4 Ways to be Empowered in the Dating World

A few months ago, my friend Vera and I were dating guys who were both 30, employed and highly communicative in the first few weeks of dating. Then for reasons unbeknownst to us, these fellows stopped answering our calls. Shocker!

So when we went off skiing one afternoon, we vented our frustration to almost everyone in our path — including Bill, the front desk guy at the ski-rental shop. It would seem unreasonable to divulge our personal stories so freely, but love is an emotional game, and sometimes it feels eerily safe to reveal your deep secrets to someone who knows little of your life.

My friend Vera began telling him our dilemma, “Both these guys just stopped talking. Like bam!” Vera said. “Can I get a heads up or something?” Bill just looked at her blankly, as she tried to then distract herself by toying with the bracelets on her wrist. Then he asked what she said to him before he stopped answering her calls.

“I apologized for answering his text one day late. I was too busy to respond right away so I apologized.”

“That’s the problem,” Bill answered. “You apologized. Men hate that. If I had a girlfriend, I would lose interest in her if she apologized.”

Here I began to regret our decision to divulge our dating issues to Bill. I thought it presumptuous of him to assume all men disproved of apologies from women. So I got confrontational.

“So you can speak for all men out there? You’re 24 with no girlfriend.”

“I know more than you. And I don’t have a girlfriend because my ex-girlfriend was a whore who cheated on me with some guy in college.”

“Well, I know you don’t like apologies. But I imagine even the most apology-hating guy in the world would want a sorry after his beloved girlfriend banged another guy. Don’t you think?”

Our conversation ended shortly after.

Looking back I would not have said this. It was mean. Plus it was presumptuous of me to assume that he would want an apology even after his girlfriend cheated. I was just reacting off a comment that angered me.

This brings me to a point of frustration because worth is not comparative. Yet people like Bill imply that our desirability is contingent on certain factors, and that we must adhere to these standards if we yearn to be loved by another.

“Guys don’t like this” or “Girls hate this”, are opinions made fact — for the most part. I am sure there are some traits that men and women generally like or dislike in the opposite sex, but I imagine even the most seemingly unattractive trait in someone is loved by another person in the world.

Judgments are hurtful. But I imagine the pain would be more tolerable if these judgments were actually useful. We are constantly told what men and women want by friends, family, TV movies, etc., but do these “tidbits” really help us attract more compatible mates in the dating world?

Askmen.com, a reputable online men’s forum, argues that men consider apologies to be over-appeasing, but then claims that men want respect from women in relationships.

I’m confused. Are apologies not a form of respect in certain situations? If I punch my boyfriend in the face for pissing me off, is it over appeasing to then apologize for my behavior? I understand that sorry can be unattractive to certain people…like Bill, but why not personalize the feeling to the individual instead of making the opinion a fact?

Therefore I think we must change our mindset in the dating world. The dating world is rough, but if we change our approach, I think we could attract more compatible mates and move past those who bring negativity into our lives. Check out these tips!

1. Prioritize Your Needs: When we are preoccupied with meeting our partners’ needs, we use the relationship for self-validation. We want our partners to assure us we are worthy of their love. When we prioritize our own needs, we want to receive love and respect in a relationship, so we attract people who value this give and take dynamic, rather than people who are only concerned with getting their own needs met.

2. Regard Judgments as Opinions: It is hard to invalidate others’ judgments, especially when we struggle with our self-esteem. But judgments are essentially opinions. While there are aspects of a person’s character that are objective, those traits are still perceived differently by different people. A neurotic woman may seem crazy to one man and passionate to another. So if negative connotation is attached to someone’s judgment of you (which is usually the connotation in our judgments of others), regard this as his/her opinion. This can help develop an otherwise loving relationship. If Bill is a loving partner and he spews out his frustration with apologies judgmentally, it would improve the relationship if his girlfriend personalized the judgment. She could then conceive how her behavior affected him, and communicate with him in a way that does not evoke that response. This mindset can also help us identify a toxic partner. If Bill’s girlfriend personalizes his judgment, she can speculate that he may generalize his opinion to keep her fixated on meeting a certain standard. Then she is more apt to leave because she spots his manipulative behavior as the issue in the relationship, not her overly apologetic behavior.

3. Regard Rejection as Incompatibility: It is easy to feel inadequate when we are rejected. But rejection signals a lack of compatibility in relationships. If Vera’s date disproved of her apology, then he is not the man for her. If we take these “rejections” too personal, we lose sight of how these experiences can help us find a more compatible mate. After being “rejected,” Vera now knows she is best suited for someone who is accepting of her apologetic nature. Her partner may like or dislike these apologies, but if he does not love and accept her with this trait, she will always feel a sense of rejection in the relationship.

4.Give it Time: We can never know the quality of a relationship without giving it time. If a guy or girl doesn’t answer the phone or text back, there are a multitude of reasons why. We cannot assume she is uninterested nor can we assume he is playing hard to get. We can only discern if this person will be a compatible mate if we give the relationship time and patience.

Most importantly, I think we must develop our sense of self-worth in the dating world. It becomes easier to prioritize our needs and invalidate others’ harsh judgments when we are consciously aware of what we deserve as human beings.

This is hard. We have grown so accustomed to meeting others’ standards that we may not know what we want in a relationship. But in learning to love ourselves, we look for partners who will love us in return, and write off those who will bring negativity and judgment into our lives.

So envision a dating experience that is peaceful. That is successful. That does not allow judgment and rejection to ruin our hopes of finding the perfect mate. A dating experience that is only possible if we change our mindset in this game we call love.

You can also read this post on Huff Post Women here.

Reaction as Resistance

“Whatever you fight you strengthen, what you resist, persists” Eckhart Tolle

There are friends you laugh with, friends you hang out with, and friends you cherish….

I spoke to one of those friends the other day.

Leanne is a friend I’ve known for years. I felt an immediate residence upon our first meeting, and since then we remained the closest of friends, speaking almost every day & night.

What I love most about our friendship is our dedication to helping one another. To exchange stories, and dually transform our consciousness as we disclose, and then try to resolve, our most significant life events.

As we spoke one night, she angrily explained a rift she had with one of her female co-workers, Alina. Alina entered Leanne’s IT consulting firm three months prior, and since then, made repeated attempts to out-do Leanne in the presence of their boss

“Why do you care” I asked, “ you know your boss, your boss knows you. If you do your work, why does this girl’s non-sense bother you? Let her play this game herself.”

Leanne went silent.

Leanne never goes silent. Our talks were seldom afflicted with moments of….nothingness, so I immediately repeated the question out of concern.

“Why do you care Leanne?”

She lost composure, answering with a slight stutter in her voice, “I..I don’t know”

It was moment of sheer terror. We always reciprocated the other’s concern with a type of explanation—maybe this, maybe that—but I could not configure a good reason for her intense concern.

So I perseverated for a bit

“What if it wasn’t Alina at all?”

“What do you mean?” she replied

“Don’t blame Alina for your frustration. She could be trying to out-do you, or she could just aspire to be as competent of a worker as you. Whatever the reason, it is you who is getting upset…don’t react to the emotion and tell me what you feel.”

Through the phone I could feel the rush of emotion in her uneven breaths.

“Well,” she answered, “I feel inadequate.” She continued hesitantly, “to be quite honest, I fear she is better than me.”

I laughed to myself, “So it’s not only her that feels threatened Leanne!”

“Guess not.” She replied. “I guess not…”

Reaction is endemic in our lives, whether we are consciously aware of this phenomenon or not. It is unconsciousness we spew out to the world, pain we have not yet resolved. It is screaming, yelling, or our ‘reaction’ to a substance or idea that eases our pain. Pornography, alcohol, drugs…

In our daily lives, great dilemma avails itself in our inability to understand why we react, albeit our conscious knowing these behaviors are destructive & wrong. The alcoholic drinks, even as he suffers mentally & physically from his addiction—still he cannot fathom why he continues to drink.

He just requires alcohol in his addictive state, as Leanne blames Alina in her envious mindset.

Both reside in an altered state of consciousness—they are falsely identified with underlying pain & frustration. It is their reaction that prevents them from consciously acknowledging this truth.

Only if they cease to react can they bring into conscious awareness what they resist. Leanne can identify her own feelings of inadequacy once she stops blaming Alina. The alcoholic can overcome this same, seemingly impossible feat if he too resists his own impulse to drink.

But it is the ensuing transformational experience that makes this type of acknowledgement such a scary alternative. Even as we suffer from our drinking, drugs, anger, envy etc., we are still inclined to continue the path of least resistance, for fear of losing our identities.

The alcoholic suffers from his addiction, yet fears losing his ‘fun partier’ identity if he stops—he is no longer the drinking buddy, the outrageous drunk guy, the plastered life of the party. He is someone unbeknown to himself.

Yet he will cease to suffer if he doesn’t react.

It was not Leanne’s proudest moment when she took responsibility for her envy. For years, she reacted to her pain, and falsely convinced herself it was others who were envious of her. And so her projections continued.

So I was proud when she finally accepted her pain. Her frustration. Her deep, unresolved feelings of worthlessness. But I really admired her willingness to relinquish her victim identity, and acknowledge her role as the perpetrator in this dilemma.

I admired her ability to not react.

It is so important that we collectively understand our reactions. That we regard our destroying, self-serving behaviors as mere distractions to the core of what we actually resist. It is no easy feat to relinquish our identities, to muster up the courage to disengage from the pain we have strongly attached ourselves to.

But it the gateway to healthier living. And if we yearn for happiness & peace, in ourselves & in the world, we must take responsibility for how we use contribute to these issues in our own lives. We must take responsibility for our reactions, and face our innermost demons.

Channeling Sexual Energy into Productive Energy

Sex. One of the greatest motivational forces in life. Our sexual impulses control so much of what we do, how we act, and the choices we make. But if not properly harnessed, can lead to great destruction.

Sexual energy is what drives this urge. It is a life-energy. The vibe we give off when we interact with others. The way a woman speaks or the way a man glares. A mode of communication that transcends even the intellectual and emotional realms of human interactions.

It is a force that we feel…

Yet oftentimes, we channel this energy into…sex. This is important; without sex our species would’ve died out long ago. But if not controlled, this action can create gender imbalances in society. I would argue some of the world’s greatest social, political & economic issues are somewhat rooted in male & female inequality.

Sexual dilemma is arguably the most significant human conflict. It is the way we question the gender roles in any given society: male & female expectations.

Advertisements, TV shows, movies all imply that a woman’s greatest significance is in her sexual allure. Standards of attractiveness may vary by region, but whatever is considered ‘sexy’ is arguably the greatest measure of female desirability throughout the world.

Women are susceptible to these standards. They understand the value of being attractive, and use their sexuality to their advantage. To an extent, this is validating. Flirting with a cop to get out of a ticket. Dressing provocatively to get into exclusive parties.  But in the quest to be truly gratified, this rather one-dimensional persona is paradoxically dis-empowering to women. Any hooker or stripper can attest to this.

Men’s own sexual struggle would render them clueless in this matter. Their intense sexual desires drive them to penetrate as many attractive females as possible, even while they are committed to one. It is a near impossible feat for a man to humanize a woman who has sexualized herself for his validation. He will only use her for sex.

So in the quest to be socially accepted, women are paradoxically self-sabotaging their own empowerment. Men neurologically struggle to multi-facet women who are sexualized, and women fear social rejection if they multi-facet themselves.  In the process, qualities that would otherwise yield to women’s full empowerment—intellect, assertion, independence—may not fully develop.

This is actually dis-empowering for men as well. If a man constantly sexualizes a woman, he is not prompted to develop feelings for her. Unless he is in touch with his femininity.

This is not the fault of any one gender: it is merely the imbalance of the two.

So in the process of attracting sex (women) and pursuing sex (men), nothing too significant gets accomplished. What is typically depicted as the most gratifying means of sexual release actually perpetuates ‘use’ and ‘abuse’ in male & female relationships. Women use their sexuality to get what they want, and men abuse that authority.

This is not to imply that sex is wrong or bad. It is a great mode of communication, creating some of the most mind-blowing physical, emotional, and spiritual experiences. It has just been misconstrued as the only satisfying method of sexual release. If not for those culturally imposed standards of ‘sexual’ acceptability (aka gender roles), both men and women would be able to embrace a much wider range of their sexuality.

The cycle can only be broken if we consider other outlets of sexual release. We can then transduce our sexual energy into productive energy. The process is all very specific to the individual—it usually occurs once the current system in one’s life crumbles.

In my own sexual dilemma, I found myself deficient in many areas of life: relationships, jobs, money. I repressed masculine traits that would’ve otherwise empowered me if I hadn’t sacrificed them for social acceptance. Up against the world, I seemed contented—but inside I was dying with the one-dimensional female role I assumed.

So I made a vow that I would change. I channeled energy that was once expended on sexual allure into duty. A purpose. A responsibility. I started writing, created a business, and advocated human rights. All of which allowed me to reveal those masculine qualities I suppressed for years.

Perhaps this makes me less ‘sexy’. I’m fully aware that assertion, intellect, and independence are not the stereotypical energies that men embrace in women. And women embrace in themselves. Yet I believe we resist traits that we judge in ourselves. And any similar resistance is perhaps the greatest signal of what energies in ourselves we have not yet fully developed.

So I encourage men & women to openly embrace their gender conflicts! To explore the full range of their sexuality and consider other outlets of sexual release.  Transducing sexual energy into productive energy…

In the process, perhaps we can also redefine our notion of human desirability. Sex will always define us to an extent—we cannot help but to measure people based on their sexual allure. But as we expand our sexuality, we may also broaden the range of traits we consider desirable in others. Creating altogether, a more gender balanced society…

Check out this article on Huff Post Style

The Gift of Meditation: Finding Freedom from Within~

 

To break free from pain, we must surrender to it.

There was a time when freedom was a danger to me—or perhaps my perception of freedom was the true danger. Left to my own devices, I was so willingly self-destructive, so consciously aware of the self-harm I inflicted, that I was seldom shocked by the outcome of any late night debauchery.

If there was any shame, I could only identify my wild and unyielding emotions as the source.

Yet, the illusion I broke free from in my own self-destruction perpetuated the behavior for years more. At least in being black-out drunk, I emerged as the champion of my own struggle—a self-proclaimed breakaway from all things I deemed repressive. Structure, rules, judgement, pleasing others—all became the worries of someone else; someone who cared. Because unlike them, I could be elsewhere…

Or so I thought.

But the day soon came that I was humbled. As I entered a confinement that forced upon me the silence I secretly loathed, no distraction was available to numb my pain: no drugs, no alcohol, no sex—nothing. In those days, I questioned my concept of freedom—that I could be the hero of my own sob-story, resisting societal structure, family rules, job bullshit and still tremble at the thought of silence.

At this time, someone told me my problem. His brutal honesty was the best and worst gift:

“You’re young. You think  you can handle all your drama. But you can’t handle shit. And one day, you’ll surrender and accept what little control you have.”

I’ll admit it was a coarse relaying, but I couldn’t deny his truth—I proved I could handle nothing. My concept of freedom was totally self-defeating.

But his truth caused great stress. It catapulted me into a weird transition: learning what freedom was not, but not yet knowing its face. It was only my encounter with meditation that gave me an answer: I externalized a shame that could only be internally healed. I could only be at peace if I fought the violence within.

So I began.

I closed my eyes and relaxed my body.

At first there was little clarity, as my mind was bombarded with doubtful voices: ”You can’t handle this, you’re weak.” As the meditations deepened, so did the voices. The emotional blocks to my inner freedom intensified with this understanding of presence–the idea that I could be conscious without pain.

The voices then became louder still, now resonating with memories I’d buried for years, angry to be exposed, analyzed, and—most frightening of all—understood. I was tempted to resist—wishing those demons out of existence, wanting to fight them back with the same violence they lashed at me with mentally.

But I refused to give in.

I intuitively believed this would yield the same outcome as before, in spite of the seemingly “different” or “authentic” way I chose to battle it. Just the alternative—non-resistance—was counterintuitive, as if I would be held even more captive than before.

I took the chance. I attribute it completely to faith. I was majorly convinced this would take me to a place I’d resisted for years: the derivative of my pain, created by distortions and lies. But, I trusted something—perhaps it was the old man who so self-assuredly foresaw my surrender at a time when I thought I was strong.

So I closed my eyes, focused myself…and then surrendered.

At first there was rush of pain, as if the dam of my resistance finally broke—nothing left to hold back the emotion. In moments, the emotions leveled, and I became someone other than the sufferer. I became the spectator, the watcher—the witness of the pain, not the host in which it thrived.

My truth finally emerged: I was not my pain.

It was an eerie transition. This new identity emerged—one deplete of unconsciousness. Yet, I can honestly recall true non-resistance to this change. I never felt so much peace. But it can only occur if we surrender to the pain, of which our faith in presence can bring. The fight back makes the pain grow stronger, sometimes even convincing us it is us.

That is the gift of meditation, whether it’s labeled as prayer, self-discovery, or healing. It’s the idea that we can be free within ourselves, even when we are subject to repressive rules or regulations, of which I could only know by “escaping” the outside, and still being captive inside.

I could only break free by facing the silence.

 

Check out this article on Huffington Post Healthy Living and the Elephant Journal

 

Why Our Obsession with Perfection Makes Us So Imperfect

After about two years outside the workplace, I was expecting some craziness with my new job. But within the first, I was nearly drained. It wasn’t so much the workload that tired me; compared to my previous jobs, the work responsibilities were quite elementary. It was instead the interactions with both employees and customers that left me numb at the end of the day.

Being in a call center, I was the receiving end of angry customers, who demanded info about their wellness program, and then answerable to even angrier supervisors, who gave dirty looks and mocking emails when their assistance was needed. Looking back, it was like a catch 22. In spite of my efforts, I couldn’t seem to please anyone, just listened to bitching and moaning for eight hours a day. But I think the greater challenge was dealing with their standard of perfection — the idea that work should never be flawed.

In many of these interactions, it was minimally important if I did something right. Rather, it seemed my level of competency relied mainly how much I faltered… even if it rarely happened. I could do everything right, but once I sent the email, asked for the wrong info, used the wrong tone, it was like I was all bad. Yelled at, chastised, even belittled at times if I couldn’t uphold this standard of perfection. And I found that even when I did repent, it was like they wanted something more. Perhaps a more deeply satisfying expression of remorse or embarrassment? But in these times, all I could say was, “Yes I fucked up. I’m just not… perfect.”

This idea of perfection — no flaws, no issues, no problems — seems to infiltrate all our lives at one time or another. And like the yearning for perfection in the workplace, we also yearn for perfection in other aspects of our lives, whether it is  a perfect family, perfect spouse, perfect job, or some other kind of perfect life situation. And living in a society that embraces achievement, it’s no surprise that many Americans feel compelled to meet such high standards in their lives. The constant bombardment of media images showcasing huge estates, plastic beauty, or celebrity extravagance plagues us with a rather rigid notion of a picture perfect existence.

However, living in reality usually poses quite a threat to this ideal, as even the most seemingly-perfect couple, family, job, etc. begins to show flaws over time. And unfortunately for us, once these flaws surface and the image of perfection shatters, our society does an excellent job of socially humiliating the victim. Once someone lies, cheats, steals, or does something so against the image they’ve upheld, in others, approval shifts to judgment and love turns to hate. It didn’t take long for a once supportive media to shame Tiger Woods for engaging in sexual relations outside his marriage. Nor did it take long for the highly-esteemed president Bill Clinton to be ostracized once allegations of his sexual rendezvous surfaced.

Yet in spite of its elusiveness, we remain fixated on perfection. Often enough, even when we know the flaws, we still defend an image of flawlessness. And I think this derives from our identification with these images, the unconscious linkage of our jobs, spouses, or skills to the very essence of who we are. Which explains our unwillingness to observe the cracks in a mirror that’s visibly broken. As a threat to these ideals can instigate a tremendous shift in our personal realities, to the people we think we are: “I can’t be wrong, because I’m smart,” “They can’t be flawed, because they’re my parents,” “He can’t cheat, because he my loving husband.” Or how supervisors like to think, “You can’t be smarter because I’m your boss.”

But herein great dilemma arises, as our fear of relinquishing these identities may prevent us from looking at the troubles and complications that will inevitably plague our lives. Flaws that will cripple us in pain if left ignored. A fear so great that I too have engaged in this exact resistance. For when a flaw most profoundly threatens my personal reality, my concept of right and wrong, the woman I think I am, I too become tempted to just pretend everything is… perfect. And perhaps this resistance underlies society’s judgment of others, the fear they too may have to confront those same realities in their own lives. As my supervisor’s intense belittlement of a minuscule work defect can only derive in her own fear of making that same mistake.

Does this ever work though? Does ignoring the child’s cry ever stop the heavy hand of her abuser? Does mocking the alcoholic’s binges ever get him sober? I think not. Ignoring the problem or judging it in others can only mask underlying troubles, troubles that will only worsen as we continue fixating on what society deems as a “suitable life.” In a bittersweet paradox, I think it’s the acknowledgement of our flaws, not our obsession with perfection, that intrinsically makes us better, more understanding, more human. And even if this means relinquishing our identities, sometimes looking at the cracks gives us the chance of a better life. We may want to be perfect workers, but we can only be better if we admit our petty mistakes. We may want a perfect family, but we can only be better parents if we admit our own parents’ shortcomings. And so, strange as it seems, I think just accepting imperfection is the necessary ingredient to live a more peaceful, closer to perfect life.

Check out this article on Huffington Post Healthy Living

Cheating Men, and How Infidelity Should Really be Perceived

In the last year alone, via almost every media outlet, we heard about men like Chad Johnson and Ashton Kutcher engaging in sexual relations outside their high-profile relationships. And with the surge in reality TV and massive media coverage, we’re better able to witness how their wives and girlfriends handle these situations.

No doubt, infidelity is painful. When anyone dedicates themselves to a union, and their trust is betrayed, the emotional pain can be overwhelming. But for women in particular, to avoid this pain, there seems to be a specific way in which these situations are handled. As seen in countless scandals, when cheating allegations surface, oftentimes the woman will first stand by her partner. Demi Moore and Fergie are just a couple that stood by their husbands when mistresses first reported affairs with their high-status men.

In cases of infidelity, women may also shift blame to the ‘other’ women involved. We see this pattern surface on reality TV programs like Basketball Wives and Mob Wives, where wives and girlfriends hold the other women primarily responsible for their men’s misbehavior. There seems to be aversion to one simple reality—the man’s betrayal.

And if its clear he’s been unfaithful, there’s constant rumination as to why the cheating occurred. Like the scandals themselves, the media harps on the subject, discussing all potential reasons for male infidelity. And depending on the source, you get a different answer. According to marriage counselor M. Gary Neuman, it’s emotional disconnection. According to TV personality Bill Maher, it’s the desire for something new. And according to legal prostitute Brooke Taylor, it’s narcissism. I’m sure there’s some truth to these arguments. But if there’s anything that’s certain—it’s that the cheating happened.

In the last year alone, via almost every media outlet, we heard about men like Chad Johnson and Ashton Kutcher engaging in sexual relations outside their high-profile relationships. And with the surge in reality TV and massive media coverage, we’re better able to witness how their wives and girlfriends handle these situations.

No doubt, infidelity is painful. When anyone dedicates themselves to a union, and their trust is betrayed, the emotional pain can be overwhelming. But for women in particular, to avoid this pain, there seems to be a specific way in which these situations are handled. As seen in countless scandals, when cheating allegations surface, oftentimes the woman will first stand by her partner. Demi Moore and Fergie are just a couple that stood by their husbands when mistresses first reported affairs with their high-status men.

In cases of infidelity, women may also shift blame to the ‘other’ women involved. We see this pattern surface on reality TV programs like Basketball Wives and Mob Wives, where wives and girlfriends hold the other women primarily responsible for their men’s misbehavior. There seems to be aversion to one simple reality—the man’s betrayal.

And if its clear he’s been unfaithful, there’s constant rumination as to why the cheating occurred. Like the scandals themselves, the media harps on the subject, discussing all potential reasons for male infidelity. And depending on the source, you get a different answer. According to marriage counselor M. Gary Neuman, it’s emotional disconnection. According to TV personality Bill Maher, it’s the desire for something new. And according to legal prostitute Brooke Taylor, it’s narcissism. I’m sure there’s some truth to these arguments. But if there’s anything that’s certain—it’s that the cheating happened.

In an attempt to protect ourselves from pain, we think around ‘what is,’ rationalizing or rejecting the reality before us. And with something as prevalent and painful as cheating, it’s not surprising that women mentally avoid the reality of their man’s indiscretion. But in acknowledging this act comes the acknowledgement of your partner’s sexual relation with another—not yours.

Some may ask—wouldn’t it be better to find reasons why this occurs, instead of just accepting it for our relationships? And my answer is—sure, if you want, you can look for reasons why and perhaps you’ll get some answers. Perhaps, as Gary Neuman claims, it’s emotional disconnection, or as Brooke Taylor claims, it’s your partner’s narcissistic character. But if you don’t at least hold him responsible for his decision, you’ll continue to carry the emotional burden of the indiscretion.

Furthermore, accepting this reality does not mean accepting infidelity in your relationship. Women who tolerate cheating do not hold their partners fully responsible for their actions. This allows them to maintain an illusion that her partner’s behavior can somehow be controlled.

But to accept the reality of his cheating is freedom: a release from bondage to a situation that can only be changed by the cheater himself. Understanding her powerlessness to keep her partner from cheating is, paradoxically, empowering. A woman who finds herself in this situation, and accepts that her partner has decided to cheat and that this is not in her power to change, can find what in the situation she does have control over, including whether to remain in the relationship at all.

Check out this article on the Elephant Journal and the Good Men Project

Reality TV Wives/ Girlfriends, and WHY Relationship Dependency is Harmful to Women

In the light of Chad Ochocinco & Evelyn Lozada’s domestic dispute, it’s not surprising that many people are speculating the reality of their high-status relationship.  According to reports, Chad, ex-player for the Miami dolphins, head butt his new wife, Evelyn, after she confronted him about a box of condoms found in his car. And then, shortly after, his Boston mistress, Bevelry Shiner, came forth and revealed her ongoing affair with Chad during his engagement to Evelyn.  To some, this may not be particularly shocking, but as compared to what’s been shown on last season of Basketball Wives, it definitely paints a very different picture.

Basketball Wives, which briefly aired Chad & Evelyn’s seemingly healthy relationship, is one of the many Reality TV shows that showcases the lives of celebrity/athlete wives & girlfriends.  And with the sky-high ratings, it’s evident that millions of women (and even men) are very entertained by these weekly episodes. For young women especially, the sight of their seemingly unreal lifestyle, lavish parties, fancy clothing, etc can be very impressive.  But with scandals like Chad & Evelyn’s, you have to wonder whether these glamorized TV depictions of ‘celebrity’ or ‘athlete’ wives/girlfriends really set the right example for women.

In these reality shows, I think the most troubling example put forth to young women is how strongly these wives/girlfriends identify themselves with their high-profile relationships.  As evidenced in the show names, Mob Wives, Basketball Wives, Hollywood Exes, there seems to be little else, aside from being attached to high status men, that really defines these women as people.  And so, in spite of it’s glamorous exterior, for women to understand the true harm of this ‘relationship dependency’, I think its important to shed light on the darker reality of being a woman in this lifestyle.

  1. You feel worse when they cheat:  Alot of men cheat.  But when men are rich, famous, and bombarded with hot ladies everyday, they cheat even more.  And for those women who base so much of themselves on these relationships, as many of these wives/ girlfriends do, infidelity feels even worse. For example, in Season 1 of Mob Wives, Drita D’Avanzo is nearly devastated when she finds out her then-husband, Lee D’Avanzo, cheated on her. And considering Drita’s impressive loyalty to their union, even during Lee’s decade long incarceration, it’s even more understandable that she’s pissed.  However, if Drita had based her self-worth more on her own life, and less on her relationship with Lee, she probably would have been less distraught over his infidelity.
  2. People will most likely acknowledge your husband/not you.  When you’re married to a high-profile man, and you haven’t built a separate identity, there’s a good chance you won’t even be acknowledged.  For Example, in Season 1 of Hollywood Exes, ex wife of R-Kelly, Andrea, vents this frustration.  She claims, that even during their 10-year marriage, most people did not even know the R&B singer had a wife! So, to build her own identity, she breaks away from the marriage (as many of these wives eventually do), and starts her own dancing company in LA.  It’s only then, we see Andrea emerge as someone other than the ‘ex-wife’ of R-Kelly.
  3.  He calls the shots in your relationship/ controls you with money.  If you’re with a high-status man, and you haven’t gained your own financial security, its not unlikely that he will control the relationship with his money.  This is especially true of Stevie J’s ‘Love Triangle’ with Baby Mama, Mimi Faust, and ex-stripper Joseline Hernandez, in Love & Hip Hop Atlanta.  Given that each woman is somewhat financially dependent on him (and addicted to his swag), Stevie J is able to manipulate the terms of each relationship.  Its only when Mimi Faust demands 20% of his business and Joseline seeks out other producers that Stevie J starts losing momentum of his love triangle. And for strong & independent women like Joseline & Mimi, that’s definitely a good thing!
  4. More Fighting with Other Women:  Given that many high-status men are usually MIA, doing their ‘thang’ on the road, in jail, at games etc., its not surprising they get caught up in cheating scandals constantly.  And with their women being so invested in the relationships, its likely they would not accept this betrayal and instead shift blame to the ‘other’ women involved, such as groupies, strippers, dancers etc.   We see this pattern surface on Season 1 of Basketball Wives: Jennifer Williams approaches alleged ‘groupie’ Sandra (aka plastic surgery), after speculating she was sleeping with her then husband Eric Williams. Although Sandra tells Jen that Eric only refers to his marriage as ‘just business’ to other women, Jenn still takes out her frustrations on Sandra.  However, if Jenn had confronted her husband, not only would she have gotten to the bottom of the problem, HER HUSBAND, she could’ve avoided a fight with another woman.
  5. You don’t get to figure out who YOU are. I think the worst part of defining yourself by your high-profile relationship, as many of these wives & girlfriends do (or did), is that you never really figure out who YOU are.  In nearly all of these shows, we see a similar pattern surface: women are either socially/ financially /emotionally dependent on their high profile men, and these men use this power to manipulate the relationship.  Being on these unequal terms, these women spend more time fighting for power in their unions than actually discovering who they are as people.  But there’s hope!  With the sky-high divorce rates amid this group, I think these ladies are finally realizing the importance of being independent women.

So, I ask, when watching these shows, try to look past the glitz & glamour and consider the darker reality of defining yourself by your relationship.  And then, you’ll understand the importance of building your own self.