How Do I Remain Open To Love And Also Protect Myself Emotionally?

Hi Evan, I’m a convert to your way of thinking and, in the last year, I’ve dated guys that I normally would not have been interested in and even found myself falling very hard for one of them! If I had not been open, warm and accepting, I don’t think this ever would have happened and I’m grateful for the experience. Unfortunately, it became evident after six months that he was not ready for a committed relationship and I ended it with him. I would love to say that I’ve been able to move on easily and open myself to someone that wants the same thing as me but, alas, this has not been the case. Which gets me to my question, which I have not seen really addressed in your forum, but, in my mind, is central to the nature of being a woman. If a woman really opens herself up and puts a lot of the defenses to the side, chance are fairly high that she will fall in love with the man she’s with, which, invariably makes it much more difficult to objectively see any issues in the relationship and disconnect if that man doesn’t want a commitment, kids, is dating multiple people or any of the other red flags we watch out for (or that are important to us personally.)

Taking your advice means being able to connect with men but also means being able to disconnect from them when things aren’t right, which is something that a lot of women (myself included) have a really hard time doing. How do you think that women can better navigate this push-pull dynamic and allow them to better disconnect when it’s obvious that the relationship isn’t going in the right direction for them? Julia

I printed Julia’s question not because I had a pithy, ass-kicking answer, but because I felt this was a web that was a little hard for me to untangle.   Mostly because it’s not about a situation that involves taking action, but about an emotion. And, as you know, logic often flies in the face of emotion.

But since logic tends to be my weapon of choice, allow me to do my best to wield it gently.

It is still “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” isn’t it?

If we dissect your question, Julia, we see the following progression:

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

You took my advice, opened your heart, and fell in love. We can both agree that this is a net positive, right? It is still “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” isn’t it? Or did they change that when I wasn’t looking?

Okay, so your six-month man had no intention to be your permanent man. You figured that out, cut the cord, and moved on. He didn’t fight to keep you, which shows that you made a smart decision and probably saved yourself years of painful waiting. Another net positive.

You learned that you could have feelings for a guy, have a healthy, mature, relationship — and I trust that even if it wasn’t meant to be in the long run, you still gained a lot from this man. He’s probably even created a new paradigm for what you’re seeking from a partner in the future.

He didn’t fight to keep you, which shows that you made a smart decision and probably saved yourself years of painful waiting.

The only way you could have achieved these two net positives (falling in love, calling it quits early with mostly positive memories) is if you opened up and put your defenses to the side. Do you realy think that this guy would have fallen for you if you were judgmental, egotistical, busy, selfish, and jaded?

So far, I don’t see any decisions that you can rightfully second guess. Which doesn’t mean you’re not going to try.

Your logic suggests that when a woman is in love with a man, she loses her objectivity— and thus is willing to put up with all sorts of things she shouldn’t put up with.

This is true.

But just because it’s true doesn’t mean that it functions as a valid excuse.

I just devoured Dan Ariely’s book, “Predictably Irrational”, in less than 24 hours. In experiment after experiment, he illustrates how illogical and counterproductive our behaviors are. In one experiment, he tested the moral and ethical sensibilities of men — when they were sexually aroused.

Would it surprise you that 20% of men surveyed would keep trying to have sex after their date says no? Would it surprise you that that number leaps up to 45% when men are sexually aroused? Finally, would you find it a reasonable excuse for a man to claim that he couldn’t help himself because he was hormonally intoxicated? Hey, it’s true — the science even backs him up! Whether you want to believe it or not, this is what happens to men when they get aroused — we think less clearly and more selfishly.

(Which is sort of what you could have predicted from your own life experience.)


But would you actually buy that as a valid excuse from an overly aggressive man? “Sorry, but it’s biological. Nearly 50% of all men would do the same thing.”

Yeah, that’s not gonna fly.

I’m not equating hypothetical sexual assault with a woman’s tendency to stay in a dead end relationship. I AM pointing out that even if your theory that “love is blind” is true, it doesn’t mean that it should be impossible to objectively evaluate the quality and compatibility of your relationship.

Not to mention that there are different kinds of blindness. Some woman might accept a man who earns less money because of love and be thrilled with her decision. Another woman might marry a man who earns less, resent the hell out of him 3 years later, and then blame it all on the intoxicating effects of love. It’s all hindsight.

What you can do is attempt to learn from your mistakes — and be wise enough not to assume that every man is the same.

At the very least, Julie, what you can do is attempt to learn from your mistakes — and be wise enough not to assume that every man is the same. In other words, just because your last boyfriend didn’t want to commit after six months doesn’t mean that you should extract a commitment from the new guy in the first three weeks. That’ll just scare him off.

Basically, if you want to avoid getting hurt — and force yourself to disconnect, as you say — the smartest thing you can do is to pay attention to whether your long-term goals and values seem to be aligned.

If he NEVER talks about marriage, kids, family, future, houses, etc…, the writing is largely on the wall. And it’s not his fault if you never choose to read it.