Nine ways smart women sabotage their own love lives

Since I moved to San Francisco, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of great women who are still single. On the one hand, it’s good for business, so I can’t complain too much. On the other hand, it saddens me because many of these women are so fantastic – smart, funny, beautiful – and really don’t want to be single. Not forever, at least.

It’s probably true the guys you date are partly to blame here. However, every relationship you’ve been in has one thing in common: YOU. So maybe it’s time to take an honest inventory and see if you’ve been engaging in any of the following self-sabotaging behaviors I’ve observed that inadvertently drive off the good guys who already like you (NB: most of these are applicable to men, too, so listen up, gentlemen):

1. You don’t show up.

Let’s face it: dates are weird. And it’s perfectly normal to feel some trepidation at the prospect of spending time with a stranger. Especially if that stranger is bigger and stronger than you, and the #1 cause of morbidity and mortality for womankind.

However, if you’re in the least bit interested in a guy and make a date with him, do your best to show up. Why? Because when you cancel a date at the last minute (or worse, stand the guy up), you make it very difficult for him to ask you out again. He already stuck his neck out once, and you summarily chopped it off. Oops.

Second, when you don’t show up, to avoid cognitive dissonance, you will unconsciously start disliking this man who was plenty appealing earlier. Since we’re reluctant to think “I stood him up because I’m a bad person,” our minds will accept the easier alternative: “I stood him up because I don’t like him.”

Not showing up also includes not returning calls and messages and not keeping promises in general. The whole fabric of society depends on kept promises. The more you keep yours, the more men will trust you and seek out your company. Show up.

2. You fall for bad boys.

Bad boys are like crack: fun in the short-term but with disastrous long-term consequences. If you’re in it for the joyride, fine. But unless you’re 100% cognizant of and comfortable with the prospect a Relationship of Exceptionally Limited Duration – aka “fling” – you must avoid these guys. You are a woman now, not a girl, and part of being a woman means greater self-control.

Woe betide the woman who thinks she can change or tame a bad boy. Just ask one of Charlie Sheen’s girlfriends or Whitney Houston how that worked out for them. Having your heart broken by a bad boy can also make you reluctant to give a chance to the next decent fellow who comes along. Which brings us to…

3. You keep going for the bright, shiny object and don’t give the good guy a chance.

Recently, a friend was recounting her chronicle of woe of an entrepreneur boy who broke her heart in dramatic fashion. She has a history of pursuing bright shiny objects who end up treating her poorly: the football star; the European model; the tech zillionaire.

When pursuing guys like these, it’s important to ask yourself: Am I going after these guys because there’s a good fit between the two of us, or is it mostly for ego appeasement and self-validation?

Most people want things like companionship, growth, support, affection, stability, hot sex and kids out of a relationship. Except for hot sex, most of those items are fairly unexciting. The decent, steady fella is much more likely to provide those qualities to your relationship than the swashbuckling guy. Moreover, the fact that a guy is 6’5”, throws a football well or made $10 million by 30 has no correlation with whether he has sexual chemistry with you.

So find thee a good guy who makes you hot, too. Just remember that most guys like that won’t be on magazine covers.

4. You’re not quite sure what you want.

I had a girlfriend once who was perfect on paper: tall, blonde, good-looking, pro volleyball player physique, Cordon Bleu graduate, and a successful doctor. Who subscribed to The Economist, hot damn. On the one hand, she wanted greater commitment from me. On the other hand, she would leave after sex and not stay over for the night. At the time, this didn’t make any sense to me. Frankly, it still doesn’t.

Whatever it is that you want – real intimacy, just a fling, meaningful support, a boyfriend, a husband – be clear on that. Men are not psychic. If you’re not sure about you, we’re not going to be sure about you either.

5. You get too clingy or needy too fast.

Let’s say you meet a guy and you hit it off spectacularly. You spend a few blissful days in each other’s arms, and things are going great. This still does not give you license to demand his company every day for the next month or to feel miffed when he doesn’t include you in an activity. He had a life before you, and he will have one after you.

A man’s highest value is his freedom. Infringing upon that with clinginess and neediness is the fastest way to send him running for the hills.

6. You hold out too long for sex

It’s important to get to know someone before getting physically intimate. It’s also important to take care of your own desires and needs. Between these two imperatives, there’s a balance. Waiting one hour is too little; six months is too long.

The problem with holding out too long is that it raises questions in his head, none of them pleasant: Are there landmines in her personal history I shouldn’t step on? Is she a born-again Christian or strict Muslim? Does she even like me? What the hell is up? If you must wait for your own very good reasons, communicate with him. That way you abate uncertainty and let him make an informed decision. Otherwise you’re tacitly pushing him to pursue options other than a terminal case of blue balls.

7. You are blah in bed.

Sex is like tennis. The better you are at it, the more fun it can be – longer rallies, more moves, better workout. The big difference: if you want a good relationship, being good at tennis is optional. Being good in the sack is definitely not optional.

People! There are truckloads of books, videos and magazine articles on this stuff, most of them freely available on the internet. If you don’t know how to handle his private parts or make yourself happy, spend a month of your life on it and learn. Which brings us to another essential life skill…

8. You don’t cook.

In our urban environments like New York or San Francisco, with delis and restaurants on every corner, it’s easy to relegate cooking to the back of the desirable skills queue, right after spreadsheet jockeying and writing marketing copy.

This would be a colossal mistake. Because there is no life skill more important than cooking. Besides keeping you healthy and saving you money, cooking brings people together and bonds them in a way that nothing else can. Saying “I can’t cook” is tantamount to saying “I am reluctant to take care of people.”

Moreover, if you can’t cook, or don’t have time to, you are at a huge disadvantage to any woman who does. Because a man will travel almost any distance for a home-cooked meal. Then he’ll already be at your competition’s home, with wine in hand, musing over baby names. Speaking of wine…

9. You get too drunk.

There are guys out there who think it’s great that you did a seventh body shot of Cazadores tequila at the party. Woohoo! Some of them even encourage that behavior with hopes of taking advantage of your impaired state.

These guys you’re not likely to introduce to your mom or marry. Because the decent guys actually dislike seeing you slur your words or stumble. They prefer seeing you smart and competent, not a jelly-legged mess.

Case in point: a girlfriend who was fit, beautiful, with a great job, an MD and a graduate degree – marriage material all the way – unfortunately had no off button for her drinking. Even though she was extraordinary, my attraction and respect for her diminished each time I saw her wasted, until I eventually had to move on.

Navigating the waters of dating and relationships is plenty challenging without extra impediments introduced by you. So consider an alternative. When you show up, are clear on what you want, avoid flings with toxic guys, pick up a few more life skills and maintain balance throughout, you’re bound to make the process even more fulfilling and fun.

5 Comments on “Nine ways smart women sabotage their own love lives”

  1. Katherine G

    I hadnt realized until your blog/emails of my “issues” or what i really was looking for until i began to analyze in depth through your information· Best reality check needed at such a monumentous growth period in my life. Thank you·

  2. Ian Scott Armstrong

    3, 4, 7, 8, 9 and sometimes 5, depending on the type of guy, could be good advice for both halves. I can say with confidence that if I didn’t know how to cook or go after exactly what I wanted, I wouldn’t be married to my wife right now.

  3. Amelia

    OMG! I just lost the BEST guy i’ve met in years becuase of some of these things!! I’m SUCH an idiot! Well, I bought and am reading your book, so hopefully I won’t make the same mistakes again. I wish I had a “do over,” with him. :(

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