Interview With Dr. Kirsten Person-Ramey: Sharing Her Thoughts on Overcoming Attracting Wrong Men, When To Talk About Marriage in a Relationship and Much More
1. What advice would you have for women who have not dated for a long time? This may be women who have been busy with their careers that they haven’t had the time or women who are coming out of a break up or a divorce after a long marriage.
They are usually anxious, nervous and find dating quite intimidating and uncomfortable. What changes do women need to make to conquer their fears and actually start to enjoy meeting men than seeing it as a chore?
The mere thought of dating is often anxiety provoking to women who have been “out of the field” for a while.
Although some things tend to more or less stay the same, dating is an exception. There are countless unspoken rules and norms in the dating world that unfortunately change in relatively short periods of time.
The key to breaking into the dating scene is to see it as a journey.
For many women, the ultimate prize is to have a fairy tale wedding and ride off into the sunset. On the other end of the spectrum, there are girls who “just wanna’ have fun.” No matter the definitive goal, dating should be an enjoyable experience and not a chore.
The key to making dating something that is gratifying and enjoyable is to first and foremost, know what you want. This is where many women get stuck because they have no idea what they want. The solution to this is simple self-reflection.
When a woman is sure of herself and where she sees herself as an individual, she can more readily determine how she might fit into a relationship (or why a full-fledged relationship is not ideal).
The following tips can be used as advice for women who have recently decided to date after a long hiatus.
1. All experiences are not created equal so do not expect to recycle experiences. Tap into what is enjoyable to you and integrate that into the dating experience.
2. Continue to spend time alone. Studies show, those who are most comfortable with themselves can then generalize that security into other relationships.
3. Acknowledge why past relationships did not work, but once again, treat all experiences as unique. The goal is to learn from one’s past rather than to be defined by it.
2. A common problem we often hear from women is that they are attracted to the same type of men over and over again. They are often misled by the initial attraction and chemistry that they feel. So in this case you could say they follow their “heart and trust their feelings” which often prove to be wrong.
What advice do you have for women who are repeatedly attracted to the wrong men?
I have good news to women who complain that they continue to fall for “the bad guy.”
While these women feel helpless and less than brilliant for consistently attracting guys who hurt them emotionally (and sometimes physically), there is hope. These women can actually be comforted and even empowered by the fact that they have control over their choices.
We often don’t think about our decision making model, but when we do, we make better decisions.
Hindsight is 20-20, but I suggest that women actually subscribe to the concept of consequential thinking to make pro-active choices. For instance, when a woman takes the time to process what has and has not worked in the past and then makes a deliberate effort to try something new, change can occur.
Often we stay in situations that are comfortable even when they hurt us. We are driven to what we know, but through consistently reminding ourselves to journey to our ideal (based on what we have learned from prior experiences), we set new courses.
I do believe in the law of attraction. What one puts out is what comes back.
When there is a measured effort to sow happiness and mutual respect, the rewards are clear. The trick here is for women to regard happiness and mutual respect as rewards. For many who deal with this particular dilemma, the reward is to simply have a man (despite how he behaves in the relationship).
When women take ownership for the decisions that they make, they can clearly understand that they play a significant role in whether or not they continue to be bamboozled in love.
Attraction and chemistry are great, without them most would-be relationships never evolve past mere acquaintances. The key is to move beyond superficial feelings and take the time to enjoy the individual by getting to know him. This is work, but well worth it when dealing with matters of the heart.
3. Another common question we frequently get asked from our readers is when they should talk about marriage in a relationship. Some of our subscribers would like to get married soon, start a family and are quite wary of a ticking biological clock. For them, time is crucial and they don’t want to waste their time with the wrong men.
Some men when asked about marriage respond “Maybe, some day I want to get married” or “Yes, I want to get married some day in the future.” Women are not quite sure whether they should wait or if they should move on when they hear this response.
What would your advice be for women in this situation?
Time is of the essence, or is it? This very popular phrase actually deals with contract law. While I will not venture outside of my scope of competence to attempt to speak of the intricacies of law, I will bring light to how this concept relates to relationships. If we rely on fairy tales, we would be forced to believe the old, “boy meets girl…..boy marries girl.”
While this has made for many entertaining stories, this is hardly the case in many situations.
There are some men who literally want to take a lifetime to decide if they want to make a lifetime commitment and marry. The problem is, women cannot conceive children indefinitely so their biological clock tends to influence their timetable for getting married. Time IS of the essence.
Although I would never suggest that a woman compromise her desire to create and raise a family, I do wholeheartedly suggest that single women carefully assess dreams of marriage before “tying the knot.” Often, I have encountered women who wanted to be married so desperately that they attempted to skip the entire courtship to fast forward to the marriage.
Dating is a time to assess whether or not a suitor would actually make a suitable mate.
Without the benefit of the courtship, even if a woman does score a ring on her finger, she has missed out on valuable time to truly get to know her future husband. During the dating process, uncertainties can easily be clarified. By being direct and simply asking specific questions, women can understand what “maybe” and “someday” means, but most importantly, a woman can determine what it means as far as she is concerned.
It is no secret that most men do not like to be pushed to action and most women don’t like to be “strung along.”
The compromise is made when men and women talk about their desires and their intentions. It is true that an opinion about marriage may change so it is important to have 3-6 month check-ups. During these check ups, couples can honestly talk about the direction or lack thereof that the relationship is taking.
If there is movement towards marriage, then both partners can agree to discuss plans for marriage. If there is no movement, then it is time to talk about whether or not a relationship is worthwhile to (continue to) pursue. Some couples opt for 6 month check ups instead of 3 month check ups to re-assess their relationship movement, but more than 6 months will be like not having those check ups at all.
The relationship check ups require mutual respect and maturity.
The couple can honestly talk about their plans and what needs to take place for continued movement to occur. This is also less emotional than the ever so popular break up after the marriage ultimatum. There is no manipulation, no wasting time and no hidden agendas when couples talk about the ultimate goals of the relationship.
If a woman has seen no relationship movement from one check up to the next, or her partners’ actions are incongruent with what he says (“I want to marry you,” yet does nothing to move towards that goal), that woman has a decision to make.
4. What are the red flags that you would recommend women pay attention to especially when they are just getting to know the man. One problem that we hear is that sometimes women are so blinded by chemistry and passion that they either ignore or minimize or think that they would be able to change the man with their love.
How can women overcome this problem?
The start of a new relationship can be exciting and fun. During this process, some women get so caught up in the excitement of being involved with someone that they start to miss or even ignore some red flags. In getting to know a potential suitor, it is imperative that women pay attention to signs that suggest potential abuse. The word abuse when used in this context is used to describe any behavior that leads to physical/emotional pain, shame, humiliation and disrespect.
When men display certain characteristics in the beginning stages of a relationship (which I will explain shortly), it should not be taken as a simple character flaw. There is a very wise quote that urges people to “believe who a person is when they show you through their actions.”
Rather than insisting on somehow changing a man’s bad behavior, women must find the courage to walk away from relationships that appear unhealthy from the start.
Some things to look out for include:
1. Poor boundaries.
If a man displays that he has no regard for personal space and/or he has little regard to the feelings of others, it may be difficult for him to show remorse or empathize when he is in the wrong. The slippery slope associated with this is simple. If a man does not believe his actions and behavior are wrong, he has no motivation or willingness to change. Men with poor boundaries may later show evidence of being capable of both physical and sexual abuse.
2. Being overly needy/jealousy.
Many women like to feel needed. As natural nurturers, this is not uncommon. The problem lies in who they allow themselves to become caretakers of. When a man is demanding, needs more attention than what is comfortable for the woman to give, and jealous of others, this may lead to shame and humiliation. When needy people cannot get their way, they act out. They go from being needy to being mean, often using control tactics and shame to humiliate the mate.
3. Poor communication.
While some aspects of communication can be enhanced over time, men who have no interest in using respectful language probably won’t change just because their women want them to. When a man refuses to fight fair, uses insults for sport, or spends a great deal of time apologizing for the same mistakes over and over again, he is saying loud and clear “I do not respect you!”
If the communication is poor in the beginning, it is because the woman has not clearly expressed her expectations. I have witnessed women “laugh off” (or shrug off) a name calling session only to find that this behavior eventually became a habit that was hard to break.
Chemistry and passion are good. They are the fuel that starts to ignite a relationship, but without mutual respect, all you have is a potential uncontrolled fire. Women should look out for signs of trouble, rather than look for them. There is a difference. Some women look for reasons to sabotage a potentially rewarding relationship. When you’re dealing with a man who is not relationship worthy, you don’t have to look far. The signs are there. They just have to be recognized and acknowledged.
5. I think there is research to suggest in general men who allow themselves to be influenced by women have happier relationships. Sometimes women tend to operate from the viewpoint “If only I love him enough, he will change” or “I can change him over time” etc. only to be in a relationship where they are resentful, unfulfilled and waiting anxiously for the man and the relationship to become better.
Can you point out to what extent women can realistically influence a man and change him and when it is dangerous to ignore the red flags and continue the relationship with the hope and expectation that he would change?
While it is true that women often influence men in relationships, we must realize that this is simply the natural progression of a meaningful bond between two individuals.
People need people and as a result, each influences the other. Men who are influenced by their female counterparts tend to “happier” in relationships, but many fail to understand the implications of this. This statement does not suggest that men like to be controlled or told what to do, and it certainly doesn’t mean that men are not happy when they aren’t being influenced by their women.
Influence is something that happens over time and it is seldom deliberate in instances that lead to happiness or contentment.
Another version of this happiness is “safety.” Men need to feel safe in relationships just as women do and this safety comes when he feels connected to his partner. A woman of influence knows that her values, opinions and viewpoints matter to her mate. She has no need to nag her man because he typically shares her views.
The interesting part of this is that even if a man doesn’t originally share a particular viewpoint, he may alter his viewpoint because of his woman. These men aren’t just playing nice or trying to score points. Women of influence are just that, women of influence. Their words and actions are congruent and this leads to influence.
Women who attempt to change their partners are not being influential.
These are manipulators. Even if the man has some irrational or maladaptive views, it is not their mate’s duty to attempt to change him. Many women ignore red flags and make excuses, claiming they can somehow influence new behaviors. This rarely leads to happiness.
For the women, it leads to frustration and for the men, it usually leads to resentment and more of the same maladaptive views/behaviors. The best solution is for women to decide to be influential by offering positive feedback (when asked), not making demands, and being respectful.
If a partner does not offer the same, it is important to make other changes in the relationship. These women may need to leave to develop and nurture healthy relationships defined by mutual respect.
6. You talk about the importance of “being safe” for a man to open up to a woman. This is something I have heard a lot of experts talk about. Can you define what it means as a woman to be safe? And women may honestly think they are indeed safe to talk to whereas that may not be the way others including her man may think of her.
How can a woman realistically assess whether she is exuding that quality and what are some ways a woman can cultivate this quality?
The need to feel safe is one of our most basic needs as humans.
Before we develop our standards for life and our preferences for a mate, we have a basic need to feel safe. The problem is, many people who enter relationships do not take the time to develop a mutually respectful relationship that can lead to safety. In order to have a relationship that is “safe,” it is important that women have an understanding of what safety looks like.
Oftentimes, women in relationships have poor boundaries and divulge personal information too soon.
While it is important to establish an environment of honesty early on, no one needs to (or usually wants to) hear about all of one’s skeletons on the first date. To make matters worse, women who enjoy sharing often find themselves in relationships with men who do not share so easily. The key is to understand when an environment of safety has been established. This happens through honest communication.
Safety is not just about aimless sharing. It is more about security in knowing that what you are sharing is relevant to the nature of the relationship and where it is going.
Furthermore, it is essential to know that what is being shared is also being received. Safety is a two lane highway; one person feels comfortable to share and the other receives in a respectful manner. When there are red flags present to suggest that the other individual is not receptive (as evidenced by name calling, shaming, verbal abuse), that relationship is not safe. That relationship is also not healthy.
A woman can assess where she is on the safety spectrum by looking at the feedback she gets from her mate.
If the man seems to truly engage with her, then more than likely she is on the right track. When she notices distance, it is important to have a talk about expectations and overall goals for the relationship. The key here is communication.
7. Another common problem we hear from our women subscribers is the fear of losing the man. Sometimes they are so enamored with the man they are dating that they are scared of losing him and in the process tend to avoid difficult conversations, don’t discuss their expectations and boundaries and tend to over-analyze.
Here are some common questions we get.
“I want to call him after the first date and tell him how much I like him but I am afraid I will appear desperate.”
“We want to be physically intimate with him, but I am afraid he will lose interest in me if we have sex too soon.”
“I am disappointed that he doesn’t make plans ahead of time for our dates but I don’t want to discuss this with him”
As you can see the thought process seems to be “I don’t want to lose him and I am willing to wait, ignore and delay the talk hoping that things will be better or he would change or I can make him change.
What advice do you have for women in this situation?
So very often, fear plays a significant role in relationships.
Women avoid needed conversations for fear of offending the other party or they avoid communicating their feelings because of the fear of actually losing the man. If a man leaves as a result of mutually respectful and healthy conversation, then I dare to say that he wasn’t worth keeping anyway. In relationships, partners have to talk. There is no way around it. While some are more apt to talk than others, it is important to find ways to communicate as a means of effectively moving towards progress in a relationship.
Many women use the “fear of looking desperate” when explaining the anxiety they face when deciding whether to call after a first date or not.
Simply put, a call is just a call. Calling a man to say thank you or to simply see how he is doing does by no means signify desperation. Following a man tirelessly and stalking him may constitute desperation, but a simple call only means “I am interested.”
I always tell women to keep it light.
If a date went well, there is nothing wrong with calling a man to show appreciation for a pleasant time. This can be a short call. No long drawn out speeches and no questions about the next date. If he is interested, he will make a move. Calling is a simple way to show that a woman enjoyed the company of a man. This call is not an appropriate time to tell a man how much he is liked. Subsequent dates and actions will reveal this over time.
Many women want too much too fast and this intensity drives men away and is actually quite unhealthy because the woman is not giving herself the time to actually get to know the man to decide if she really does like him. People are usually on their best behavior during first dates and it is best to discover if a man really is worth continuing to date. Calling as a follow up to say “thank you” is fine.
Calling to confess admiration is not suggested.
If the man does not answer, either a nice voicemail or a call back will do. There is no need to continue to call back a third or fourth time if the man has not responded. Either he is too busy and the woman is not yet a priority or he is not interested and chooses to ignore the calls rather to engage and possibly reject her.
Some women want to be physically intimate with men, but they are fearful of how they will be perceived afterwards.
There are scores of men who would suggest that they would not see a woman differently following premature sex, but the truth of the matter is; if a woman has sex without barely knowing a guy, wouldn’t she also engage in such behavior with the next guy?
People are creatures of habit, so most behaviors are not done in isolation.
Even if it is true, why would any man believe that he is so special that he inspired a woman to become physically intimate with him, if this wasn’t something that she would readily do anyway?
There are many women’s liberation books and blogs that would suggest that the 21st century woman should “do as she pleases,” but I caution women in engaging in this lackadaisical approach to intimacy. We don’t readily allow someone to come into our homes and rummage through our personal belongings so it is unwise to submit ourselves to physical intimacy when we have fears of losing the man. Two mature, consenting adults are not usually filled with fear when deciding to become physically intimate.
If a woman has fears that a man will lose interest in her following sex, he probably will.
Once again, communication is always the key. I have counseled many women, even those who have been married for several years and many of them are resentful because their significant others do not make plans ahead of time. Early on in the dating process, communication is essential.
When partners communicate their expectations, it lessens the likelihood of relationship confusion and chaos.
We don’t enter relationships to be mind readers and it is unfair to not be willing to communicate, yet expect someone to know what we want. That is not a sign of fear, but a sign of immaturity. I wish there was some way to wrap this advice in a pretty little bow, but the truth of the matter is, women can’t afford to ignore and delay talking about their needs and expectations. There are two people in the relationship and both needs must be respected and met, otherwise the relationship may not be one worth continuing to develop.
8. Some of our subscribers aren’t quite sure whether they should stay or end their current relationship. Do you have any guidelines regarding when it is worth staying in a relationship and work things out and when it is better to end it?
There are several factors to consider when deciding whether or not to stay in a relationship.
At times, we offend our significant others or we may be offended by something that has been done to us. If the offense is something that we can immediately forgive or forgive over time through the assistance of counseling and support; that may be a relationship worth saving.
If the damage done outweighs the possibility of future security, then the relationship is over anyway. There is no easy answer because every individual has his or her own breaking point.
For instance, in the case of some couples, infidelity is something that can be worked through. If the partner who has been cheated on cannot seem to ever heal from the betrayal, despite sincere regret from the cheater, the relationship is not worth saving.
Anytime there is an absence of healing from an offense, the relationship continues to be unhealthy.
Unhealthy relationships are not worth saving. Even if partners decide to take time off and work on individual healing, this is more beneficial than remaining in an unhealthy relationship that will ultimately destroy two or more lives.
Many times, people ask about abuse. While I don’t recommend that anyone stay in a physically abusive relationship, please understand that verbal and mental abuse can be just as damaging. Furthermore, at times they are interchangeable.
The key is to realize when the breaking point has been met.
If an individual gets worse over time after a relationship offense, this is a sign that the relationship is simply on life support. The partners are physically there, but the love may have passed away. I am an advocate for healthy relationships and I truly believe that two partners who are committed to relationship health can learn to love “beyond the offense” and thrive.
9. Can you share your top 3 tips that can help women create better connection and commitment in their current relationships?
1. Know who you are and what you need and want
2. Know your partner and his needs and wants
3. Discover how to nurture a healthy relationship
The aforementioned tips are straightforward, by no means are they easy.
Good relationships take time to build and nurture and protecting the relationship is an ongoing process.
I stress to women, the importance of addressing her individual issues before seriously engaging in a relationship. For the woman with a traumatic past, this is an obvious need. When I make his suggestion to a woman with not much of a horrendous past, at times I am met with opposition until I fully explain my reasoning.
When a woman takes the time to truly know herself; her expectations, desires, plans, fears, and the like, she prepares herself to be an effective partner. That’s what relationships are after all, partnerships.
Knowing the partner is the second step and it takes place over time.
When women listen to their men, observe their actions and behaviors and communicate with them regularly, they start to understand them. Instead of thinking we have all of the answers, us women-folk need to make sure we know the questions. This comes with ongoing communication. Rather than thinking we are the authority figures on our men’s lives, we must be their partners-the co-authors to their stories.
When a woman understands herself and her man, she will have more insight on how to continually nurture a healthy relationship with him.
Men value when their women value them and this is readily shown by the woman who takes the time to build an environment of “us.” This is one that is not selfish or selfless, but focuses on both partners.
10. What books or resources would you recommend for women that are looking to create long lasting fulfilling relationships?
I never use a one size fits all approach when making suggestions about resources.
For some, a book like Willard F. Harley Jr’s, “His Needs, Her Needs” is popular in many circles, particularly Christian ones. Included on his website, are relationship inventories that I have used as supplements in couples counseling. His inventories work well across a wide array of populations.
With other people, Tracy McMillan’s articles and subsequent book about why single women are not married is a cause for celebration, while others believe she is too frank. I think some of her suggestions are quite insightful.
Instead, of giving out a reading list, I offer the suggestion for women to engage in individual counseling or coaching to work on self-improvement.
After I get to know her individual situation, I offer a reading list, playlist and even movie list. I do music therapy and cinema therapy quite often.
In my private practice, PersonAll Counseling, we believe in being proactive. I rarely see women who are an emotional mess. I see women who want to become wives and mothers. I see women who come in for routine counseling check-ups to make sure that they are performing at their personal best. I started offering mobile, virtual, and telephone coaching for this reason.
Women are interested in using non-traditional methods to ready themselves for the relationship world. Although I am currently working on a relationship book for women, I decided to approach it from the standpoint of the woman truly getting to know herself and her needs and then extending herself to others to create healthy relationships.
About Kirsten Person-Ramey
Kirsten Person-Ramey is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in individual, couples and family therapy, as well as a provider of Continuing Education for other providers who work within the community. She works with a broad spectrum of clients. Among her areas of expertise are juvenile delinquency and other conduct issues among teenagers, healthy family preservation, and parenting issues. As a mother of four daughters, she brings nurturing and understanding to her work. She received her Doctorate of Education from Argosy University.
To know more about Dr. Kirsten, visit her website www.therapysites.com/sites/personallcounseling.com.