally when Betsy began feeling this way, her self-focused thoughts and emotions would take over. She would often start playing harder to get in order to provoke attention. In previous relationships, she would cancel plans to incite a fear of loss, or purposely flirt with someone else in order to make the guy jealous. She wanted to know what to do this time in order to make her boyfriend want her more and focus more attention on her.
What Betsy did not realize was that she was fighting the normal progression of any relationship. At some point, the chase must end so the real relationship can begin and true love can develop. I told her she needed to recognize that her focus in her relationships was concentrated on how much attention and reassurance she was getting from the guy and her attempts to incite jealousy or worry was all in order to feed this self-absorbed craving. It’s only natural that men will relax a little and be more themselves the longer you date them and that is a good thing. If you expect them to bring you flowers every week, plan lavish dates your whole life, or focus 100% attention on you everyday, you are not only signing up for major disappointment, you are going to drain your partner of all his energy and love for you. The truth was that the men Betsy dated were not truly losing interest like she assumed, she just didn’t understand the transition period from dating to a relationship. She didn’t know that eventually she had to stop making the man chase her and start giving back. Because she was Cursed, she perceived relaxed behavior on the guy’s part as disinterest and tried to stir up his emotions. She would spontaneously get mad at little things, or give him the cold shoulder so he would chase her again. Most guys interpreted these attention-getting attempts on her part as drama and backed away. In the end, it was simply Betsy’s hunger for attention that eventually caused men to lose interest and nothing else.
In the beginning, men don’t mind that the relationship is one-sided and they are expected to do all the heavy lifting, but as the relationship progresses over the course of a few weeks or months, they expect the relationship to balance out. After all, a relationship, and especially marriage, is a partnership and men are looking for potentially partners – someone who they can love but who will also genuinely love them back. They want someone who they can rely on and receive support from. Someone who will think about them. The Contestant is not a good candidate because she needs too much from him, and by comparison, gives very little in return.
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I just got off the phone with a writer from the Associated Press. She is doing an article about Online Dating and was interviewing me about my thoughts on why people should do it and how they can get the best results out of it. I chatted with her for about twenty minutes and hung up the phone thinking, “hmmm… did I give her any really good information?” As I was pondering this, an email popped up in my inbox from her. I opened it and was immediately startled. She wrote, “PS, This story is making me feel so bad! … Continue reading