Stop Shooting Myself in the Foot
April 26, 2012 5:41 PM   Subscribe

I keep picking women who don't give as much as I feel I give and so I always end up feeling used. And because I keep picking them (even though the last one should've been enough to warn me off of the next one), I also end up feeling stupid too. Meanwhile, I've had women who've given to me the way I've given to those others, but I never seem to end up with them, even though they are exactly what I say I've wanted. How can I keep the good one and stop picking the bad ones? What is my problem?

I've heard of women doing this when they pick bad boys to rehabilitate. These women aren't so much bad girls as they seem really focused on me and us in the beginning but eventually center on themselves; taking what I give but not giving much back in any love language. My cousin chided me to stop picking what she called "Urban Renewal Projects." But am I doing it on purpose? If yes, why? And how to love the good girl who wants to love me back?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
What exactly is it you want out of a partner? What exactly is it that you're not getting? Your wording is a little unclear, and could cover a lot of situations.
posted by KathrynT at 5:55 PM on April 26, 2012

Perhaps you're going all-in a little too early in the relationships you're trying to make work. I suggest trying to make good friends first, and then only date a friend where some relatively stable mutual attraction and support is already kind of clear. With regard to setting aside folks who're nice but too eager, a question I'd ask is whether you find yourself looking at a perfectly wonderful human being and thinking "I can do better." It's ordinary and even important to drop someone you're not clicking with--please don't do someone a disservice by trying to like them--but I suspect some common bad reasons why people set aside good partners are hubris, arrogance, and the desire to feel lucky about your partner having some particular superficial attribute. Again, dating someone you've liked well as a friend may help.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:16 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I spent a good chunk of my relationship history getting involved with guys who seemed to be fairly different on the surface, but wound up being very similar underneath (i.e., supportive and emotionally present during the good times, but unsupportive and emotionally remote during times of crisis or stress). I eventually understood that I was repeating (unconsciously) a very specific dynamic that came out of my family history. I recommend this book all the time, but it really helped me tremendously on precisely that score. (Caveats: I think the title of the book is all wrong, and the language that the author writes is in heavy on ideas of mindfulness in a way that many people may find fairly woo. But if you don't think you'd be put off by that, then I recommend it.)
posted by scody at 6:20 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are Christian and/or comfortable with advice directed primarily at Christian readers, I would highly recommend the work of Henry Cloud and John Townsend. If you're not Christian and/or find that advice that assumes that that is your spiritual orientation makes you uncomfortable, their work might be offputting.

I wish someone was writing more secular stuff in this vein, because Cloud and Townsend make a lot of good points unrelated to religious doctrine, but the presupposition of Christianity (specifically evangelical Christianity) is understandably alienating to many readers from other spiritual traditions or who choose not to be part of any spiritual practice.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:51 PM on April 26, 2012

But am I doing it on purpose? If yes, why?

Can I ask you something? Why do you think a girl would want to be with you? If you could, take a few seconds and think about the reasons.

If you've thought of some then I would like to know -- how many of those reasons involve:

-Things you can give her. (Money, gifts, advice, discounts, help, etc.)
-Tangible ways you can help her. (Fixing her computer or her car, editing papers for her, massages)
-Intangible ways you can help her. (Emotional support, healing her emotionally)
-Physically protecting her.

Now I don't know if it's the case for you. But if the above reasons are the main or only reasons you think a girl would want to be with you, that girls would really have no interest in you if not for that... if you think the main reason a girl would want you is what you can give, of course you would go for a girl who wants to take. If a girl is not interested in taking, it makes sense that you would avoid her. Because what would she want with you then? (At least in your mind)

If you think giving is your main way of getting people to like you and keeping them in your life, maybe work on developing some of your other traits too.
posted by cairdeas at 7:42 PM on April 26, 2012 [23 favorites]

And this -- My cousin chided me to stop picking what she called "Urban Renewal Projects." makes me think it might interest you to read up about codependency, if you haven't already. When you read about codependency you will find lots of references to being codependent with someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs, but that is definitely not always the case.
posted by cairdeas at 7:49 PM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Maybe part of the problem is the way you're interpreting this early focus on you that you're getting, because when you mentioned this, I immediately thought of something I've learned to interpret as a bad sign. (It's not necessarily the same thing you're experiencing, but it might be.)

If the sense that you're getting is that it's the focus itself that's these women expect to be the draw, then that might be because there's not something more substantial there. It's easy to give attention in the short-term. Perhaps there are other women out there who are sending out more subtle cues that you're not picking up on because of the way this type of early attention tickles you, and it also might be the case that you yourself are sending out subtle cues to people who would be better matches for you that gives them pause.

A good test would be to think about the best relationships you know of, between people who don't discuss their interpersonal conflicts with you and who give each other the benefit of the doubt and are generally drama-free. Could you see the woman in this partnership acting this way early on to get the guy's attention? Or would she be more the type to rely on her enduring, stable qualities, and her faith that the guy is capable of recognizing them, to get things going early on?
posted by alphanerd at 9:06 PM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

What, exactly, do you mean by giving?
posted by benzenedream at 9:10 PM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Urban Renewal projects? That's evocative! Do you raze her and build a highway or plaza of civic buildings?

Anyway, this question has come up on AskMe before. Often, people are saying "I'm attracted to a certain kind of person who is bad for me, but when I date someone who is good to me, I don't have the same spark." Spark is actually a decent keyword for finding these threads. Sometimes they're asking about how to stop the spark; sometimes they're asking how to deal with the lack of a spark in these healthier relationships. Here's a long comment from me on the topic, and two more. The rest of those threads are also good. Also, those who are asking you what exactly you do want have a good idea. You might try making a list of those attributes and really focus on findng the kind of relationship that has them.
posted by salvia at 10:19 PM on April 26, 2012

Meanwhile, I've had women who've given to me the way I've given to those others, but I never seem to end up with them, even though they are exactly what I say I've wanted.

Why have you not ended up with them?

This is the missing piece of the puzzle.

Generally speaking, though - sometimes we want something we can't have - like tremendous levels of affection from someone we like and we think if we keep giving more, they'll give it back, but they don't and so it becomes an obsession. If I give and give and give, then they will have to like as much as I do them at some point! It doesn't work that way. There is some reason they can't give you what you want and it's, more than likely, not about you at all. So it's not a problem you can fix or solve.

The girls who will give you back as much as you give them are few and far between, which is in a way good because it weeds out all the girls you shouldn't be with. The problem is, we always think we have less options than we actually do and become obsessed with the idea that we will never find anyone else so we have to keep trying really hard to make this thing come together. The reality is, you will have to date a lot of girls to find someone who will give you what you need - it will take time and it will be discouraging, but you keep going by not giving more of yourself to those who you know (and, really, you know) don't deserve it.
posted by mleigh at 12:23 AM on April 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

What did your cousin mean by 'urban renewal projects'? Do you like a project (someone who has lots of issues and seems to need fixing or rescuing)? Do you feel like you need to be needed? Perhaps you're overgiving (giving from a place of overcompensation).
posted by Fairisle at 3:36 AM on April 27, 2012

Don't worry about what others do/don't do - worry about what you do. Every question you ask of someone else you should ask yourself first, because if you can't answer it honestly yet, how can anyone else?

PRO TIPS: best not to think of people you date as "good ones" or "bad ones." Everyone will always be both, so if you set someone into a possible Good One or Bad One? delineation, they'll always become a Bad One because you're constantly comparing them to something, instead of accepting who they are. What do you think people who do this would categorize you as?

In my opinion, the best relationships start when the idea of "picking someone" is replaced by "this person found me when I was grounded and happy, and wasn't looking to pick someone."

Spend some more time with yourself and get more comfortable with the idea of not having another person in your life all the time. Ask yourself first the same questions you would ask of someone else, and be comfortable with the answer before getting involved and stressed.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 3:44 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hi there! I've been in your situation. Way too often. It's possible you have an attraction, without intending it, to women who are kind of selfish. Who knows? Try this, rather than stressing about what may be wrong with you: Just keep dating women you're into, and if someone turns out to be selfish and doesn't give you what you feel you want and deserve, stop dating them. Then keep dating people till you find one that gives you what you want and you remain attracted to them.

I mean, sometimes you can sort of coincidentally find people who you aren't that attracted to and their response to that is to try harder. And sometimes you can sort of coincidentally find people who respond to a giving partner by not trying too hard because they feel they don't have to. Maybe it's not coincidental, though. Maybe you're attracted to someone who's more distant. Like, it comes off as confidence (an attractive trait) but is actually just selfishness (not so mcuh). Either way, the next step is the same: Just keep dating people and getting rid of the selfish ones until you find a giving one who you're attracted to and want to remain with. what else can you do? don't beat yourself up about it.
posted by shmegegge at 10:15 AM on April 27, 2012

It's possible you have an attraction, without intending it, to women who are kind of selfish. Who knows?

This might be another key to figuring out what's going on with you. What is it that initially draws you to ungiving women? What do all of these women have in common?

Several possibilities occur to me. Selfishness might appear, at first glance, like confidence, or assertiveness, or independence (lots of plans, lots of friends, always busy).

Let's assume you aren't drawn to selfishness but something else that selfishness initially looks like. I'm pretty certain you can search for and find that quality in women who aren't selfish. First, however, you've got to figure out exactly what that quality is.
posted by artemisia at 9:37 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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