Angela, a 31-year-old graphic designer, is clear on who she wants for a partner. After dating, school, and now creating a successful career, she is ready to start a family.
Angela is now speaking what she feels and wants. The personal development work she started after leaving college freed her from many of the binds her family put on her.
All her previous dating taught her a lot – particularly what she didn’t want. Now, she has created a detailed list of what she wants and what she doesn’t want in a man. She has run her list by her friends – they know her well, and they helped her tweak it.
Like many women, Angela wants a man who will cherish her, support her success, and be committed to her – and his own – personal development.
The first pitfall
From working with women, and speaking with women who assist women, I’ve learned that just like men, women can sabotage themselves. You use your list as a gatekeeper, and nothing will get past that fence unless it meets the standards of the list. You won’t let your “irrational emotions” get you in trouble once again. Sticking to what you want is your guarantee to being happy, right? So no matter how much you want him, if he’s not “right for you,” if he doesn’t match that list, you will walk away.
Ladies, being clear on what you want is always good. But don’t make your list the bouncer who says no to most men. You may be safe, but you are less likely to be happy.
We all fear the chaos of the heart. We fear when our rational mind will be overwhelmed by our emotions, sexual desires, and our past weakness. I know from hundreds of other men and myself that we want our heads to determine what is the right action or person rather than trusting we can keep showing up vulnerable AND speak our feelings and wants.
The true power of a woman doesn’t lie in your ability to articulate your list of what you want; it lies in your ability to focus on what is behind the details of the list. What are the values, qualities, and feelings that would generate those details?
Much of the work I do with men and women starts with helping them get clear on what they want. But to feel and express what is behind what we THINK we want opens us up.
That is scary at first. We spend a lot of time and energy protecting those sacred places in us. The innocence of a child was not always honored; we discovered ways to protect that innocence. Yet, it’s that innocence and vulnerability that causes another to fall in love with us. They can respect our intellect. They can admire our accomplishments. They can envy our possessions. It’s our willingness to be open that opens them. It’s that opening that helps them love.
Usually, instead of opening up, we do that third trauma response when we can’t run or fight when under stress—we freeze. We become that deer in the headlights unable to speak or move. Our hope is our list will prevent us from getting into those difficult situations.
We believe our list will limit those situations. Write your list, then ask yourself what’s behind those specific traits. Lose the attachment to the details; go for what it would feel like in your body to be with a man who has those deep qualities and values that could manifest the details on your list.
The second pitfall
Now that you have a man who has those deeper qualities and he is committed to something bigger than just dating, receive. Keep surrendering. I’m not saying be weak or quiet. I’m saying be vulnerable. Let the man be a man.
Men want to take charge. They want to do things for you. They want to be your hero. They want to give love through action. Yes, we can overdo it when we jump in to fix your emotional crisis when all you really need is to be heard. But just give your man a chance.
Your willingness to receive will change the dynamics of the relationship. It might save it. Some women open up like a flower; others freeze.
This freezing may happen without a man doing men’s work. It might occur from a man just consistently showing up. After years of other men flaking out, a man hangs in—that can be scary for a woman. Even though it’s what she said she wanted, being able to fully open to receive it is a new demand. It feels like a lot is at risk.
You may be hurt more than ever before because you opened up more than ever before. That’s the risk. You will never get to what you really want unless you take that risk. You may grieve if the relationship ends, but you won’t have regret for holding back. Grief leaves, regret lingers until you change how you show up.
Angela began to realize her list was right on as a list, but it was also too limiting. She used her clarity to allow her to evoke what she really wanted in a man. When she met Tim, it was immediate love and hot passion. Tim got her… he loved her for who she was. That kept melting Angela. She couldn’t have imagined such joy.
Without noticing, Angela would slowly withdraw and withhold. Tim supported her in having that space. Gradually Tim started asking what was up. First Angela said nothing—she wasn’t even aware of anything. Then she started seeing Tim’s imperfections. She started finding reasons not to be with him. Work became more demanding. There were many legitimate reasons not to be with Tim.
One day Angela woke up knowing that Tim wasn’t The One. She needed to put her focus on her business. Tim was dumb-founded. He didn’t see that coming. For him it was one of those ‘chick flicks” playing out, without the couple getting back together.
Surrender to getting what you want
Let your list focus on what is underneath the details. Open up and communicate your feelings and needs. Then when your man shows up as an emotionally intelligent man, receive him. You deserve the relationship you want. Do what women do so well; keep opening like a beautiful flower on a warm summer day. Many good men want to receive your full beauty — let them.