Relationships have never been easy to navigate. In our highly sexualised culture, which insists on putting the self before others, they have become even more complicated. On top of this, most of the media push perspectives on relationships that are neither sincere nor fulfilling. So what’s a girl to do?
Well, she could read Jonathan Doyle’s book, How to Get the Man of Your Dreams, in which the Australian teacher turned author and motivational speaker calls on his experience and research to offer young women practical answers. It seems like a big promise and I had my doubts, so I pitched Mr Doyle some tough questions. He fielded every one.
You say to girls that “you’ll get the man you think that you deserve”. What do you say to a girl who is convinced that she does not deserve a good man because of the way she’s lived her life so far?
The older I get the more I am convinced that our outcomes in life have a great deal to do with the stories we tell ourselves about how things are. Hitting your thumb with a hammer is an objective reality. What you think you deserve in life is subjective and it can be shifted.
In essence, the girl you are describing is living with a toxic belief system that will cause self-fulfilling prophecies. I think the answer for anyone in this situation is to reach out for real help and access options like cognitive behavioural therapy from a professional who can begin to identify and help shift these patterns.
The other way to create change for this girl would be to gradually have a series of better experiences over time. We sustain our view of the world by experiences that reinforce or contradict it. Opening herself, safely, over time, to the ability to trust a good man may also help to change the negative associations of the past. There are good men out there.
There are many girls who are dating guys they love, but they also know that they deserve to be treated with more respect. What would your advice to them be? Stay in the relationship and try to help their boyfriend? End the relationship as it’s unlikely that he will change? Or try a break until he can respect her?
End the relationship. It’s simple. A girl’s job is not to change the boyfriend. It’s a recipe for exhaustion and conflict. He will resent it and sooner or later become angry and resistant. Also, a guy that does not respect her has years of work ahead of him to become a better man and that is work that he may not even attempt. I don’t want to paint too bleak a picture but a central message of the book is that there are fewer fine men around. Let’s not pretend that is not true.
There is also a slight metaphysical problem with your question. Love must be based on truth. If a girl is dating a guy that she thinks she loves but he is disrespectful he is not responding to the truth of who she is. She may be in love with the idea of being in love, or maybe in love with the idea that he will change and come to his senses, but genuine human love is based on both partners understanding, at least at some level, the value and dignity of the person and responding to that with their words, actions and choices.
You explain how a man at a bar could view a woman in two possible ways: as an individual human being or as a sexual conquest. How can girls help men to see them as an individual rather than a conquest?
Modesty comes in here. Some writers, notably Wendy Shalit, have addressed this topic in detail. Modesty simply protects the value and dignity of the person and their nature as a gift to be given and received in an exclusive permanent relationship. Some cultures and faith traditions take this too far for my liking but modern secular culture has problems with it in different ways. Secular culture worships the body but reduces it to its potential value for sexual satisfaction only, while ignoring the body’s role as an icon or window into deep spiritual mysteries.
My personal opinion is that fine men find women who wear very little less attractive than those who have style, grace, class, taste and what the Polish phenomenologist Karol Wotilja called, the “feminine genius”.
There’s a difference between love and pleasure. I’ve met guys that claim they’d prefer a life of one pleasurable experience after another with different women, rather than even having to settle down with one person. Could they be happy?
It seems you are probably describing sex addiction. Men who chase serial sexual experience are, in my view, cowards. They actually lack the manly virtue of courage to be husbands and fathers. They are little boys, Peter Pans. They cannot do the hard work and heavy lifting of human love which at some level calls us to die to our selfishness.
You coin the term “man-boy” to explain the way that many males are these days (sadly). What are some clear signs that girls can look out for to know if they’re dating a man-boy as opposed to a real man?
The man-boy is pretty easy to spot. Here are a few tell-tale signs:
1. He lives at home after about 25 years.
2. He is frequently angry and blames others for his anger.
3. He spends large amounts of time playing computer games.
4. He has problems with pornography.
5. He lies, often.
6. He is unsure about career, marriage and fatherhood.
7. He wants sex as soon as possible in the relationship.
8. He has a poor or non-existent relationship with his own father.
9. He is the centre of his own universe.
10.He has problems with alcohol or other substances.
11.He is sexually unfaithful and blames either the situation, women or alcohol for his own choices.
12.He lacks a clear and compelling life vision.
OK, so I should avoid guys like that. But what qualities should I look for? Especially if I don’t know any “good” men that I can base my ideas on?
I think you need to look for a man with a plan! I think young men need to be much more focused in getting on with their life project rather than postponing it into their late twenties and thirties. Karen (my wife) always said that life with me would never be boring. She liked that I was heading somewhere. If the guy is sitting on the couch all the time with no idea of what to do, then move on.
Other things to look for are the quality of his relationships with his father, grandfather or other significant men. A man with a strong bond with his own father, grandfather or other significant men can often have a deep sense of his own value and worth which is a good thing because he won’t try and get a woman to provide his only source of validation – that can be suffocating. That said, I don’t want to be prescriptive. Some guys buck the trend and despite painful childhoods can be fine men.
You quote St Augustine in saying that “we esteem but lightly what we gain but easily.” I have met couples in relationships that met by hooking-up at a party or bar. How does this quote apply here?
Couples who meet via hook-ups and are together long term are an anomaly. We need to remember that. We need to look for broad cultural trends because these trends have enormous economic and social ramifications. The statistics clearly demonstrate that relationships that begin with sex rarely do the hard work of deep and sustainable intimacy.
Meeting in bar is not necessarily a problem. It would not be what I hope for my own daughters but I would be unfair to say a successful relationship could not eventuate from such a meeting. However, much research tells us that the best chance of relationship success comes for people who share similar value systems and meet via family, civic or religious events or organisations.
This is all lovely stuff if I’m looking for a committed relationship, but why can’t I just have fun now and take your advice when I want to settle down later?
I guess that depends on your definition of ‘fun’! What seems to be happening to many young women seems to often leave them disillusioned and hurt.
All behaviours have consequences. It may be consequences in terms of mental health, sexual health or a deep cynicism about life. Hedonism does not have a great track record for creating healthy and happy people long-term. Our actions and choices at any point in life are not neutral. They are shaping who we become into the future.
Also, the path of slowly building a deep emotional, relational, psychological connection with another person, what we use to call romance, is a deeply human task. A one-night stand subverts the truth of our personhood on multiple levels.
You mention the threats that pornography can pose to a relationship but don’t go into depth. Why is porn incompatible with a healthy relationship?
Pornography simply strips the many layered, human and spiritual contexts of human sexuality to the base level of sexual climax and self-obsession. Professor Mary Anne Layden from the University of Pennsylvania argues that pornography operates as a curriculum for young men, as a training package. In the absence of good men and fathers, pornography fills the void of sexual discipleship and mentoring that men actually need.
Pornography harms women. It just seems to break their hearts when they discover a spouse or boyfriend is deriving sexual pleasure from horrific content involving the abuse and degradation of other women.
To finish on a better note; there are still good men around. The two-fold task is for women to know what to look for to have a true sense of their own identity, value and worth. This can happen. It’s not easy but it’s worth the effort.
Why is being alone for life better than being with the wrong person?
The book makes a clear value claim that the human person is ontologically (in its very essence) the type of thing that is made for love. Being with the wrong person means being in a relationship that can’t meet this core human need. I am not saying that every relationship will be utterly perfect, we know it will not, but the general disposition of both partners needs to be geared toward loving each other selflessly.
Also, our culture is totally messed up when it comes to basic human interpersonal relationships. It pathologizes singleness and deifies cheap sexual encounters. Go figure!
There is no crime in being single. Neither is it a disease. One Spanish poet said that the ultimate level of human existence is radical solitude. I don’t quite agree but I get their point. If you can’t do singleness well then you will struggle to do relationships well.
Jonathan Doyle was interviewed by Tamara Rajakariar, a Sydney journalist and one of three young women running All.u.re Workshop.