Why don’t we believe that men know their own minds? When they say things like, I don’t think I’m the right man for you or I’m not good enough for you, we usually argue with them.
We seek to put a salve on their egoic wounds and build up their confidence. We argue with them when we should accept what they are telling us and show them the door.
When we ignore these statements from men, we do them and ourselves a disservice. Firstly, our refusal to believe his words dismisses his knowledge of who he is and where he is at in life. This is kind of condescending when you think about it.
Women often step into a more encouraging and dare I say it, mothering role at this point in the conversation. We seek to build him up and focus on his potential much as we would do with a child. But he’s not a child. He’s a man. And you actually want to be in a relationship with a man who will meet you as an equal…don’t you?
Not valuing his words and listening to them leaves the door open to being screwed over. If you convince him to stay in the relationship at this point, he’s given you fair warning about what may be ahead. He might simply spend more time with you until he meets the right woman or he might try to be good enough for you (and succeed in this quest, or not). Either way, it’s not a solid foundation for your relationship.
I’m not saying he can’t become the right man for you. Maybe he can. But that’s something he will need to work on, grow into and choose for himself. Propping him up during this period is unhelpful and emasculating.
When he says he’s not the right one or he’s not good enough, believe him and let him go. If the situation changes, he will be back. If he doesn’t return, he’s done you a favour and helped you move towards the right man who is still out there, looking for you.
Lucretia Ackfield is a modern explorer of love and a passionate advocate for establishing equality through love for the self and others. She helps women all over the world to fall in love with themselves so they can find the deep and powerful love they deserve. Her first book, The Men I’ve Almost Dated, covers all the antics of a single life from online dating to lackluster sexual adventures and dysfunctional relationships. Now available in eBook and PDF >> Get your copy.
A heavy sadness has been growing in my heart for some days now. It arrived when I opened Laura Bates’ Men Who Hate Women and read about the vicious and violent threats she has received from men throughout her career, simply for voicing her opinions.
My heart grew heavier still as I watched Promising Young Woman at the cinema last night.
A book and a film both released in the past 12 months. Both cover the abuse of women. Both shining a blinding spotlight on what women know to be true – we are not safe.
The fact I need to put a trigger warning at the start of this post demonstrates just how unsafe we are – almost every woman I know has experienced some kind of abuse at the hands of man. And when many of us write about women standing up for themselves, we also include the words – if it’s safe for you to do so. We write this because for many women, it’s not safe to speak up.
I had to put Laura’s book down after reading the first 20 pages. I will pick it up again but I need to steel myself to proceed (and I haven’t even got to the really confronting parts yet).
However, I did watch the entirety of Promising Young Woman and I would describe it as brilliantly written, incredibly confronting and disturbingly accurate. It shows what women know to be true and also how men and some women dismiss, cover it up and justify it to themselves.
The film centres on Cassie, a young woman who dropped out of medical school to care for her best friend, Nina. Nina was raped while drunk during college and her rapist got away with it.
Cassie is on a mission to seek retribution.
Promising Young Woman could only have been written and directed by a woman. Its realness is unavoidable. I also feel it should be compulsory viewing for every girl, woman, boy and man over the age of 16.
The frequent refrain of “but I’m a nice guy” provided many teachable moments. Male characters knowingly took advantage of a woman who was drunk yet, when caught out, excused themselves with “but I’m a nice guy” and somehow reasoned away their culpability. Men and women dismissed rape as no big deal with comments about how the victim was drunk and asking for it.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
It reminded me of when I was at my post-formal party. It was the end of high school and my whole year went to a school mates’ property to get drunk and celebrate. I was a fairly naïve 17-year-old but even so, for some reason, I asked a trusted male friend if he would look out for me. I knew he would be sober but I wouldn’t be. Later that night, I remember one of the guys from my year (a seemingly nice guy) with his hands all over my breasts and the rest of my body. If it wasn’t for intervention of my sober male friend, things could have got out of hand very quickly.
Interestingly, back then, it didn’t register as an invasion of my physical space or assault. I don’t think I mentioned it to anyone and I certainly didn’t confront the perpetrator when I was sober at school the next day. Instead, I felt like it was just one of those things that could happen and you lived with it – having a guy put his hands all over you, intimately, when you were drunk was something that could happen and you lived with it. There was also an underlying theme that, somehow, you should feel good if a guy noticed you in that way – like you should be grateful for their attention.
No one had ever talked to me about how vulnerable women can be in those situations, what could happen and what my rights were to protect my own body. Clearly I knew enough to ask a friend to look out of me but that wasn’t from any direct conversation. I guess it was a more innate understanding of what kind of world I lived in as a young woman. It was just what we lived with.
But I’m sick of living with it and I’m tired of hearing people say that a woman asked for trouble because of what she was wearing or because she drank too much. Equally, I know that just because some guy shows you attention doesn’t mean you should be grateful for it. I’m also so sick of perpetrators getting away with their crimes because everyone thinks they are “nice guys” and “women often lie about these things”.
Women don’t often lie about these things. Why would we when, by making a formal police report, we open ourselves up to condemnation for being a slut and somehow asking for it? Or worse, victims are dismissed by police because a perpetrator “comes across as decent guy” when interviewed. Yes, it happens. Still.
There’s no doubt Promising Young Woman rips the scab off and exposes the darkness beneath. It’s a darkness we all know is there. Some of us try to ignore it, some of us feel powerless to stop it, many of us have been victims of it. But. We. All. Know. It. Is. There.
So please, take your brother, husband, boyfriend, father and male friends to see this film. Have the difficult conversations that arise afterwards. And for God’s sakes, all you men out there who sincerely want to help women: start listening to the experiences of the women you are supposed to care about, believe them and step up. Because women are still being raped and assaulted by “nice guys” and we need your help to stop it.
And as for you “nice guy” perpetrators out there. I hope you meet a woman like Cassie very soon.
“How do you know when you’re in love?” Sherri asked me. She was in a new relationship, one that seemed, for now at least, much healthier and kinder than her previous ones. But now this question rose to the surface.
If those previous relationships, when she thought herself in love, seemed now so wrong, did Sherri really know what love was and had she ever experienced?
A lot of us have those thoughts.
I have fallen in love and when it’s ended, I’ve looked back and wondered, was that love at all? Or is this new feeling with this new man ‘real love’?
Years ago, as I struggled through devastating depression from a break-up that in many ways broke me, I told Carolyn*, my counsellor, that I had loved that man. We had been together for only a month or two but my love was as real to me as the river flowing through the city where I now live.
She laughed aloud saying, “Lucretia, you can’t fall in love that quickly. That wasn’t love. Love takes time to grow and take hold.”
Her incredulous response showed how far I had strayed from her reality. She later told me, post-session, that she was separating from her husband. Did that create her cynicism or had it always been there? She helped me process my grief but our perspectives on love remained in opposite hemispheres.
How do you know when you’re in love? For me, love has sometimes created fear. When I’ve said those words, “I love you”, I have cried for the fear of it – the vulnerability of saying those three words has felt devastating because in that moment I feel like I have given my power away. I have given them the power to hurt me and the thought of the possible pain that might result has terrified me.
Other times I have been in love and it’s felt like freedom. When you haven’t felt it for a while – months, years – to realise it is still possible, well, that is joyful and heart-expanding. The man in question may not even feel the same in return but that in some ways doesn’t matter. It is more important that I feel it and it opens me up to feel more.
How do you know when you’re in love?
It’s not cerebral. You don’t think love. Years ago, a friend told me that you could choose who you love. It was a conscious choice that she decided, or not. Her determination that she could control something so ephemeral as love was, to my mind, ludicrous and insane. You cannot choose who to love. Love visits of her own accord. And when she leaves, you cannot force her to return. Ask anyone who has chosen to leave a partner they once adored with their whole heart. When love departs you can look for it under every rock and in every basement, behind the tins on the shelf and in every crevasse of your life. She may hide for a while and return, rarely. But if she has gone, you cannot force her return and you cannot force your heart by sheer strength of will to comply with your mind’s demands.
No. Love is not a logical determination and it takes many forms. It can be violent in its intensity, throwing you down and dragging you far from shore, far from what you believed and who you thought you were. It is often uncomfortable because it is a risk: what if it’s not reciprocated? What if he leaves? What if he cheats?
You can try to resist but your heart will want what it wants and won’t be denied by rational reasoning or sensible caution.
Love can creep up on you, springing out yelling, “Surprise!!” like friends at a birthday party. You will feel disoriented. How did I get here? Can I get out? And then, hang on, I’m in.
I have been lost and found by love, destroyed and created through love, expanded and restricted by love. It is explosive, gentle, violent, passionate, quiet, confident, nervous. It is all those things and more. I have been in love many times and they have all been real and different and all valuable as part of my life’s journey to discover the person I am constantly becoming. Whatever your experience of love has been, it was real and you did feel it. It didn’t look like what anyone else thought it should, but it’s not supposed to. Take what you learned from that love and bring it forward with you to the next love. Most importantly, know the feeling was true and it was yours. And that is how you know you were in love, because you felt it.
If you have to ask, “Am I in love?” then you are not yet fully in it. Love may be outside the door, or she may not visit at all. But you will know when she comes.
Whether that love will result in a healthy relationship, is a question for another day. *all names have been changed.
If you have a question about love, managing life, relationships, living the life you want (not the life others think you should live) and making choices, visit DearLucretia.com and ASK ME ANYTHING. It’s time to take the filters off and have a real conversation about life.
It’s a cold winter’s night in Brisvegas and I’m at a loose end. I’m a single woman living in the time of Corona – when dating is challenging and socialising hasn’t quite returned to normal.
I’ve done my daily scroll through the dating apps and still feel uninspired. Why do so many men have a strong penchant for bushranger-style facial hair and scowling demeanours? Who told them this is attractive?
Clearly my true love is not online this evening.
I decide to do a little romantic personal development and pull out my friend Carolyn’s book, Finding Love Again. I finished reading it a few weeks ago but I skipped over most of the exercises in the back.
The first part of the book contains personal stories of men and women who have lost and then found love again. With a strong emphasis on common values as the glue that makes relationships work, people share their experiences of divorce, being single, grief, children and much more. It also explores what each of them learned on their journey to finding love again.
But it’s the end of the book with its self-reflection exercises that I turn to tonight, specifically Exercise 6 – Your Story which centres on the problem of how to talk about yourself when you first meet a new potential date.
I’ve joined some online speed-dating events recently and been faced with the challenge of describing myself in an interesting way to a complete stranger in two minutes via Zoom. It’s not for the faint-hearted.
Carolyn has a suggestion about how to approach telling your story, so I decide to give it a go. It seems I need to go back and map out the most interesting and significant events in my life so far, from birth.
Perhaps this is going to be a rather short story…
No. I’m doing this – you never know what gold I may discover to fill those awkward silences on my next date.
Carolyn suggests you create a table and for each year, jot down things like where you were living, what you were doing, an achievement, a people thing, a funny thing, little known fact. You don’t need to fill every box for each year, just put in anything noteworthy that springs to mind.
Obviously being born was significant for me but I’m not sure if that’s something I need to highlight on a date. Fast forward to late primary school though and I won a prize for one of my oil paintings and got my picture in the paper – that was pretty cool. I still have the newspaper clipping somewhere – all skinny legs and gaunt-faced cheekbones. I was one of those kids who ate and ate and never put on any weight. Pity that didn’t last post-21…
Back to the task at hand.
Two memorable moments from my under-graduate degree – watching a disturbing German film where the female protagonist had all her teeth pulled out and sitting behind some Goths and their pet rat in a lecture.
Got married, traveled overseas for the first time and my love affair with Italy truly began. Repelled down five stories of the children’s hospital with the police special emergency response team – as you do.
Went overseas for a second time – yes, Italy again and I still loved it. Left marriage and traveled solo overseas, felt fearless and free. Watched the moon rise above camel trains in the Sahara.
Bought a house, worked with judges, zip-lined with gibbons through the jungle, published a book…
I could keep going but I don’t want to reveal everything before we’ve met in person, dear reader. But I’m sure you get the picture.
I know this is meant as a dating preparation activity, but I think it has value far beyond that. Revisiting your history and recognising your achievements and the events that have shaped you is a great thing to do at any time. When we get stuck in the daily grind and pressures of life, we often forget just how far we’ve come – this exercise is a great way to remind ourselves.
As I read back over my story, I have a laugh to myself and realise Carolyn’s words on page 238 ring very true – “this exercise demonstrates how uninteresting your previous break-up is in the totality of your life story”.
Many years ago, I went through a truly treacherous break-up. I gave my heart completely to someone who couldn’t sustain the love he said he felt, so he left. What followed for me was a rapid spiral into quite frankly, the darkest depths of hell with all the devastating pain, heartbreak and depression that accompanies such an experience.
A month or so after the end, I sent him a copy of my first ever manuscript. I don’t think I had shared it with another human soul at that point. For a writer, it is a deeply personal and vulnerable thing to do. It was posted a couple of days before Christmas Day, and I imagined him reading every page. Knowing him as I did, I doubted he would be able to stop himself.
He never acknowledged the receipt of that manuscript. In fact, he never acknowledged I existed from the day he ended things. From passionate love and planning a future to vapid emptiness and nothingness the next. These days, they call it ghosting.
That first manuscript was my first book, The Men I’ve Almost Dated, and the events in there occurred long before he entered my life. Yet still, I wanted desperately to have his acknowledgement of my work and a sign that I had mattered. The sign never came.
Interestingly, as a highly-sensitive psychic, I could feel that man long after he had physically departed my life and cut contact. Sometimes I had visions of what he was doing, other times I just felt it. The energetic connection was impossible for me to break for many months, and believe me I tried. When you read online about these types of connections, many describe them as twin flames. Considering I have variants of this ability whenever I am heart connected these days, I would dispute this broad brush and frequently overly-romanticised description. And for those of you out there, longing for a twin flame type connection, I would say strongly and clearly, be careful what you wish for because it’s not easy and it’s sure as heck isn’t fun. To be connected to another soul in this way and not have the understanding of what is going on or how to disconnect from it – as I didn’t have at the time – can drive you to the edge of madness.
Fast forward a few years, I’m now editing my next book. Surprisingly, it’s a collection of poetry based on that relationship, and some romantic connections that followed. It covers the energetics of that experience, the heart-wrenching devastation it delivered and how I made it through to the other side. So much of my memoir-writing seems to focus on the dysfunction and pain that can occur in relationships and this book is no different. However, the energetic overlay makes things much more complex to navigate. It’s been a journey.
Recently, I found myself thinking about sending him that first manuscript. I thought about the cruelty of his behaviour and how I seriously lost my way during that time. I also thought about how, through my poetry, I can see the gift his abandonment gave me. I could not write in this way if I hadn’t experienced what it truly felt like to be emotionally annihilated.
My poetry isn’t light-hearted. It’s more hit you in the chest realism than joy and light imaginings.
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m still not sure about that one but there is something I know for sure, all that pain has made me a stronger writer.
You cannot survive the fire without scars but you can channel your pain into art that will hopefully help others to express their own, and then move on.
If you’re ready to share your story with the world, check out Storytellers Anonymous. There are people out there who need to hear what you have to say.
As someone who writes about love, sex and relationships, I’m a keen observer of how people connect romantically, sexually and intimately. Over the past decade alone, this landscape has transformed with new and evolving types of relationships, sexual experiences and connections being openly discussed, attempted, abandoned and pursued like never before.
I believe this type of exploration and boundary testing is a fundamental part of humanity’s evolution. If you are a consenting adult, go forth in whatever way feels right for you.
However, often it seems that when we are in an intimate connection with another, we respond to their needs and requirements rather than checking in with our own. Women in particular often fall into this trap but I have observed the same behaviour in some men too.
Many years ago, when I interviewed people of all ages about the concept of partnership, most had never sat down and asked themselves what it meant to them as an individual. What did they believe was important in an intimate partnership?
When given the space to contemplate this question with someone who had no interest or agenda in judging their response, it was amazing how quickly they could share this fundamental truth. Many surprised themselves with the clarity this realisation brought with it.
Those interviews are currently queued up and await the finessing required to become a book. It’s on my to-do list.
Meanwhile, I look around and am concerned about some of the contorted relationships people willingly enter and stay in, even when it’s clear they are designed to accommodate their partner’s needs, rather than their own. This is an unhealthy choice that will not deliver alignment with self.
If you have the time, I’d encourage you to sit down in a quiet spot with just you, a pen and some paper. Ask yourself, what does partnership mean to you? Then write down your answer. Once you’ve done this, read over your words and see if they line up with your current relationship dynamic. If not, there is clearly something you need to look at.