In the past couple weeks I’ve had two spectacular clients realize they’re falling in love with the men they are dating. I’m thrilled for them because each of their guys is one of The Good Guys. They are confident, smart and emotionally generous, and they are seriously looking for life partners. These two men, like my husband, knew very early on that they made a great match. These two, like my husband, instigated the move to a committed relationship. (Do you see a pattern here?)
Along with the thrill of meeting a loving man with whom they feel safe, both these gals — one age 57 and the other 45 — seem to be coupling this wonderful discovery with angst. When “Jean” emailed me last night freaking out because her man hadn’t called, I finally had to give her a virtual smack upside the head. (Her words.) This was the third night in a row that I got such an email from her. And, lo and behold, the other two times he texted and called her later that night or first thing the next morning.
This guy has been in touch with her every day since they connected online. He has always done what he says he is going to do. On several occasions he has gone way out of his way to see her. For goodness sake, he asked her if they could both take their profiles down! In the world of online dating, that’s equivalent to asking her to date him exclusively!
Jean was exhausting herself and on her way to creating the very situation she feared: that dreaded rejection. I get it because I lived it for about 30 years before I got married at 47. But I finally learned to keep things in perspective and grab my grownup girl in times like these. I told Jean to grab her 18 year old and tell her that she is not needed in this situation. She should take her toys and go home.
Here is the email I got from Jean this morning:
Thanks, i needed that (insert imaginary slap in the face here). I AM acting like an 18yo. WTF? The guy texted me at 630 this a.m. just to say hi. When will I learn? BTW, there is a special place in heaven for you.
So…in honor of Jean and all you who seem to be paralyzed or exhausted by the fear of rejection, this is for you:
Remember when you were a child and the doctor gave you a shot…and you screamed your bloody head off? You probably started to cry before the needle even touched your arm and, even though it only hurt for a second, continued to cry for minutes after. Now seriously…did it really hurt that much? Of course not.
Fast forward 30, 40, or 50 years and think about how horrible you feel when a man you like doesn’t show interest, doesn’t show up or drops you like a hot potato. Ouch! That feels crappy. But I ask you: Does it really hurt that much?
Here’s what I say about that: Girlfriend, you have slain way worse dragons in your life than a man not returning your interest. You have overcome enormous challenges in your life that dwarf the experience of being rejected by a man, especially one you barely know.
I honestly think we girls like the drama and, sadly, some of us learn to be a victim. It starts with the shot as a child when that mean man is coming at us with a needle. It continues through our teenage years when a stupid boy doesn’t like us or our mean girlfriends exclude us. We feel such pain. It haunts us as we move into our adulthood and, try as we might, the man-thing isn’t working. (I felt a ton of sadness and cried many tears in my 20s and 30s. I just didn’t tell anyone.) This angst and feeling of helplessness can seem endless for some of us. It’s kinda what some of us girls do.
We can choose not to be that woman. We can be responsible and take some control of our emotions and, therefore, our lives. Here’s part of what I told Jean:
You aren’t crazy, but you’re acting like an 18 year old. You are going down the rabbit hole, and it’s very dangerous. Remember your goal and the reality of this situation. This is exactly how we ruin potentially great relationships. Take a deep breath and grab that grownup girl. Remember her? The one who up until a month ago was just fine without a man in her life?
So next time you find yourself moving into that place — the I’ll never find anyone, I thought he might be the one, I liked him so much, I’ll be alone the rest of my life place — stop! Switch off your young girl and reach for your grownup intelligent, experienced, highly competent woman. Ask yourself: Is it true that I’m being rejected, or could I be making it up? (Is the needle even coming at me?) Is this really such a big deal in relation to my life? (Does it really hurt that much?) Then, give your pain the brief audience it deserves and move the heck on.
Oh, and one more thing: that shot was good for you in the long run. I can make the same case for that relationship gone bad or the one that never got off the ground. Every one of these gives you practice and more experience with knowing yourself and what you want and don’t want in a man and a relationship. Like that shot, it hurts for only one split second. And when the real pain goes away, you are better for the experience.
PS: I love you, Jean! You are an amazing woman, and congratulations for the work you’ve done to get you to this place in your life!