This article was originally published at Lively Journal.
The basics of love are honestly so simple. Unfortunately, a main reason modern women struggle in their relationships is that they harbor erroneous beliefs about love that undermine their success with men.
They’re moving through the world with scripts about love that they learned from their parents and the culture. And these scripts predict whether or not you’ll be successful in love.
All the information in the marketplace about how to have a healthy relationship is useful, but it is not enough if your underlying belief system is skewed. Your success in love is largely psychological, or tied to the way you think and believe.
So what have you learned about love? One obvious answer is avoidance. As products of divorce, you don’t trust love. And as products of a feminist culture, you don’t trust men.
You began developing these scripts as a child. Take, for example, Jennifer, who called in to the Dennis Prager program on his “Male/Female Hour” and said the following:
I was programmed to get into the workforce, compete with men, and make money. Supposedly, that would be a fulfilling life. But I was told that by a feminist mother who was divorced, who hated her husband—my father.
Many women today received a similar message growing up. It may not have been as direct or as extreme; but regardless, they absorbed the narrative as a child that marriage, or love, is unsustainable.
From these childhood wounds, many women swing the pendulum too far in the other direction and give up on love altogether. They may continue to date or even to marry, but their underlying belief system when it comes to men and marriage has been damaged. They’re walking through the world holding up a shield. They can’t let their guard down.
They developed a script in their minds early on based on their parents’ experience. We all do this. But as children our brains aren’t fully developed, and we don’t realize that what we’re seeing isn’t conclusive. It’s our parents’ experience, but that doesn’t mean that what we take away from our childhood observations is true or even accurate.
But wait, don’t men have the same wounds? Yes, and no. Certainly boys of divorced parents (or whose parents’ marriage was conflict-ridden or otherwise lacking) can come away with a negative belief about marriage. But it’s far less likely for a boy to have a father who “hated” his wife and who talked ill of her to his son, thereby causing him to be cautious or resentful of women. That’s not how most men operate.
It’s also young women, not young men, who once they leave home get walloped with the narrative that marriage should be postponed or even avoided altogether. And if women do get married and have children, their lives shouldn’t change in any way. They should simply carry on with their pre-kid lives; and if they’re unable to manage it, that’s the fault of men and society.
This recent article at Yahoo, entitled “7 Reasons Not to Get Married, According to Science,” is a great example.
When asked about the secrets to living a long life, some of the oldest women in world agreed—stay away from men. Back in 2015, at the age of 109, Jessie Gallan, a Scottish woman, offered her advice to longevity: “Eat your porridge and avoid men. They’re just more trouble than they’re worth.” And Gladys Gough, a British woman who lived to be 104, said, “I never got married or had a boyfriend either. That probably had something to do with it. I just couldn’t be bothered with men.”
Why do these cultural messages matter so much? Because humans are tribal by nature. Being part of a group, or following trends, is critical to people’s happiness. As humans, we’re hardwired to conform. Whatever the culture deems is the “thing to do” most people will do, even if that “thing” belies common sense or is flat out false.
And the message that marriage leads to misery is false. Problem is, we don’t hear nearly enough from happily married couples about how and why their marriages work. If we do, it’s almost always lacking in scope—”communication is key,” for instance—is thus unhelpful.
So how can a person get rid of the script they’re living with in order to be successful in love?
This is going to sound too simple, but by being aware of the fact that you’re living with this script and that it’s holding you back. It gives tremendous perspective to every problem or situation to know that it’s not insurmountable but only seems that way because of the way you’re thinking about it.
Here’s a great example. In a 2010 interview with Barbara Walters, the actress Sandra Bullock said, “I always had this feeling that if you got married, it was like the end of who you were.” And in the January 2019 issue of Elle, the twice-divorced Jennifer Aniston insists she doesn’t need marriage and kids to be happy. “I’m sure, because I was from a divorced-parent home, that was another reason I wasn’t like, ‘Well, that looks like a great institution.’
Adding fuel to the fire is that the culture will then reinforce this belief with statements like this:
“There’s a fear of divorce or a specter of divorce looming large in people’s minds,” Wendy D. Manning, co-director of Bowling Green’s Center for Family and Marriage Research, told The Wall Street Journal. “They don’t want to make a mistake. They’re waiting longer to get married to divorce-proof their marriage.”
This is an example of a flawed cultural narrative. Waiting longer to get married does not divorce-proof your marriage. The way you think about and approach marriage is what keeps divorce at bay.
To change your trajectory in love, you’ll need to change the way you think. There’s no way to sustain a marriage if your attitude toward the institution itself is negative or if it carries with it a suitcase of painful childhood memories.
Once you’re aware you’re doing this, the possibilities are endless.