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.
Things aren’t good. In fact, they are really, really bad between you two. The love and companionship you once had seems like a thing of the past and now your days are filled with arguments, tears, and misunderstandings. Maybe you’ve tried for so long that you are almost ready to give up, or perhaps you are afraid that the one you love might give up on you. What I know is that most couples who want to stay together make a consorted effort to do so, however, the things they try are usually ineffective.
Since communication is key to any healthy, happy relationship, most end up failing not due to lack of love but lack of understanding, empathy, and appreciation. And it’s not necessarily because we don’t possess those things, but because we don’t effectively communicate them to each other.
I’ve compiled a list of the 5 most important phrases that can turn around even the most broken of relationships.
1. How Can I Help?
When is the last time you said these words to your partner? Maybe you’ve been so caught up in having him or her do things for you that you haven’t thought about what you can do for them. This phrase is especially helpful if you use it at the very time you feel yourself about to get into yet another argument because your boy/girlfriend is in a bad mood and taking it out on you. Imagine that he comes home from a long day, doesn’t greet you with open arms, and immediately jumps down your throat for something trivial because he’s just had it with crappy job, shitty boss, or anything that is unrelated to you. You could get your panties in a bunch, defend yourself and retort with some snide come back, or you can recognize that his bad attitude is actually a cry for help.
2. What Would You Like Me To Do or Say?
Said honestly and not sarcastically, this statement can save you a ton of time and frustration. Most of the time we think we are hearing people accurately (when we are not) and then we decide on what action to take based on that inaccurate assessment (which ends up doing nothing for them.) To get to the point, and start making positive changes right away, just ask your partner what they need from you instead of guessing.
3. You’re Right.
I find this phrase is more effective than the ever-popular “I’m Sorry.” It may be because “I’m sorry” is over-used, or sometimes said half-heartedly, but “You’re Right” hardly ever goes wrong. The key with these two words is, again, in timing. When your partner is telling you how they feel, citing places where you could improve, don’t jump to point your finger back at them and start listing examples of where they, too, could improve. Instead just sit there, listen, and say, “Your Right.” This is usually so disarming that it stuns the other person into softening up immediately. Then, you can have your turn to vent your frustrations.
4. I appreciate that you…
This one speaks for itself. It’s been said by numerous experts that the number one reason people leave relationships or cheat on their spouses is lack of appreciation, not lack of love. So how important do you think it is to actually say the words, “I appreciate”? Yeah, pretty important. It doesn’t matter what it is that you appreciate either… emptying the dishwasher, sending a sweet text, remembering an important date, whatever it is, just tell the one you love that you appreciate their efforts.
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I had an interesting conversation this weekend with a friend of mine. We were coming home from a wedding shower, and as we were weaving through the city, we began to discuss the topic of, what else, relationships. More specifically, the bad ones. We began to chat about why people get into them, why they won’t get out of them, and how powerless we feel as friends watching the people we love slowly die inside because of them. There have been many times I’ve been confided in about a friends’ relationship, and it’s very difficult to hear how much of a selfish jerk a guy is one day, but such a sweetheart the very next. Recently I’ve refrained from giving my two cents about anything unless asked. It does no good to speak out if the person is not ready to listen. The writing is on the wall and me reading it to them just doesn’t seem to make any impact. Speaking of writing…
As this friend and I sat in traffic, she started telling me an interesting story about her cousin, Amy. Amy apparently fell in love and got married to a real asshole. She was twenty-four years old at the time. He was a charmer, and very good looking, but he had a moody and depressed side that he often took out on her. Whenever he was asked to do something out of his routine, he’d throw a tantrum and completely shut down. He’d retreat into their bedroom, locking the door and ignoring her for days at a time. He blew everything out of proportion and blamed Amy for being insensitive and selfish. Every fight was turned around on her. They of course had their good days, but they couldn’t go a stretch of two months without having a nuclear meltdown.
My friend tried to talk her cousin out of marrying this guy, but once she decided to take the plunge and do it anyway, my friend backed off completely and tried to be supportive. Throughout the years she listened to her cousin rant one minute, but rave the next. All the while keeping to herself, not saying a word, and trying to be optimistic. Finally after five years of marriage, her cousin told her, out of the blue one day at lunch, that she was filing for divorce.
What or who finally convinced her to get out? You may be surprised by the answer. Since she was twelve, Amy had kept a diary. For the last five years she had written in it less frequently than she used to, but tried to keep important thoughts and feelings documented throughout her life. One night after a huge fight with her husband she sat down on her bed to record her feelings. As she finished her final thoughts, she began flipping back through the previous pages. What she read hit her like a ton of bricks. The last one hundred and twenty pages were filled with nothing but sorrow. She read the same words over and over again. How he was mean, how he promised to be better, how she hoped he would be. But sitting on her bed reading this after five years, she finally realized nothing would ever change. He wouldn’t be better next time. He’d be the same as he always was before, and it took her listening to her self for 124 pages to finally get that.
A lot of women have told me that giving birth is an excruciatingly painful experience, and if they didn’t forget what it was like over time, they probably wouldn’t have any more than just one child. I think that we can apply this same theory to bad relationships. After your boyfriend or husband tells you he’s sorry and makes amends with you, you begin to forget how awful he treated you and how hurt you were. The memory of that pain dissipates and you are renewed with hope and possibility. Until the next time…
This story of my friend’s cousin has given me a great idea. Because most people turn a deaf ear to outside advice, what better idea is there than to keep a journal of your own relationship? That way instead of hearing your mom, best friend, or even your dating coach tell you how bad things are, you can now hear it straight from the horses mouth (yes, the horse is you.) We often don’t want to hear that we should leave someone we love, or that things will never change. We want to disregard advice that tells us there is no hope. But it’s different if you see and hear your own words over time and realize that you are in an unending cycle that keeps repeating itself. I now think keeping a diary is not only for nostalgia, but a powerful tool that can help you to make good decisions for yourself throughout your life.
If you are currently in a volatile or unstable relationship (meaning one day everything is great, but the next day the sky is falling) then it may be time to start your own journal. Start to write down your feelings and your thoughts about your significant other. Keep track of the good and bad times. Try to be specific because when you go back and read a year later, you will barely remember the experience. I think this can be a very valuable tool for us women and will prompt us and encourage us to take more action when action is necessary. You may not like hearing your friends tell you he’s not the one for you, but you may just heed a warning coming from yourself.
For more advice on relationships, check out my book You Lost Him at Hello, or Was It Something I Said? or sign up for a personal consulting session. Follow me on Twitter @iamjessmccann Continue reading
When a girl likes a guy, she will put up with a lot. Flaking on phone calls, cancelling plans, and even dropping hints that a long term relationship may not be in the cards. Every day I receive emails from women who are desperately seeking advice on how to deal with the object of their affection and frustration. While I can give tips and techniques on how to get him to initiate more texts, or how to have that relationship talk, the real question here is why do so many women want to be in a relationship with someone who constantly frustrates and disappoints them?
1. You Only Really Like The Outside. He may be 6’2, drive a Benz, and have a wicked cute smile, but he also cancels at the last minute, waits days to call, and keeps you on edge at all times. You want him, but you also can’t stand him and that is because you are smitten with the exterior package he portrays. Sure, he’s good looking, charming, and funny, but those are all surface level qualities and what matters most when deciding to get involved with a man is his core character. Is he a man of his word? Is he someone who puts others first? Does he treat all people with the same respect? Most importantly, how does he make you feel when you’re with him? As I talk about in my book, Was It Something I Said?: The Answer to All Your Dating Dilemmas, these are the more important things to consider, so when you are frustrated by your guy, ask yourself if what’s going on here is that you love the outside but hate what’s inside? Even though you may be wildly attracted to him now, after a few years of being with a man who lacks character, you won’t care how cute his butt looks in those jeans. You won’t be able to stand the sight of him.
2. He’s A Prize To Be Won. You’ve already invested a few months and although things aren’t exactly going well, you’ll be damned if you give up and walk away now. But your quest to officially land him has become more about validating yourself than it is about finding true love. When we get involved with people who are selfish or unreliable (for example) it make us question are worth. It shouldn’t, because it’s not our fault a guy lacks character, but for some reason we tell ourselves that if he liked us more, he’d behave better. So getting him to change his ways is secretly about regaining our own self-image. If we get him to like us, we think we’ll feel confident again. Sadly, however, it’s not only a lost cause because a leopard doesn’t change his spots, but when we put our self-worth in anyone’s hands but our own, it will never be safe.
3. You’re addicted To “Wanting” A Relationship. Yes, it is a real addiction just like drugs, alcohol, or designer shoe shopping. You can become addicted to wanting a relationship. Therefore you subconsciously pick people that will never give you one, and reject people that you know want one from you! After years of riding the relationship roller coaster with men, you’ve become addicted to the high’s and low’s. The safe, stable, ground seems boring and uninteresting to you. Unfortunately, real love does not feel like your riding Magic Mountain, so if you keep chasing the “wanting” feeling, you’ll never get to the real good stuff.
If you are only attracted to the wrong types of guys and constantly find yourself never satisfied with your relationships, it may be time to seek professional advice. You can contact me through my website for personal coaching, or you can pick up my two books on Amazon or at any book store.
The photo above is provided by Freedigitalphotos.net/By marin, published on 11 November 2012 Stock photo – image ID: 100112062
[caption id="attachment_1685" align="alignleft" width="138"] Was It Something I Said? By Jess McCann[/caption] Continue reading