By Sonya Rhodes, PhD. and Susan Schneider, authors of The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match: How Strong Women Can Find Love and Happiness Without Settling, William Morrow, April 2014.
Toward the end of a recent focus group that I organized for professional women in their twenties and thirties, one woman quietly stated: "I feel like an evolved person. I have a great career and great friends. I feel really strong in every part of my life except in my relationships."
Coming from an otherwise independent, self-confident woman, this was a powerful admission of vulnerability. But it was hardly the first time I've heard a woman express this. With egos shaken by unsuccessful relationships, women often start doubting themselves. They wonder if they have bad judgment when it comes to men. In therapy, they talk about how to avoid repeating painful experiences and finding someone with whom they can share their life.
I have repeatedly seen strong women fall into certain destructive relationship patterns, so I have developed a handy checklist I call the Big Three Don'ts. If you keep these in mind, I truly believe you can save yourself a ton of wasted time and energy.
1. Don't Settle
Dilemma: "I'm 35. I feel like I'm dating with a gun to my head. Should I marry Mr. Right Now? He seems reliable and nice. What if I don't meet anyone as nice as he is? Is he my last chance?"
Advice: Don't panic. If you think Mr. Right Now is a possibility, give it a chance, but don't settle. He is not your last chance, trust me. If you want to meet more eligible men, tackle the dating scene with greater purpose and pursue the activities you love with vigor and passion.
Dilemma: "I'm 31 and I'm lonely. I've gone to six weddings in the last six months. Nothing has worked out for me. Should I lower the bar?"
Advice: Feeling sorry for yourself is not productive. Don't lower your standards, but prune them if they are unrealistic or arbitrary -- he doesn't have to be six feet tall or make six figures, for example. There are plenty of guys out there, but you need to be smart and focused. You have time -- be positive!
Dilemma: "I'm pursuing a career that I love. My mom is getting nervous that I won't get married. But I'm not seriously in love with the man I'm dating. Not only that, but at the age of 27, I don't want to get serious about anyone right now."
Advice: You have plenty of time. Your career is important for the long haul. If you want to marry, you should start working towards that goal in a year or two. For now, focus on your career.
Dilemma: "My boyfriend is a great guy. But the chemistry has already died and we've only been seeing each other for a year. I'm 38. What should I do?"
Advice: Share your fantasies. Buy some sex toys. Role play. Talk with your boyfriend about how to get lust back into your relationship. If you think he's a great guy, he's worth investing in.
2. Don't Enable
Dilemma: "I don't mind multitasking. When I do things, they get done, whereas it takes my husband forever and I get impatient. Sometimes I get exhausted. What should I do?"
Advice: Let him do things in his own way and in his own time. Don't criticize or try to "manage" him. It's OK to let things slide a little -- it will be good practice for you and be even better for your relationship.
Dilemma: "A man I've started dating recently is warm and talkative -- when he's alone with me. But when we meet friends for dinner, he shuts down to the point of rudeness, and I end up feeling as if I have to apologize for his behavior. It is embarrassing. What should I do?"
Advice: Don't be embarrassed and don't apologize for his behavior. He may feel overwhelmed -- it may bring out some shyness. Or he may be jealous of other people's claims on you. Talk this out. He may just need more time to get used to your friends.
3. Don't Tone Yourself Down
Dilemma: "At parties I love to tell stories and be the center of attention. But I've noticed that most men I go out with want the same thing, so I mostly shut up and let them do the talking. Do I have to do that?"
Advice: You need a guy who appreciates your charm and can let you be center stage -- at least some of the time. Your ideal partner should not be looking for a wallflower, and he should be able to share the spotlight.
Dilemma: "I always enjoy bantering and sparring with people. When things get slow, I stir the pot by making some challenging remark. My boyfriend gets nervous and tells me he doesn't like it when I 'go over the top.' Is he right?"
Advice: Make sure to stay tuned in to your behavior. It's okay to be a little provocative as long as it's not mean-spirited or deliberately trying make someone uncomfortable. As long as you aren't being rude or inappropriate, you're fine. At least no one will get bored when you're around!
Besides steering clear of the Big Three Don'ts, what today's Alpha women can do is be more careful about their choices. The fact that you are successful in other areas of your life should give you even more reason to believe you can achieve what you want in a relationship. As an evolved person, you have all the tools you need.
What should your Do's and Don'ts Be? Get Dr. Rhodes' personalized advice by joining an Alpha Group.