Meet iVillager Kirsten, winner of the iVillage Date Coaching Essay Contest! As her prize, Kirsten will be be coached by Dating Expert Sherry Amatenstein for the next four weeks, one session at a time. Feel free to follow along and find out if Sherry's tips can work for you, too!
The Single-Girl Stats
iVillage name: Kim427 Age: 35
Dating Dilemma: I always meet men who need me to fix them!
Best present I ever received from a guy: Bracelet with my children's names on it
The worst: Gift certificate for a lube job. I didn't have a car at the time. Hmm.
Week One: Getting Started
Kirsten came to me asking for help at being less shy around men. This 35-year-old single mother of two confided, "Men always seem so confident around women, but it doesn't work the other way around for me. I turn into a different person when I meet a guy. I'm always afraid of saying the wrong thing."
She's never felt comfortable with the opposite sex. When growing up, her dad, who worked nights, was the distant figurehead for a family that, like many, wasn't as close as it could have been. Making matters worse, Kirsten had to fight her sister for her parents' attention when they were around -- especially her father -- and eventually settled on the idea that her sister was the favorite.
Given this early dynamic, its not surprising Kirsten grew up being a pleaser. "A shrink once called me a classic co-dependent. I find men, like my ex-husband, who needs saving and take care of them. No one takes care of me."
On the next page: Homework That Will Work for You Too >>
She adds, "I relate to that scene in Runaway Bride when Julia Roberts says that she changes the way she eats her eggs depending on the preferences of her current lover. If she's involved with an omelet man, that's what she eats. If he's an over-easy guy, she's an over-easy gal."
Making the Change
Kirsten seems smart, funny, sweet and capable, yet every other sentence out of her mouth is a self-deprecating one. ("I'm the negative queen.") Our work over this next month of telephone sessions is cut out for us.
I give her homework for next week aimed at both gathering insight into her romantic patterns and building up her self-esteem. It's old advice, but we all know it's true: Until she loves herself, she can't love and be loved by some else.
Homework That Will Work for You, Too
- Write a romantic resume of her love history. By charting out details of the pluses and minuses of each of her major relationships, she will more clearly see her patterns and why she fell into them. It's important for Kirsten to see her role as well as the other person's.
- Keep a journal. This is her safe place to pour out her feelings and explore her psyche. She should kick off the journal by writing 10 things she likes about herself.
- Start saying positive affirmations daily. I want her to replace a typical Kirsten mantra such as "I'm overweight, no man will find me attractive" with "I'm beautiful inside and out."
- Ask a single platonic male friend whether men really feel confident and masterful in the dating world.
Kirsten is nervous but committed to devoting the next month to overcoming her dating blocks. Over the course of our initial conversation she has come to realize that many people heedlessly gallop from one relationship to another. It's a haphazard way to try to find the right mate. It makes much more sense to develop a plan based on true understanding. Today Kirsten has taken the first tentative step to understanding herself. Hurrah!
Ready to follow in Kirsten's footsteps? There are two ways to do it. Follow along each week as a group and write your romantic resume and keep a dating journal online. Or buy a beautiful journal to do the work on your own. Either way, feel free to check out the Ask the Dating Doyenne message board to get feedback on this exercise from Sherry.
Move on to Week 2: Making the Change!