I’ve been thinking about this quote all day. It’s from Sex and the City – the iconic series about women, sex and friendship that many of us loved during the 90s. The quote is from Samantha Jones when she realises she has sacrificed her goals and independence for the man she loves. She has upended her life to help him follow his dream so he can be a success. With her talent and skills, she has taken him from unknown to superstar. But one day, she realises she can’t do it anymore. Although she loves him, she loves herself more.
Somewhere along the way, she willingly chose to lose herself in help him create his dreams. So she leaves and returns to the life that fills her up rather than living a life that ensures his needs are met, rather than her own.
Many years ago, while I was still married, my then-husband’s interests were increasingly divergent from my own. He wanted to stay home, watch the football several nights a week and renovate our house. Increasingly, I wanted to socialise, travel and expand my world. As time went by, and he refused to join me, I chose to go out without him. A female family member told me I should stay at home.
“Even though he won’t go out at all, I should stay home with him because that’s what he wants?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she said.
I left my marriage a year or two later. Clearly, I felt differently to her.
A lot of years have passed since then but I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to women and the men they love.
I’ve heard women say things like, “Oh, he doesn’t like me to do things without him, so I don’t [insert her dream or passion here]” or, “I just know that he has all this potential so I’m going to help him [insert his dream].”
These are good women who love their men. But I wonder if they realise what they are doing to themselves and their relationships when they shelve their own dreams and desires so they can help their partners achieve theirs.
In partnerships, there are absolutely swings and roundabouts. As we progress through our lives, there will be times when one partner needs more support to help them achieve and reach for their goals. But too often it seems like the woman does a lot more heavy lifting in this department than the man. And we do it voluntarily because that’s what a good wife/girlfriend/partner does. Therein lies the challenge.
In this modern age, there is no reason for women to believe they must put their needs second to their male partner. There is no reason why men shouldn’t do 50 percent of the housework and child-rearing when their female partners also work full-time. But the statistics tell us that women are consistently taking the heavier load.
Mothers still frequently do more for their sons than their daughters. I’ve heard friends with sons and daughters talk about how much more difficult it is for boys than girls. Girls must fend for themselves more because they’re more capable while the mothers are just that bit more protective of their sons. The daughters see this behaviour and carry it forward into their intimate relationships later on.
Culturally, we’re still shown messages every day that women should make more allowances for their men. Female celebrities forgive their male partners for all sorts of indiscretions (including abuse) while their men and their careers still flourish. Just take a look at some of the sportsmen and musicians of the world for examples where women and the man’s adoring fans forgive all kinds of appalling behaviour. Mind you, a woman is unlikely to get away with similar antics without being called a myriad of names and probably losing her income.
The common theme parroted by women throughout all of these situations, is love. Too often it’s the narrative of unconditional love. “You must love unconditionally,” we’re told. But I think women have misinterpreted this message.
Telling a woman she should stay home all the time and shrink her world because that’s what her husband wants, is not love.
Prioritising his dreams and desires over yours, is not love.
Continuing to pick up more of the home and child-rearing tasks, is not love.
Ensuring sons are treated with more care than our daughters, is not love.
Making allowances for disrespectful and sometimes abusive behaviour, is not love.
We must love fiercely – we must set boundaries and say no, this is not okay. We must love ourselves fiercely and refuse to enable poor masculine behaviour. We must only only accept equality because that is what we deserve.
We must demand respect, not beg for it.
We must love fiercely with boundaries and accept nothing less.
If we learn to do this effectively, we will empower ourselves as women and also empower our men, instead of demeaning ourselves and emasculating them.
Love fiercely. And know you can love them but you need to love yourself more.
Unconditional love doesn’t mean giving away your power. We need to stop believing it does.
If you’ve been single and searching for love for a while, I’m pretty sure someone ‘wise’ will have advised you verbally or in an article somewhere that, ‘When you learn how to love yourself, he will come.’
Now I want you to picture me doing some major eye-rolling until I make myself dizzy.
You see, while I know that most of the time this advice is well-intentioned (except when it’s patronisingly delivered by someone who also happens to be in a partnership – yes, occasionally people do this), the truth is this statement about loving yourself and then he’ll come, simply isn’t true.
There are loads and loads of women out there who do not love themselves and yet have managed to create partnerships with wonderful people who love them. Have you noticed that?
I also know lots of women out there who do love themselves; they’ve done a lot of work around self-love for years and years, and yet they’re still single.
Now, am I sounding the death knell for your search for the right man?
Am I saying that learning to love yourself is a thankless and pointless task?
What I am saying is this advice about first you need to love yourself before you get to have a partner who loves you back can be, well, kind of a mean thing to say to someone. It also sets up this idea that your goal or ‘prize’ in learning to love yourself is that you get the love of someone else.
And that’s really beside the point of the whole journey of self-exploration.
Trust me, I’m speaking about this from a position of some expertise and experience. I’ve been mostly single for the past 10 years and I have done HUGE amounts of work around self-love. As someone with heightened self-awareness and intuitive ability, the Universe has pushed me to go deep with this stuff time and time again. And it’s still an ongoing process.
Is it easier to create a stronger, healthier and more viable long-term love partnership with someone if you have strong self-love and everything that goes with that understanding of self? Yes, I really believe that to be true.
However, the right man still needs to be there in front of you, at the same stage as you, for that to even become an option. And maybe he’s not ready yet. Maybe you’ve still got things you have to do. Maybe it’s not time. Maybe you’ve done the work but he’s still around the corner paying some other karmic dues or embedding some other life lesson he needs to learn before he can progress.
These factors are real possibilities. You both need to be in ‘the same step’ in order for you to come together. Maybe he’s just not there yet.
So please stop buying into this theme that suggests it’s your fault that you’re still single because you haven’t done the work yet. After all, that’s what this kind of self-help is doing. Too often it suggests that you just need to work harder.
Well, I think that’s a rort because I know you’re working hard on yourself beautiful woman. You’re getting up every day and you’re doing your best. You’re looking at your ‘stuff’ and you’re beginning the journey of self-accountability and facing your life lessons because you know you have to in order for your soul to progress. And you do want to progress. I know that. But for someone to dangle this carrot of ‘self-love’ as being the answer for you to attract the ‘one’ is illusory and somewhat misleading.
We all need to learn how to love ourselves first; that much I believe to be true.
We all also desire the love of another, a partner to travel life’s journey with. I believe that to be true as well.
But I don’t necessarily believe that you must do the former in order to successfully attract the latter. Although it may be a helpful contributing factor, it is not the comprehensive answer.
So keep doing your best you fabulous, complex woman. Keep striving and learning. Know that whether you are with someone or alone, you still need to walk your path and nourish your self-love daily. But please don’t buy into the self-help rort that it’s your fault that you’re single because there’s nothing wrong with you.
It’s just not the right time yet.
Lucretia Ackfield is a writer and transformational teacher who has learnt the lessons of love and romance the hard way. You can read her voyeuristic, hilarious and sometimes mortifying stories of the single life in her memoir The Men I’ve Almost Dated. Or, if you’d like to work on developing your self-awareness and intuition, you can join her Facebook group Rock Your Inner Channel.
There was a moment during the editing process for The Men I’ve Almost Dated, when I said I wanted to rewrite the entire thing. I think my editor, Kristy, almost had conniptions at that point. There she was trying to steer me towards the finishing line while I was suggesting a rewind to the beginning.
I was half-serious because as I re-read my stories, it felt like they were written by someone else. Oh, I knew I’d definitely done all the things in the book and lived through those experiences. But the person I’d become was very different from that 30-something woman who somewhat blindly made her way out of a 10-year marriage, through divorce and into the dysfunctional world of dating.
Take for instance my chapter entitled, Why Men Are Like Feral Cats. Even now it seems like an outrageous statement to make but, back then, I came across a number of men who were exactly like our feline friends. As I wrote, ‘Men couldn’t have anything in common with previously domesticated but now wild animals running the streets with absolutely no sense of responsibility. Could they?’
If you’ve been single for any period of time you’ll know the types of ‘cats’ I’m referring to here. In my book I’ve broken them down into some categories. These include the Never-Been-Faithful Cat who ‘flirts and behaves like the most unattached man with any attractive woman within a five-kilometre radius.’ There’s the Shameless Cat who ‘will chat up multiple women in the same location, within minutes of each other’ (for him it’s purely a numbers game). And of course, there’s the Shady Cat. He’s the one disguised as the nice guy until his partner is out of earshot (or in the next room) and then suddenly he’s all hands and innuendo.
Are you seeing the similarities yet between some men and feral cats? I’ll give you a hint…it may have something to do with their need to copulate with as many females as possible, regardless of their relationship status.
Fortunately, I‘ve also come to know some lovely men who don’t resemble feral cats in any way whatsoever. Ladies they do exist, thank goodness! But the feral cats are still out there and when I look back at the woman who had those experiences, I shake my head ruefully. I was so naïve about men and human behaviour when I ventured into the Land of Single. Learning about feral cats was just one of the lessons I learned the hard way.
As I read my book from beginning to end, I realised how much I’d grown from all the experiences it described. I was wiser but in many ways, when it comes to men, yet still just as clueless.
Today I wonder if that will ever change? Or is that just one of the constant mysteries of life…that men and women are different creatures so we must always be prone to miscommunication, misdirection and misdemeanors while we navigate the dating world?
I’m not sure, but I’m still out there hoping for the best. Except these days, I can usually spot a ‘feral cat’ at 10 paces.
Yikes! After such a long period of time, I can hardly believe it.
What if people hate it? What if they love it? What if they don’t care? The thoughts scurry through my brain before I come back, for a moment, to a place of inner calm because it’s done now. It’s born. All I can do is tell people about it.
So here’s the summary. The Men I’ve Almost Dated is about my life in my 30s, the men I dated (or almost dated), sex, dubious decision-making, divorce and men behaving badly. It’s not a ‘how-to guide’ on getting it right when it comes to men and dating. However, it may be a ‘how-to guide’ on how to get it atrociously wrong. I’ll let you be the judge.
Over the coming days and weeks I’ll be sharing more about my book on this blog and my social media channels – so keep your eyes peeled. But for now, if you’d like to grab yourself a copy, head over to my webpage for all the details. You can buy the eBook version today and the print version will be available in coming weeks.
Around this time last year I had my heart broken by a man I loved with everything in me. When I say ‘broken’, I mean it. My experience with that man literally broke me apart and I completely lost myself in Grief.
I have grieved relationships and people lost from my life before but this time was different. This time Grief took me over and I fell to the bottom of huge pit of despair where I stayed for what seemed like an interminable period. I cried every day for months and months. I raged at the world and at him. I went to places so dark in my mind that I thought I would never make it out alive. Grief was a bitch that would not let me go.
She was with me every moment and, as I writer, my only recourse was to pour my pain onto a page. I wrote 70,000 words between January and May. Then something unexpected happened; the prose turned to poetry. It felt like Grief cracked open this whole new part of me and poetry fell out. It was strange and also so very relentless. Grief was a demanding client. She demanded I write and write even when tired, emotionally spent and physically exhausted. I had to write. It all had to come out.
The muse was my therapist and my words, catharsis. When I read those words now they often seem like they were written by someone else. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes my words impress me and I ask myself, ‘Did I really write that?’ Those words hold an essence and a depth that wasn’t in me 18 months ago. I can thank Grief for that.
She held me close and I held her closer. She defined me and I let her. Then our relationship took an unexpected twist when, after about six months, Grief left me to find another soul to torment. She had penetrated every part of me and her departure left an emptiness behind; a space to be filled by something or, perhaps, someone else.
I didn’t realise she was leaving until after she’d gone. Grief had been my constant companion and influencer. Her occupation of my life was something I dreaded daily but she was also a dragging weight I’d carried willingly for months. Then suddenly, I was free.
I don’t know if I let go of Grief or she let go of me. Maybe it was a combination of both. It felt weird not to have her around. But I couldn’t hold onto her or the pain anymore. I couldn’t stay in that place of torment. It was time to move on.
Some people say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I don’t know about that. All I can say is, although I never, ever want to be hurt like that again, I know the experience showed me parts of myself I didn’t know existed. Grief was a hard taskmaster (okay, a complete bitch) but she taught me a lot about pain, creativity, what I’m capable of (the wonderful and awful, shameful parts) and my ability to just keep going when I’d rather give up completely.
I don’t wish her to visit again. But I am thankful for the lessons Grief taught me because they helped me to become a wiser person, and a stronger writer.