Dr. Rob’s Simple Advice to Ladies so You Don’t Get Dumped

Dear Dr. Rob,

After you wrote this post for men I thought for sure we’d see a follow-up for the female readers, something to help us in our relationships with our boyfriends. And yet, nothing! Do I have to go to Dr. Phil for good advice?

Lynn

Let the word go forth and make no mistake: if anyone here takes Dr. Phil’s advice over mine, she will be banned from this website forever, never to return. Banished for life.

A few years ago a large portion of my clientele was women, aged 21-35 or so. Most of them had what seemed to be potentially great relationships with their boyfriends. However, all the women had a common feature: a need for excessive attention from their boyfriends and a constant reassurance of the relationship’s stability.

None of these women were narcissists or suffering from Histrionic Personality Disorder (more commonly known as “Drama Queens”). They all hated the idea of being labeled “That Girl,” the one who might have a few too many drinks and blow a gasket when their boyfriends didn’t call or wanted to spend a night with the guys. And yet that is exactly what they were turning into. Successful women with great jobs, loving friends and goals that ranged from writing books to raising large, healthy families. So why were they needing to be the sole focus of their significant others’ world? Why the constant and debilitating anxiety from any signal suggesting a lack of complete and total devotion? Simply put, they were all afraid of loss, and this fear was a huge problem.

The women would come to me seeking ways to lower their anxiety levels, feel less jealous about ex-girlfriends, develop ways to not freak out that their partner didn’t say ‘I love you’ often enough. I will tell you exactly what I told each of them.

There are no magic words, no breathing or muscle relaxation techniques, no amount of drugs (recreational or medicinal) that can take away all of the angst and distress if you insist on making a small number of erroneous and perhaps not entirely conscious assumptions:

1) There is such a thing as a ‘guarantee’ in relationships or life in general. Read my post on why marriages fail for more on this. Life actually brings just the opposite: a constant series of risks, especially at the romantic level. Just think of the number of dates/hook-ups/boyfriends you and your friends have had over the course of your life. How many of those have ultimately ended? Almost all of them.

2) Men can essentially be put in a bubble, removed from their history and current interactions with the outside world, that they can have a healthy life generated solely by your relationship with them.

3) That you ‘can’t live without him.’

In other words, unless you embrace the fact that your man has a past and present that doesn’t include you, that there’s no way to ensure things will be Happily-Ever-After and, perhaps most importantly, that you are not made of glass and would survive if the relationship dissolved, then you’ve ironically already destroyed the good thing you have. If you can’t be comfortable in your own skin – knowing that if you were betrayed or dumped or both, that you’d get up, dust yourself off and move on – then give up on that relationship now. As cliché as it may be, you simply can’t ask someone else to tell you that things will be okay if you are unable to do it yourself. There’s no way the relationship will work. There’s no chance.

The good news is that once you’ve eliminated the aforementioned assumptions from your mind set, all the ‘symptoms’ will go away. No more worry, no jealousy, and finally some fucking inner peace. Why? Because you’ll know that while it’s painful to lose someone important to you, loss is a part of life and that you can be okay with that fact. You can and will move forward, as hard as it may be.

One further piece of good news: men who are interested in meaningful relationships will find this mind set attractive. You’ll strangely get so much more out of your relationship if you’re fully prepared to lose it.
Easy to say, right? Of course it is, and that’s why therapy is actually quite simple. It’s not a collection of mind-blowing words of wisdom that you’ve never heard before. Not at all. But unfortunately it is a process, not an event. You have to take information that you might actually already know and absorb it. It has to transform from an intellectual understanding to a more visceral one. And when that happens, people feel better.

Give these words some thought. Not just ‘yeah yeah, I get it’ thought. Sit with the three assumptions above and embrace how untrue and maladaptive they are. That will help. Trust me, I’m a doctor. Not a real one, but close enough for the purposes of this discussion.

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24 Responses to “Dr. Rob’s Simple Advice to Ladies so You Don’t Get Dumped”

  1. Judy says:

    It also gets easier as you get older. Maybe it’s because we just get tired of worrying; maybe we just gain perspective. I know that once I experienced the death of someone close to me, it kind of put breakups in their proper place. Still painful, but I knew I would be okay.

  2. Joe says:

    I demand Part III: How to know when its time to file for a restraining order! And the steps to do so yourself. You and Philalawyer could work jointly on it.

  3. T says:

    Great post Dr. Rob. I think most women who have been in a relationship have experienced these thoughts to some degree at some point. That anxious way of thinking you described has the tendency to spiral out of control very quickly unless its addressed, which is difficult to do because the solution requires us to aknowledge that the problem could be us, and not our significant other. People need to understand that its not healthy to rely on somebody else for happiness and stability. Relationships can be wonderful and they can definetly add these thigns to peoples lives, however, its been my experience that these things need to exist within both people in the first place in order for it to be a healthy equal relationship. I’ve seen a lot of good relationships be ruined by this line of thinking, This is great advice to keep in mind of you can truly apply it to the context of your own life.

  4. Rachel says:

    I guess no matter how many times you bail a guy out of jail, have sex with him, and put up with his braying laughter, you can still get dumped.
    But in all seriousness, I think most people, men and women, need a lot of validation for their mental stability, but that in a relationship the need can manifest itself more. It’s basing your happiness and well being on some external factor, which is pretty misguided. But like you say, saying this and dispensing glib advice (I don’t mean yours) is easier than making a real effort to change.

  5. Amber says:

    There’s so much to say about all this but…no where to start. So I’ll say nothing. Well…sort of :)

  6. Yasmin says:

    I am so emailing this to my *why doesn’t he love me MORE* friends…Thanks for a better explanation than I could have ever given them!

  7. Thanks for this. I never quite understood this behavior or panic, but now I guess I see where those chicks are coming from. Nice, logical explanation.

  8. visitor says:

    Rachel said it: It’s basing your happiness and well being on some external factor, which is pretty misguided.
    I’d like to hear more of your unique point of view on that. Finding self-esteem internally.

  9. Laren says:

    Very good advice! Wish someone had told me that about 15 years ago – had to figure it out on my own.

  10. Hannah says:

    Can you believe that before I went to your site, I prayed that God would give me an answer to the 5 yr question of whether or not I should marry my boyfriend? I know you aren’t really religious but I am in my own bitter caustic way… lol. Great post. I also want to add that sometimes people have different love languages and how they give and receive love can be different, leading to people feeling that the other person doesn’t love them as much, leading to feelings of insecurities. Or maybe the guy feels disrespected or something. I see it play out in my parent’s relationship, my mom likes words of affirmation, dad shows love through acts of service.. and my mom feels unloved so she’s constantly check on him, leading to him feeling that she doesn’t trust him or respect him… and so on. I wonder how much love languages affect couples. If we should date someone who has the same love languages as yourself or someone different?

  11. sandy,phd says:

    I like this post! I can think of a few clients and friends who could benefit. I can also think of a particular shrink who could have learned from this many years ago.
    I would like to add that when we spend too much time worrying if our significant other “loves us enough,” it sometimes means we don’t have fulfilled lives independent of the relationship.
    I’m a big fan of “get a life.” Not said in those words, but more along the lines of “find some meaningful interests.” If we want our partners to keep loving us, we need to love ourselves first. And that includes pursing that which we love. Hobbies, creative outlets, athletics, politics, these are examples.

  12. Jenna says:

    GREAT post. And Dr. Phil can suck it…

  13. I couldn’t agree more with the whole “man in a bubble” thing – it really seems like there are some women out there with the attitude of “he’ll see and do things my way (and ignore his past experiences) because he loves me.” So what is the best (and kindest) way to counter such a mentality?

  14. Anonymous says:

    Just what I needed. I never want to be “that girl,” but I find myself falling into the trap recently, even though I am fully aware that it’s just my fears making me insecure. As soon as my head convinces my heart that there are no guarantees and it’s all just a leap of faith, I’ll be perfect!

  15. Tracie says:

    Sigh. Wise words indeed, Doc Rob. I think I need to print this entry out and read it on a daily basis until I get the basic ideas through my thick skull.

  16. Jen uhhh Side says:

    Tracie just spoke the words in my mind.
    I feel the same, I should probably keep a copy of this somewhere.

  17. I too work with that age range, and I’ve found that the biggest obstacle to most women is themselves. Whether it is trust, communication,acceptance, etc. There is also a difference between understanding and accepting something, as many can do the former but not the latter.

  18. girl says:

    I thought it was funny that this post is directed at women, because as I was reading it I realized that most of what you were saying describes the behaviour of my boyfriend very well.
    He often gets a little jealous over other guys, or about my past exes, and complains frequently that I don’t say I love you enough. I think some people (usually women) are just more emotional, or perhaps are just less afraid to feel extreme emotions… and I guess it’s just hard to give someone what you feel is your all, and not receive the same back. I DO think that his anxiety is not entirely his fault – I could definitely learn to be a little less closed-off. I think a lot of guys could learn to be less closed-off as well. Or perhaps just more outspoken about how they feel. Because I do feel strongly for my boyfriend, I just don’t really say it a lot.
    I wish I could send him this post, but I don’t want to offend him since it’s supposed to be for women, haha.
    But I will definitely mention some of your points to him (subtly)… so thank you :)

  19. Philip says:

    Dale Carnegie said it best:
    Rule 1: Don’t Nag.
    Rule 2: Don’t try to make your partner over
    Rule 3: Don’t criticize
    Rule 4: Give honest appreciation
    Rule 5: Pay little attentions
    Rule 6: Be courteous
    Rule 7: Read a good book on the sexual side of marriage

  20. krankykris says:

    dr rob,
    thank you. you’ve helped us so very much.
    tracie’s fiancee,
    kris

  21. dameix says:

    “Jen Uhhh Side:I too work with that age range, and I’ve found that the biggest obstacle to most women is themselves. Whether it is trust, communication,acceptance, etc. There is also a difference between understanding and accepting something, as many can do the former but not the latter”
    I agree completely, most young women have no idea what they want, so they end up using people thinking this is the person for them, isn’t that right?

  22. Tired says:

    so these posts are really old; I have read this kind of advise from other sites… esentially you have told these women to play a game; that you can’t be yourself; that you can’t expect any security or commitment because people are selfcentred is what you are saying in between the lines….

  23. She says:

    This is amazing! I never classified myself as one of “those girls” who are insecure with men and I always felt bad for all my friends who complained about their significant other not loving them enough.. I always felt secure with guys and I was very confident with my appearance and personality. It almost always seemed like men were more of the “Drama Kings (if you may)” with me and I was more of the apathetic unemotional one who never really saw the need to be in an actual relationship.. Until one day I met this man who I got incredibly into with time, and I found myself dating him after only 2 months of being good friends.. Indeed, it was my very first relationship, and I was 23.. It was perfect and everything was rainbows and butterflies for the first 5-6 months.. I loved it. We couldn’t get enough of each other. We were like glue, it was ridiculous. It almost seemed like I forgot about everything else in my life and it just became about him! But then, 5 months into the relationship, my insecurities started to kick-in and I considered breaking up with him at least a 100 times simply coz I felt he wasn’t sensitive enough to satisfy my emotions.. I started to turn into this hormonal monster, this kind of girl I never knew existed within me. As beautiful as the relationship was, it brought the worst out of me. And I always tried to convince myself it was him, and not me – coz I was confident that I was still that independent girl who didn’t need a guy in her life before I met my bf. These emotional lapses finally drove me to break up with him after 13 months of dating.. and only two days later I realized I brought my demise to myself and there really wasn’t anything wrong with him, but it was me who was overly needy and melodramatic. I hated it when he’d leave me for a minute to go talk to a friend, or spend a weekend with his bros. I hated it. And yet I don’t know why i did! Now that I have broken up with him, I realize that a lot of the things i found wrong aren’t really that bad. I was blinded by my emotions. It was so ridiculous! How did I allow myself to become such a hormonal monster? The poor guy constantly mentored me through all my lapses and reassured me that he still cared about me , but then.. i felt like he was just lying and said all those things coz he felt obliged to.

    It was my first relationship.. and I definitely learned a lot from it. This post is only adding to my hope, coz after the break-up, I felt like I will never be happy with another man again bcoz of the way I became with my ex. I was afraid of meeting anyone and getting close to anyone else lest I drive them away like i drove my ex away. I really think its important to have a balance in one’s life and be aware that one’s life does not revolve around their significant other. Great post.. I wish I read this when I was still with my bf.. It would have saved me so many unnecessary nights of tears !

  24. A says:

    Now I think I understand some of the lyrics of the pop songs I’m forced to listen to at the gym. (Like I’m the only girl in the world? WHAT?)

    And maybe now I’ll be less trigged by the men my age that choose to date these younger women. Each year, I’m happier to be on my own, honestly. A perfect day for me consists of going snowboarding alone.

    Can you please tell me ex-therapist that I’m not messed up for being alone when my main goal was, and still is, to achieve complete peace and happiness… alone? Seriously, it just keeps getting better!

    Guess I didn’t really need him all that much.

    Good luck working with the young women. I was there. It does get SIGNIFICANTLY better after 40.

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