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Dating Advice: Love Shouldn't Hurt

"Because when pain has been intertwined with love and closeness, it's very difficult to believe that love and closeness can be experienced without pain."

-Gloria Steinem, "Revolution from Within."

If you tend to attract men who disappoint you (by cheating on you, not showing up when they say they will, or just refusing to get off the couch), you may be confusing love with pain.

So many of us have been brought up to believe that pain is normal, even expected, in a love relationship. Without it, the relationship seems flat, boring. We crave drama. (Why is it that so many women have great sex after a fight with a significant other?)

A happy, loving relationship eludes us because we don't recognize it when we see it, or because we simply believe it's not possible (News Flash: According to a recent Today Show, all men lie. All of them! I wasn't aware that men have a monopoly on lying or other bad behavior. I know some women who are breathtaking liars. Don't you?).

According to the media, men are incapable of remembering birthdays, being monogamous, getting through a weekend unless they're transfixed before a marathon of football games. Women internalize these messages: That's the way men are. That's the way life is. Get over it.

And while the media is happy to sell us the myth of the unattainable happy relationship, some of us have come to believe in it because of our own experiences.

Some of us:

(a) Had parents who treated each other indifferently, (b) had parents who outright hated each other, (c) had fathers who ignored us as children, (d) had a parent who suffered from alcoholism, (e) had mothers who would rather have been doing something else, or (f) had a parent who suffered from a mental illness.

And so, we learned to associate love with pain. It's all we knew.

Others among us grew up in perfectly happy homes with parents who loved each other and delighted in us, but we still managed to:

(a) Internalize negative messages we heard from our friends' parents who were unhappily married, or

(b) Internalize negative messages we saw elsewhere (I know a woman who, during her impressionable teenage years, babysat for a couple who gave each other the silent treatment and expected her to relay messages. She also babysat for another family, where the father once came home early and started reading a porn magazine!).

As a result of this programming, we set low bars for the behavior we'll accept from boyfriends or husbands. Hey, it's better than being alone, right?

Wrong.

If you're putting up with substandard behavior from men, make decision to stop. Refuse to date anybody until you attract a man who makes your happiness a priority. Trust me; such a man will come into your life and stay there.

Treat him as you have come to expect him to treat you, which means with affection, respect, and consideration. Does this sound boring to you? If it does, please examine your feelings about relationships and see if they haven't determined the kind of men you attract.

You see, once you stop dating men who disappoint you but excite you, you can make room for a guy who loves you the way you deserve to be loved--and who excites you. Love and excitement are important, but if they're accompanied by pain, something's wrong. You'll never be truly happy with a guy who lets you down.

Ask yourself, "Where did I ever get the idea that love has to hurt?"

Give yourself time to come up with the answers. Take stock of whether your relationship is worth saving. If you speak up, will it make a difference? If not, are you willing to make room for a man who will love you and make you laugh instead of cry for a change?

About the author:

Terry Hernon MacDonald is the author of "How to Attract and Marry the Man of Your Dreams." Check out her blog at http://happygirlmusing.blogspot.com.


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