Love is supposed to be the easiest thing in the world.
Meet a man you like, fall in love together, live happily ever after. Just human nature, isn’t it?
<cue the hysterical laughter!!>
Human nature is MESSY. Love screws things up as often as it fixes them.
We fall for inappropriate men. We say and do things we regret. We rarely get what we want.
Love is the Great Adventure…
And adventures are RISKY.
Love isn’t a vacation from real life, where nothing you do has consequences. It’s scary, and it can hurt you.
But maybe you’ve told a friend about your fears, and she’s laughed at you.
“You have to believe in yourself!” she says. “With that attitude, you won’t get anywhere.”
Or maybe, “Sure you’re not just afraid of commitment? Because that’s how it sounds.”
Call me crazy, but I don’t think it helps to be told that your fears are all in your head.
Women have had thousands of years of falling in love… and the lesson is not “Believe and everything will be okay.” The lesson is more like, “Be smart and make good decisions.”
So how can you be smart and make good decisions in love?
For one thing, you can avoid these three common traps…
Trap #1. You Fall Too Hard, Too Fast
Oh, the pain it causes when you fall too hard too fast for someone!
You like him SO much…
And you just know you’re getting yourself into trouble.
Now, I think you do know right away when you’ve met someone special. What you don’t know is whether you can create love together.
Many of us have been taught that, if you meet a man you feel THAT strongly about, you should do everything in your power to make sure you end up with him.
That’s what the dating game is about, isn’t it? Finding the right man and getting him to commit?
The man isn’t the goal. The goal is a relationship that makes you happy.
And the men that can create a happy relationship with you often look VERY different from the Prince Charming you imagined.
Imagine spotting a handsome man across the room. Your heart flutters when he smiles. Then he asks you to dance.
As you glide onto the dance floor, you find that you can’t settle into a rhythm. It’s awkward. You’re anxious, worried that you’re stepping on his toes.
You’re thrilled that everyone can see you dancing with such a handsome man, but you can’t relax. You can’t let down your guard. You’re always trying to anticipate what he wants you to do.
Does it matter that he’s gorgeous and perfect, if dancing with him makes you feel unsure of yourself?
A relationship is more than the sum of the two people involved. It’s what they create together.
So put aside his admirable qualities for the moment. Put aside the way you feel about him. Look squarely at what happens when the two of you are together.
Are your interactions full of mutual admiration and respect?
Is there affection and warmth?
Does he enjoy spending time with you even when there’s nothing in it for him?
When you disagree, what happens? Does he wall himself off? Does he become irritable? Or does he try to understand your point of view and find common ground?
Key point: Want to know whether your relationship has a future? Pay attention to conflict. A man who is not interested in the long-term won’t bother fixing problems. As far as he’s concerned, having any problems at all means you’re not “the perfect woman.”
Trap #2. You Don’t Know He’s Wrong Until It’s Too Late
Perhaps THE most important skill women can have in love is the ability to spot and end something that’s just not working.
But many of us are not very good at calling it off.
We don’t want to hurt his feelings. Maybe things will get better. What if this is our last chance at finding someone?
It’s a beautiful thing to respect other people’s feelings.
It’s a beautiful thing to have patience and let a relationship unfold in its own time.
But it’s hurtful to drag out a relationship that isn’t working.
Mismatched relationships can cause a lot of pain. Love usually makes the struggle worthwhile, but without the love there’s only betrayal and hurt and disappointment.
How can you avoid getting into a situation where you’ve overcommitted and are now scrambling to find a way to get out?
You institute a trial period.
Instead of jumping straight into a relationship with him, you go slowly. You test out a relationship first. You don’t give him everything. You give him a little and see how he handles it.
It’s not very romantic, to be sure.
Romances are full of women who trusted their life to a stranger and found love.
Real life, though, is full of women who gave a man their trust and found hurt.
The answer is not to never trust a man. The answer is to trust appropriately.
Good men know that love takes time. They enjoy the journey. They want to earn their place in your life.
Men with an agenda take away your choice. They freeze you out if you don’t agree to their terms. They don’t want to earn trust; they feel entitled to it.
Key point: Go little by little. Practice using your Circle of Trust.
Trap #3. You Can’t Say No
If I were to pick the trap that’s caused the most pain and suffering in my own life, it’s this one.
I find it REALLY hard to say no.
Because of this, I’ve ended up in relationships I didn’t really want, just because a man was persistent and persuasive.
If a man I wasn’t keen on asked me out, I couldn’t turn him down. Instead I told myself, “Well, if he’s that interested in me, maybe there’s something there that I’m missing.”
I’d grown up understanding that men picked women. Women only got to choose among the men who already threw their hat in the ring.
Thankfully, those rare times that I did go after a man I liked, it worked out wonderfully.
I came to learn that my yes was important.
It was better for me to pursue a man I liked—but didn’t know if he liked me back—than to go out with a man who was interested in me just because it was easier.
Today, I know that the magic happens when I ask myself what I want.
What do I really want?
Not what’s easiest.
Not what’s most convenient.
Not what’s safest.
But what I truly, deep in my bones, know is right for me.
Key point: Get good at letting men down. You’ll find some ways to do that here.