Dear Neil: My life experience proves that all men are alike: they all disappoint me in the end. So why try to have a good relationship with one? There’s no sense in getting close to a man, because he’s going to leave me eventually. In my last relationship, I wanted to know everything he did when he was away from me. I figured that my jealousy proved how much I cared for him, but that didn’t matter either.
I am who I am, and that’s who I’ve always been. Even when I’ve tried to be different, I’ve always ended up in the same place, even though I don’t really want to be where I am. Nothing I do seems to make any difference, and now so many years are gone, it feels like it’s way too late. Can you help me with where I’ve gone wrong with men? I have lost all hope, but I am only 31, and I would like to believe differently.
Given Up in Florida
Dear Florida: You have fallen into several mind traps, and that’s in part why you’re feeling so hopeless. Let me recount the mind traps you just described:
- The “I can’t change” trap. I am who I’ve always believed I am. There’s no use trying to be different.
- The “Seen one, seen ’em all” trap. My experience proves that all men/women are alike. I know they’ll disappoint me in the long run. There’s no sense getting close, because it won’t work out in the end.
- “Stuck without choices” trap: I have to be where I am, doing what I’m doing—even though I don’t really want to be.
- “Cynicism” trap. Nothing I or anyone else does makes any real difference. Life always disappoints.
- “It’s too late” trap. What’s the use of trying to change? I’ve already wasted too much time and I’d probably fail anyway. If I somehow were to become successful, I’d hate myself for not having started earlier.
- The “Jealousy” trap. I’m afraid you’ll leave me for someone else. I want to know everything you do while you’re away from me. My jealousy proves how attached I am to you.
These mind traps, described in Tom Rusk’s book Get Out of Your Own Way (Hay House Inc. Publishers), are all self-defeating attitudes that keep us stuck in familiar ruts. He says that people fall into these traps by believing they’re worthless and destined to fail regardless of what they do. As a result, it’s easy to go to self-sabatoging attitudes generated by self-doubt and poor self-regard. But they can be changed.
Changing self-sabotaging attitudes requires a willingness to stand back and observe yourself. It requires having a faith in yourself and an openness in considering that you may be more than you think you are—and better than you have been in the past. It also requires vision and curiosity to imagine the ways you would like to change and be different. With those, Rusk recommends that if you’d like greater closeness and intimacy in your life, explore the following:
- Are you consistently respectful toward the important people in your life? Are they respectful toward you?
- Do you make effort to understand their feelings, emotions and point of view, even if you don’t agree? Do they do the same for you?
- Do you freely demonstrate love to the people you grow to care about? Do they accept your love?
- Do you show others that you care? Do you accept it when they demonstrate that they care about you? In addition, I would add:
- Do you make time for other people? Enough time?
- How much do you open up and share your inner self? How responsive are you when someone else reveals his/her inner self?
- Are you a good listener?
- In a relationship, how romantic are you? How affectionate?
- Do other people feel your presence? Do you look others in the eye and give them your full attention?
All men are not alike, and most will not find a jealous woman appealing to be around. But it’s not too late to try on a different set of behaviors and attitudes. So I would urge you to not give up, to overcome your disappointment and to go out there and try again, this time with a more hopeful energy.