Dear Sara: I’m 49 years old. I’ve never been married, and have no children. I dated a guy for 15 years, thought we would be married and have kids, and we have been broken up for over 10 years. It took me three years to get over that relationship because he immediately found someone 10 years younger, built like a brick house. [He] moved her in, bought her a car, paid her a salary, and got engaged. I immediately started working out, thinking if I could lose weight, he would want me back because he always told me if I would just lose weight, he would marry me.
I have been a successful business owner for almost twenty years and everyone tells me I’m single because I’m intimidating to men because of that. I’ve only dated about four guys over the last 10 years and all but one seems to have used me for money or sex. … I ended up in a physical relationship with a married man who was also involved with two other women from the same gym. This relationship lasted for a couple years because I was upset with God and thought if I couldn’t find happiness with a man, I would take what I could get. I didn’t want him to leave his wife, so I guess we used each other. …
Since then, I met another old friend and I ended up spending over $25,000 on him in personal items, thinking he was interested in me. Then he dumped me for his ex-girlfriend after only five months, but would not give any of the items back. … I met another guy and we ended up seeing each other for all of a month and in that time he ask to borrow $8,500 or he was going to jail for back child support because his employer hadn’t paid it like he was supposed to. When I began to ask about repayment, he left, threatened me. I’ve never heard from him since. …
That’s been almost eight months ago and during that time, I’ve gotten depressed, been seeing a therapist, and closed my business because I didn’t have the will to get out of bed. I am now staying with my grandmother and trying to sell as much of my stuff as I can. …
Then two weeks ago, I finally met someone that I thought was a great guy. He came and hung out with me the entire weekend of the 4th and texted me everyday last week, but then out of the blue, he just stops texting after Thursday night. I texted him several times with no response on Friday and Saturday and then finally I just asked him if I had done something, said something, or if he had a girlfriend and would prefer I lose his number. He finally responded, he had to go out of town for work and for me to chill out. I responded back that I was sorry; I was just worried about him, when I hadn’t heard back from him. …
Am I just a big mess and need to get used to being alone and deal with the depression and loneliness, or am I just expecting too much and scaring the good guys away with my fear of rejection or the unknown? … I would normally never put my life out here like this, but I guess you can say I’m desperate. I could write a book myself with all the craziness in my life over my 49 years. I just wish I knew if I’m doing something to scare guys away, if I am intimidating because I don’t flirt or go after guys normally, if I’m just overweight and I need more self-confidence, or what I need to do to find a significant other. — S
Dear S: No, you aren’t asking for too much. You’re asking for too little. You need to raise your standards. A guy who says he will marry you if you lose weight is not a guy worth marrying. A guy who is intimidated by a woman who owns her own business is not a man. A guy who would cheat on his wife, expect expensive gifts, ask you for a loan to stay out of jail—these are not guys you want to be with.
You are having terrible experiences with men because you’re settling for men who treat you terribly. So no more “taking what you can get”—even if it means being alone for a while. In fact, I think it would be a good idea for you to give yourself a vacation from dating for a bit. I don’t mean give up—I mean take a break so you can focus on getting back on your feet. Restart your business or, if that isn’t possible, get a job—any job. Your main concern right now should be getting your independence back. If you happen to meet someone great in the meantime (that is, someone who is not married, not asking you for money or gifts, not telling you to lose weight) then by all means go get a cup of coffee. But you need to get yourself to a place where you feel strong enough to reject predatory men.
I don’t think the problem is that you scare the good guys away—the problem is you never get near the good guys. It’s going to be hard to find the nice guys if you keep getting tangled up with liars and cheaters.
The last guy you dated didn’t have any obvious red flags, other than not responding to your text. But, believe it or not, that’s enough. It’s rude to cut off all communication out of the blue like that. You have a right to ask, “What gives?” And you don’t have to pretend you were worried he was in an accident—you knew he wasn’t in an accident. When he wrote back telling you to “chill out” that was also rude. You shouldn’t have apologized—he should have.
You’ve been putting yourself in the position where men are the judge and jury of your worthiness, and you need to flip that around. Instead of asking yourself How can I get him? How can I please him? You need to instead ask: How he is treating me? Does he make me feel supported? Does he make me feel safe? Do I trust him? When I tell him about something I need, does he listen or does he lash out and tell me I’m being needy or irrational?
You should also look at how this person treats others. Is he polite to waiters and cashiers? How does he talk about his friends and family?
There are certain ways that decent guys behave, and if you want to be in a relationship with one you need to be able to spot them.
I’m guessing you’re worried that with preconditions like these it will be a very long time before you meet this hallowed good guy. That’s okay. It’s far more productive in the long run to spend a few years taking care of yourself than to sacrifice it for a selfish jerk. You need to be kind to yourself, so that you can recognize that kindness in others.
There are good guys out there. But they can be a harder to find. Some of them are shy, maybe a bit socially awkward. Many are home, watching Game of Thrones, listening to their vinyl collections, playing Halo. They are single and would like to have a girlfriend to treat well. They have jobs, so they won’t need your money. If they have children, they take responsibility for them—without legal intervention. They might be clueless in certain areas. They might forget to text, call or say “You look nice” at times, but if you tell them what these things mean to you, they will listen. They want to make you happy.
I know you can’t snap your fingers and summon a guy like this—believe me, I know. Raising your standards is only the first step toward finding a good guy, but it’s essential. Instead of wasting time and energy on the wrong men, focus instead on taking care of yourself and clearing space for the right one.