I’ve been a marriage and family counselor and therapist for more than 40 years and one of the most common concerns I hear from men is this: “Why can’t I find the right woman? I date a lot of women, but I can’t seem to find the one.”
I recently wrote an article “What Women Need to Know to Attract Their Soul Mate.” I received some interesting responses from readers (I love to hear from you. It’s what makes the effort to write a weekly column worthwhile). Here was one from Bob:
“Men need to master the art of having a short-term recreational relationship before proceeding to long-term committed relationships. We need to figure a lot of stuff out before we commit and certainly before we have children. If we don’t, then our children pay a huge price. We need to know who we are and what our terms are and to find a woman who loves us for who we are and isn’t trying to change us.”
Here are some of the things that I believe are important for guys.
1. Get to know who you really are.
Like many guys, I grew up in a family where my father was absent. First, he was emotionally absent. Later he left physically. It wasn’t until I was grown that I realized there were large parts of myself that I didn’t know about. It wasn’t until I got in a men’s group that I began to know who I was as a man.
2. Learn to know how you feel.
Our emotional lives are at the core of who we are, but too many guys have never learned to tap into the full range of our emotions. I knew a lot about expressing anger and even wrote a book about irritable male syndrome. However, it took me a long time to learn to express my fears, my hurts, my guilt, and shame.
3. Get clear about what you really want and what you won’t tolerate.
I assumed that when the right person came along, I’d know it and I just had to wait for the right person. Wrong! I sat down and wrote out all the things I really wanted in a relationship as well as the things that were deal breakers for me. Too often people simply wait until the chemistry feels right, but that’s not enough.
4. Make the relationship a priority.
I had a good job and loved my work. It fulfilled me and gave me my purpose in life. But I realized I had to make the relationship a priority if I was going to have one. Too many of us treat relationships like they will happen by magic. That may work in romantic movies, but in real life we have to make having a great relationship as important, or more important, than having a great job.
5. Surface your negativity.
Although I would have said, “I want to have a partner to share my life with,” I realized I had a lot of negative baggage that I’d accumulated about actually having what I said I wanted. I looked deeply inside and brainstormed all the negative thoughts that swirled around inside including: I don’t want to get burned again, I don’t have time for all this dating crap, women want to tie you down, I can’t imagine committing to having sex with only one woman for the rest of my life, I’m not really attractive enough to attract the woman I want. And three more pages I won’t bore you with here. But it’s important to get the negativity out where you can see it. Otherwise, it stays hidden and undermines everything you do.
6. Become aware of your distorted love filter.
Although I had a list of the qualities I wanted in a partner, I realized I also had a subconscious filter that drew me towards certain kinds of women that weren’t right for me and away from others that were. I realized I was drawn to fiery women who were risk takers, but were disasters to live with. I also excluded women who were nice and loving but seemed boring when I first met them. Being aware of our filters can help is find and keep a relationship that will make us truly happy.
7. Clean up your past.
We all have issues from the past that keep us from finding and holding on to the partner of our dreams. Many of us have been married before or had serious relationships that didn’t last. We all grew up in families, most of which were less than good models for real, lasting, love. All of them can cause distortions that keep us from finding and keeping our soul-mates.
In fact, one of the hidden reasons we pick the partner we pick is to heal the wounds from the past. However, if we don’t recognize how the issues from our previous relationships, including how we were influenced by our mother’s and father’s relationship with us and with each other, we will find ourselves looking for love in all the wrong places.
While these seven learnings were easy to write down, they took us years to learn, and we benefitted from some years of counseling to actually put them into practice. We wrote about our experiences in The Enlightened Marriage. I’m offering a special discount to readers, here. I look forward to your comments and questions.
Originally published on Men Alive
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