The Perfect Woman

In the past 14 years, my relationships have all had the same pattern. I meet a man and fall in love. The relationship starts off on equal terms. I’m usually so in love that I do amazing things for the man and it initially brings me a lot of joy to be referred to as “the best girlfriend in the world”. The problem is, that after the passing of the initial phase of romance, I end up feeling like I do everything in the relationship. I begin to feel worthless, taken for granted and not appreciated and start to resent the man. The resentment can get to the point where I look at him and feel anger and even hate. I then begin to withdraw and later leave.

 I know that it is my fault, since I literally “train” the men to do nothing while I cater to them in the beginning of the relationship. Addressing this problem with my previous partners has never worked. Now, I have a wonderful boyfriend, but sadly, the phase of resentment has started again. How can I break out of this pattern?

It sounds totally normal to me. Thousands of years of habit forming have gone in to creating the dynamic you’re addressing, how can one poor agony aunt be expected to alter the course of history in a few hundred words?

It’s sobering to hear that it’s still services rendered that earn you the tag of “worlds best girlfriend”. The very qualities that would make a woman run a mile; being overly fussed over and excessively indulged by a pathetically subservient partner are still appetising menu items for the male of the species it seems.

You say you now have a wonderful boyfriend but how great can he be if he’s confusing his girlfriend with a concierge service? You’ve clearly created an untenable behavioural ideal from which the only way is down so I’m not sure what I can do to help in the immediate future. Looking ahead though there’s definitely a solution.

Love has a natural tendency to evolve from myopic idealisation to a more realistic appraisal of each other’s merits and faults the longer and more intimately you are involved with someone. It’s almost unheard of to hear a declaration of escalating ardor in long-term partnerships unless the relationship is unrequited or in the pages of fiction. Once early passion has abated being over-loved can be as unappealing as being unloved. I’m surprised your boyfriends aren’t the ones tiring of the ritual of servitude even faster than you become resentful of their expectations. Then again their sex has had hundreds of years of conditioning which must have inured themm to the irritation of their every whim pandered to. I’ve only experienced that sort of dogged devotion on a couple of occasions in my romantic life and there was nothing sexy about it.

Sadly for your current union you’re writing to me at the wrong point in the cycle. Once expectations are set and injustice has seeded it’s very hard to turn back time. What you need to do is change your behaviour from the outset and the first step is to work out where this impulse to please emanates from. Most of us have deeply entrenched patterns that come into play in emotionally heightened situations. We tend to repeat offend in almost every area where our emotional response is predetermined by nurture and a bit of nature. Whether it’s insecurity, anger or passion the bigger the emotion the more predictable the response. I’m an easy example. As the daughter of an alcoholic I squandered a large part of my romantic life on men who similarly needed mending. Love for me was entwined with a deep-rooted impulse to play Florence Nightingale and emotionally mature, functional partners held no appeal whatsoever for a good two decades into adulthood.  Recognising what triggers your own particular neuroses is a key step to take in understanding yourself better. You certainly can’t change the way you react to a given situation until you understand why you are programmed the way you are.

To get to the heart of this destructive tendency you need to reflect on your early romantic models. Most likely the answer lies in the dynamic between your parents but it could also have been born during your own formative first steps in romance? A little bit of aversion therapy might also help to reshape the impulses that are sentencing each relationship to the same fate. Try putting yourself in a partner’s shoes and imagine how pathetic and unappealing you’d find it if a guy ran around after you to the degree you do. I can’t explain why men find the blurred lines between servant and sexual partner bearable but I’ve yet to meet a woman for whom doglike devotion holds much appeal. Creating our own mental malaise is a skill particular to humans but thankfully one that is also entirely self-curable.

Now that you’ve recognised the pattern you need to take active steps to move on from it.