There are no other creatures in the world that ignore their built in predictors of danger more than women do. You know these predictors as your gut instincts, psychologists call them, “visceral responses”. There is a litany of words used to describe those special internal messages that are meant to immobilize or to rev up to flee or fight. These messages visit us as nagging, fear, apprehension, doubt, suspicion, hunches, curiosity or persistent thought. Not only are these internal messages signals to protect us from those dangers we dream about when we sleep at night, but they can help reveal much about a potential partner’s character.
There is a body of work by a man named Gavin DeBecker that resonates with what I have come to know about women after twenty-some years of therapy, counseling and coaching. Women have been hard wired to ignore their own hard wiring! They discount, dismiss and devalue cues from their own brains and bodies. Empowering women is about teaching them what skills they already have, inherent in their nature. Gut instincts are primordial skills; the skills we as humans have had since the beginning of time. Low self esteem is not always the reason women enter into unhealthy relationships, poor assessment may be the other.
So how do we know how to let the right people into our lives? How do we attract the right people? We become better assessors. We make distinctions between those things we do to ourselves and those things we ALLOW others to do to us. We learn to trust our gut to teach us about other people. In my field, I often hear two words and one particular sentence which raise my own internal alarms. Often these words come while a woman is sharing her intimacies of the beginning of a new relationship and then, I hear them again at the ill-fated end! But he seemed so CHARMING. Include NICENESS and HE MADE ME FEEL…..add the adjective of your choice, beautiful, important, like I am the only woman in the world, etc. This is the HOOK; the tactical maneuver which is used to reel the woman in and makes the man in CHARGE of her feelings. Once you believe someone is in charge of making you feel anything, you have given up your power. I ask women to notice the difference in language: I feel cared for. I feel appreciated. I feel valued. Versus, He makes me feel special. He makes me feel like I am the only one in the world. He makes me feel sexy. DeBecker examines the
word, “charm” more closely. To charm is to compel, sell or CONTROL by allure or attraction. Try thinking of charm as an action word or a verb and it makes one’s intentions more obvious. He is trying to charm me. I liken it to being put under a spell and that never really turns out too well in the movies!
Think about the whole ordeal of buying a car, especially if you are a woman. They are using tactics to compel, allure and seduce you into the ultimate purchase. Along with that you are also purchasing an image of what that car is going to do for your life. Can you guess what the salesman said to me? “You have to see this in red; you would look awesome driving this car.” It worked. I didn’t buy the red car from him but did buy a red car from someone else. Sad but true. No disrespect to those savvy salesmen; they have a job to do. Niceness seems harmless enough. Who doesn’t want a nice guy? Who doesn’t want their child to meet a nice friend? Niceness is not in itself a character trait. People decide when to be nice or not. Think about it. Are there people who you think deserve to be treated nicely versus those whom do not? Are you ever nice to get your way, get what you want and then you can turn it off? I think we all can answer “yes” to these questions. Therefore, niceness, as well, can be a strategy or tactic.
Words are often more compelling to a woman than a man’s actions. Certainly, the more damaged your self esteem, the more words can fill you up. The rule is simple: Does he do what he says he is going to do while being respectful? (Do his actions match his words?) If not, you have a choice to make. Isn’t that what it is all about? You being able to make a good assessment, an informed decision based on trusting your instincts. We make predictions every day. We anticipate which way the car in front of us will turn. We look outside and feel the air, look at the sky and decide what is best to wear. As women, we can attend to rather than dismiss. We can validate rather than ignore. We can learn to trust our gut to protect ourselves and allow quality people into our lives. The more we know how to do this as women, the better assessors our children will be!
One of my clients said it best, “I told myself not to ruin this. He seemed too good to be true. I had such anxiety before our dates. I told myself that I must not really want this relationship because I didn’t deserve a guy like him. That’s where the anxiety must be coming from.” Her internal dialogue was quite accurate; he was too good to be true. Since she did not attend to her own dialogue, the physical anxiety was there as a back-up persisting, nagging, begging her to make that decision to self protect. You know the ending to her story; but at least she is smarter now!
You may contact Kelly at 610-216-8833
Kelly Sunday is an MS, NCC, LPC. She has been working in the mental health field for over twenty years with children, families, adolescents, and young adults. In addition to her therapeutic work, Kelly is also enjoying her work as a relationship coach for Master Matchmakers of VH1’s Tough Love and Tough Love Couples.