There’s a common theme to what so many of us do, something that I found myself doing not so long ago.
We know we’re looking for the whole package, and yet what we put out there, and especially what we tell a guy we’re looking for – is exactly the opposite.
It's in the subtle messages we convey with our body language and the way we dress. It’s in what we say (and don’t say) in our online dating profile when we project the image that we’re looking for a good time rather than a committed relationship, it’s what we say when he asks us what we’re looking for and we tell him we just want to see where it goes.
And, since we're so attracted to him, we find that we'll pretend we're into anything that we think will get him to want us.
It’s that old familiar pattern of believing that we need to be interested in what he’s interested in – or what we believe he wants us to be interested in – in order for him to want to be with us.
No matter how subtle it is, the message is there that it matters more whether he wants to be with us, than whether we’re actually compatible in all the ways that matter, on the same page, and looking for the same thing with each other.
Why do we do this? Why are we so hesitant to come right out and say who we are and what we’re looking for instead of holding on so tight to the story that I need him to choose me more than I need him to be compatible with me? There’s such a difference!
It’s because we think it will make us more attractive to him if he can see that we’re on the same page – as him!
It’s because it’s part of our programming that has us believing we need to be what someone else wants us to be to be loved – instead of being who we actually are.
And most importantly, it’s because we want him to like us, we want that next date, we don’t want to have to keep going through this over and over again. We want it to be him!
But when we do this, we miss the chance to build our confidence in a way that does so much more for us. By embracing who we are and what we’re looking for. By not trying to be something we’re not.
I’ll never forget the conversation I had way back when with a happily married coworker who gave me his honest opinion of why I was still single. As we sat down in the cafeteria one day at my work which just happened to be the training facility of the Fire and Police Academies, surrounded by as many police and fire recruits as any single girl could imagine.
What’s wrong with me? had been my question at lunch that day. Why can’t I find what I’m looking for? I want what you have, I told him, but all I get are these guys who can’t commit, who aren't looking for what I am, who never want what I want no matter who they are.
Do you want my honest answer? He had asked. Of course I did.
You’re saying one thing but doing another, he told me. You say you want a committed relationship and marriage and a family and the whole package, but your actions, and the way you’re presenting yourself tell an entirely different story.
So these men you’re going out with, they’re confused. They don’t know what to make of you. So you’re finding these men who are confused, too. They don’t really know what they want either and they don’t think it really matters to you.
It’s like a type of bait and switch you’re doing. While the ones who know what they want, the ones who want what you say you want, aren't giving you a second look because they’re not going to waste their time with someone who isn't sure of what she wants.
And with his words, the first stirrings of what was amiss began to resonate with me. Why was I so afraid to admit what it was I wanted? Why wasn't I confident in wanting the whole package?
Was it because I didn't really believe I would ever find it? Was it because I doubted my worthiness of the kind of relationship I was looking for? I cringed at the idea of coming out and admitting who I was and that I was really like all those other women who made it look so easy, but seemed so hard to me.
It was time to stop pretending, to stop playing the part for a role I didn't really want, and become the real thing. And in allowing myself to hear what someone else was seeing that I couldn't see for myself, I discovered more of the truth about me.
I wanted the real thing.
I didn't want to play games with someone who I knew in my heart wasn't looking for what I wanted.
I didn't want to settle any more for just more of the same thing, no matter how different he might look from the others.
I wasn't going to compromise any more on what I wanted in exchange for that feeling of being wanted.
What I wanted was worth more than what felt good in the short term.
So when you say I want the full package, I’m not willing to settle for anything less than I know I want, just make sure you really know what that is. Know it in such a way that you’re not going to sacrifice that dream of yours just because someone comes along who makes you feel those sparks and makes your heart beat a little faster but who makes it clear that he doesn't want what you want.
It’s only when you hold on tighter to your dreams than your desire to be loved by someone who seems to promise so much and yet deliver so little, that you'll see for yourself it’s not an either/or distinction. It’s you being unapologetically true to yourself and what it is you want for your life.
That’s how we change this.