Love can be the many-splendored thing of poetry, but the notion of Valentine’s Day is flawed to the point of actually sabotaging relationships.
“It’s kind of a massive setup for having our self-worth dashed, because it’s become too important and too narrow,” says Dr. Patricia O’Gorman.
The price of those expectations is that “if it isn’t right, we feel disappointed and unloved,” she says. Even following the Valentine’s script is no guarantee of success: “I know women who get upset when they get their favorite box of chocolates because, ‘Doesn’t he appreciate that I’ve lost 10 pounds and now I’m gonna gain it all back?’”
The clash of reality versus expectations doesn’t stop and start with one day. In her new book, “The Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan,” O’Gorman aims to wake women up to their “inner Mean Girls club.”
“We, as women, internalize all this negativity around us,” O’Gorman says. Those “lessons” – from society, pop culture, families and friends – emphasize where they fall short, even when there is plenty to celebrate: “Images of how we’re supposed to act and how we’re supposed to look are forever around us.”
We asked O’Gorman to debunk some common girly thoughts keeping women from having better, happier relationships.
1. My soulmate is out there. “I’m still not sure what that is, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never met a couple who are soulmates,” says O’Gorman. There are no cosmic, fated shortcuts to love. “It takes a lot of work to be with somebody.”
2. He should know what I need.O’Gorman likes to turn this one around on her female clients. “I will ask the woman what she needs, and she’s not sure! So that’s asking a lot of somebody,” O’Gorman notes.
3. I must satisfy him in bed. If your sex life is all about him, what will you eventually default into? “If you fake enough orgasms, you begin to lose interest in sex.” If you want to satisfy your partner, you need to know what “does it” for you. Figure out – or let him help you figure out – what that is, and find your way to his pleasure through you.
4. His anger is about me. Feelings remain in the realm of “not quite manly” for guys, which can be frustrating for him and you. Instead of admitting he’s anxious, for instance, O’Gorman says a man “might get angry or distant, or he may challenge what you’re doing. But that may not be because he doesn’t care about you. It’s important to have communication to decode the other faction.”
5. It should be like the movies. “[Popular culture] has distorted, in some ways, what it is that’s realistic that we can get from another human being,” says O’Gorman. Not knowing what’s real can be disempowering and lead us to simply give up when we hit a bump.