There’s nothing like hitting bottom with a good cry because all the weeping will float you back up to the top. That’s what happened to me on a particularly depressing, long-ago morning in my shrink’s office. And I have been happier for it ever since.
On that day, I was still a very young-looking, 40-something divorcee. My daughter was just starting elementary school and I so desperate to remarry and bring a stepfather into her life. While I had two post-divorce relationships under my belt at that point, I still hadn’t met anyone who was husband material.
“I don’t want to be alone,” I wailed to my therapist.
Singlehood is a status I have feared my entire life. It kept me living at home with my parents until my early 20s. Then, I got married to my first real boyfriend. And then, 17 years later, I got divorced.
As I wept, my shrink launched into a chat about serial relationships. She pointed out how, even though the guys I was picking were very different in appearance, age and interests, they were still basically the same person: At first glance, they seemed affectionate but ultimately, they were emotionally withholding.
From there, she dropped the next bomb: These guys were all exactly like my mom. My jaw dropped to the floor as she noted that I keep picking guys who replicate what she gave — or rather, didn’t give — to me. This sort of patterning happens to a lot of us, to the point where many of us marry our mommies.
From here, my shrink’s next move was a skillful segue that motivated me to change my life.
“You have to break the cycle or else your daughter will take this into the next generation,” she said.
But how, oh wise one, how?!
Grasshoppers, I am about to share some great advice…
“Look, you need to lighten up,” my shrink said. “All this pressure you’re putting on yourself and your dates! The only thing you want to do is go out there and have fun. You’re shopping. Shopping, shopping, shopping.”
She raised her arms and positioned her hands to push an imaginary shopping cart, all the while imperiously turning her head this way and that as she surveyed the imaginary products on imaginary shelves.
The whole idea of being a consumer in the romance market felt revolutionary, especially for an emotionally repressed nerd like me. I was still learning how to spell F-U-N; the word “flirting” was barely in my vocabulary. Now she was introducing a novel concept. You mean, I’m not stuck waiting around for a decent candidate to show up? This isn’t about holding my breath until an attractive prospect finally asks me out?
No, sweetheart, not any more. Thanks to that little talk, I have become a price-conscious consumer trying out new products. (And as we know, all relationships have a price!) If something interests me, I can hold it up for a second look and put it in my cart. If the item suddenly fails to please at the check-out counter, it will be left behind.
Oh, before I forget, there is more advice to share. As part of being a love consumer, you have to act like a true shopper.
“Don’t talk too much, don’t ask too much, don’t give too much,” my shrink also told me.
So let’s go over this one more time…
Tip #1: Remember, you’re just shopping.
Tip #2: Don’t talk too much.
Tip #3: Don’t ask too much.
Tip #4: Don’t give too much.
While I haven’t been in a shopping mood lately, I am posting this now because I keep running into friends who are unhappily dating. I feel like it’s a good time to upload this for them, especially since we’re about to enter the craziest retail season of the year. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwaanza…hellloooo. Lots of parties and get-togethers to attend — either with something in the shopping cart, or, alone.
So as we march forward into the holidays, be a confident shopper. You can window shop, go home empty handed or try out a product. Remember, shopping is made much easier if you haven’t invested too much into talking, giving and taking. And if you shop enough, you just might find true love.
The choice is yours and that is empowering. See you at the check-out line. :)