How To Get the Relationship You Want and Keep the Relationship You Have - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 10, 2014

How To Get the Relationship You Want and Keep the Relationship You Have

We are defined by our relationships.  When our relationships are fulfilling and meaningful, life takes on more meaning and enjoyment.  When our relationships are poor or tumultuous, life is harder, stressful, and strenuous.  For most of us, having a working relationship is the most important thing in our lives.

We are genetically, biologically and culturally programmed to pair.  Unfortunately, we seem to have the least amount of knowledge and education on how to create this most important thing in our lives. How can something so integral to our nature be so elusive?

I don’t pretend to have it all figured out.  There are too many variables to consider.  If getting and keeping love where a completely solvable problem, I’m sure someone would have figured it out long before me.  Therapists are supposed to be relationship exerts.

Especially in my case, being a gay therapist to a largely gay community.  We gays have been told for decades our love isn’t real, so it becomes especially important for me to figure some of this stuff out.  Although I don’t have all the answers, I’ve discovered a lot about what gets love and what keeps love.

Here are a few of them:

Get the Relationship You Want

1. Attractions = Values.

This is the number one problem I see with people who get in unsuitable relationships.   For example, I used to (probably still do) have a bad-boy complex.  I was very attracted to, and pursued, guys who were tough, strong and usually even criminal.  I like a guy with a record, and I don’t mean “Whitney’s Greatest Hits”.  My favorite pick-up spot was the release room of the county jail.  I had deluded myself into thinking I was going to fall in love with a thugged-out tough guy and we would have this perfect little relationship.

Wrong.  I had to realize I was entertaining a fantasy.  I had to redefine what I could find attractive based upon what I really wanted for the rest of my life.  It worked.  I see this happen with people every day.  They are attracted to and pursue people based upon a fantasy experience which really has nothing to do with the kind of relationship they want. You must formulate an image of your ideal relationship.  There are people who will fit nicely into that profile, based upon who they are, what they do, what they want, etc.  There are also people who may look nice, but have little similarity to your ideal.  Learn to know the difference.

2. Envision Your Ideal Relationship.

If you don’t know exactly what it is you want, how will you know when you find it?  More likely, you will choose people that attract you.  Attraction does not necessarily equal values.  If you are in the market for a relationship, before you ever join an online dating site, before you ever go out the bar, you have to know what it is you are looking for in terms of a future.  What is the profile of a partner that fits your life long-term?  Is he a homebody or party boy?  Does she want a career or family first? What are his values?  What does she respect?

3. Embrace the Process. 

When I ask clients their views on dating, I often get, “oh, I hate dating!” They hate putting themselves out there.  They believe dating is a chore and they are immediately at a disadvantage because there are a lot of “freaks” out there and who knows who is who? Simply, if this is the attitude you have, this is the experience you will get. There is an old saying, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.” Learning how to date well is a skill.

Learn to embrace the thought of dating and be excited about the future you are trying to build.  Also, once you have developed your ideal partner profile you can begin to think about where does that type of person spend his/her leisure time?  Where am I likely to find him/her? Think of it as a puzzle or quiz to be solved and you will be surprised how quickly you start to understand the answers.

4. Be the Partner You Want to Attract.

Take a hard look at yourself.  Would you want to date you?  What are your best qualities?  How can you emphasize them more? Spend less time on what you dislike about yourself, especially things you are afraid you don’t have the ability to change.

Focus on building your strengths and routinely putting your best foot forward. Pay attention to your attitude too.  Attitude is the easiest thing to change and the most often overlooked.  Cats are the only creatures that can be suspicious and cynical and still be worthy of love.

Keep the Relationship You Have

1. Communication is Everything.

There is no school or formal learning environment for effective relationship communication.  How you communicate in a relationship is what you’ve picked up from your surroundings as you grew up.  Imagine if I said, “I have based my psychological training on watching Frasier”. 

Look at the key relationships in your life, especially your parent’s relationship.  Is how they communicate a model for you to emulate?  If not, you must teach yourself how to communicate more effectively to have the relationship you want.

Seek out a therapist who specializes in relationship communication.  Read a book on the subject.  Talk with people you know have great relationships and ask them what they do and how they manage feelings and negotiate conflicts. You owe it to yourself to learn these lessons.

2. Recognize How You Manipulate and Control.

Everyone seeks to manipulate and control others to some degree.  It is the first behavior we learn.  As babies, we cry or make noise when we are hungry, need changing, or want attention.  It is the first behavior that is successfully reinforced over and over again because it works!  Is it really so strange, then, we spend the rest of our lives trying to achieve that same level of nirvana where we get what we want, when we want it, by exerting control over others?

What works at age 1 ½ doesn’t look pretty at age 35.  Learn to build what you want in your life by communicating your needs clearly and confirming understanding. Most importantly, learn to negotiate conflict without “reality tv” behavior.

3. Never Stop Discovering the Value of Love and the Meaning of Commitment.

When I meet with couples, I ask them to provide me a written list of their resentments.  They eagerly fill out the list thinking “FINALLY my relationship will be happy because Dr. Dave is going to make him/her stop/fix all those things he/she does which are ruining this relationship.”  I look over the list, then I throw the pieces of paper in the trash can (I pick them out after the session, because I need them for the file).

I say, “Well, that’s the relationship you’ve built and been living, now I want to focus on the relationship you can have.”  Then we start to explore and identify strengths and things in the relationship that feel good.

Love is a daily exercise in trying to make the best decisions possible for the good of all concerned.  It is not about winning.  Commitment is a daily choice to accept the bad and focus on the good.  It is not about coercion or control.

Yes, part of couples work with me is teaching conflict negotiation skills, but I don’t like to entertain the laundry list of resentments and seeing “who’s right” for each item.  It just adds to the maladaptive dynamic.

I inform each person he/she is responsible for working out his/her own resentments, rather than waiting for the other person to fix them.  We, as a society, are very invested in needing, wanting, and insisting others change their behavior to accommodate us.  This brings me to my next point…

4. Let It Go.

Spring clean your mind.  98% of what you are holding on to can be thrown out.  Most mental illness, suffering, frustration, resentment, and dissatisfaction of life are caused by not letting it go. You don’t need it as much as you think you do.

I recently had a client play a recording for me he had made when he visited a psychic.  What I found most interesting was her choice of words.  When she talked about energies or dead relatives of his, she always told him “You’re pulling this person to you” or “You’re pulling this energy to you” I took it to mean if such things exist as contact from the other side, it occurs because we control the energy that exists around us.

I am a big believer in what we have is what we have created.  We have much more control over our relationships than we think.  What kind of relationship are you creating today?

About the author

David Baker-Hargrove

David Baker-Hargrove, Ph.D., LMHC, DAPA is a psychotherapist, speaker, and motivational coach.

Over the past 15 years, he has presented at international, national, state, and regional conferences and has provided presentations and/or consulted for local and regional law enforcement in Central Florida. He has counseled over 150 people who are transitioning their gender, and considered a community leader, not only as a therapist, but for his skills being organizer, leader, and adviser to numerous Central Florida non-profit organizations.  In October and November of 2001, he worked at World Trade Center ground zero helping our brave fire fighters and police men and women.

He currently owns and operates a mental health and consulting firm in downtown Orlando. The firm sees clients from all over the United States via video conference. What he sees is important is helping people realize and achieve their greatest potential, no matter what in life they are dealing with.  We can all be something greater than we are right now.  Find out more at