Dear Neil: I have always blamed the men I was with for things not working out. They weren’t right, didn’t treat me well, etc. The last man I was with expressed to me that he didn’t know what to do with his life and what he wanted. This man was not only directionless, he was also depressed. I convinced myself that it would just take a large dose of me—my care, my charm, my loving arms to get him back on track.
While you’re not responsible for saving him from his mid-life crisis, you are responsible for the partners you choose. If we ourselves are ambivalent about being in a committed relationship, we will attract ambivalent men. Stable men have never been able to light my fire the way a kindred free spirit can. I am attracted to men who are flighty or unstable, but hope with my influence they can be somewhat domesticated. Am I someone who is hopeful that the emotionally unavailable will become available? Perhaps the word “hopeful” isn’t appropriate—and delusional is. For women who say that they are ready to settle down and are emotionally available, why even bother with men you cannot accept as they already are?
Sometimes we tell ourselves this is a temporary situation. We’re just having a good time and we won’t get emotionally involved. How could a few weekends of romance, scintillating conversation and steamy sex have any effect on us? Once your brain turns on again you’ll be able to straighten the creases in your dress, brush your hair out of your face and calmly walk away. Let’s face it. Few of us, even with lots of experience—dodge that train.
Disillusioned in Denver
Dear Disillusioned: If you’re searching for an emotionally available man to commit to, and you chose good-looking free spirits who are flighty and unstable—you are asking for serious heartbreak. Unstable people first have to get themselves stable before they can truly commit to a relationship—and that could take a long time.
Why would you be drawn to such men? They are emotionally safe, and they offer you a challenge, which is another way of saying that you get excited by the possibility of taking an emotionally unavailable man and making him wild about you, totally committed to you, completely yours. But such “challenges” are destined to make you feel defeated, cynical, jaded and angry, because typically, emotionally unavailable people remain unavailable no matter what you do, and no matter how caring and loving you may be. There are reasons people are emotionally unavailable, and those reasons—largely as a result of childhood experiences—have nothing to do with you.
Why don’t you find a man who wants you and who is looking to settle down, and then resist the temptation to reject him, push him away or find him inadequate?
Before you give up on men and romance, look at what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, which also likely has roots with someone in your childhood who wasn’t there for you or who seriously let you down. The problem isn’t men. It’s the type of men you’re choosing.