Interview With Leslyn Kantner: Sharing Her Thoughts on Communicating Expectations, When To Talk About Marriage and Much More
1. One of the most common questions we get from our subscribers is ‘How can I make myself more desirable and more attractive to men’. Can you share your thoughts and advice?
Understand that contrary to popular television and reality TV, men ARE looking for women who are confident, involved, self-assured, kind, and stable. They want to marry someone who will be a good mother to their children and a supportive partner.
I believe that Ashton Kutcher nailed the answer to this question recently at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards when he stated:
“The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful. And being generous. Everything else is crap!”
Those words come from someone who models the stereotypical type of man that women seem to fantasize spending their lives with; i.e., attractive, successful, motivated, etc. I am also reminded of a comment I heard many years ago:
“You’re not the kind of girl a guy wants to date; you’re the kind of girl a guy marries”
What kind of gal does a guy marry? Someone who demonstrates:
The most important element is self-confidence / self-esteem, or what many people these days are calling self-love. Truly – if you cannot find value in yourself, how is anyone else supposed to? And… you will attract men in your life that honor whatever value you have established you deserve.
Demonstrate your values! Don’t compromise your core beliefs just because you think it will ‘make’ you more attractive to someone. If a man is only interested in whom you pretend to be – you’ll never have a successful relationship. A pretense is not sustainable.
First, become a good listener. A man is generally attracted to someone who is paying attention to his wants and needs (without compromising #2). When it comes to matters of the heart, women are often more intuitive here and a good communicator will be able to ask questions and connect to some of the ‘deeper’, introspective components of a man’s psyche that will allow him to feel heard and understood.
Second, have and USE your own voice. Have an opinion, learn to respectfully disagree and express your intelligence.
The strongest and most successful relationships are INTER-DEPENDENT. It is when two independent people come together and successfully blend individuality with mutual dependence. Everyone needs to feel needed but you don’t have to give up who you are to need the support or validation from another. You share – equally – and navigate toward common goals for the benefit of one another.
A relationship is a success when you WANT to share your days with him versus needing to. Without a strong sense of independence, you will end up feeling trapped and helpless.
2. We get a lot of emails from our readers who are more worried about losing the man that they are interested in. This can be ranging from issues like the man blowing hot and cold to a man communicating with them only via text messages to him taking her for granted and not making any plans ahead of time for a date to being hesitant to talk about how he sees their relationship progressing or discussing his thoughts about marriage etc.
I guess it’s quite natural for people in general to avoid serious topics or conversations especially when they are first getting to know the person. But for a relationship to progress and for a couple to build trust and feel emotionally connected, it is important to talk about what’s on your mind and discuss important issues.
What we see many women do is that they either avoid talking about these issues or pretend they don’t matter because they don’t wan to “risk losing him” or they have this hope that they can change the man later on as the relationship progresses In the process, they set a dangerous precedent by avoiding conflict altogether or by sweeping issues under the rug early on in the relationship.
So how can women overcome this fear of losing their man and cultivate the habit of openness and honesty early on in their relationship?
First of all, you cannot lose something you don’t HAVE.
You don’t literally HAVE a guy who is distant and hesitant to be open and committed, so feeling afraid of losing him is premature and apt to come across as clingy and heavy. Pay attention to how a guy is treating you… if he is casual and avoidant – Run! This guy is “not that into you” and clearly not thinking of you in terms of ‘long term’.
The biggest mistake we make in establishing relationships is thinking that someone will ‘change’.
People can change behavior when highly motivated, but basic personality traits and characteristics DO NOT change. The attitudes and philosophies he exhibits now will grow and mature over time under normal circumstances. TRUST your instincts and ask questions. Once you are ‘in’ a relationship, if your guy is not open to big discussions and deep answers – that is a prediction of the future. Most of the time, what you see is what you get – don’t allow yourself to be fooled otherwise!
Seek friendship! Too often, the pressure of a dating relationship – life partner interviews – is too intense.
Try getting to know someone without the anxiety of dating expectations to see if he meets YOUR criteria for a long term partner. Before you start talking about commitment and heavy ‘relationship’ topics, make sure the basics of respect – trust – and honesty exist. Once you have a friendship built on THAT foundation, the rest should flow naturally. If it feels hard now…. it will probably BE hard later!
3. You mentioned “seek friendship”, we hear from women that they have guy friends who have a crush on them and want to be in a relationship. However our subscribers don’t have the same feelings- in the sense, they like them but they are not attracted to them. It would be safe to say these men fall under the category of “nice guys”. One main reason that women don’t want to pursue a relationship with their guy friend (despite knowing he is a really great guy- caring, considerate and kind) is that they feel the chemistry is missing.
How important is chemistry for a relationship to succeed in the long run? Can chemistry grow over time in relationships that start with no or little chemistry?
Chemistry is definitely important to the success of a long term relationship but I believe that through recent years, the construct of “chemistry” has been distorted thanks in part, to television and movies.
We’ve begun to believe that we just can’t get into a guy unless there is an immediate ‘ooh la la’ moment. I challenge young women to be open to the idea that the stronger the friendship, the more intense the ‘chemistry’. When we feel deeply connected to someone, the chemistry can be really intense.
Having said all that, I also believe that there are women who thrive on “passion” and what most people don’t understand that when one is passionately high – their lows are probably also passionately low.
Meaning…. I will often see couples who have a strong intense dynamic desire for one another and describe themselves as being ‘crazy’ in love and yet these are the same couples who when fighting – their world is ending; extreme highs and lows. I believe the entertainment industry seduces us into believing that the highs are sustainable in real life and that is just not the case.
These types of passionate relationships have a ton of ‘chemistry’ in the beginning and if THAT is the barometer of the connection, it will feel dissected and dissolved within a few years as real life kicks in.
At that point, those people who have focused on the development of ‘friendship’ will persevere and those who haven’t will likely pursue another relationship where the intense ‘chemistry’ can once again exist.
For a long lasting committed relationship that is free of the passion drama, allow those ‘nice guys’ a chance at a deeper connection.
4. I think what you are telling is that just because you don’t feel the “spark” the very moment you meet someone doesn’t necessarily mean there is no chance of chemistry developing over time and at the same time just because you have a great chemistry with someone doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a great relationship. We get emails from women that seem to be blinded by chemistry to the point that they ignore the red flags early in the relationship.
So the combination tends to be great chemistry plus a serial cheater or a player or a jerk or an emotionally unavailable man. Because the chemistry and passion is so good, the thinking almost seems to be “I am sure he will change” or “He has not met someone like you” or “Once I love him enough, he will change for the better” Sadly for the most part, that never happens, so they end up being in relationships where they are not sure whether they should stay or leave or wait forever with the hope that he would change one day.
Can you talk about ways women can enjoy the chemistry and still be practical in their relationships where they are paying close attention to red flags and their own deal-breakers and non-negotiables?
A major difference between some men and women are the expectations (or lack thereof) that is established at the onset or early in a relationship.
Most men do NOT begin thinking of long term possibilities shortly after the first hook up. On the other hand, I’ve known quite a few women who begin to doodle “Mrs. Mary Jones…” within the first week. This habit can be dangerous if/when a gal gets caught up in the idea of romance and hopes for the future; falling in love with who she WANTS her guy to be – instead of who he IS.
Mom used to say “a leopard doesn’t change his spots”. Basic personality is established early in life and will not change. Behavior CAN change when intrinsically motivated and with a lot of intentional introspection.
This is the most important understanding a person can have as they consider partnering for life.
Does he consistently demonstrate respect? That probably won’t ‘change.
Does he drink a lot? YOU won’t change that!
Does he talk about his feelings? That can be developed.
Don’t allow yourself to believe that chemistry and passion is synonymous with the perfect life partner.
Imagine yourself never having sex again – would you still be willing to be with this person the way he is now? Be honest with yourself! It’s ok for women to acknowledge their needs for physicality without planning the rest of their lives.
Know yourself, your needs, and your non-negotiables; respect them! Be specific.
If you say you want “a nice guy” what does that mean exactly? Is it ok for your guy to be a racist? That’s a learned, habitual attitude (in many cases) and will be difficult to change. Is it important for him to hold open a door or open your car door? What if he wants a dog? While compromise will always be a necessity – there are some things you may not want to (or should) compromise about – what are they? Respect yourself enough to stand tall in those desires regardless of how ‘hot’ this guy is in and/or out of the sack.
Believe what you see and hear!!
How sad it is for all the women who desperately want to be mothers but are married to men who don’t want children. In many cases, there was either no pre-marriage discussion or there was a clear “I don’t want kids” but she felt he would have a change of heart eventually.
Bottom line – if you are seeking a pleasurable relationship with no thoughts about the long term – go for it and have fun!!
IF long term thoughts start popping into your head – do these three things:
THINK – about your needs and non-negotiables
PAY ATTENTION – to whether or not they exist in this relationship
BELIEVE – that you will not change this person – You need to love WHO he IS not WHO you WANT him to be.
5. Another common problem our women subscribers face especially those who are coming out of a messy divorce or a break up from a long term relationship is self-doubt and lack of confidence. They feel so out of touch and find dating very intimidating and uncomfortable. Some of them also suffer from body image issues as well.
Can you share some advice on what women can do to overcome this fear and start preparing themselves to attract true love to their lives?
Self-doubt and lack of confidence is probably the biggest stumbling block to attaining the relationship of our dreams.
As long as they exist – we will have (at least an underlying) feeling that we aren’t good enough or we don’t deserve the best. It is especially hard to muster strong self confidence when we are coming out of a messy situation and have to rebuild or restructure the way we think of ourselves.
We might not be as young as we were, as firm as we once were, or as willing to be vulnerable as we were in the past. Let’s face it… dating isn’t exactly fun when our conscious or subconscious minds equate it to a night of evaluations. We are constantly worried about the grade – the performance factor – if we will pass and/or be accepted.
First and foremost – do the work you need to do to be HAPPY with yourself!
For those things you cannot directly change – learn acceptance!! The goal is for the ‘authentic’ you to emerge in a way that anyone who comes into contact with you sees YOU without underlying shame or embarrassment.
This may mean a few sessions with a therapist to work through grief, remorse, or fears. It may mean that you take a significant hiatus from dating while you bolster your self-image. It may mean that you create a better defined list of the qualities that are important to you so that the next time you begin assessing a partner, you are zeroed in on what will realistically work for you.
Once you can look in the mirror and smile back genuinely at the reflection, get out there with the belief that you are a fantastic catch!
You must have a strong knowingness that you are WORTH getting to know and spending time with. You must be willing to be vulnerable! Remember – we can’t fall in love unless we are willing to get hurt!! It’s a simple fact.
Repeat several times a day that NO ONE is perfect! You’ve earned every wrinkle that has begun to form, every stretch mark, every gray hair. You are GREAT – just the way you are and there is someone for everyone!
6. Another question we get asked from our women subscribers is if there is any danger of having sex too soon in a relationship. Some women feel a strong chemistry and are sexually attracted to men they are just seeing but are not sure if they should have sex and if having sex too early will be detrimental towards creating a long term committed relationship.
Can you share your thoughts?
When to have sex as a relationship develops can often be a quandary. The best guideline is to have sex when you are EMOTIONALLY prepared.
All too often, women will have sex before they are emotionally ready because they get caught up in the physical moment and/or they are fearful of their guy looking elsewhere to meet his physical needs. Listen carefully… men who are worth keeping around will WAIT for you to be ready.
Having sex early on when there is a strong physical attraction shouldn’t impact the long term elements of a relationship as long as there is a realistic, honest understanding of what the sex is about.
In the really early stages – it is physical – pure and simple. As long as each partner is on the same page and emotional connections develop at about the same time, it should work out well.
Trouble is… many women have a subconscious understanding that correlates sex to emotional connection and will begin feeling emotionally attached after that first or second sexual encounter in an effort to justify having had sex. When the male partner is simply addressing physical needs and is not connecting emotionally – that’s when relationships just can’t continue to fully form.
7. 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.
At the beginning or very early in a relationship it is perfectly fine to talk about long term desires in a global sense…
“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” or “Is marriage and children part of the vision you have for your future?”. It’s necessary to make sure PRIOR to spending time and energy on developing a relationship to know that you share the big picture – end goals.
There’s nothing worse than falling in love with a man who has committed to be an eternal bachelor and/or get engaged to someone who has decided that becoming a father is his worst nightmare! Once you’ve shared your overall life goals, let go!! Most happy couples will tell you that they “knew” when they met or shortly thereafter that their partner was ‘the one’ but it takes time for all of that to develop.
As time goes on, those conversations should be occurring naturally.
If it’s not moving in the direction you want it to – have a sit down, heart to heart to find out if you both are still on the same page. Be calm, direct, and honest. Communicate to your partner the feelings AND fears you have about running out of time and feeling age pressured. In a GOOD relationship, honesty will prevail from both parties and the right decisions can be made with the information you share.
If you are getting vague answers, first – check the questions.
Are you being specific “Do you see yourself marrying ME?” If the questions aren’t producing specific answers there is probably some avoidance occurring, which isn’t a good sign.
Set strong boundaries that work for you and make sure you communicate what they are.
“My dream is to be married and start a family by 30 and if you don’t see yourself being a part of that, I’d appreciate the respect of letting me know”. Be prepared to move on from this relationship IF it is not meeting your long term needs! Emotional suicide happens when you allow yourself to believe that “he’ll change his mind”.
8. You recommend the importance of setting strong boundaries. Here is the problem that a lot of women face. They are attracted to a man and they see potential for a long term relationship. They are so much in love and fear losing the man that they are afraid of having these conversations or setting boundaries. They either avoid talking about their goals and setting expectations or they stay in the relationship with the hope that the man would change his mind later. Eventually what happens is that there is a difference in the level of commitment and the amount of effort towards the relationship.
What would your advice be for women who have never had boundaries in their relationships because they are so afraid of losing the man that they really love? And is this actually a part of a bigger problem of not having enough self esteem and self worth?
Each of us has a set of values, hopes, dreams, and a ‘code’ that we would like to live by.
Some of us are conscious of it, others ‘feel’ it, but may not be able to explain it in words. We know what all these things are because when they exist in our lives we feel peaceful and content. When we are NOT living in conjunction with our set of ‘inner beliefs and feelings’ – we tend to experience discontent, anxiety, depression, etc.
Setting boundaries – becoming aware of where we’ve mentally drawn lines – and staying INSIDE of those lines as we proceed through our daily living, promotes a strong sense of self-respect, which in turn, promotes strong self-esteem.
Some of us don’t pay attention to (or have never consciously established) personal boundaries because we are fearful that we won’t be accepted. While it is true that boundaries can be too narrow and rigid, it is typically more problematic when boundaries are too wide and loose.
We learn about boundaries very early in age; when children learn not to show or let someone touch ‘private parts’ they are setting a boundary.
When someone commits to no sex before age 16, they are setting a boundary. When a gal determines that a guy cannot hit her without significant repercussions and termination of the relationship – that is a boundary.
We are often good at establishing and honoring physical boundaries but what about emotional boundaries?
Emotional abuse is probably more common than physical abuse in our culture. Will you tolerate if /when your partner to calls you names? Will you tolerate your partner not being monogamous? Will you tolerate your partner being disrespectful?
Some people use the colloquial “deal breaker” to describe boundaries they set. By any name, they demonstrate respect for self and an awareness of the elements that contribute to overall personal happiness.
Having said all this, I hope that it is clear that without establishing boundaries and committing to them, personal happiness is NOT possible!
Here’s a great example:
Having a partner who drinks responsibly is important to you. You feel strongly about not drinking and driving, about daily alcohol consumption (or the absence thereof) and you envision a lifetime with someone who shares those values.
You’ve been dating a great guy for a while, he’s everything you’ve been looking for BUT he abuses alcohol. He doesn’t drink every day but when he does, he gets slammed and vulgar although he doesn’t’ hit you. You don’t pay attention to that little voice in your head (your boundary voice) because if you HOLD THE LINE on your own values – he’s gone.
Fast forward 10 years…. You don’t have money saved because he’s had two DUI’s and the attorney’s costs and fines have been outrageous. Your girlfriends don’t invite you to parties because they don’t want their children exposed to his vulgar language as he becomes more intoxicated. You fight more than you do anything else about his drinking and you’ve developed a strong resentment.
Your children hear you fighting and are developing dysfunctional coping strategies and/or poor cognitive constructions of family life. You don’t feel you can leave because you put your own career on the back burner so he could succeed. You are stuck and unhappy because you failed to HONOR YOUR BOUNDARY.
Take a few moments – an hour – a day – a week – whatever it takes to think about the elements in life that contribute to your sense of peace and contentment, to a feeling of happiness.
Decide what pieces are ‘deal breakers’ – or boundaries and set them. Have confidence to honor them! Have enough self-respect – enough love for YOU – to know that your overall emotional health depends on them!
9. What would your top 3 tips be for women who feel like they are doing all the work in the relationship or don’t know where they stand in their relationship or they are not getting the kind of commitment from their partner?
If you can’t figure out whether or not you and your partner are on the same page and/or working toward the same goals, here are a couple of ‘must do’ tips:
1. Confirm assumptions – I can’t stress enough how important it is, and while it seems obvious, I’m always surprised at how many people fail to confirm basic assumptions. Gathering non-verbal information and creating an assessment is automatic for all of us but the assessment is generated from our personal perspective and we NEED to confirm its validity.
What you see isn’t always what you get. (Example: You’re new guy is a teacher at an elementary school and appears to be great with the kids. You assess those qualities as being paramount to a partner and future father to your own children. CONFIRM your assumption that he wants to be a father !!)
2. Express your own needs and DEFINE – Again, we often make the universal and fatal mistake of thinking that “if he loved me he would know….” Take the time and energy to know precisely what your expectations are.
We all have them, yet we don’t often identify them as something we ‘expect’. (Example: “I feel loved and appreciated when you hold my hand or have your arm around me when we are out with our friends”. It supports a feeling of security in our relationship and it’s a way that I understand that you love me.)
3. Hold to your Boundaries – Set boundaries and hold them! Your personal integrity is at risk here and it is absolutely necessary for your long term sense of self! Whatever parameters you establish as ‘deal breakers’ – don’t allow them to be flexible or no one will take you seriously. Boundaries establish self respect and ANY relationship without it, is in trouble. (Example: “If you ever hit me, I am out of here” – If he hits you EVER – for ANY reason – RUN!)
10. What books or resources would you recommend for women that are looking to create long lasting fulfilling relationships?
A ‘healthy’ relationship is comprised of two ‘healthy’ people working toward a common goal – the key word is ‘healthy’.
If you want a great, long lasting relationship – KNOW THYSELF! What makes you tick? What hurts you? How do you defend against that hurt? What are your weaknesses? How willing are you to be vulnerable? What secrets to you protect? Learn the answers to those by engaging on a journey of self discovery.
What you read depends on where you are and the ‘self-help’ book market is flooded with really great reads. This list is full of inspirational and motivational content: The Best Inspirational Books Ever . I’ve been personally inspired by works from Dr. Brian Weiss (Messages from the Masters), James Redfield (The Celestine Prophecy), and Eckert Tolle (The Power of Now).
Surround yourself with inspirational people, stories, and television.
The Ellen Show is always a great option when you need a spirit lift. The “Live your Best Life” section of Oprah.com is filled with inspiration to be your best self.
Your relationship starts with YOU! When you are a HAPPY you; a SECURE you; a COMMUNICATING you; – your relationship is apt to be great.
About Leslyn Kantner
I am a humanistic oriented therapist, which means that I believe YOU have the ability to recognize methods of solving your concerns and the innate strength to initiate them if offered guidance and support. I provide the guidance and support to help you find viable solutions and bring balance back into your life.
Visit www.westgrovetherapy.com to know more.