Many times, when I see single women in my office for therapy, they talk about the men they are dating. I have always been struck with how they still wait for the text message before going to sleep, and lose endless nights of sleep if their boyfriend hasn’t called them. They become physically anxious as they describe the tension they feel, wondering if this guy is going to ask them out for the weekend.
As I look at these women (many who are doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, and business women) I am puzzled. These women are gorgeous, successful, and could have any guy they wanted. Why are they putting up with this guy who has them on pins and needles waiting for a call? Obsessing about your boyfriend is a “rite of passage” when you are a teen or in college, but it apparently doesn’t end there. Many women who experience this obsession about their new boyfriend are in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.
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Women may get pickier as they get older and more accomplished, but they cannot shake off the obsession with getting the phone call, email, or good night text.
A new study from the University of Virginia is shedding light on women who obsess about a man. The study suggests that the obsession itself may actually fuel their fire. The study was recently published in Psychology Science and was based on an experiment conducted with female undergraduates from the University of Virginia. The female students were told they were evaluating whether Facebook could work as an online dating site. The women were then shown Facebook profiles of what were considered “likeable, attractive” men (the researchers manipulated and falsified the profiles). One group of women were told that these four men were those who liked them the most, a second group heard that these men rated them as average and a third group was left in the unsettling position of thinking that the men might like them.
As expected, women were more attracted to men who found them attractive than men who rated them average. What was not expected was that the women who found the men most attractive of all were those of the third group. We have all been through the pains of wondering “Will he call me or was he just saying that to be nice?” Many women hate this about themselves—the sleepless nights and wondering about our date’s intention. Even though we may “hate” this obsessing, it appears that the obsessing is what is fueling women to like the guy more. The researchers of this study, Erin R. Whitchurch, Timothy D. Wilson and Daniel T. Gilbert, state in their paper that women find men who may like them more appealing than men who definitely do. However, the woman had to feel like there was some interest in the guy who was keeping them on pins and needles.
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For the women in my office, this most likely means the guy is giving them some attention to fuel their ability to obsess about him. However, many times the obsession takes over and women may find they cannot stay focused at work, and begin feeling doubts. If you find yourself experiencing this feeling, what do you do? I have a few suggestions that may help you alleviate some of the obsessive thoughts:
1. Get in touch with what you fear will happen. Sometimes writing down or talking about the fear of what will happen helps get it out of your head.