Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Eight Reasons Why Women Make Courtship Mistakes

September 2, 1996

Many women, who otherwise have good judgment, get involved in relationships that turn out to be destructive and wrong. Despite their wariness, history keeps repeating itself. Unfortunately, as together as these women may be in other aspects of their lives, they ignore or miss early warning signals that could prevent a bad experience.

Here are eight reasons why women often make mistakes in courtship.

1. The right man will make me happy. "I hate not having a date. I need something going to feel whole. I have a hard time saying no even if the guy I’m with is demanding and possessive." - a woman in her twenties

Society has sent and continues to send a strong message that a woman’s happiness depends on a man "making her happy." It helps. It can be nice. But it isn’t everything. Women who know how to make themselves happy and meet their own needs are more patient and wise in their dating. Any man won’t do.

2. The glands take over. Sexual desire is so strong and pleasurable that, once it is introduced into a relationship, it soon becomes the focal point. An illusion of intimacy is created. What gets crowded out are long conversations and experiences where information about the character, ideals, goals and personal history are learned. Getting to know one another takes a back seat to sexual excitement and drama.

3. It is easy to fool yourself. It is easy to be in love with love. Our popular culture, through novels, magazines, TV, music and movies, pushes a highly romanticized notion of love. Romance is being swept off your feet. That is the way it is suppose to be.

If a new relationship has the elements of infatuation, newness, intrigue, longing and excitement, women can make their lover into whatever they want him to be. If he’s not "Prince Charming," he’s close enough. A perfect romance deserves a perfect man. He is doing his best to act the part. When viewed with hope and fantasy, the knight seems to wear shiny armor, while in reality, his armor is chinked and tarnished.

4. You are in too big of a hurry. Being married is a lot different from being married to the right person. It takes time to get to know someone. A desire for a committed relationship may scare a man off before the process of getting to know one another takes place.

Desperation clouds judgment. Courtship is best when it is unhurried and evolves without strong demands and expectations. Sometimes it is more lonely to be in a bad relationship than to be in no relationship at all.

5. You are a softie. Some women have been socialized to believe they are the answer to any man’s needs and problems. So what if he has a few faults like alcoholism, a violent temper, tells a few lies or has a horrible track record in relationships? He’s a challenge, just like a bird with a broken wing.

"If only I do these things, he’ll change." The last thing some women lose is their hope. They overlook and put up with a lot because of their faith in a miracle. When it comes to changing someone else, there are few miracles.

6. With your history, you are a "sitting duck." "I sometimes feel very lonely. I try to do things to overcome it, but it doesn’t work. I still want a healthy and nurturing relationship with someone even if all my past relationships have failed. I don’t want to be alone forever. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever have a healthy relationship because of all the hang-ups in my past. It is a scary feeling." - a woman in her thirties

Women who come from backgrounds where they’ve been emotionally, sexually or physically abused, either as a child or as an adult, may have a strong need to be loved and accepted. Loneliness and low self-esteem are also factors in getting hooked by almost any man who shows interest, charm and attention.

7. Somebody is on a rebound. A recently divorced man may be trying to "replace" his former wife in his life. He wants someone, it doesn’t matter who, to fill that role. Emotionally, he hasn’t grieved or dealt with the loss yet.

To slide into the role of meeting his needs is easy. Later, after much disappointment and heartache, it becomes obvious that he wasn’t "ready" for a committed relationship. It is also easy to think you know someone well when what you have actually experienced is a lot of openness about his hurt from the recent past. The recently separated and divorced person may be too close to the painful situation to know themselves or what they really want.

8. You give up control. Some women find it easy to acquiesce and allow their boyfriend to set the agenda on how the courtship is to proceed. They go with the flow. They don’t communicate their own priorities and preferences. When they finally do, they may be surprised at his reaction.

The right things aren’t being done and said to move the courtship forward. If he doesn’t take responsibility for having good activities and experiences, will she? Being passive only wastes time.