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March 31, 2015

Interview With Dr. Wendy L Dickinson

1. A number of our women subscribers find difficulty in attracting the right man especially women in their 40s and above. The common complaint we hear from women is that men in their age group seem to be more interested in younger women and the men that seem to be interested in them aren’t interesting to these women. What advice do you have for women who are frustrated with their dating experience and have become skeptical of finding Mr. Right?

This is a common concern that I hear from my clients frequently. It’s so hard when you are searching for someone who is a good fit and not successfully finding him. During the waiting, there are three things you can do.

The first thing is to become like the person you want to be with. This might sound simple but you would be surprised at the number of people I sit with who are negative and want to attract someone positive. Or they are cautious and want someone who is going to push them to be adventurous. Or maybe you are spontaneous and want to find someone who is a planner or more organized than you are. Rather than waiting for the person to “complete” you – think about being the person that the person you want to build a relationship would be attracted to. Successful people tend to attract other successful people. Kind people are attracted to other kind people. Use this time to work on yourself, take a class, or push outside of your comfort zone.

The second thing is to stay moving – don’t get stuck. You never know who you might encounter next. Seize the day, plan fun things, get involved in the community, date online – whatever feels right for you. Don’t get focused on what doesn’t work out. Focus on doing things you love and being open to those who cross your path. We all know women who have become bitter, resentful, or withdrawn when they didn’t find Mr. Right. I’m not suggesting that it’s easy and you don’t have to pretend that everything is the way you want it to be. But don’t get bogged down in the disappointment – as Taylor Swift so aptly said “shake it off” and move on to the next thing.

The third thing is to be filled with Joy! Joyful people are attractive people. Happiness is about getting what you want. Joy exists even in the face of not getting what we want. Find what brings you joy and do that – faith, friends, exercise, etc. You get a choice about how you approach life, meeting Mr. Right will not change your outlook on the world. If you cultivate joy now, you will be even more joyful when Mr. Right shows up.

2. Some of our subscribers feel stuck in their love lives because of their past emotional baggage. This affects them in a number of ways- they either tend to compare the next man they are dating with their ex or they have trust issues because they have been cheated on before or they just cannot seem to forget their ex and move on in life. What are some practical ways that can help women release their past emotional baggage so that they can start attracting healthy love into their lives?

First and foremost I highly recommend counseling – there’s a common misconception that you have to be crazy to go to counseling. It couldn’t be further from the truth. I believe that the healthiest people are the ones who have invested time and energy into working through past wounds. With out doing this, you are likely to continue to repeat patterns that you might not be aware of.

We are all a product of our experiences. It is unlikely that anyone will forget their Ex. However, as we work through our past we can put those memories into perspective and ground them in the past so that they don’t continue to impact the present and the future. We often expend a significant amount of energy and emotion bandwidth trying to keep memories and thoughts about our Ex’s push out of our awareness. This same energy could be directed at making meaning out of our past pain and refocusing on moving forward; instead of resisting the memories (which can actually increase the frequency), lean into them. Set a finite time each day or week (maybe 15 minutes) that is designated for grieving and remembering. Allow yourself to feel, to be sad, to reflect. Notice what you are sensing in your body and where your mind takes you. Note when these memories/experiences happened and remind yourself that they are not in your present reality. Spend some time relaxing and soothing yourself after these times.

Finally remember that strength generalizes. Find an activity that connects to your strength. Train for a race. Go to the gym. Learn a new skill. Buy a fast car. Channel your inner warrior princess. You are stronger than you think and braver than you believe. Let your guard down. Before you know it, you will be stronger even in the areas of your life that feel the most broken and weak.

3. One popular concern that our subscribers have is regarding sharing their feelings with the man they are dating. What we typically find is that when women like the man they are seeing, they tend to avoid bringing up difficult issues and tough conversations because they fear they might lose him. So what they generally tend to do is that they keep it to themselves and give the impression that things are just fine. For example, they have a fantastic date with a man and he says he will call after a few days. They wait, wait and wait to be disappointed that he didn’t follow up as he said he would. But they are happy when they eventually hear back from him and don’t share how they really felt during the no contact period.

What would your advice be for women who have the fear that sharing feelings and emotions will drive a man away and make them come across as someone clingy and needy?

This is a difficult question to answer because the right approach is most likely different for each person. Some people need to be encouraged to speak out and others need to be encouraged to hold back and wait. I would encourage everyone to be an observer of oneself – What do you usually do? Does it work? What would it be like to try something different next time? I encourage all my clients to find a way to be genuine and authentic however it feels congruent for them. I think it’s important to give the man you are dating a chance to know you, and if you never speak up, he misses out on knowing how you feel. Additionally we live in a fast-pace, instant-gratification culture and we need to remember that relationships sometimes move slowly and need time to develop. You might need to wait for there to be some relationship in place before you start providing a lot of feedback about what you need. Finally, cultivate curiosity. Instead of telling – start by asking questions and really seeking to understand who he is. Ask him why he didn’t call when he said he would – but make sure you ask with an openness that is affirming and interested. Ask him about his expectations in a relationship and seek to understand how past experiences have impacted him. You might find that even in the conversation before you share your feelings that you are more connected. You might find that he joins in and asks you about how you feel and what you need. Our relationships these days suffer from a deplorable lack of curiosity.

4. From our subscribers, we often hear “lack of chemistry” as a leading reason why they aren’t willing to persist with a man even though he seemed to be a decent guy, treated them with respect and made them feel comfortable. Can you share your thoughts on chemistry and can attraction grow over time? Is it worth persisting with a man with whom a woman feels comfortable but doesn’t quite share the chemistry?

We live in a culture that promotes the message that chemistry – and a lot of it is the most important thing in a relationship. We tend to narrowly define chemistry to mean that we are immediately attracted or turned on when we think of or see a person. There a lots of ways to have chemistry with a person and sometimes chemistry takes a while to develop. Even if you look at the process of actual chemistry – experiments are conducted over time and with different iterations. I would suggest being willing to experiment with a relationship – don’t make quick judgments and give it time to develop. I would also suggest looking at your own issues that might contribute to the chemistry process – are you open? Do you flirt? Are you scared? Have you told him what you need? If you are holding back waiting for him to do something perfect – you will probably be waiting a while. Take a risk and put yourself out there. It interesting that when emotional vulnerability occurs in a relationship, people often report that the chemistry starts to increase.

5. Can too much honesty negatively affect a relationship especially when you have just started seeing the other person? How much of the past and even the present should you reveal to the man you are dating? Should you share details like cheating in the previous relationship, the fact you are currently seeing a therapist or you are a recovering alcoholic etc?

Yes. Be thoughtful about what you are sharing and how much. I always encourage honesty, but with a filter appropriate to the stage of a relationship. If you were at a cocktail party with new acquaintances you would probably not share at the same depth as if you were having drinks with a trusted friend. The same applies for relationships – too much too soon can overwhelm a relationship. You want to pace the depth of communication. There is no right way or pace, but I would encourage you to think about whether you have mastered one stage before you move to the next. Is he asking questions? Does he seem interested? Have you been having fun together? Then maybe it’s time to dig a little deeper. If you don’t have much time together or don’t have good communication skills in general, it might be a little risky to dive in on the deep end.

Some of our subscribers have been too honest and in the process lost out on many men because it freaked them out. Can you share your thoughts on how women can balance the fine line between honesty and giving themselves the chance to date men and pursue a long term committed relationship?

It’s all about the tone that you communicate in. If you think something is a big deal – that is going to come out. If you think something is normal and reasonable to talk about – that is going to leak out. Before you put it all out there to the guy, think about how you feel about communicating it. Do you get nervous? Are you concerned about how he will respond? That might tell you that it’s a serious conversation and those should be paced in a relationship. You don’t want to get into a trap where you are talking about serious things all the time. You can also ask some “process” questions; that is, questions about HOW the communication is feeling. An example would be “Is this too much to talk about?” or “How do you feel about be telling you this?” It will help you get a sense of whether it is making him uncomfortable. Finally, don’t expect that he is going to be your savior or make everything better. It’s one thing to share something with him so that he knows you more, it’s another think to share it with him and then expect him to carry it for you. That’s usually the part that freaks people out – not the knowing, but the expectation that they need to take it on.

6. Some of our subscribers have the tendency to ignore and overlook the red flags especially when they really like a man. In the process, they create an idealized version of the man and overestimate the feelings he has for them. For women who have a history of fantasizing and idealizing a partner, what can they do to evaluate the man and their relationship for what it is truly worth rather than what they ideally like it to be?

This is a great question – and it is easy for anyone to do it. The answer is not a complicated one but it does take some focus. The problem is concept called confirmatory bias – we see (or look for confirmation of) what we expect to see. Assume that you are looking out into a pasture and you see brown animal. If you expect that you are going to see a horse – you will look for hooves. You are confirming what you expect to see. You do not look for fins, or flippers to make sure that it is not a fish or a seal. What you notice is biased by what you expect to find. So in relationships – make sure that you are curious and an observer. Look to see the good in someone and also the challenges. Collect a lot of information and be aware of your tendency to overlook the red flags while trying to be positive about the relationship. Make sure you are living in the present and not focused on how great the future could be. It’s true the future could be great but you want to make sure you can live in the present with the person first.

7. Some experts recommend women wait till they get to know the man they are dating and not have sex until you both are committed to exclusivity. Some experts believe you should go with the flow and be spontaneous and not have any rules regarding when you want to sleep with a man. Can you share your thoughts on the right time to have sex?

As your audience knows people have a variety of values about when the “right” time is. I always encourage people to be very clear ahead of time about what they want and what works to get them more of what they value. It’s easier to make emotional decisions in a non-emotional context (i.e. ahead of time). Sex definitely changes a relationship and once it is introduced, it’s really impossible go back to the time in the relationship when it wasn’t part of the relationship. Regardless of when someone decides is the right time, it’s important that intimacy deepen in several areas at similar rates – emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical vulnerability. If one or more of those areas get left far behind the other areas, the relationship can feel out of balance. It’s important to be spontaneous in a relationship but it’s also important to be mindful about how decisions impact the relationship…if you want it to last.

8. What are some best practices when it comes to clearly communicating your deal breakers and boundaries and when should you be having these conversations? I have heard from quite a number of my women subscribers who initially set the bar low and then find it incredibly difficult to raise the bar in the relationship because their partner has been conditioned to the earlier low standard. Many women find it quite difficult to have these conversations because they fear coming across as someone too uptight and rigid and worry about driving men away.

First and foremost it’s important to be clear with yourself about needs and boundaries. Don’t expect him to be able to read your mind or guess what you need when you don’t even know. After you are clear about what you need/want then you can work on helping him understand. There is a way to set boundaries which values the person and the relationship without being shaming or critical. I think it’s important to breathe and observe in a relationship. Many people, in an effort to clearly communicate what they need, overlook allowing there to be room for their partner to act. They jump right in with a list of do’s and don’ts or needs and wants – that would be off putting for the best partner in the world. If you start to feel like the boundaries are being crossed, I think it’s important to speak up. But if things seem to be going well – you might consider waiting until you observe something that needs to be addressed. Who knows? You might end up observing something that you love in the mean time!

9. Our subscribers also run into a situation where things are going great and just when they think the relationship has great potential or feel he is the one, the man starts developing cold feet. He pulls away, doesn’t respond to phone calls or text messages and in some cases disappears for a while. What advice do you have for women who deal with men that suddenly pull away and act inconsistent?

I tend to be of the “he’s just not that into you” camp. Meaning, for most of us, when we know we want something – we go after it. And if he is too afraid to go after the relationship (when you are being responsive and encouraging) then it’s probably not going to work out in the long run anyway. However, sometimes people just need a little space. I advise my clients to hold relationships with an open hand if it looks like their partners have something that they are dealing with or if they seem to need some space. If you pull back a bit (not to manipulate but to honor what they seem to be asking for) many times you will see the other person step back into the relationship…if they care about it. Often they unconsciously just want to know that they are respected and have the freedom to step back if they need to. If he is not into you and you give him space, he will most likely move onto someone else – which is, in the long run, in your best interest.

10. What are your top 3 relationship tips that you would offer women who are single and looking for a long term committed relationship?

1. Be yourself – you want to end up with someone who loves YOU, not the person you are pretending to be because you think that’s what they want.

2. Be brave – be open, be responsive, take a risk, return the gaze, flirt a little, walk away…remember men like a challenge but they also want to know you are in it with them. Whatever it is that is a little outside your comfort zone – try it!

3. Be grounded – no one wants to be with someone who is desperate, and trust me, desperate will leak out when you leas expect it! Make sure you do your work to know that you are valuable, fun, and worth being loved. You know you are there when you believe (really, really believe) that you don’t have to have that guy to be happy. Sure it would be fun, but you have a full life ahead of you whether he gets on the party bus or not.

About Dr. Wendy L Dickinson

Dr. Wendy L Dickinson

As a Licensed Psychologist, Dr. Dickinson received a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Georgia State University. Additionally, she has a Master’s degree in Professional Counseling and specialized training from Richmont Graduate University, formerly Psychological Studies Institute.

Dr. Dickinson is the Founder and Executive Director of GROW heal.live.lead, llc, a counseling and leadership development organization, which assists individuals, couples, groups, and corporate teams to achieve their fullest life or career potential. With more than a decade of experience, Dr. Dickinson specializes in such clinical issues as addictions, crises, faith-based issues, leadership development, stress management, trauma, maximizing productivity, and vocational counseling. She works with a variety of clientele of various ages and backgrounds. Frequently her caseload is comprised of men, CEOs, baby boomers, college students, and affluent clients who are looking for a counseling experience that is tailored to their unique needs.

To know more about Dr. Wendy, visit her website www.growcounseling.com.




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