I’ve had a few failed relationships. I’m totally kidding. I’ve had a lot of failed relationships, four divorces, and have been working for years on figuring out how to break the patterns that have led me down the dead-end road to Splitsville. Besides the hard work of soul searching, therapy, and book binging, I have also dabbled in the online courses of relationship experts who claim to have the secret to making a relationship with a man finally work.
These programs target women like me, who fear there is something perpetually wrong with us, because we have been unsuccessful in love and marriage. What’s worse is that the contents of the courses exploit the self-blaming, insecure, hurt and anxious type of woman by suggesting the woman carry the burden of responsibility for a man’s level of commitment, and bear the blame for a man’s distance or disinterest. “Do You Make A Man Feel Like You're The Kind Of Woman He WANTS To Commit To?” This seemingly benign question implies that you are responsible for what this man feels, and worse, that you are doing something wrong by being who you are right now, if he doesn’t want to commit. It’s your fault!
These relationship experts appeal to women who have suffered the unbearable heartache of trying to fix broken relationships, carrying all the weight of the problems like a cross strapped to their backs. Some women I know would never buy into these lessons on how to keep a man. The women who don’t need or want this relationship advice, offering various sly strategies to keep their man, are secure women who know they’ve made mistakes, but know their worth, recognizing the value in what they can offer a partner, without playing games to snag them for good. Self-sufficient, independent, confident women is not the target audience for this expensive online love advice.
These relationship courses are designed for hurt women, vulnerable in their state of desperation to make a relationship work with someone, maybe anyone, and would cough up any amount of money to figure out why it's failing. A confident, balanced woman with realistic expectations wouldn’t buy into these programs. That is enough for me to be skeptical of the content as a whole. Then again, the courses strive to turn a wounded woman into that self-assured siren who doesn’t feel the need to adapt her ways for a man who is unlikely to deliver what she desires. But, the focus is on keeping the man, rather than being a discerning woman who doesn’t let a man’s interest define her.
Is it worth turning your love life into a chess game full of strategies to win? Is this how some couples have managed to stay married for over 30 years? Or do these courses capitalize on women in a state of weakness, subliminally asserting that a man’s love determines her goodness? What message are these relationship experts really sending to women when the whole premise is based on game-like tactics to ensure an advantage? And what does that suggest about authenticity between two people? Is being real a losing strategy in the game of love?
Let’s look at some of the recent newsletters from my inbox to examine some of these claims to help you keep your man. Do the lessons and advice hold up? Or are these experts just pulling on the broken heartstrings of vulnerable women grieving a lost love. Or am I just so jaded that these relationship experts seem like a joke, more laughable than my track record with men? Shall we dig in?
A few years ago, a friend of mine handed me a set of bootlegged CDs and told me that they hold the secret to making things work with a man. It was a recording of workshops led by Rori Raye, a relationship coach who has built an impressive catalog of online courses and e-books to help women transform their crappy relationship into a vibrant masterpiece of dreamy proportions. Her tools and advice are based on her own success in marriage and love, if you can believe that!
The following quotes are actual titles from emailed newsletters from Have the Relationship You Want from Rori Raye with questions, comments, and suggestions by yours truly (me). I may not have the secret to making relationships work, but I am a total pro at what doesn’t work, having tried everything to bring a relationship back from the dead. More than once.
“If Your Man Has Decided He Wants Out - Here's How To Stop Feeling Powerless And Make Him See You With New Eyes”
Here’s what I read in this man-love promise, “If your man has checked out, you can do things to control how he sees you.” His eyes have not been seeing me properly for some time, yet I can make him see me with new eyes now? There’s no amount of leaning back, luring him in, or patience that is going to change his perception of you. The second part of the man-love promise could just as easily be “Here’s how to stop being desperate, manipulate the way he sees you, and the way he looks upon you will then make you feel satisfied.”
In reality, you don’t have the power to control his feelings and you are not the only one who needs to make a change to make it work. If your man has decided he wants out, he doesn’t already see the goodness in you, and you are the only one working on making changes, maybe you should show him the door, close it for good, and move on. This could be the healthiest solution.
“Why Your Efforts To Get More Of His Attention Are Actually Pushing Him Away”
Another killer headline, blaming me for his behavior! Let’s back up. If we are trying to get his attention, ladies, this means there is some form of neglect going on, or at the very least indifference. He’s already pushing us away for whatever reason. Instead of respecting yourself and walking away from a person who is incapable of giving you reassurance, when that’s what you need, this statement asserts that it’s your fault he’s distanced himself, and therefore you can do things to control turning his attention back on you. We are putting too much pressure on the man, according to Rori Raye, who says we have to lean back, focus on ourselves, yet melt into him when he breadcrumbs us with affection.
In my experience, this is complete garbage. If a man gets distant and your effort to communicate (leaning in), focus on the health of the relationship, and justified dissatisfaction with minuscule doses of attention, is “pushing him away,” then he needs to grow up and you need to let go. It is futile to worry about what you’re doing wrong or how you can change yourself to get him to shift his fading focus on you.
If he’s not paying attention to your needs, and interprets your interest in resolving the rift as “pressure,” he’s not going to do any better once you lean back and pretend to be carefree. Been there. It also kinda makes you hate yourself a little bit. Why do I have to pretend to be OK for this man? If he respects you, he will respect your feelings, without blaming you for the problems. And if your efforts aren’t respected, walk away.
“6 Keys To Make Your Man More Attracted And In Love With You”
Why am I doing 6 things to get a man to love me more? Where is his to-do list? Why am I not enough? This message is reinforcing the idea that we are not good enough, we need to be better or different, to make him love us. You are enough, no matter where you are in your journey, and you deserve someone who loves all of you.
“The Surprising Way Women Pursue Men (And Push Them Away)... And How To Get Him To Chase YOU Instead”
This one makes the feminist in me scream. Why are we perpetuating this idea that a woman should know her role, stay in her lane, leave the chasing to the big boys? There is no hard and fast rule for who should pursue whom. I’ve done the pursuing at times and at other times I’ve been chased. There was no difference in the final outcome. A relationship developed, it went from happy to sad, the end.
The warning Raye offers is menacing, “If you think you're just being "friendly" with a man by sending him a flirty text or baking him a birthday cake, you could be getting in the way of the kind of courtship you desire…” If a flirty text gets in the way of our courtship, or homemade birthday cake pushes him away, I highly doubt he’s the man for me. No thanks.
“What It Takes For A Man To Give Up His "Freedom" For Your Love Alone”
HIS freedom? I guess mine, as a woman, is naturally up for grabs. This headline suggests that women are standing by, waiting for a man to commit only to them, while the hunky man explores his options. Women enjoy their freedom too. Don’t kid yourself.
What you’re doing if you buy into this rhetoric is merely prolonging the inevitable demise of a relationship that was never meant to be, while holding on to the idea that it’s your fault that this man won’t love you like you deserve, and that changing your tactics will magically restore all hope (while he sits back and let’s you struggle to figure out what he needs each day).
Here’s what I would tell a woman who is desperate to keep her man. If you are truly compatible, it won’t be so hard. He won’t be afraid to tell you he wants to be with you. He won’t feel pressured when you reach out to him. He will want to make you happy. He will make himself available. He won’t care who texts first. He will love a birthday cake from you. He will be open to having difficult conversations and will respect your feelings.
If that’s not happening, leave that man alone. Stop worrying about what he needs and focus on what you need to be happy. Hang out with friends. Lighten up. Go to the gym. Read more books. Remember there are many beautiful fish in the sea. Have fun with your love life. Focus on unfinished projects. Make some power career moves. Go on vacation. Visit family. Laugh, smile, dance. Be yourself, work on yourself, but never believe that you need a man to complete you or make you happy.
Advice from a girl who’s been in one relationship after another for most of her life, earnestly trying everything to make it work. It is not your fault, you won’t change him if he’s not willing to change, and just a little reality check, buying into these claims that women can get a man to feel a certain way about them or love them more are only keeping you hooked to a man who is probably not fit for your life.
If it feels bad, game-playing ensues, and no set of shared values exists, no amount of relationship advice is likely to save it, if past experience serves me. Not even marriage counseling was able to salvage my relationships, yet I threw money at online relationship gurus, because I wasn't ready to give up. The moment I gave up, after exhausting myself with ways to bring harmony into pervasive discord, I could breathe again. Just breathe, and remember you are too lovable for this nonsense!
Let’s end with a quote from Iliza Shlesinger’s Elder Millenial stand-up show, when she announces that she’s engaged and all the women immediately want to know how she and her fiance met:
“Tell us your ways, we wish to be betrothed as well. Secrets. Tell us. Be a girl’s girl.” There’s no secret, just so we’re clear. Don’t buy the books. Don’t buy the hype. Don’t listen… There’s no secret, okay? I’m going to be 35 when I get married. And if there was a secret, I would have fucking used it.”