Dear Sara: I am a 38-year-old unemployed lady wishing to settle down with a guy who has okay financial strength and is intellectually enough for me and spiritually high. After lots of efforts, I could not get what I wanted. Then one guy of 33 years came in my life as a Facebook friend. He doesn’t like me at all and misbehaves with me all the time, but I have developed love, affection, and caring feelings for the guy. Do you think I should go to meet him, as we have not met so far? He is unwilling to meet me and shouts at me when I call and always ignores me. My brother says he is not compatible with me and I have to take lots of pain to adjust to him and his family. Do you think I should close this chapter or take a chance by meeting him? I would not have ever thought of marriage with this younger guy, but I am not able to find my kind of person after lot of efforts. Please help me. — S
Dear S: You have told me this man doesn’t like you, doesn’t treat you well and has refused to meet you in person. Yet, you say you feel love and affection for him. So to answer the first question: No, I don’t think you should meet him or try to win him over in any way. He has made very clear that he would be a terrible partner for you, so please take him at his word.
About those feelings you have for him:
They might seem significant, like something you should pay attention to. But if you haven’t even met him, then they are simply feelings you have about an idea of him. They aren’t really about him; they’re about your desire to have a partner, any partner. You have decided that a man who treats you terribly is worthy of your love. Even if this man does you the kindness of never meeting you, you’re clearly very vulnerable to being mistreated by others.
So I’m urging you to raise your standards. I know it can be very, very hard to find a partner, but settling for someone who treats you badly is not the answer. Please say this to yourself every day: “The man I’m with must treat me with kindness and respect.” Even if you don’t really believe it or identify with it, just say it to yourself. Write it in your journal. Say it aloud when you have your morning coffee. The words might not have a lot of meaning at first, but by repeating them will help set a standard, giving you an important reminder to stay away from the next scoundrel.
I’d also suggest raising your standards for how you are treated in general, not just in romantic relationships. Practice in small ways. If someone tries to cut ahead of you in line, politely say, “Excuse me, I was here first.” If someone says something mean or dismissive to you, give them a confused look and walk away. You don’t have to fight or argue. Just practice walking away from anyone who tries to put you down. See what it feels like to stand up for yourself. Feel what it’s like to quietly gain that strength.
Part of that process is rejecting the negative ideas that others are projecting onto you. Your brother, for example, seems to think that despite the fact that you and this man are not compatible, you should bend to his will. If that is his attitude, I think you should stop asking for his advice. If he gives it anyway, just thank him for his input and do what you want.
Seek out people who will offer you the kindness and respect you deserve. If you can afford it, I would suggest finding a therapist. If not, consider finding a support group through a local church or organization—with a quick Google I found an anxiety and depression association and a mental health association that have tools for finding groups in your area. Joining a church, community association or volunteer organization could also help. You want to surround yourself with kind, compassionate people. They will see you more accurately than you (or your brother) do. They will see someone who is worthy of love, regardless of your age or employment status.
Bringing helpful, caring people into your life can also help you with the other challenge you’re facing—the difficulties of finding a partner. I know that it can be very hard to find the right person, and frustrating to make so much effort with no result. But surrounding yourself with good people will help ease some of that loneliness and help you build a life that you’re comfortable with, with or without a partner. The point is not that you’re giving up on finding someone—you can still look, but again just with higher standards. Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to create a good life for myself, with or without a partner? How can I improve the quality of my life right now?” That might mean looking for a job, getting in touch with a good friend or reading a helpful book like Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion.
Bottom line: You deserve better, and even if you can’t completely believe that right now, see what it’s like to act that way. You might surprise yourself.
Sara Eckel is a personal coach and the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her questions here.