“Cindy” is a lovely 55-year-old divorced woman. She’s vibrant, active, and successful in her career. Her love life, however, is another story. She’s been in relationships with a number of men who treated her poorly. They contributed very little to the relationship, and she felt depleted and devalued.
She came to me to change that pattern so she could finally attract the healthy relationship she desired. I love when a woman recognizes that she can break toxic relationship patterns. If you do the inner work, you can learn to attract a wonderful loving man into your life.
But Cindy had a long history of allowing selfish men into her life, and change isn’t simple. It requires awareness, willingness to modify behaviors, commitment, practice, and time. After working together for several months, Cindy has eliminated many of the negative patterns in her life. She’s learned to “Date Herself First”, the first step in my signature 6-step program to attract healthy relationships after 40. She has fallen in love her life and values herself so much more. She’s learned to set clear boundaries about how she wants everyone in her life to treat her – her kids, friends, boss, coworkers, and her dates.
The next step is “Creating Your List”. This is where she learned to recognize what she needs in a relationship in order to feel valued by a man. In order to do this, she’s identified how she wants to feel in a relationship. She came up with, “safe, cherished, and valued”.
Then she wrote a list of who a man needs to be in order for her to feel safe, cherished, and valued. Here’s her list…
Cindy’s Non-Negotiable List
1. Financially responsible. She doesn’t need a man to be financially secure, as there is no such thing as full financial security. Many wealthy people lost everything through bad investments, stock market crashes, or a hurricane/tornado/act of God. Financial responsibility is about how he spends and saves. It’s also about how he gives. Is he generous? Does he give to charity? Does he live within or beyond his means?
2. Trustworthy. Cindy wants a man who follows through. He is accountable. His words and actions match. He calls when he says he will. He is who he says he is. In other words, he has a steel core of integrity.
3. Emotionally available. This is a guy who’s ready for a relationship. He is not still thinking about reconciling with an ex. He doesn’t carry anger, resentment, and blame for women who wronged him in the past. He is open to a committed relationship with her, to exploring the possibilities. He is also willing to talk about the challenges in the relationship. He’s not a fair weather boyfriend, only showing up when things are going well. He’s there through the easy stuff and the hard stuff, and there will definitely be a degree of both in any healthy relationship.
4. Sober. Cindy’s been with alcoholic men whose behavior was erratic and often violent. Therefore, she will only be with a man who’s sober. To her, that means that if he had an alcohol or drug problem in the past, he’s worked through it and is in active recovery for a length of time.
5. No outstanding legal issues. She will only date men who are not battling their exes in court or have other outstanding legal issues. A man who has legal issues is in transition and will most likely be preoccupied. He won’t have the bandwidth to devote to developing a healthy lasting relationship.
This is a solid non-negotiable list. Notice that there is nothing on the list about looks or external qualities. It includes the top five character traits in a man that she must have. If a man doesn’t fit the list, he doesn’t get to be a part of her life. She is quickly extricating herself from the men who don’t have all five items on her list. She won’t go on a second date with a man who drinks four alcoholic beverages on a first date (true story)!
She finally met someone who looked like a keeper. He’s a giver, a nurturer, and has said and done some lovely things. His words and actions match. He’s financially responsible and sober. But there’s one important thing missing from the list. He’s not emotionally available because…he’s not yet divorced. He has been separated for SEVEN years! He claims there’s no chance at reconciliation. He and his ex don’t love each other. In fact, she’s recently come out as a lesbian.
So, what’s holding him back from getting divorced? FEAR. He is afraid he will lose everything financially. So afraid, in fact, that he hasn’t yet gone to a lawyer to get some real information about what will happen to his finances post-divorce. Without the facts, he is making it all up, which has paralyzed him from moving forward.
Which brings me to the second thing that’s holding him back: SHAME. He hasn’t even told anyone that he’s separated. When he introduces people to his girlfriend, he says that she’s just a friend. When they’re together on his boat, his friends speak about what a lovely woman his wife is. Guess how she feels when she’s with him and his friends? Devalued, of course. Which brings her right back to how she felt in past relationships.
I’ve advised Cindy to check her non-negotiable list again. If she wants to feel valued in her relationships with men, she needs to be with men who are emotionally, financially, and legally available to her. Otherwise, she will not feel valued. She should not make any demands on him.
Here’s what she can say:
“Arnie, I really like you and have enjoyed this past month together. The problem is, as long as you’re still married, this relationship won’t work for me. If and when you’re divorced, I’d love to hear from you. If I’m still single, we can give this relationship another chance. How would that work for you?”
A separated man is a married man. Arnie has outstanding legal and emotional issues in regard to his marriage/divorce. He is not yet free to develop the kind of relationship Cindy craves, one devoid of fear and shame, one where she feels valued. A man who meets all the requirements on Cindy’s non-negotiable list has a chance to develop a real, deep, wonderful loving relationship with her.
What’s on YOUR non-negotiable list?
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