I wouldn’t say I like a lot of dating advice, but one piece, in particular, really makes me bristle.
You have to love yourself before someone will love you.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this nugget of wisdom. My problem with it is that nobody ever says this to a man. We all have those male friends that date the same woman repeatedly or experience identical conflicts in each relationship. So how come nobody ever sits down with one of those men, looks him straight in the eye, and says, “Girl, you need to love yourself.”
That’s a rhetorical question, of course. We don’t have to tell men to love themselves. Society reminds them how beloved they are every day. This isn’t to say men don’t struggle with self-esteem issues. Of course, they do! But their problems with self-worth aren’t compounded by external messages like the ones women are exposed to. Nobody encourages them to lose weight or buy expensive skin care products. There aren’t entire fashion brands designed to help them hide every roll of flesh. There isn’t a groundswell of viciousness that awaits them whenever they post a photo online.
One of my favorite scenes from Sex and The City was when Charlotte, fresh off her divorce from Trey, started attending self-help seminars. After her failed marriage, Charlotte began to doubt herself and her ability to find love. Of all four women, Charlotte arguably had the healthiest sense of self-esteem and could be a wide-eyed optimist in romance. For Charlotte to worry she’d never find love, viewers knew whatever turmoil inside her ran deep.
In the years since the series ended, we’ve realized that Carrie was self-centered and toxic. However, in this scene, Carrie comes through in a big way. After Charlotte confessed her fear that she might never find love, the leader of the seminar — a positive affirmation guru — suggested Charlotte’s lack of results was due to her own false beliefs.
“I hear fear,” the guru says. “I hear doubt. You have to believe love to receive love.”
Those affirmations and catchphrases dished out by these types are nothing but schtick. They’re used to sell expensive courses, and they do so by planting doubt in single women’s heads. Carrie saw what the guru was doing and cut her off at the pass.
“Believe me,” Carrie said. “She’s out there.”
With that one sentence, Carrie gave Charlotte the best affirmation of all.
It’s not you.
The real takeaway from that episode should have been that you can do everything right — have high self-esteem and standards, know your worth — and still struggle to meet the right person. And even when you meet them, having it all figured out is not a guarantee that the person won’t be a total douchebag — case in point: Harry, Charlotte’s second husband.
Hear me out.
Harry reveals that he must marry a Jewish woman as things get serious with Charlotte. Was…was he unaware of this when they started dating months earlier? Charlotte was a catch. She did everything single women are told they should do if they want to find a husband: She did the inner work, put herself out there, and even gave Harry a chance even though when they first met, she didn’t find him attractive.
And after all of that, she still got involved with someone who, at the outset, seemed like a great guy. He told her their relationship had an expiration date only when Charlotte expressed interest in a more serious relationship. You could throw a dime and hit a woman who’s had that exact conversation.
This sort of thing happens to women all the time. When it does, the woman is told she needs to fix herself somehow. Raise her vibrations. Lean into her divine feminine. She’s made to believe the reason the man she’d fallen for, who did and said all the right things and showed no sign of being disingenuous, revealed his true intentions.
I can hear the men now.
“But those are fictional characters!”
Meeting the right person comes down to two things: Timing and luck. That’s it. We need to stop telling women their inability to find a partner can be fixed with a course in self-discovery or positive thinking. Nothing makes me roll my eyes further back into my head than when a woman claims she had the worst luck in dating, “worked on herself,” and that’s when she found her partner. Ninety percent of the time, that’s bullshit. You don’t work a lifetime of emotional trauma out in a year and magically meet your husband. Did all that self-reflection help? Probably, but it’s sold like a quick fix, which it isn’t.
Rather than encourage women to change, we should assure them they are worthy of love just as they are, that they’re single and fabulous.