Dating someone with challenging personalities adds an extra layer in finding a healthy partner. Photo credit: Neo Latricia/CreateHer Stock

Me, can you focus on me? Gaslighting, manipulation and neglect has become common experiences in dating

7 mins read

America’s cultural practice and belief that “real men don’t cry” has produced generations of men and women who experience difficulty in cultivating meaningful intimacy and long-time partnerships.

Love is a battlefield. Or so, many of us thought. Love is about connecting with someone who is as emotionally ready as you are. After speaking with dozens of suitors and those who have crafted careers in understanding courtship and its process, there has been a culprit that must be tackled in today’s dating woes: the emotionally immature or unavailable partner.

The new year kind of snuck in like a thief stealing one’s heart. Unlike the usual end-of-the-year reflection where you have time to think about where you’ve been to map out where you’re going, you might have looked up and was shocked that it is March. Work pulls at you with projects to finish and piles of meetings to attend. Church activities are lined up throughout the year and someone volunteered you for most of them. Then the family has come out of the COVID fog and are planning trips and reunions until 2030. 

While your plate of life-ing is full; alas, your plus one is still somewhere out there. After comparing notes with your homegirls and your bredren (bros), you discover that you’ve all but spent the better part of your dating life entertaining suitors with the inability to regulate their emotions in an age-appropriate way. For some, it’s a bittersweet acknowledgement; but for all, it is a necessary awareness in order to move forward. 

In the dating experience of Amtrak conductor, Marquia Kenney, she discovered that romantically-stunted men dread rejection when they believe women they are drawn to are out of their league. “They’re intimidated by you,” Kenney told Ark Republic.

“The one that I just dealt with did that. He felt more comfortable picking on me than giving me a compliment. What I realized [is] that’s [a] sign of insecurity.”

How they conceal it as said by the recently separated blue collar professional, is by giving off the impression that he’s not that pressed by you. “That’s how they humble you,” Kenney sighed using the air quotes around the words “humble you.” 

Moreover, her ex-boyfriend made it clear that he would never truly reveal how deep his feelings are for her, because he never wants to lose control. “He said the minute I know, I’ll take advantage of that.” 

American culture has this thing that real men don’t cry and never show emotions. The gag is, the most shown emotion is anger, which is predominantly presented through men. From blowing up cars to fighting in bars, rage seems to rule. Yet and still, the taboo of men exploring their natural range of feelings for the basic human has leaked into them experiencing mature, fulfilling partnerships. 

Pick up your feelings

Overall, the culture of America still operates on this premise: men should not express their feelings, and women are prone to being overemotional. Through the decades of Western movies, military sci-ops flicks and hardcore lyrics in music, the average consumer has been inundated with this ethos that has wreaked havoc in the dating scene.

Incontestably, National Grid’s U.S. Director and U.K. Senior Manager of  Employment & Labor Tanya Blocker, who said she is single and ready to mingle, has also dated beaus who lacked emotional development. Now, she “keeps them at arm’s length.”

They want to avoid competitiveness at all costs, revealed the attorney. In classic gaslighting behavior, they’ll say sly things like “I don’t want you to go out to an event’ or give me a side eye when I’m speaking to people, or networking or socializing. [They] create problems where there is no problem,” Blocker told Ark Republic.

“The controlling element I’ve experienced is dictating where I should go or what I should purchase,” she continued.

It’s true; some guys never grow much beyond the playground tags and hits on girls they like rather than treat them nicely. However, after moving South like me, you’ve lowkey been expecting more from Southern men. You were looking for them to sweep you off your feet, as they do in movies.  But, the truth is, men are men no matter where they’re from.

Beware of the narcissists and abusive behaviors

Clearly, we have left the playground, but for some men, the playground mentality remains. A consistent behavior shown by underdeveloped men is to antagonize the ladies they’re attracted to. Instead of complimenting them for their beauty or striking up an engaging conversation, for attention they create conflict.

“I hate to say it, but [men] can [become] very abusive whether that be verbally and sometimes it can cross the line [to] being physically abusive,” said author, life coach, and relationship expert, Stephan Labossiere.

At times, the courtier will say the illest ideas, or even catch an unwarranted attitude—all to get under the skin of a potential partner so that they can occupy their thoughts. After creating uncomfortability, they become progressively nicer before making their move. Who does that? More so, who falls for it? Perhaps, underdeveloped women who normalize the behavior, or are simply tickled by being the center of allurement.

To confess that this diabolical plan worked is a source of slight humiliation, despite your spidey senses telling you that his behavior is manipulative and that it is better to fall for a man who is upfront about his feelings. Still, without hesitation, this type of man should be avoided altogether according to Labossiere. Their unstable and reactionary behavior are telltale signs that he needs work in the emotional management department. 

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Reactive men end up making bad decisions they often regret later. As such, they need to be able to sit back and think things through when they want to grow. It all derives from not learning how to properly manage their emotions and, or not healing from their past.

For a woman who is assessing a man’s level of maturity, they should determine whether he is impulsive or thoughtful and conscious of what he is doing. In view of that fact, it is highly likely for someone who is guided by their emotions to become extremely reckless in a variety of ways.

“I think it’s very important to have a discussion with a man about [whether] he has healed from his past,” advised Labossiere. He also notes that if the ladies want to effectively have a man be open to healing, then it’s important for them to be healed as well.

“It’s for your own good. If you haven’t healed, it’s very easy for you to entertain the wrong man because of what hasn’t been resolved within you,” Labossiere pointed out.

The problem comes into play when he or she is unwilling to do anything about healing from their past. “I have met women [who] have issues…and I never hold your issues against you . . . But if you can’t take certain steps [or are] unwilling to acknowledge the issues then that is when I cannot move forward.”

“We want to nip it in the bud as quickly as possible,” he continued.

If left unchecked, this will generate more issues in the relationship, especially when there is a refusal to take the necessary steps to address it. The less likely they are to put in the work now, while you two are still getting to know one another, or when you both are in a good place, the less likely it will be addressed when the two of you move forward into a relationship. 

Labossiere explains that once people get into a relationship, they get comfortable. They think, “well you knew I had these problems and you took me as I was, why are you trying to change me now? There’s going to be a lot more resistance.”

Love of my life

Admittedly, the personality types of narcissists, aggressives, liars and the selfish are types of people who occur on every side of the dating spectrum. Gender or sexuality is absent when dealing with toxic personality traits in romance. So now that we’re here, in a pool of dating chaos, how do we get to a place of nourishing intimacy?

Of course, fixing a partnership begins with self, that means working through internal woes with tools that are effective and applied continuously. That can take months or even years to uncover as you are sloughing off bad experiences and trauma while filling yourself with affirmative thoughts and rituals. For instance, a lover might enjoy daily messages or calls that are as affectionate as they might be listening sessions to decompress from a rough day. This is a great element in a relationship when communication centers on knowing someone. At the same time, a reflective check-in with you and you only is also needed. More importantly, no one else is required.

Right now, a common phrase used in the ritual of pouring back into oneself is “self-care.” This term is a great starting point, but what is self care? That can be a range of healthy behaviors. Please note that cultivating self-care is experimental, as it looks and plays out differently with each person. What is key is that you must define and create as you go. This is something that can be awkward in the beginning—to sit there with your thoughts, when you want to share the world with others. But it all starts with that inner voice. 

So indulge it with activities that are healthy for your soul and body, and are manageable. Something as simple as a good shower with a favorite soap, a journal entry, painting an abstract visual, building a chaise for your boudoir, or singing along a playlist that is about love and affirming life are a few things that feed you without the requirements of anyone. An important note in self-care is to remember that there can be a range of things, but at the center of it all is that they are ways to intentionally promote holistic well-being.

Journalist established in 2001, inspired by transformative leads.

What is more, there is an idea that one can be on either the receiving end or giving end of a toxic situation. In truth, it goes both ways. Have you ever caught yourself doing the same thing that was done to you? It is a rude awakening that sometimes we take on the very thing we despise, or perhaps, it was a part of us all along. That is why self-inventory in redefining who are you, in order to be the best of you in a relationship is ever-evolving, but starts with you.

The TinderLove series looks at dating for the mature adult, or those maturing and seriously are ready to love.

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