There are certain phrases we hear over and over again that come to be viewed as the absolute truth Phrases like:
All the good men are taken, or
Men prefer younger women, or
The only thing men are interested in is sex, or
It’s difficult to find a great relationship.
These are just some of the most common thoughts women have about men and relationships. When I ask them how these thoughts make them feel, there’s a resounding consensus that they feel disappointed, angry, sad, mad, hopeless, and sometimes despair, to name just a few.
When enough people think certain thoughts and share them with others they take on a life of their own, And it takes some effort - and dare I say courage - to poke around and ask the question - Are these thoughts really true?
I was once invited to join a party of women at a time when I had just left a twelve-year relationship – my friend thought it might cheer me up. I came to discover that the fifteen or so women in that group were just like me: middle-aged and single due to a divorce or separation. But there was one big difference between those women and me. They believed that all the good men were taken, they believed that men preferred younger women; and they believed that their chances of finding a relationship were dismal. I didn’t.
If our crappy feelings are coming from our thinking (which they are), then what do we do with our crappy thoughts? How do we make them more positive? How do we get rid of them? Or do we even want to?
Rest assured, I’m not going to recommend you do positive affirmations, because the truth is, they don’t work. You can’t pretend you feel differently when you don’t.
Two things come to mind. And one of them you’re NOT going to like.
Let’s start with the first one: For every statement those women made that night, I could have found examples of relationships that told a different story. I personally knew many men at work who had been happily married for a long time, and who were not just getting off on the sex (believe me on this one!). They loved their wives for many other reasons.
I also knew men whose partners were of the same age range. One of my co-workers was married to a man who was five years younger than she was. Heck, my own relationship of twelve years that I had just left was with a man who was six years my junior.
My point is that when you hear thoughts that make you feel awful, do yourself a favor and look for evidence of the opposite. because you’re almost bound to find them. And when there is evidence there is possibility.
Here’s the piece you may not like hearing.
Throughout my decade of coaching, one thing I’ve noticed about us human beings is that people have a perverse desire to talk about their limitations – but that’s not the full story. There’s actually a part of them that’s enjoying their plight. There’s some kind of payoff for them. It's almost as if they're "getting-off" of their hard-luck story. And what on earth could that payoff be? They like people feeling sorry for them; they like playing the victim because they get attention from others, or it kind of lets them off the hook of having to do anything to change their situation.
I know, I know, I can hear the outrage. But think about it, we never continue to think or do anything if we’re not getting something out of it (and I include myself in all of this!).
And just for the record. When I was first introduced to my now husband of twenty years, I was accompanied by my intern from work who just so happened to be a drop-dead, gorgeous, blond, single, twenty-eight-year-old Danish woman. I was forty-four!
She thought Tim was cute as did I. But I was the one he called a few days later to ask me out on a date. And just for the second record, Tim and I were born on the same year.
When I gave my speech at our wedding reception (yes, I gave a speech!) I made of point of thanking my new darling husband for not going for the younger woman.