Recently, I received a call from a new client we’ll call Stacy. I think our conversation provides an important lesson for most, if not all of us, and in particular most women. So here it is.
Stacy told me that she had recently started dating a man we’ll call Bob. Throughout her dates, she had found Bob to be kind, generous and handsome. In fact, as it turns out, Stacy and Bob share a great deal in common and Stacy thought Bob was a potential long-term partner. Stacy, however, was worried that her financial status was a detriment to a budding relationship.
Stacy was, and remains, in the midst of a career change. Because of that she is, let’s say, financially challenged. She is, however, working hard to make her new career choice be successful, both from a personal satisfaction and a financial standpoint. But, for now, she has trouble making ends meet though she does not live what we would refer to as an extravagant lifestyle. Rather the opposite. She likes to stay home and read or watch TV. She rarely goes out and almost never to a bar. She rarely drinks and does not do drugs, nor is she a shopaholic.
Early in this budding relationship, as they were discussing relationships, Bob mentioned that one of the reasons he broke up with his previous girlfriend was that she didn’t contribute much financially, if anything. Stacy then took it upon herself to prove she could and would contribute financially. For example, she took to cooking Bob nice dinners buying the food for them both when he never asked her to do so. Stacy also took upon herself to pay half of the tab when they went out to restaurants, even though she herself would not go out to eat because she could not afford it. In other words, she was projecting herself to Bob as someone she is not.
In essence, like many women, Stacy began to change herself to please first her date, later her boyfriend and, she hoped, her partner. Like many women, she didn’t love herself enough to be secure in who she was. So she became who she thought he wanted her to be.
Like most of us, Stacy is afraid of “not being enough.” She is afraid that, if Bob finds out she is not making much money, he will “dump” her. I told Stacy that I thought it was deceitful of her to not let Bob know of her situation and perpetuate a non-existent, for the time being, financial myth. She is not a partner who can pay half the bills today. So Bob may be falling in love with someone she’s not. “Wouldn’t it be better to come clean?”, I asked Stacy. I also asked of Stacy to think whether this relationship had a solid foundation if it was based on whether or not she had a sufficient income. I pointed out that, if so, this did not seem to be a relationship based on love, which is what she (everyone?) wants.
More importantly, I asked Stacy whether she thought she was being deceitful and disrespectful, not just Bob, but to herself. This is not who she is, nor is it the person Bob asked out. Bob had felt a connection and had been intrigued enough to approach Stacy. Maybe he just liked the way she looked. Perhaps even her voice, or the way she stood or sat. Probably a combination of all of these. Whatever it was, Bob didn’t approach Stacy and asked about her financial status before asking her out. By projecting an image of whom she is not, she is telling herself that she is not “enough” as is! That who she is today is not worthy of being loved.
I think women are more prone to this than men, though the ratio appears to be even in Southern California where it seems that we judge the compatibility of our potential partner by the car they drive. But aren’t we all worthy of being loved for whom we are, complete and replete with flaws? Aren’t we worthy of enough self-love to declare to the world who we are and what we stand for?
Believe me, as a single man, I feel and understand Stacy’s fear. It is often said that a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. Let’s remember that a bird in the hand is prone to defecate in your hand if held long enough. Let’s also remember that a bird in the hand is a prisoner and that the bird wants to be free to fly. In the end, I asked Stacy to consider whether just being herself would not be best for her and in this, or any future relationship. Whether it would not be best to tell Bob she is changing career and is not able to go out all the time, or at least pay half the bills. I also asked her to consider whether, if her lack of income caused the end of the relationship, this was the partner for her or she for him. I invited Stacy to live and be her true self. I invited her to take the time to think about why she is not honoring herself, and what she has to give her partner. I asked her to ask herself what it is she thinks she’s lacking just as she is and, whether if she had it, it really would make her happy and bring her a loving, supportive and vibrant relationship. I asked her why she thinks she’s not enough as she is today. Why she doesn’t love herself enough to deem herself worthy of being loved for who she is. I didn’t have those answers for her. Even if I did, she needs to think about these questions, and to get the answers, on her own.
Stacy, like most women, is a strong person. She felt the truth of the words that we exchanged and the questions I asked her to consider. I wish her the best and know she is worthy of being loved for who she is, not for what she earns or owns. I look forward to hearing back from her and see her standing for who she truly is.
From a general perspective, part of the problem is that we live in a world where money is perceived to be central to our happiness. Don’t get me wrong, money makes things a lot easier. It is easier to be “in love” with your partner when you don’t have to worry about whether you can pay the bills or not. It is easier to be “in love” with a man who can take you on a 3-day weekend to Paris just because then with a man who is working 2 jobs to make ends meet. And if money is your core need, and for many of us it is, then so be it. But be careful what you ask for, because it will be given to you. And if you are looking for a partner who will always be there for you; who will support you in everything you do; who will see the best in you; someone who will think of ways to show you s/he loves you; someone you will be proud to introduce to your friends and parents; perhaps even someone who will be a good father/mother… then remember that money does not always make a gentleman/lady.
For the record: the vast majority of women still make less money than men, even if they are similarly employed. There is an enlightening article on this subject matter in the Institute for Women’s Policy Research website which I encourage each of you to read.
As always in love, Jean-Pierre
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