From time immemorial, women have been the bearers and guardians of children. It’s easy to see that because of women’s roles, they had to develop traits of steadfastness, loyalty, and the desire to nurture and to protect. By having a male as part of the family unit, food and protection were often assured, and mothers could spend more time caring for and interacting with their young. Needless to say, keeping that male was of primary importance.
In today’s world, we no longer need men to protect us or drag home large dead animals to keep us alive. But many of the traits we developed over hundreds of thousands of years have endured. We continue, even in the absence of predator wolves and enemy tribes, to believe that we cannot survive without our man.
We say “I love him” as a way to explain physical or mental abuse. We believe that if we are loving enough, giving enough, thin enough, sexy enough, our partners will be the good, loving, decent people we know exist deep down. We go through one or ten relationships the same way. Each time, our partner may have a different face, a different name, a different job. But he is the same man and the end result is the same. We give ourselves away in pieces to make something work that doesn’t work. And then we move on to the next possibility.
We are often smart, accomplished, and in other areas of our lives, self-confident. So what is it that happens when we are face-to-face with a man with whom we feel a deep attraction? In many cases, we become someone we believe that man wants, rather than who we are. What is it that has us abandon ourselves and create something artificial? And, to put it another way, what is it that has us abandon the woman we were who this man was attracted to in the first place?
What is it that has us enter into relationships with men who are on a different path than we are? We many want marriage and/or children and they make it clear they do not. We may want to spend retirement years in travel and they think a trip from the couch to the refrigerator is travel enough. We may have found someone who is kind, considerate, loving and sexy, but who is simply not interested in the same kind of life we are.
We may believe that our failed relationship is due to the failure of our partner. But if we look honestly at the relationship, we may see that the responsibility for the failure belongs to us. We made choices that weren’t compatible with our values or our beliefs. We lost ourselves in the relationships. We traded our visions for our lives for a false sense of security.
We can’t do anything to resurrect the past. But we can acknowledge that relationships with others are merely an extension of our primary relationship, the one we have with ourselves. That is the relationship that must be healthy if we are ever to make healthy choices.