A young woman recently contacted me to ask about a new love interest. They had been talking, on and off, for less than a month – and she was anxious to know if he was really attracted to her and if she should trust him. She was, she concluded, incredibly confused – whilst I was deafened and blinded by the roar of a dozen, furiously flapping red flags. Whoa, girl, stop right there – and think again!
I won’t go into detail, except to say that there was nothing respectful or caring in this man’s approach and attitude. It was all about him and all on his terms – and the potential for emotional abuse was frightening. However, it appeared that she didn’t see it that way… exactly. She kind of concurred with some of what I had to say – but still, I could feel the resistance in her response, and I suspected that she wasn’t entirely convinced that this was one to let go of. Of course, what a customer chooses to do with their consultation is entirely up to them and none of my business; nevertheless, I was perturbed by what she wasn’t seeing and hearing, and by her apparent subservience. He’d made it clear what he wanted, and what he was and wasn’t willing to do – all delivered with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude – and she was concerned about whether or not he really liked her and found her attractive. All of the power lay in his hands – and he was using it like an expert.
So, what causes an attractive, intelligent woman to hand over the control of her feelings of self-worth to a virtual stranger? It is a scenario I have seen played out again and again throughout the years – and have even been guilty of it myself, in the distant past. What leads us to willingly enter into such a dynamic – as if we are desperate (and oh, how angrily we react to anyone who dares to even suggest that that despicable word applies to us!)? Well, the answer has to be: our programming and our emotions.
Behind every love interest lies a human being. A human being of whom we have only limited understanding. And the word that is most commonly used by most people when talking about the one they have become infatuated with is connection – an almost entirely emotional concept. Through conversation, we develop a basic framework of knowledge about the object of our desire – and our keen imagination fills in the gaps… enthusiastically assisted by our emotions and the way in which we have come to view romantic relationships. Romantic connection is subjective, and not automatically loving or healthy. A lot of what influences and motivates us comes from within our unconscious mind, meaning that we are not always aware of exactly what it is in the other person that we are responding to. For example, the young woman I have been speaking about clearly wasn’t attracted to a smooth-talking or even considerate love interest. There was something else going on. Without giving too much away, I’d hazard a guess that she has probably been programmed (albeit unconsciously) to accept the domineering, alpha male as ‘normal’. And she quickly adopted the subservient role, worrying more about whether or not he found her attractive and likeable, rather than questioning his – quite frankly – aggressive, chest-beating approach. She wasn’t seeing the human being behind the texts and phone calls – she was seeing only a potential partner. And this is, I am afraid, a very, very common practice in the world of dating. We are willing to overlook things that should be giving us serious cause for concern, in order to maintain the ‘future partner’ narrative. We’ve decided who that person really is, regardless of what we are actually hearing and seeing, and we’re open to anything that confirms our hoped-for outcome (confirmation bias), whilst ignoring that which doesn’t. The problem is, as I’ve already said, that it is very possible to be attracted to negative traits as powerfully as we are to positive traits – without even realising it. Our emotions are wonderful things – but they can also be our biggest enemy, especially when we too readily hand over the reins to them!
I don’t often advise a customer to run as fast as they can in the opposite direction from a love interest. It usually isn’t necessary. Even when I am intuitively ‘reading’ the POI and predicting that I cannot see a long-term relationship developing, I almost always suggest that they bear in mind what I have said whilst continuing to take the actions that they deem appropriate – to discover for themselves whether or not my intuitive interpretation is starting to make sense. And so many times I am not telling them anything that they don’t already know, deep down inside – though it never hurts to have an objective assessment from a neutral, outside source. Of course, resistance is never in short supply – as you might imagine! The heart can so easily override the head. Nevertheless, in the end, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating! It’s the eventual outcome that counts, not what is hoped for.
Going back to the question – why do attractive, intelligent women give their heart and their personal power away so easily to virtual strangers? – I believe that there are a number of reasons. And, as insulting as it sounds, desperation is one of them. Maybe we haven’t been in a relationship for what feels like forever, and we’re starting to suspect that we aren’t worth loving and therefore are never going to find a partner. And then this person comes along, showing a modicum of interest in us – and all of a sudden we’ve got something to lose. If we can’t make this work it’ll prove what we feared – and we’ll be back to square one. Using a metaphorical microscope, we seek out every little sign that this person is potentially ‘the one’ – and before we know it we’ve invested far too much, way too soon… in a person who is largely a product of our own imagination.
Another reason is that we’re stuck in a loop, repeating patterns. Our POI is, despite initial appearance, of the same cut as those who have gone before – and we don’t recognise it because we aren’t aware that our unconscious programming has clicked in. Just because they present themselves in a particular way does not make it authentic. For example, we might have a habit of being attracted to aggressive, uncompromising men, and believe that we’ve finally found someone who is calm and easy-going – because that’s how they come across. It is only when, further down the line, we’re spending more time around that person under normal, everyday circumstances, and discover that we’ve attracted a replica of our ex, or even a mix of the entire last batch of frustrating love interests. What we believed we were responding to wasn’t what we thought it was – it was just our old unconscious patterns at play.
Possibly the most painful reason that smart, independent-minded women end up in overly analytical and intense situations with love interests is that they have become battle-weary and defeated. I’ve seen it happen, again and again, where thoroughly decent females, who would make loyal and loving partners, are treated in a completely disrespectful way by obviously inadequate, emotionally-stunted men. And that isn’t an angry female rant, by the way. I’ve sighed with frustration at the many young women I’ve worked with throughout the years who are seeking commitment within mere weeks of associating with a guy, even though they haven’t physically met… so it isn’t all one-sided. But it doesn’t negate the behaviour of too many males who seem to believe that the internet is their flirting/sexual playground and that attractive women are there purely for their entertainment and gratification. Of course, women themselves must accept some of the responsibility – as they say, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. And they know this because they beat themselves up every time they fall for the patter of a love interest who turns out to be either a game player or completely different to their own projection. A woman’s self-confidence and self-worth rapidly nose dive when she’s had this kind of experience several times; she begins to doubt herself and her own judgement. And then she finds herself clinging to love interests she might normally avoid, desperate to heal the past wrongs and reclaim her battered self-esteem.
So, what’s the answer? How do we prevent ourselves from turning into that desperate, pattern-repeating, battle-scarred seeker of love? By getting to see the human being who exists behind the love interest facade. Which takes time. And patience. The young woman who claimed to be confused by her not-so-impressive POI did something sensible; she refused to meet in person until she’d gotten to know him better. He, on the other hand, was pushing to meet up quickly so that he could decide if he liked her (well, to decide if they liked each other, he said – but from all else that had been expressed it was clear to me that it was pretty one-sided). I have never advised anyone to allow an online relationship to carry on indefinitely before meeting up- that’s usually a bad sign. However, circumstances vary, and if the red flags are flying and the warning bells are ringing, cautiousness is key. And let’s face it, if a love interest is already showing dubious signs via text or phone calls, they’re unlikely to suddenly transform into the perfect partner in the flesh!
Each situation should be judged in its own right, but still, basic rules apply. If your POI continuously talks about themselves (a complaint I’ve heard from a lot of women) and shows little interest in your life or what makes you tick, are they the kind of partner you’d really want? If they talk very little about themselves and insist on turning the conversation back to you, is it possible that they are hiding something? If they moan a lot about an ex, or how hard their life is, are you nothing more to them than a sounding board to them? And can you imagine yourself stuck in a life with this self-pitying individual? Do they have similar values to yourself, such as having a job, goals, and aspirations – or are they scraping their way through life, making one excuse after another? Are they overtly sexual in their communications? Do they promise to text or call at a certain time and then fail to do so, regularly? Do they express their opinions with anger and judgement, or take offence easily? Do they dismiss or belittle your own opinions or plans? Have they made arrangements to meet up and then cancelled them, more than once? Do they blow hot and cold, either messaging you constantly, or ignoring you for days? Have you been speaking for months and months on end, without them showing an ounce of interest in meeting up? All of these are alerts that you should be paying attention to when engaging with a love interest, especially one that is largely or wholly conducted online. And I know – it sounds like a whole lot of hard work, and why does it have to be that way? Why can’t people just be reasonable and decent and true to who they really are? I wish I had an honest, hopeful answer – but I haven’t. Except to say that love is still alive and kicking, and that people are meeting their compatible partners, out there in this complex, deflection-filled world – and that you should never give up believing that there is someone out there with whom you can end up creating a mutually supportive future. It might be tomorrow, next week, next month, next year – or even further down the line. In the meantime, take good care of yourself and your life, and don’t waste valuable time and energy in unnecessary ways, and on people who are clearly too much like hard work or simply not to be trusted. And always, always, look for the human being behind the love interest; your heart and your personal power are far too precious to be given away to a stranger.