I hear over and over from women who e-mail or meet with me in counseling sessions: "Why do I keep picking guys who hurt me?" or "How do I learn to trust my judgment and stop wasting time with guys who aren't right for me?"
Many women consistently put other's needs before their own and end up engaging in one-sided relationships. The consequence for girls can be profound with girls and women dismissing their own needs and ending up with a depleted sense of self, according to author Jill P. Weber. She posits that many girls learn to tune out their inner voice due to their family experiences, and this prepares them for one-sided relationships in adulthood. Weber writes, "As a woman develops a strong core sense of self, fulfilling relationships will follow."
Liza, an outgoing 35-year-old single mom, reflects on a worrisome trend she has noticed in her relationships when she says,
I always tend to go for guys who are emotionally unavailable. I think it's because I fear getting hurt and so it allows me to keep my distance. I like to be in control and keep busy so that I don't have to get too close to anyone. I've been hurt too many times, and I don't want to keep getting my heart broken.
Liza has been dating Ryan for over a year and lately she is beginning to question where the relationship is headed. She tends to approach relationships warily since her divorce three years ago and has a tendency to pick guys who avoid commitment or who are distant.
In the beginning, Ryan came on strong -- bringing Liza flowers on their first date and showering her with affection. But over the past year, he doesn't always return her text or phone messages and they rarely go out for dinner or an activity. Liza feels unsure what to make of Ryan's inconsistent behavior and is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. She questions if something is wrong with her since she's attracted to distant and moody guys -- dismissing "nice guys" as boring.
Are you at risk for one-sided relationships? While some men engage in one-sided relationships, this experience is more common for women. Taking this self-assessment (based on Weber's checklist) will help you determine if you are at risk for a one-sided relationship. The more items you check, the more at risk you are.
1. Are you super empathetic and do you easily feel others suffering?
2. Do your friends often turn to you for emotional support but you often feel that no one is there for you when you have a problem?
3. Do you tend to hold in your feelings and then suddenly have an emotional meltdown?
4. Do you judge yourself harshly when you make a mistake?
5. Looking back, is it hard to remember one or both of your parents comforting you when you were upset?
6. Did you often find yourself in the caretaker role with one or both of your parents or a sibling when you were growing up?
7. Do you feel that you grew up too fast either in terms of maturity level or sexual activity?
8. When you are upset, do you tend to obsess on your emotions and find it hard to move past them?
9. Are you a people pleaser? If you have this tendency, you may find setting limits hard and you might have trouble asking for what you need from your partner. This is a pattern that often starts in childhood but it can be reversed.
10. Do you feel like you have to be in a good mood or positive when you are with friends, family, or intimate partners regardless of how you really feel?
If you meet someone who is nice and you don't feel an instant spark, try not to rule him out because the chemistry isn't strong. On the other hand, if you don't feel like giving him a kiss after the second date, bail out. Compatibility -- which is about sharing common values and goals, having fun together and liking each other -- helps to sustain a couple through tough times. However, both chemistry and compatibility are essential to a long-lasting healthy intimate relationship.
Are you wondering if you are wasting your time with the wrong person? Many women in one-sided relationships find themselves attracted to men who are their opposites.
Here are eight signs that your relationship is not one-sided:
1. You feel comfortable with each other and it's easy to get close. In other words, you feel that you can be yourself and don't have to walk on eggshells. You feel safe in the relationship and free to express your thoughts, feelings, and desires openly without fear of rejection.
2. You feel there's real mutual respect. You accept, admire, and respect each other for who you are. If you don't have respect for your partner, it will eat away at chemistry until you have nothing left.
3. He keeps his agreements. He calls when he says he is going to call. He takes you out when he says he is going to do so. When a man is interested in a woman, he keeps his agreements.
4. He makes time for you on a regular basis. He makes you a priority because he values your relationship. This includes regular text messages or phone calls to show that he's thinking of you.
5. He is comfortable talking about the things that interest you and asks you questions about your hobbies, friends, and family.
6. He makes plans to do things with you and includes you in his inner circle. If something special is going on in his life, he invites you and encourages you to come.
7. He makes you feel good about yourself. A partner who truly cares about you is a boost to your self-esteem. He values you and give you positive reinforcement such as compliments.
8. He talks about your future together. If he says he's not ready for a commitment, take him seriously -- he's just not that into you. Don't waste your time on a relationship that doesn't have a future.
It's important to begin visualizing yourself in a healthy relationship before you can embark on one. Consider making a vision board where you can post quotes, messages, and photos of the type of person or relationship that you aspire to have. Check it on a regular basis and see if your prospects match up to the type of person who is a good fit for you. You don't have to settle for less than you deserve.
The best partner will compliment you and bring out your very best. When you are with him, you will begin to see untapped possibilities within yourself and in the world. In any relationship, you will face ups and downs and your love will be tested. However, where admiration and respect are found, love will be sustained. But where these things are absent, love will die. Finding a partner who likes and respects you as much as you do him will give you the best chance of finding love.