Something that I’ve observed with many of my clients as well as my friends – and no shame, even in my own dating history – is that many of us have had the experience of being obsessed and infatuated with men who aren’t great for us in several ways.
They are either emotionally unavailable, carrying various forms of emotional and psychological baggage that they refuse to let go of, have toxic/harmful views towards women and relationships, are disrespectful of women or just aren’t great characters to be spending time around.
Yet time and time again, many women will still get themselves involved with this men, against their better judgment, and frequently burn themselves in the process. You will find them posting on forums asking strangers why Michael said that to them, or if you’re the friend of one, find yourself mired in text exchanges, trying to figure out why this guy they were dating is behaving like that.
Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve done something similar before. The guys and the situations are all different, but guess what is the common thread running through all these?
That you are wasting your time, energy, emotions and effort on a guy who hasn’t actually done anything or treated you in a way that is deserving of any of that.
Instead of having those triggers or an alarm system that goes off when a guy treats us badly or not in the way we want, we dig our heels even deeper and start playing analyst by lying awake in bed wondering why he hasn’t replied, playing back what he said over and over again in our heads, asking friends why he’d actually do that etc.
It’s actually time we stopped doing that to ourselves. Before we embark on that, let’s delve abit into why we allow them into our lives.
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Why am I attracted to men who don’t give me attention?
#1 You attract/attracted to emotionally unavailable men because you are emotionally unavailable
Emotional unavailability is one of the biggest reasons why dates and relationships never take off healthily. This quality literally blocks any sort of healthy intimacy or love to actually form between two people. The reasons for this could be due to a few factors – perhaps it stemmed from childhood, or prior dating experiences where you’ve been burned badly, or you just were never taught how to express your own emotions or connect to others in a healthy way.
EU can play out in a few ways. So for instance, instead of going for people who actually like you, you always seem to go for or wind up with people who don’t really like you or are inconsistent or don’t seem to wat to commit to you. It could even play out in a situation where,you may find yourself in a reciprocal healthy dating situation, where the guy communicates really well with you, he takes you out, expresses his interest and is interested in growing the love with you. And instead of reciprocating, you react in unhealthy, avoidant or self-sabotaging ways, like pushing him away or telling them you’re not interested (although you are).
EU is usually the single biggest reason why many relationships never take off or they never quite hit a very healthy, intimate bond which we all crave.
#2 Various fears
Many of us have a very fearful relationship with love, affection and relationships. Fear of abandonment, fear of happiness, fear of love, of intimacy, of being vulnerable with someone… the list goes on and on.
Fears are actually pretty irrational because why would someone actually be afraid of having a secure relationship or having someone love them? But fears aren’t rational things, and all our fears stem from the oldest part of our brains – the amygdala. The amygdala has been around since the first humans were around and as such is incredibly developed. It attaches emotional significance to life events and actually serves to protect us from harm.
Whilst it’s normal and very human to have fears and doubts in general, and in relationships, when we are over-subscribed to fear and constantly need to protect ourselves when in love, we can end up pushing away others, or relating to others in ways that do not bode wel for healthy love.
For instance, if you have a fear of abandonment, you would be motivated to prevent that from happening. This could play out in various ways:
- You keep asking a partner to reassure you that he loves you. Constantly.
- Whatever they do is never enough for you to feel secure
- You question what they are doing, who they are speaking to because you feel threatened
- You push away people who love you because you are afraid that they would leave you. So to prevent that, you leave them first.
Fears like I said, are a sign that we are human. But when it goes out of balance, it can seriously get in the way of building a healthy relationship.
#3 Seeking attention and validation; wanting to be liked
Let’s face it. We all want to be liked. We all like some form of attention, especially from someone we like and we love to be seen, recognised and validated. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting any of that – all part of the human experience.
Where it can start to go awry is when we seek out attention and validation from the wrong man in a relationship, and place all our self-worth in their hands. Because when we prioritise or crave for attention, we can start looking for it with the wrong people. So you start entertaining all sorts of people that actually don’t fit your dating standards, and are actually perhaps, not great people, but because they give you attention and make you feel seen in some way, you find yourself getting more emotionally invested.
Attention is fine, but you need to ask yourself about the source of that attention. Is he a good guy? Someone you really want in your life? Not all sources of attention are created equal.
#4 Unhealthy attachment patterns
There are several childhood attachment styles that can follow us into adulthood. And the 2 which gives us the most problems in our love lives are those that identify with the anxious and avoidant-dismissive styles.
This can colour your relationships in adulthood because you will define a relationship as one that is filled with anxiety, inconsistency, hot-cold behaviour, unpredictability, straight-up coldness etc as “healthy” love.
Also with many unhealthy attachment patterns, communication is usually lacking. And how this plays out is that the person turns inward to fulfill their fantasies for affection. They start to fantasise about what love looks like, how it feels if someone loved them back etc. This is where the foundations for fantasising and idealising people begins. It’s also where unhealthy obsessions take root.
Childhood attachments tend to lead to poor decision-making in adult romances, getting overly attached to soemone, limerence and fantasising over someone you can’t have, retroactive jealousy and lots of other unhealthy behaviours. It’s best to uncover this early and nip it in the bud.
#5 You don’t feel worthy or seen by others so you choose relationships and people that perpetuate that
I’ve always believed that who we pick as partners or dates are a reflection of who we are as people. And the strangest thing about attracting people who don’t treat us well or don’t give us the attention that we want – that is usually because that is how we see ourselves.
After all, we only accept the love that we think we deserve.
For some of us, it’s easier to deal with people who don’t give us attention because subconsciously, we know that we are not going to end up with a person that loves us. So we choose partners that confirm that belief. When you see yourself as unworthy of love and you harbour a deep-seated fear of intimacy and of being vulnerable, you can end up subconsciously choosing people that will put you in a position where you don’t have to be vulnerable, and where they won’t be vulnerable with you as well.
When we feel like we are unlovable or we are closed off as people, we will tend to select for characteristics and people that prove that to us. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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How do I stop giving (too much) attention to a guy?
I can just tell you to just let it go. Let him go. You lead your life, he leads his. And the post will stop here. But I know – easier said than done. Something very important to take note of here though:
Attention breeds familiarity and attraction.
When you give attention to something you kind of get very emotionally intertwined or energetically intertwined with the thing or that person. So, as long as you are constantly thinking about, talking about, wondering about said person, hanging around them often – they will always be in your mental and emotional orbit. It’s just how the brain works, just like positive reinforcement.
So be careful who you are giving your attention to and for how long. One thing that I’ve observed with quite a significant number of women is how so many of them become emotionally attached and invested in someone before they even know him. They start texting him, wondering about him, posting about him on forums and so on.
Before you start doing any of that, you should first
#1 Vet him thoroughly
Is he a good guy? Do you guys share the same values? Have you seen him in other contexts besides dates? How is his relationship like with his family? Has he gotten over his ex?
So many things to consider when you are dating someone new. And before you put your feelings on the line, or give away your emotions and attention to someone, make sure that the guy you are seeing checks off your boxes in IMPORTANT ways.
Your attention, time, emotions are all precious, give them out sparingly. And let love build in an easy, organic pace. You don’t have to chase him if he really likes you or is the one for you.
#2 Start extinguishing habitual thoughts of him and match his energy
I talk about this in my posts on limerence (link, link, link). If you constantly find yourself in situations where you are always wondering about the guy and what is he doing, why is he texting in this manner etc, you may have an anxious attachment style, but it’s also a sign you need to pull back.
See, if a guy is in contact with you and you have healthy communication between the both of you where you can talk about things freely, you won’t have to wonder about anything, you won’t have to ask a friend or random strangers on internet forums to dissect his behaviour. You will be asking him instead.
If you are not getting the kind of love and attention from him, dial it down and start to match your energy to his. He doesn’t respond quickly? Cool, do the same and go live your life. He doesn’t want to hang out often? Cool, do the same and go hang out with other people who want to see you.
Start matching the energy of your dates and potential relationship partners, especially if you have an overly anxious attachment style. Start meeting people where they are at with you and you will find yourself worrying alot less.
What happens when you stop giving attention to the (wrong) men?
What happens? Well, life significantly changes. And this goes for entertaining any sort of person who is not a right fit for your life, once you stop letting them into your life, you will find that you start attracting less of them.
#1 When you send a message out that you have boundaries, life responds similarly.
When you start drawing boundaries around yourself and only paying attention to people who are deserving of your love, time and energy, you will find that you start to be able to weed out people who don’t really belong to your life experience. Your life starts to shift and you start to actually attract people that are more on your wavelength and more in line with where you are heading to in terms of your spiritual and personal goals.
You no longer find yourself in this strange vortex surrounded by fu*kboys, emotionally unavailable men, men who take you for granted, men who don’t have great relationship potential or are great people at all. Slowly, those sorts of qualities will start to attract you less.
#2 You start to be more connected with yourself
When you start being more conscious of who you are letting into your life and being more discerning of who you are spending time with, you will find that you start getting closer to yourself. You start being more self-aware, aware of your self-worth, you respect yourself and accept yourself. It’s easy to figure out what you want in life.
What can I start doing to give less attention to the wrong people?
Here are some quick exercises that I’ve gotten clients to do:
- Think about each relationship or date that has ended in the past. Think back (if it is not too triggering) to the beginning of each, how did it start? Were you all friends first or you met some other way?
- What was the date or relationship characterized by? Anxiety, nerves, excitement, calmness? Emotional roller coaster?
- What about him made you sit up and pay attention and allow him into your life? Was it way he treated you? What did you like about him? How was he like as a person?
- How did it end? What lessons did you draw from the experience?
Start writing all these out and you will see the patterns that you have across relationships – your own relationship pattern and why you are drawn to the people that you are. This is also a great way to “diagnose” what usually tends to go wrong in your romantic life. Do you give attention to the wrong qualities, are you overly attached too quickly, are you anxious?
When you start figuring out the patterns, you will start to see where you may be giving attention to the wrong men, and you can start to make the changes you’d like to see to invite better, healthier partners and love into your life.