By: Anne Milford and Jennifer Gauvain, MSW, LCSW
As the authors of the book “How NOT to marry the Wrong Guy: Is he the one or should you run?(Broadway Books/Random House),
we spend a lot of time talking to women. While our message can be hard to digest sometimes (the truth hurts!), we are always prepared for what the college women are going to say. When faced with a group of undergrads, we inevitably hear some variation of the following: “I don’t mean to be rude, but your message isn’t relevant to us, we aren’t thinking about getting married yet. What can we possible learn from you?”And every time we get that reaction, we are…grateful. Why? Because it sets up our entire presentation! How do we respond?
“Marrying the wrong guy starts with dating the wrong guy.” The dating habits and patterns you develop in college will stay with you after graduation. So if you put up with a bunch of crap in college, or train yourself to ignore your gut feelings….you’ll have more of the same after you graduate!” (And that will put you on a crash course to potentially marrying the wrong guy if you do choose to get married someday!)
And after talking to thousands of college women, it’s clear that far too many of them are dating the wrong guys. Why? Because they date the “idea” of the guy, not the actual guy. Confused much? What we mean is that women will meet a guy, or hook up with a guy and think he’s really great. There’s a connection. They have fun. He makes them laugh. He texts frequently. He’s affectionate. He seems interested. He wants to “go out” again. Maybe they see each other a few times. But then…he morphs into an asshole. No texts, a little rude behavior mixed in with some interest. But it’s not the same…yet they stay. They ask themselves, what are they doing wrong? They are waiting for the guy to return to who he was the first week or two that they dated. And they wait and they wait and they wait. But he never acts that way again. What gives? He never WAS that sweet guy he seemed to be in the beginning. It was an act.
Sadly, women don’t realize that they are waiting for something that will never happen. What you see now is what you get later. Don’t keep waiting for someone to change back into someone or something they never were in the first place!
We know of one great girl who has fallen into this trap. She recently broken up with her boyfriend of three years but is still holding on to the hope that he “will come back to his senses.” Their initial courtship was everything she ever dreamed about. They enjoyed long walks in the park, talking till the wee hours of the morning and a strong sexual attraction.
Unfortunately, this phase only lasted about six months. It was then followed by cheating, lying and a general disrespect of her as a woman (hell, her as a person). She is holding on to the hope that somehow he will come back around and they can go back to what their relationship was like in the beginning. Big red flag: It was only six months out of a three year relationship! The likelihood that they could ever get back to that point is very slim. Often times people just pretend to be who they think you want them to be. Eventually the mask comes off and what you see is what you get. Here is what she has to say about it:
I had hope that our relationship would one day again be as great as it was in the beginning. I thought the relationship would change back to what it was like just as quickly as it changed for the worse. I held on for a long time, but he didn’t change back, he only slipped farther away. I didn’t want to let go of the future we had planned with each other. The picture was perfect. We had an idea of our dream wedding, our dream home, the perfect names for our children, but it was just a picture. It was and still is the future life I want even though times were not great in the present. I care too much to let go.
It’s great that she has a clear picture of what she wants out of her future life. However, it’s never a good idea to force a guy into that picture. Especially one who doesn’t want—or deserve—to be part of your future.
So how do you avoid this common dating trap? If you find yourself hanging on to the hope that those original feelings you had for your boyfriend will come back someday, you need to proceed with caution. You need to ask yourself: “Is that who he really is?” We are typically on our best behavior when we first meet someone. It should be a huge red flag, if he acts one way in the beginning stages of your relationship but you never see that behavior again. Don’t stick around waiting for someone to change.
Milford and Gauvain are the authors of How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy: Is He the One or Should You Run? (Broadway/Random House). Gauvain works as a marriage and family therapist with clients around the country and Milford writes and speaks extensively on the subject of dating and relationships. For more information visit their blog at coldfeetpress.com.
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