Interview With Shirani Pathak: Sharing Her Thoughts on Avoiding the Common Dating Mistakes, What Men Want in a Woman and Much More
1. Some of our subscribers haven’t dated for a long time and feel out of touch and lost. They feel stressed out and anxious at the prospect of going out on a date. They also don’t feel confident and have body image issues as they compare themselves with the other women. Can you share your advice on what women can do to overcome this problem?
It can definitely be very scary to get out there and date after having been off the dating scene for a while.
The way that I help women to be successful in relationships is to develop a healthy loving relationship with themselves first. It is truly my belief that in order for us to be successful in relationships, the first loving relationship we need to have is with ourselves. I have a couple different of suggestions that I make to women as they are working on developing self-love.
The first is to spend some time daily writing a list of positive affirmations about yourself.
This can come in the form of writing down your positive qualities (eg. “I am funny”), or writing down the things that you need (eg. “I am lovable”). This helps us to rewrite the tape full of negative messages in our heads. It is a good idea to do this daily, and to go back to it and reread it in moments that we are struggling with our self-confidence.
This can be written in a journal, a special note on your phone, or even in a planner. With the new year coming, now is a great time to pick up a weekly pocket planner so that you have a dedicated space to write your affirmations in daily.
Another suggestion I often make is to take time out daily to take a look in the mirror (I love asking women to do this first thing in the morning, bed head and all), look yourself in the eyes, and say, “I love you.”
The more you repeat this action, the more you start to believe that you are lovable and worthy of being in a loving relationship. A great twist on this activity is to stand in front of a full length mirror, nude, and admire every part of your body, sending extra love to the parts of you that you are feeling self-conscious about. This is a very powerful tool.
2. Some of our subscribers feel stuck in their love lives because of their past emotional baggage. This affects them in a number of ways- they either tend to compare the next man they are dating with their ex or they have trust issues because they have been cheated on before or they just cannot seem to forget their ex and move on in life.
What are some practical ways that can help women release their past emotional baggage so that they can start attracting healthy love into their lives?
The most important part of moving forward is to practice compassion and forgiveness:
Forgiveness of the other person and forgiveness of ourselves as well. The way that we do this is through compassion: Compassion for ourselves and for others. Iyanla Vanzant suggests a great activity in forgiveness which I often share with women: Write an unsent letter thanking the other person for all that they meant to you, all the joy that they brought into your life, all the wonderful memories you had, and then release them up to the Universe/God/Spirit/Source so that they can continue on their journey and their path.
Another great way is to practice praying (or sending a positive thought if prayer isn’t your thing) for the other person.
Every time we get a negative thought or a longing for another person, we can say a prayer or send a positive thought to them. A simple: “I hope so-and-so is doing well” is often enough for us to be able to practice the compassion necessary for forgiveness.
Lastly, it is important to honor the experience you had with an ex and use them as take aways, lessons learned about the things you want and do not want in your ideal partner.
If your ex was an amazing father and you loved that and miss that about him, rather than pining away about him, put that on your list of Must Haves in a future partner. If you and your ex could never agree on what restaurant to go to for dinner and it would always turn into an argument and staying in, rather than becoming resentful about that memory, use it as a lesson that your ideal match should share more common interests with you.
I must add that these techniques don’t change things overnight.
They are practices which take time, but the more you practice them, the better you get at them and the less pain you will experience, therefore allowing you to be more open to newer, healthier experiences.
3. Another common problem we hear from our subscribers is the fear of being alone and never finding the right man. This is especially common as women enter into their thirties. They see their friends getting married and even having kids, they are asked by friends and family when they are going to get married and they feel the pressure of a ticking biological clock. In the process, they approach their relationships from a place of fear, worry and anxiety.
Instead of enjoying their dates and conversing with men, they tend to interrogate them so that they can stop wasting their time and weed off the wrong men. They tend to fall too hard and too fast in love when they find a man they like but often that scares men away.
What advice do you have for women who approach relationships from a place of worry and how can they shift from a clingy, desperate vibe to an empowered, joyful zone?
This is definitely a very common problem for women which often results in scaring men away and later wondering what they are doing wrong.
A couple important things for a woman to remember is that she is the prize, and that the right man for her is out there looking for her.
With these two ideas in mind, she can go out there and be her awesome self, and the man who is right for her will be attracted to her. So, how does she go out there and be her awesome self? She goes back to doing the practices from Question 1 about developing a loving relationship with herself first. This also helps her to remember that she is the prize.
Another great practice that helps with letting go of the anxiety and the worry is to start a meditation or mindfulness practice.
During meditation and mindfulness we learn to become observers of our thoughts rather than to cling to thoughts and let them hijack us. When we practice this via meditation, we are able to be more mindful in our lives.
Rather than sitting in anxiety or fear, we are able to become more grounded and also to become observers of our interactions with others, which in turn allows us to operate from a place where we do not get clingy. MeetUp.com is a great place to find groups in your area to learn about the practice mindfulness or meditation. YouTube is another great place as is Calm.com.
Finally, just have fun!
Often times the challenge women face is that they try to turn every man into THE ONE and when he is not THE ONE, they get very upset and this furthers their fear of ever meeting the right man. However, if a woman can go into a date with the mindset of just simply meeting a potentially cool person and having fun as herself, she is going to be less attached to the outcome of if he is THE ONE or not.
The old adage of you have to kiss a lot of frogs is definitely true in the sense that we have to try a lot before we find our prince. You don’t necessarily have to kiss them all, but you do have to remember that in a world of 7 billion people, it will take a lot of meetings to finally meet one who is right for you.
4. Some of our subscribers have the tendency to ignore and overlook the red flags especially when they really like a man. In the process, they create an idealized version of the man and overestimate the feelings he has for them.
For women who have a history of fantasizing and idealizing a partner, what can they do to evaluate the man and their relationship for what it is truly worth rather than what they ideally like it to be?
The answer to this question ties in nicely with my response to the previous question. What tends to happen with most women is due to feeling pressured or rushed (this pressure might be unconscious), they start to latch on and idealize a man and a relationship without really getting to know the man or giving the relationship ample time to grow. This is related to the anxiety most women face.
When we operate from a place of fear, we are likely to put on blinders to the reality of our situations.
This is where the meditation and mindfulness come in because through those practices we become observers and better grounded in reality. When we come from a place of calm versus a place of fear, worry and pressure, then we are able to get to know people for who they are. When we can step back, slow down, and get to know the other person, only then can we make a decision about: 1. if we are even into this man we are dating, and 2. if that man is into us.
5. Some experts recommend women wait till they get to know the man they are dating and not have sex until you both are committed to exclusivity. Some experts believe you should go with the flow and be spontaneous and not have any rules regarding when you want to sleep with a man. Can you share your thoughts on the right time to have sex?
The right time to have sex is when both of you are ready. It has to feel right for both partners, not just one or the other.
It is important for women to look at what is driving their desire to have (or not have) sex.
- Is it because you are sitting in fear, afraid that if you don’t have sex with a man he will leave?
- If so, remember that anxiety and fear are operating, which will not lead to a lasting relationship.
- Is it because you feel like a sex kitten and use your body to make men fall in love with you, especially if they are being a little distant or showing signs of preparing to exit the relationship?
If so, once again, that is fear operating. If any of these sound like you, perhaps the book Women Who Love too Much by Robin Norwood would be a good read for you.
If you are avoiding having sex, it’s important think about why as well.
Is it because you have been hurt badly in the past after sleeping with someone? If so, perhaps that is a good sign to take it slow.
Studies have shown that having an orgasm releases chemicals which in the female brain are related to feelings of love and comfort, whereas the chemicals are interpreted differently by the male brain. It has been suggested in studies that this is what leads to the difference between how men and women interpret where a relationship stands or where it is heading.
A word of caution though: If you are taking it slow, that’s okay, but remember, don’t allow fear to run the “slow” show either.
If you find someone you do truly feel connected with and want to connect on a more intimate level, don’t pull back because of your fear of getting hurt. That is detrimental to relationships as well.
6. Our subscribers also run into a situation where things are going great and just when they think the relationship has great potential or feel he is the one, the man starts developing cold feet. He pulls away, doesn’t respond to phone calls or text messages and in some cases disappears for a while. What advice do you have for women who deal with men that suddenly pull away and act inconsistent?
My advice on this one comes from Matthew Hussey: Remember that you are the prize.
Even when things are going well, people get scared. If the man you are dating happens to get scared, that is okay, it is human. In this situation, my advice is don’t turn into the woman who is going to start stalking him non-stop via phone, text, email, social media, through friends, etc.
Just honor what the relationship meant to you, grieve it, and continue on with your awesome life.
If it is meant to be, he will come around again. If not, he wasn’t your guy and your right man is out there looking for you. I know this appears easier said than done, but it really can be done. It takes practice and patience.
If you continue to have struggles and neither self-help books nor your girlfriends are helping, perhaps it’s time to seek out the help of a professional therapist, counselor or coach to help yourself learn to navigate the nuances of dating so that you can move forward and thrive.
7. As a relationship expert, you have helped a number of women in their relationships. What are some of the most common mistakes that you see women making in their love lives and how can they avoid them?
One of the most common mistakes I see women making is thinking that every man is going to be The One.
Listen up ladies: Every man is not going to be The One! Nor should you try to mold him to be The One. That’s the other thing I see. Out of fear of never finding the person that is going to be the true right match for herself, a woman will often then try to take the man she has and mold him into what she wants him to be. When he is not able to meet what she is trying to mold him into, it just doesn’t work (trying to change someone never works, actually…).
Eventually the person you are trying to change either gets sick of you trying to change him, and he leaves; or, you keep getting upset with him for not being what you want him to be, and the two of you are fighting all the time and having a very unsatisfying (and unhealthy) relationship.
If you want a truly fulfilling relationship, you must love and accept the other person for who he truly is.
Only when there is true acceptance of the other person, can there be a healthy relationship. The other thing this acceptance allows is for you to judge for yourself: are you okay with this person as he is and does he match what you want for yourself? If not, then it’s time to move on.
8. In your experience, what are the things that men are looking for in a woman and what makes a woman wife material?
I have found that men are really looking for a confident, independent woman, who is happy with her own life, who can then add value to his.
Men don’t want to try and put together a woman who is not whole within herself. They see that as needy and/or clingy. What do men think about clingy or needy women? That they will take away from his own independence. Men hate feeling like their independence is threatened in any way, shape or form.
As for wife material, all of the above, plus the ability to be flexible, to care for him in a gentle tender way, and to be a partner on a team.
That’s what a marriage is: It is two people who love one another coming together to live their lives as a team, supporting one another, being there for one another, and making decisions together.
9. What are your top 3 relationship tips that you would offer women who are single and looking for a long term committed relationship?
My top three tips for these single ladies are:
1. Be your authentic self!
Men love you for you, not for an image you create for him.
2. When in the dating game, do not invest your all into one man alone until he has shown the same investment in you.
Make it clear that you are seeing other people and that the best man will win–and then go out there and date/get to know a number of guys and then see who can meet the challenge of being the man for you.
3. If what you are doing, isn’t working, get professional help.
Sometimes there are blocks that despite doing all the right things, just need a professional therapist or coach to help you overcome so that you can be successful. If you find yourself in the same relational patterns over and over, perhaps a licensed therapist can help you uncover where that comes from and work towards healing it so that you can clear your blocks. If you find yourself too shy to get out there or feel like you need a confidence boost, perhaps a relationship coach might be a good support person for you to have.
10. What books or resources would you recommend for women that are looking to attract the right man and create long lasting fulfilling relationships?
The books I love to recommend are: Women who Love too Much by Robin Norwood, Get the Guy by Matthew Hussey, and believe it or not, Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. For the woman who is having a hard time letting go of past relationships: In the Meantime by Iyanla vanzant is a great read too.
About Shirani Pathak
Shirani M. Pathak is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship coach for women at the Relationship Center of Silicon Valley in San Jose, CA. She works with women who are strong, smart, and successful, yet struggle in relationships. Shirani works with women who are motivated to make a positive change in their lives so that they can create the fulfilling lives and relationships that they deserve. She believes that in order to be successful in relationships, a woman must first have a healthy relationship with herself.
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