RSS Feed
Oct 31

I am woman, hear me ask for help

Posted on Monday, October 31, 2011 in Advice, Happiness, Honesty, Kat, Men, Relationships, Self image, Women

I was in line at the supermarket when a 30-something woman talking on her cellphone wheeled up behind me; I could hear everything she was saying. She was talking about a breakup, or at least it had all the hallmarks of a specific kind of breakup — she was guessing, second-guessing, making excuses, sounding hopeful and teary-eyed all at once.

It was a “He’s Just Not That Into You” Moment if I ever heard one. And a uniquely gal moment.    

I tried to focus my attention on the magazines at the checkout stand, but those were even more depressing — Cosmo wants to boost my confidence and clue me in on guys’ top sex secrets, O magazine wants to tell me how to try my true calling and how to be beautiful.

I know women can’t be the only ones who have self-doubts, but I don’t think guys obsess about it as much as we do — nor do they have such of barrage of messages coming from all sorts of media. I mean, would a guy ever pick up a book like “Why She Disappeared?” Yet, we have “Why He Disappeared” (written by Evan Marc Katz, whom I admire. Hey, I’ll take relationship advice from a guy over a woman any day!).

Are women innately more insecure than men are? Or, do we seek self-awareness more than men do?

Not to say that men don’t look at themselves and their relationships critically; I’m sure they do. And there’s advice for men out there, too, otherwise you wouldn’t see the thriving PUA movement.

It’s just that most of the self-help and relationship books are geared toward women and we’re scooping them up are like crazy. Would all those “Mars and Venus” books and seminars be around if it weren’t for women? Would Oprah and Dr. Phil be who they are without women? Not a chance!

I don’t think it’s because we’re insecure; I think it’s because women blame ourselves when things go wrong and look to others to help us, while guys try to fix things themselves.

So how can we, uh, fix this? (No, I’m not asking for your advice!) I think we need to teach our daughters to be less other-directed, stop blaming ourselves and give them the knowledge to figure things out for themselves first before looking for help. And we need to teach our sons that there’s nothing unmanly about asking others for help and to create safe places for them to express their emotional vulnerabilities.

OK, now I am asking for your advice:

  • Why do women blame themselves so much?
  • Why would men rather go it alone than ask for help?

 

Oct 25

It’s not you, it’s me — except when it’s you

Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 in Aging, dating, Divorce, Happiness, Honesty, Kat, Relationships, Self image, Singles

The phone rang ridiculously early on a Saturday morning. It was Sara. I looked over at Sean — snoring happily and oblivious to the drama that was most likely about to unfold — so I answered.

“Did you see that article in the Times?”

“What article?”

“The ‘Modern Love‘ article. She sounds like us.”

“I’ll get back to you,” I said as I hung up the phone and curled back up against Sean, who let out a muffled “Humph.”   

True to my word, I did read the article later that day. And although the author, Sara Eckel, is younger than Sara and me by a few, cough, decades, I totally get what she’s saying:

Being an unattached woman who would rather not be somehow meant you were a nitwit, a bubblehead who had few concerns beyond shopping, pedicures and “Will he call?” My friends and I had no interest in shopping or pedicures, but that didn’t stop us from feeling wildly embarrassed that we longed for love. … Like single women everywhere, I had bought into the idea that the problem must be me, that there was some essential flaw — arrogance, low self-esteem, fear of commitment — that needed to be fixed. I needed to be fixed.

Somehow, if you are a woman admitting that you’d rather not be single — whether you’ve never married or whether you are divorced and looking for love again — people assume there must be something wrong with you if you either make that a priority or if you can’t find someone.

As midlife divorcees, the stereotypes about Sara and me are a little different than those about Eckel and her generation (30-somethings), but they are no less maddening.

Divorcees (of any age) are bitter women who battle their exes and use their children as pawns and their child support payments to become plastic Barbies to keep their fading beauty from fading too quickly, and who got divorced because they knew they’d walk away with the house, the kids and a big, fat alimony check.  Or something like that. It isn’t true for many of us — certainly not Sara and me — but that doesn’t make things better. Perception is reality for too many people.

I hate the perceptions about divorced people — we’re failures, flawed, selfish, and self-absorbed people who don’t understand what commitment and “for better or worse” means, and put our own needs (aka happiness) before our children’s need, blah, blah, blah.

Those perceptions sting.

Like Eckel, we are wrestling with the belief that there’s something inherently wrong with us — we couldn’t make a marriage work, after all. How hard is that?!?! OK, granted — there are some divorced people who are bitter, who are oblivious to what commitment means, who have selfishly put their needs before their kids’. But, please don’t paint all of us with that broad paintbrush.

As for wanting love again at midlife, well, there’s the rub: Most of us assume we won’t find someone because of our wrinkles, sags and “issues.” And, yes — it is a little harder to find people at age 40 and beyond because the pool of eligible men is somewhat smaller and there’s a certain percentage of guys who want to skew younger. Fine — we’re not interested in those types! As Eckel says:

Did we find love because we grew up, got real and worked through our issues? No. We just found the right guys. We found men who love us even though we’re still cranky and neurotic, haven’t got our careers together, and sometimes talk too loudly, drink too much and swear at the television news. We have gray hairs and unfashionable clothes and bad attitudes. They love us, anyway.

Finding the “right guys” (or, in broader terms, the right person) is the take-home message.

Of course, nothing’s wrong with naming and addressing our issues head-on, and working through them as best we can. You can’t be available to fully embrace and love someone else if you can’t fully embrace and love yourself.

But, really, someone who loves us despite the crankiness, neuroses, gray hairs, bad clothes and other “endearing qualities” — isn’t that what we all want?

We just have to be prepared to do the same for someone else.

  • Ever feel that there was something wrong with you because you were seeking love?
  • Ever feel that something was wrong with you because you couldn’t find love?
  • Ever feel that something was wrong with you because you couldn’t hold on to love?
  • What stereotypes as a single or divorced person bother you the most?

 

Photo © Refocus Photography – Fotolia.com

Oct 10

Do unrealistic expectations ruin marriage?

Posted on Monday, October 10, 2011 in Happiness, Honesty, Kat, love, Marriage, Relationships, Women

“Was marriage what you expected it would be?” Mia asked, not quite directed to anyone in particular as we sat at Sam’s, enjoying the post-rain sun.

“No way! I had no idea how mind-numbingly boring it could be,” Sara said. “Like ‘Groundhog Day.'”

“Mine wasn’t boring, well it had its boring moments. We just stopped being nice to each other I think,” Mia said. “What about you, Kat?”

“I didn’t have many expectations. I don’t think I knew what I wanted it to be; I just knew what I didn’t want it to be — my parents’ marriage.”

“I hear that!” Mia exclaimed. “But, did ours turn out any better?”

That was a good question. All our parents have been married for 60-some years. Mia, Sara and me? All divorced in under 20 years.  

Who’s happier? Our parents didn’t shake it up but we sure did at midlife. After divorce, we threw ourselves into our careers, our friends, our passions. Still, we all wanted love, too. And we’ve found our way, sorta kinda. Mia was happy with Rex, until that ended horribly and she’s been floundering since, including dating a man who’s newly separated. Sara has been floundering, too, striking out with Yoga Man, who was just too emo for her, but then she met Todd — a nice guy who wants a threesome (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and who has a pretty cool ex. I’ve been incredibly happy with Sean, a great guy whom I adore — and not just because he thinks my small breasts are perfect. But we don’t and probably won’t ever live together (which may actually be why we’ve lasted this long).

Our parents? As kids, then sharp-eyed teens and eventually cynical adults, we’ve seen a bit (or more) of their marital dysfunction — and who knows the secrets they’ve kept from us? But they toughed it out, for better or worse, probably without any of the expectations we had when we married. Of course, our moms didn’t have the same choices we women have today. Neither did our dads — a stay-at-home dad in the ’50s? I don’t think so!

I honestly don’t know who’s had it better or easier. Do we want too much from a marriage? Did our parents expect too little?

Experts are blaming our 50 percent divorce rate and the increasingly loud chorus of those who think marriage is obsolete on our unrealistic expectations of marriages.

I didn’t have those expectations, but I guess I had a picture in my head of what a happy marriage looked like. You know, a little Norman Rockwellish because I’m a sentimental romantic at heart. But my observations of my own marriage is pretty much like my observation of life — there’s a lot of mundane stuff interrupted by some really nice stuff. I embrace the nice stuff, accept the mundane stuff and try to make the mundane parts a little less boring and get more of the nice stuff. And, I can’t really count on someone else doing that for me.

I’m not sure if that’s a sustainable model for a marriage — you obviously have to pick the right person from the beginning and some of us really don’t. Plus, you really do have to want to be married — some of us are just not cut out to be in a long-term, monogamous relationships. And, that’s OK.

Maybe we need to go into a marriage with no expectations — then we’d be constantly surprised!

  • What expectations did you have in your marriage?
  • Were they “unrealistic”?

 

 

 

© Volker Gerstenberg – Fotolia.com