My name is Scott and I’m a clinical therapist. I, or someone like me, has probably counseled a handful of women you may have thought about dating. For various reasons most of my clients are heterosexual females, often in their late thirties and forties, in the midst of trying to figure out a relationship which has turned into a convoluted mess and broken their heart. Many of these women eventually decide that it is not worth spending the rest of their lives with an emotionally stunted and rapidly aging guy who does not seem prepared to do what it takes to win them back. They complain that their partner is emotionally lazy, only makes small and temporary changes, and does not understand them nor seem to want to. They have been deeply hurt, and often. Some of these women will eventually show up at an office like mine. They have been scarred by a bad history and a bad relationship and carry emotional and psychological baggage. By the time they get to my door they, for a myriad of emotional reasons, struggle to make healthy decisions when it comes to the people they date. They are the newly single, or the suffering spouse, the newly hurt.
Many of these women do not last long in the dating market before they are snatched up again. Many fall prey to the first or second guy who listens to them and seems to understand their pain. We are smarter than you think and many men have learned to be the man you are looking for, at least while you are still newly infatuated. Many women, at least in my experience, do not see the warning signs and fall for someone who is either much like the past losers who have let them down or has manipulated. When you are hurting, lonely, and emotional it is tempting to go too far too fast and before you know it you are physically and emotionally too invested to simply walk away.
Counselors are tempted to spend their time pleading with clients not to jump into another relationship while they are still unhealthy. We warn vulnerable clients how crucial it is that they not date just because they need someone else to complete them or fill that hole in their heart.
So before you decide to approach my client at the bar, the grocery aisle, or in the church foyer, there are some things you need to know:
1. She is more vulnerable than you know. As you are no doubt aware the single life is hard to adjust to when you have been with one person for years, and most of us are desperately lonely at first. This is, however, only part of the problem. She has been with someone who has not met her emotional needs for years and is prone to misinterpret your affections. She also has a heart brimming with disappointment and self-recrimination and THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING. You may not know it right now but you deserve an emotionally healthy girlfriend who will not use you to mend that hole in her heart. If you really want to impress this girl don’t be afraid to take it slow and platonic, Give her time to heal, you’ll be glad you did.
2. Most of my clients are not ready to date. People who engage and pay for therapy are usually dealing with crippling issues and are in no way whole or objective. That is the reason they are seeing me in the first place. People dealing with crushing fear, anxiety, depression, loss, loneliness, self-esteem issues, etc. are not ready to be in a healthy relationship and are too vulnerable (see #1) to make long-term or binding decisions. Their heart is often broken and I am telling them, “Don’t date until you don’t need to”. Respect that and if necessary protect her from herself – keep things “hands off” until she is emotionally healthy.
3. This person is not who you are going to end up with. The very idea of therapy is to change the way we cope with life and define ourselves and our world. She is telling you that she is seeing a counselor for a reason, even if she doesn’t fully comprehend why. We are working together to create a very different life and the woman you see before you right now is only a transitional entity that is endeavoring to look at life differently. Don’t be surprised if the girl you are interested in changes and becomes healthy enough not to need you to define her. THAT IS A GOOD THING. In spite of what you may think you do not want to be with a broken and needy person. We are working to create a strong and independent person who does not need you, though she may wish to date you. This person is in a state of becoming and if you fall for her because of how she is now you are likely to be disappointed later on. If you are attracted to her neediness, for example, how will you feel if she gets better and doesn’t want you as much? Wanting you is one thing, needing you is another. Chances are the woman you see before you is very little like the one you are going to end up with.
4. Please do not exploit her sexually. Many people in transition are willing to do things that they would otherwise not even consider. Be a real man and protect her, even from herself. Many of my clients have come from conservative backgrounds and are not sexual athletes, in spite of what they are trying to project. Most of the women have not been nurtured or honored sexually in a very long time, if ever. Be gentle with her heart. Many of us give a piece of our heart away when we give our body to someone else. It’s very easy to misinterpret our need for love and touch. Many people in therapy need a hand to hold much more than a body to fondle. Please try to remember that.
5. They are not choosing you because you are the best candidate. We all know that people who are newly single are on the rebound. This is not just and old wives tale and some of those old wives were pretty spot on. Needy people pick others to love based on a set of criteria which is not healthy and may not lead to a healthy and lasting relationship. The best relationships start out as friends first so get to know this amazing woman first before you decide to buy her flowers and try to touch her candies. The more you realize that she is making choices that are not necessarily objective, the more you will come to understand that she may be choosing you for the wrong reasons. This is information you need.
6. They might fall for you too soon (and too hard). This is based on a sound psychological principle that when we are in a vulnerable or transitional state we are prone to exercise something called “cognitive distortions”. People dealing with major issues employ all or nothing thinking, emotional reasoning, and other cognitive distortions that are coping mechanisms we employ when we are stressed, anxious, uncertain, biased, and hurting. Think of it this way, would you let someone who is suicidal take care of your children? Why not?
The logical answer is no, you would not do that because that person is not thinking or acting rationally. They are, in point of fact, mentally unstable and before we all became politically correct we would have labelled such thinking and behaviour “insane”. That beautiful woman who is sending you all the right signals off-handedly mentioned earlier that she is going through a messy divorce and is struggling emotionally. This is a red flag. Emotionally damaged and hurting people rarely have healthy boundaries and tend to jump too far, too fast. If you really are interested in my client then back off and respect her boundaries that she has worked so hard putting in place.
7. You deserve someone who is not a massive “work in process”. The whole point of this article has been to help us understand that hurting and vulnerable people need therapy, not a date. If you have been dating for any time you already know that the scene is full of needy and broken people looking to find someone to fix them or love them enough to fill their emotional craters. Unless you are simply looking for a good time you owe it to yourself to be discerning when it comes to whom you will date. Good looks fade but a big dose of crazy can last a lifetime. It is far better to be alone, in spite of how it feels right now, than to be with someone who hurts you, drives you over the bend, or simply does not get you. You owe it to yourself to date someone whom you believe has it more together than you do, not less.
Day after day vulnerable, wonderful women sit in counseling offices all over the world and ask if there really is a guy out there who will meet their needs. There isn’t and you aren’t him. Healthy relationships start with healthy people making healthy decisions. Life is hard enough with the right person and I need the best odds I can get. Knowing my wife is here everyday because she is healthy enough to choose to love me, in spite of who I am, is the best esteem booster I have ever known.
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