Love dilemmas abound, and here, in our second installment of a weekly advice column, a TODAY.com panel answers questions from two readers dealing with relationship issues. Have your own question? Submit it here.
First, let’s introduce our panelists:
The wise grandma: Kitty Schindler
At age 87, retired nurse Kitty Schindler is TODAY.com’s oldest regular contributor. One of 10 children raised by a Pennsylvania coal miner during the Depression, she offers advice from the perspective of a successful long-term relationship — a 61-year marriage.
The relationship expert: Dr. Robi Ludwig Dr. Robi Ludwig is a national TV commentator and psychotherapist who practices in New York City. She is also the author of the book “Till Death Do Us Part” as well as a contributor for both Care.com and TODAY.com.
The dude: Alex Smith
Alex Smith is a 44-year-old journalist and native New Yorker. Despite possessing a worldview some might describe as “bleak” and/or “cynical,” Alex has been very happily married for a decade, and is the father to two incandescent little children, Charlotte (age 7) and Oliver (age 5).
Question 1: I always seem to fall for bad boys or guys who are not emotionally available. It’s a pattern I’ve noticed, and I don't know what to do. I never find the nice guys and go for the ones that treat me horribly or just aren't there for me. I feel like I'm an emotional sadomasochist. How do I overcome this? —Jo from Orlando
Kitty says: No, Jo, you're not a sadomasochist. You don't approve of the way guys treat you, so rule that out. Congratulations! You’ve recognized something important about yourself, and that’s a huge step. Now maybe you can answer your own question by asking yourself some other ones:
- What attracts you to bad guys? What attracts them to you? How do you dress and behave?
- Where do you go to meet guys? Keep in mind that birds of feather flock together. Instead of bars, what about organizations related to your interests, a gallery or museum event, or even a class or lessons in something you’ve always meant to learn about? Go to nice places where there are nice people; ignore those who are not nice.
Remember: You do have choices. You have to earn respect, expect respect, and even demand respect with your attitude and behavior. Nice guys want nice girls, so my advice is: Be nice!
Dr. Robi says: Bad boys can be quite alluring. They send off that alpha guy macho vibe, which taps into a primal part of the female brain signaling good sex with a man you can make strong babies with. Bad boys appear confident, exciting and adventurous. These men also know how to talk to women. Bad boys can be fun to date, but they're not fun to be in a committed relationship with (and that's if you can even get them to commit). Bad boys often appear to be hard-won prizes, but this is typically far from the case.
The reality of the bad boy is a lot less appealing than the fantasy of them. Women stuck in a painful bad boy cycle have to consider they might have their own fear of intimacy. When you continually pick bad boys, you're picking someone you won't have to be intimate with. It's also possible you could have low self-esteem. Bad boys reinforce this idea that you don't deserve to be treated well. If this is a cycle that's causing you to be upset, you may want to look at this issue with a therapist to see if you can identify patterns in your choices which aren't working for you. Bad boys become less appealing when you decide more is better than less, especially when it comes to having a rewarding relationship.
Alex says: Like the song says, perhaps you’re looking for love in all the wrong places. Maybe go against the type and try looking in places you’d normally not consider – like bookstores, comic shops or tech-oriented shops. Why not a date a nerd? Also, why not ask some of your friends if they know any genuinely “nice” guys (y’know … ones who aren’t already married, gay or both).
Question 2: I am a single, independent, driven woman who is having trouble out in the dating world. I have tried using the online sites that guarantee you'll find love, but it has been disappointing. Most men in my dating age group, 30-39, are only interested in women ages 25-33. There has to be a way for woman over 30 to date. It seems like men only want younger woman and tend to put accomplished thirtysomethings in the old spinster category. Any suggestions? I'm very optimistic, but it seems as if I'm starting to be overtaken by 24-year-olds. —Ready to date
The TV commercials may make online dating sound easy, but the reality is not so simple. Get out where the men are. Ask a girlfriend to go with you to a nice cocktail bar after work or a sports bar — men of every age gather there. Join a singles group at church, or wherever single people in your area meet. Volunteer at a nearby hospital or with a local organization; it’s rewarding and a chance to socialize with all types and ages. Remind friends and colleagues that you are open to meeting someone.
Dr. Robi says:
Congratulations for finding yourself ready to be in a committed relationship. This is great news and the first step to finding true love!
It takes an emotional readiness before one can find the right partner. It’s true some men will be overly focused on age, but some men won’t. They like the idea of dating a woman in her 30s who is accomplished and more developed as a person. There’s nothing wrong with raising your age range either, in order to find that perfect eligible man. Find the men who think dating women in their 30s is HOT STUFF.
The important thing is to find a man who appreciates who you are as a person, period. Dating is about sifting through a lot of men who are not the right match for you, but the good news is, these men often prepare you for ultimately finding the right guy who is. Enjoy the journey and keep the faith.
I’d love to be able to assert that your perception of “most men” is unfair, but, alas, the majority of men out there do seem to seek out younger women. By the same token, given the assertive nature of some of your self-descriptive adjectives – “independent,” “driven,” “accomplished” – perhaps you’re inadvertently broadcasting an exterior that some men might find … intimidating. I realize that time is of the essence, but maybe a softer approach might expedite the process.
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