The Successful Independent Woman: Why Can’t She Find a Great Guy?
Everyone has an attractive, single friend that seems to have it all going on: health, career, great hobbies, sense of humor, intelligence…yet she can’t seem to stay in a relationship long enough to introduce him to her dog. Good sense tells us that this “diamond” of a individual deserves to find the perfect match. Why doesn’t she connect with any of the many suitors that line up at her doorstep? Perhaps you are this individual who looks in the mirror and wonders why your mother is still hounding you about when….
Although many people thrive as singles; others long for the company and support that comes from a life-long relationship. Today’s women juggle challenging careers, social obligations, commitments to keep healthy with exhausting exercise regimes, and the need to keep current with continuing education efforts. With schedules over-booked, friends and family often take a back seat to conferences and personal trainers. How then can today’s “superwomen” nurture relationships with potential life partners? If you are still waiting for Prince Charming ask yourself if you are ready to enter into a relationship that demands attention and emotional maturity.
Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, recognizes three levels of emotional maturity: dependence, independence and interdependence. Such a statement sends the modern woman into a tail spin, because the Feminist Movement has taught us to have it all… be all… the independent woman. And, after all of our efforts to achieve and grow as independent women, now we are mediocre on the emotional maturity scale?
We seem wiser and better prepared for everything we do, yet, divorce is on the rise… resentment and dissatisfaction with relationships are on the rise. And, if we stop for a second during our busy lives, when the chaos and hubbub settle, we may sadly notice a lack of emotional intimacy in our relationships. This becomes obvious when married couples who have outlasted the seven year itch tell you “marriage is a lot of work…” What?! Marriage is a lot of work… but, if you work really, really hard, you can tolerate it ?! Yikes! Talk about happily ever after!
Most of my contemporaries are professional women, highly educated—and single or unhappily married. Why aren’t these wonderful, successful women finding happiness in their relationships ? Unfortunately, modern western culture brings up little girls on fairy tales… the stories of the damsel in distress being rescued by a handsome hero and living happily ever after. Those stories illustrate how once the princess gets married, she will be happy because the prince will make her happy. This fairy tale expectation sets up women for dissatisfaction and unrealistic expectations for our poor princes.
We all know that happiness comes from the inside-from our own goals and dreams. And, if you search for happiness from the outside (whether it be a great pair of shoes, ice cream, a race car, or other people) you will be disappointed. That doesn’t mean that we cannot find it through our children or our spouses, but they are not responsible for our happiness nor do they create it. We define our own happiness; it is not something automatically implanted in our lives with the wedding band.
So, are women set up to be disappointed in relationships with false expectations? Are men set up to disappoint? Most of us don’t even know what makes us happy. This problem is exemplified when someone asks the question “where would you like to go to dinner?” Most successful women will respond “It doesn’t matter, dear. Where would you like to go?” Ok, now how is the Prince supposed to make you happy by picking the right restaurant? This leaves him frustrated. He is helpless and emasculated in his failure to please. But this scenario can easily be transformed into a positive experience: if you respond to his questions with, “I’d love jumbo shrimp,” then the prince will be thrilled to find the best shrimp restaurant in the land. Instead of brewing frustration he’ll be proud of himself when the best jumbo shrimp in town are appreciatively devoured. He made you happy. You told him what you wanted, and he found it. When men feel that they cannot make a woman happy, they become frustrated and they often lose interest. Yes, they will even lose interest in that fantastic, successful independent woman!
Now, what compounds the problem is that successful women can easily confuse “dependence” with “interdependence.” The Feminist movement took us from dependence to independence. But, interdependence is a partnership and an ability to work together. Independent women are uncomfortable in situations where they admit to vulnerability and allow their Prince to take over. Instead, successful women focus on protecting their independence and avoiding any possible appearance of a need that they cannot handle themselves. Successful women view vulnerability as a weakness… and most will deny any such thoughts. But, then, if there is no vulnerability… no unfulfilled need, where does their man fit in? And, soon he becomes frustrated and emasculated as his value and ability to contribute erodes.
Now let’s go back to this fairy tale. The independent success woman has been raised on these fairy tales. So, she thirsts for the promised happiness after her BIG DAY, yet, she is less willing to allow assistance and partnership with anyone. She hides her needs and wants from others who offer help, and she locks them in her tower These are intolerable weaknesses., and, her husband sits outside the dungeon with little or nothing to do, whileher resentment builds with the broken promises of happily ever after.
Now what is truly stopping the successful woman from interdependence? Is it the fear of becoming their mothers? Is it the fear of losing independence or not meeting the expectations that come with success? Or maybe it’s the fear of true emotional intimacy? Maybe she fears the loss of control and the potential to be let down? What ever the reason, she sits protected on her island with a concrete wall that protects her from the potential of these vulnerabilities. And, the Prince sits frustrated and worn out at the shores of the moat, unable to contribute to her happiness despite his efforts.
So how then does the successful woman reach the higher level of emotional maturity-Interdependence? She should take specific steps toward inner growth, and if you are searching for the secret for developing lasting relationships, consider the following:
1. Define what you want to get out of a relationship. Women usually state what they will contribute. Instead, do soul searching for your own emotional and physical needs. Yes, we all have needs. Women need to begin to admit they have needs and define them.
2. Identify the qualities in a Prince that are required to meet those needs. This is not income or physical attributes. These are qualities in a partner that you need in order to help you be a better person. What are the qualities in a man that will inspire and motivate you?
3. Discuss the short term and long term goals for your life with your Prince. Identify how each of you will contribute to reaching those goals. And, have this discussion often.
4. Be proactive, not reactive. As Charles R. Swindoll said “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” When you emotionally react, you respond with blame, anger, hysterics, and resentment. Instead, be proactive. Put the focus on what you want to achieve and the consequences you want to occur. And, act according to that plan. If you stay calm and in control focused on your goals, you are less likely to have unintended consequences. For example, if your Prince is upset and terminates a conversation, do not repeatedly call him. This will deter him from wanting to speak with you and possibly lead to a restraining order. Instead, take time off, occupy your time with a distraction (like an outing with friends) and allow time to pass for things to cool off and for him to miss you.
5. Tell your Prince how he can make you happy. When he asks where you want to go for dinner, TELL HIM… don’t pass. Tell him your favorite perfume… your favorite flower… your favorite chocolate. And, allow him to do things for you. When he brings you your favorite flower, let him know you appreciate it. Do not undervalue it with “you shouldn’t have…” or “we can’t afford this…” Don’t undervalue yourself. You work hard and deserve it, OF COURSE he should!!! And, he did!!! So, tell him how wonderful he is and how much you appreciate him. Men want to do things to contribute to our happiness. Encourage him.
The Feminist Movement brought women from dependant to independent. Now it’s time that women move ahead to the higher level of maturity… Interdependence. Sure, we can do it all… we can be completely self sufficient… but, we have sacrificed true emotional intimacy with our Princes. We have lost the ability to identify our own happiness and the Princes are left with no role in our lives. Being Interdependent does not mean that we will turn back the Feminist Movement and end up in the roles of our mothers. It means that we are open to a connection and partnership where we admit we have needs and allow our Princes to meet our needs. Once we allow ourselves to define our needs for happiness and allow others to help meet those needs, we might just start down the path to creating our own happiness…. Together.
© 2010 Elisabeth Camaur