Many times, when I see single women in my office for therapy, they talk about the men they are dating. I've always been struck with how they still wait for the text message before going to sleep, and lose endless hours 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 of whom 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 apparently, it doesn't end there. Many women who experience this obsession are in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.
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 study from the University of Virginia sheds light on women who obsess about a man. The study suggests that the obsession itself may actually fuel their fire. The study was published in Psychology Science and is based on an experiment conducted with female undergraduates.
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, with researchers manipulating and falsifying the profiles.
One group of women were told that these four men 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 the men might like them.
As expected, women were more attracted to men who found them attractive than men who rated them average. What researchers didn't expect was the women who found the men most attractive 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 fuels 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 more appealing if the men might like them, rather than men who definitely do. However, the women had to feel like there was some interest in the guy keeping them on pins and needles.
For the women in my office, this most likely means the guy is giving them some attention to fuel their obsession. But many times, the obsession takes over and women may find they cannot stay focused at work, which begins feelings of doubts.
If you find yourself experiencing this feeling, here are few suggestions to help you alleviate those obsessive thoughts:
- Get in touch with your fears. Sometimes writing down or talking about this fear helps get it out of your head.
- Limit your obsessiveness. Plan a time of day and a specific amount of time (15 minutes) you will allow yourself to obsess. When the thought comes to you and it isn't that time of day, tell yourself it is NOT time and reserve that thought for the time permitted.
- Utilize help from friends. Friends can help you differentiate fiction from fact. If you are sure he is out with someone else and there is no evidence, your friends can assure you that you shouldn’t think like this until you have clear evidence.
- Distract yourself. Whenever you begin to obsess, transplant a different thought or action into your schedule. For example, whenever you begin to obsess, tell yourself you will do 20 crunches or push-ups. Soon, you will either find yourself thinking of reasons not to think about him, or you will be working toward a buff chest and tight tummy, which will help boost body confidence.
- Shut off all communication. If you are worried he won't call and you make yourself unavailable, this helps preserve the ego. You can tell yourself maybe he called or maybe he didn't, but YOU were unavailable. It gives the control back to you.
Anyone who has ever obsessed about anyone's affection knows how terribly out of control it feels. It may fuel the affection, but it distracts you from being who you want to be.
The question isn't will he like you or not; the question is, do you like yourself enough to acknowledge the obsessive thoughts, but not let them control your life?
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