Interview With Dr. Tamar Chansky - How To Win a Man's Heart

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January 21, 2015

Interview With Dr. Tamar Chansky

1. A number of my subscribers tend to be in the worry zone- they are worried that they are single, they are worried if they would ever find love, they are worried if the man they like will call them, they are worried if their relationship will last etc. What advice do you have for women who seem to be in a constant state of anxiety and worry?

We don’t like uncertainty. We don’t tolerate it well. If there are any gaps, any blanks, we fill them in quickly– and not with happy answers– with worst case scenarios. Even when it’s just those seconds waiting to see if the dry cleaner really has our black suit– we wonder– did it get lost? So take something as important as love and it’s easy to see why our minds jump in with all sorts of questions and worst case scenarios. It’s not our fault that we are wired to look for problems, glitches, disappointments and catastrophes, but it sure doesn’t help– in fact quite the opposite– it works us up into such a spin that it’s hard to sleep, hard to eat, hard to be present with the good things that actually are happening in our lives.

What can we do?

Normalize. We are worrying not because we have something to worry about, but because this is the human condition, this is how we fill in the blanks. But our worries have much more to do with the nature of anxiety than the nature of our particular situations. To try to put some limits on your worries, designate a “worry time” 5 minutes each day where you are going to list your worries, but then “fact check” them. Ask yourself the real questions: do I really believe this is likely and why? Do I need to be worrying about this? Is my mind looking for trouble, or is there really something to this concern?

2. Body image issues also seem to affect women especially as they age. They feel inadequate and undesirable especially as they compare themselves with other women. And to make matters worse some become so skeptical that they feel that men only desire young, beautiful looking women. Can you share some practical strategies to overcome these negative beliefs?

It is not easy for women to value their appearance when they compare themselves to others– and yet, the women they are comparing themselves to have the same issues! We might not believe this, but we all have the capacity to compare, to come up as less than, to find fault with our appearance– whether we’re supermodels or just regular folk. But, check this out– in a recent study of attractiveness and relationship satisfaction, guess what happened? The two weren’t related at all. Yes, we can all have fun with eye candy, but when it comes down to it, the number one quality that couples report as being most important in a relationship is friendship. Keep that in mind!

Of course, we are going to feel more desirable, not just when we get attention from someone else, but when we can look in the mirror (not obsessively!) and see beauty looking back at us, so we can help ourselves in this process by appreciating and valuing who we are– from the inside out. Nothing looks better than that glow that comes from feeling good about yourself! Meanwhile– power in numbers, if you are feeling insecure about your appearance, buddy up with a girlfriend, maybe even do a swap– helping each other find the styles that feel best and look best for each of you.

3. Some of our subscribers experience extreme anxiety and fear when they go out on a date. This is especially true when women are coming out of a messy divorce or a toxic relationship. Some women even tell us that dating is a dreaded chore. How can women stop putting themselves under so much pressure and start enjoying dating other men?

It can be a very hard decision to go back to dating, especially if you’re still recovering from your last relationship, but there is going to be a point when the desire to connect with others propels you forward because that is part of what makes you feel alive. But here’s the thing– and it’s kind of backwards– the more you forget about trying find true love or be perfect, make exactly the right impression, be witty and gorgeous and oh so fun, and instead just focus on being present and paying attention to the moment– the more likely you are to relax and enjoy yourself.

With dating, extra expectations about making the perfect impression or needing everything to go just right, can make you feel more self conscious, and you’ll be so distracted by rating how you’re doing, or how the date is going, that you don’t get to really present yourself– who you really are. So do yourself a favor.. see this date as an isolated event without consequences. Let the date—just be a date. It’s not a test of whether you are lovable. It’s a single data point, that’s all. Yes, you want to meet someone and find true love, but the goal for tonight is simply to connect. With the person across from you. Not the narrative in your mind that your imagination moving fast and furiously is creating about that person, or about what they’re thinking about you.

Feel free to enjoy the moment without worrying about where it’s going. See what happens. Think about the lighter goal of having fun. Even if the relationship ends that evening—you will have had a meaningful experience, even if the meaning is– keep looking! There will be a time when it’s clear that something special is happening here– meanwhile, easing up on expectations will help you not get worn out or wrung out along the way.

4. One of the famous lines from the movie Jerry Maguire is “You complete me.” As incredibly romantic as it sounds, it resonated with how so many people enter into a relationship- expecting the partner to make them happy. We find a number of our subscribers embracing this flawed line of thinking where they seem to be too dependent on their partners to make them happy. You want to be in a relationship to be happier and not to be happy and if you are expecting a man to make you happy, you are setting yourself up for eventual failure and heartbreak. Can you share your advice on how women can ensure that in the course of a relationship, they don’t lose themselves and burden their partners to make them happy?

Couples who are happy together are made up of people who are also happy apart (for a while anyway). We may be looking for a relationship to solve our unhappiness, but there’s not room to grow in that scenario, there’s just pressure on the other person to help distract you from the project of working on yourself. That might sound a little heavy handed.

Another way of looking at it is this– do you have a friend who seems to rely on you all the time for entertainment and distraction– they are bored if they’re not constantly busy with other people? And aren’t you tempted with that friend to say (though you wouldn’t put it so harshly)– get a life!? Well you think things like that not because you don’t like or even love the other person, but because you know that they are putting the job of taking care of themselves on your shoulders. So– relationships thrive on closeness and some distance– keep pursuing things that you like, that are meaningful to you, and this is a way to not put pressure on your relationship and keep it growing.

5. Sometimes our subscribers are so scared of losing their man or they refuse to accept the reality that the relationship is over and in the process, they numb their feelings or resort to desperate tactics. They resort to excessive texting and calling, dating other men just to make their man jealous, having sex with him hoping that would save their relationship etc. I guess the root cause of all these behaviors is to avoid pain- I don’t want to feel the pain of being betrayed, I don’t want to feel the pain of being dumped etc. How can women bravely face their fears instead of working towards avoiding them?

When a relationship is over, it is devastating. There’s no way out of it, but through it. The thing is, the more you prolong the inevitable by reaching out to the person when they’ve clearly said it’s over, or when you’ve decided the relationship isn’t good for you, then the more rejection you’ll have to go through to get to the same point, ultimately, that place of acceptance that the relationship is over, and recovering from the loss. It’s not that your needs for wanting to connect aren’t valid, they are, it’s that you’re going to the wrong person at this point to get them met– this person who was your partner is no longer the person who can help you feel better.

The more you knock on that wrong door, the worse you’re going to feel. The solution is to accept your feelings yourself– and find other ways of managing the loss. Connecting with friends, writing in a journal, consulting a therapist. These are strategies that will actually help you feel better. Clinging to a relationship that is done, will only make you feel worse. We idealize relationships when they’re over– thinking of the good times, but we can help ourselves by pulling out the “other” photo album– the one of the miserable, unhappy times which are likely the reason it’s time to let go.

6. A number of our subscribers also suffer from being in relationships with years of resentment and hidden anger. This comes from lack of communication, lack of understanding, one partner compromising and sacrificing more than the other etc. What are some ways for women to effectively deal with resentment before it destroys their relationship?

While it is best to “clean up as you go” bringing up your complaints etc as they arise, in most relationships there are some leftovers. The thing is– whatever resentments you have feel huge and overwhelming to you– but your partner might not be aware of what was bothering you and be blown away if you unleash five years of unhappiness in one sitting.

Give them the benefit of the doubt and take some ownership over the fact that you chose not to bring things up sooner. Let them know that you wish that you’d been talking about this all along, and you know there are reasons why you didn’t (share them if you know), and while your sharing that you are unhappy– reassure them that you are bringing this up because you want to be happier in the relationship, and you need their help. Making it more of a “we” project will help prevent the natural defensiveness which could come from simply unleashing your long list of complaints.

7. One reason why women tend to be stressed out is because they tend to place everyone else above themselves including their friends and family. When they spend money or time on themselves, they usually feel guilty. How can women overcome this habit and stop beating themselves when they engage in self care?

Women have always been multi-taskers with most things including happiness– we focus on many people’s contentment– kids, spouse, boss, friends, and may have little attention left for ourselves, but yikes– you’ve got to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. Just because you’re used to coming in last, doesn’t mean that’s right– and while it’s not good for you, it’s really not good for those around you either.

Help them learn (whether kids or partner) how important it is (and how good it feels!) to do things for other people. Whether that’s giving you time to yourself, making your breakfast in bed sometimes, whatever matters most to you. Of course, they’ll be better students at this if they see you doing this for yourself too. The Dalai Lama talks about being selfish for the greater good. Taking care of yourself (what might feel selfish) is good for others because then you’re happier, less prone to illness, more fulfilled and in the long run (or even in the short run) you’ll be a lot more pleasant for your loved ones to be around.

8. Another difficulty our subscribers face is trying to cultivate habits that stick for the long term. One of our subscribers recently commented on how she feels good and positive when she listens to a motivating speech or when she reads a self help book but it doesn’t take long for her to get bombarded with negative thoughts. The daily grind and routine of life seems to quickly negate any positive progress she makes. In her words, when I take one step forward, within no time I am pushed three steps back.

Can you share any practical strategies that can help women to not just feel good in the moment but work towards a positive change that lasts?

New habits take three weeks to take hold. Commit to yourself that for the next three weeks you are going to catch yourself 10 times a day from going down a negative spiral. Yes, it would be great to be more positive too, but the difference between depressed and non-depressed people is not the number of positive thoughts they have, it’s that people who are not depressed have fewer negative thoughts. We can’t help that a negative thought comes in, but we can resist agreeing with it and piling many more on top of it in agreement.

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

First, as we said earlier, be careful of what you’re looking for! We might have an idea of a dreamboat love, but remember attractiveness is not correlated with relationship satisfaction– go beyond that skin-deep attraction and be clear about the qualities you are really looking for in a partner. Looks can fade– love tends to grow.

Second, one of the best things you can do in a relationship is take care of yourself! You don’t want to lean on your partner for bringing you happiness– the happiness you get from a relationship expands the happiness you already feel in your life– so don’t neglect yourself.

Third– it sounds cliche, but be yourself. Nobody does it better. You may feel like you have to do things bigger and better to keep your partner’s attention– but what does that really say about you? And, if you are always doing big things for your partner you’re going to run out of steam and he’ll get in the habit of expecting all the bells and whistles. As someone recently said to me, there’s a lid for every pot– don’t short change yourself– the person for you is already out there– somewhere– let your true self be found.

About Dr. Tamar Chansky

Dr. Tamar Chansky

Dr. Tamar Chansky, a licensed psychologist, is the Founder and Director of the Children’s and Adult Center for OCD and Anxiety in Plymouth Meeting, PA. She is the author of numerous books on the treatment of anxiety including the popular Freeing Yourself from Anxiety Series: Freeing Your Child From Anxiety, Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking, and Freeing Your Child From Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Dr. Chansky is the creator of the educational website: Her most recent book, Freeing Yourself from Anxiety: The 4-Step Plan to Overcome Worry and Create the Life You Want is for anyone suffering from everyday worry, an anxiety disorder or depression.

To know more about Dr. Tamar Chansky, visit her website