The solution to parental haunting is to figure out how your parents acted, figure out what you wanted them to do differently, and determine how, logically, you can fix it so that this pattern of behavior doesn't control your dating behavior.
Because you're doing an inventory here, keeping a notebook in which you can jot down thoughts and impressions is a great idea (see Chapter 1). Make sure your notebook isn't left around for other folks to read; it's personal and just for you and your work.
1. Start with a heading called "Mom and Dad," leaving a page for each, and write down any thoughts that occur.
On Mom's page, you might write, "Neat-freak, warm laugh, takes care of the finances, whines," and so on. On Dad's page, you might write, "Rarely home, drinks too much, loves fishing, gives good hugs."
It's a good idea to leave lots of space so you can let your mind roam.
2. Now go to a new set of pages, again one each for Mom and Dad, and try to organize your thoughts into positive and negative.
For example, on Mom's page, you might put her warm laugh and the fact that she's in charge of the finances on the positive side and "neat freak" on the negative side. Of course, if you're being honest, warm laugh might be positive, but "doesn't take me seriously" might be the downside of her sense of humor. See if you can use your grown-up self to look at things
3. Once you've got a good list going, begin to relate the items on your list to dating behavior.
For example, a sense of humor may be important, but so, too, may be someone who won't laugh at you. Which is more important: having someone who listens a lot or someone who talks a lot? Make sure that the characteristics you want aren't mutually exclusive. For instance, on one hand you want a man who is really successful; on the other, you want someone for whom you come first. Nope! Doesn't happen that way.
Dr. Joy's mini self-esteem quiz
Question: Self-esteem is created by: a. Your parents when you're young
Answer: None of the above. Self-esteem is not mom-esteem, or dad-esteem, or sib-esteem, or friend-esteem; it's self-esteem, and it's created by you.
b. Your parents all your life c. Your brothers and sisters d. Your aunts and uncles e. Your teachers in school
While a loving home and joyous childhood make loving yourself easier, you build self-esteem by feeling pride in something you've done — an accomplishment. So if your self-esteem is at a low ebb, do something you value and you'll build it back up.
f. Your friends
When you understand which of your feelings about the opposite sex are directly related to Mom and Dad, you may be able, with your grown-up mind and paper and pencil, to free yourself of some of the knee-jerk responses that all of us have. Consider these examples:
1 If your Dad always beat you at checkers, you may go for the kill in games, taking all the fun out for both of you, or you may be unwilling to play at all. Finding a game at which you can best your Dad might free you, but at least understanding the cause and effect helps.
1 If your Mom was a worrywart, you may feel great anxiety before you leave the house. Your adult self can understand Mom's fears and separate them from your own.
Since you're old enough to read and think about dating, you have some patterns to go on. Even if this is your very first dating experience, you've talked to the opposite sex, fantasized, and interacted. In this section, you look at those patterns (this is also good information to put in your dating notebook):
1 Who you choose: Are you drawn to blondes, bullies, actors, athletes, people who hold you too tight, or people who seem to disappear? Are you talking down-to-earth or mysterious, bubbly or reserved, serious or silly?
1 How you act: All of us act in characteristic ways, and once we understand those ways, we can see our behavior and the effect it has. Understanding this, we can then begin to see alternative ways of behaving — what to do more of and what to change — before our emotional bruises become permanent.
In your notebook, put down what works really well for you and what bombs. Are you really a good listener, or are your jokes terrific? Do you dance well or help everybody with homework? Can you remember your first grade teacher's name? Do you do well at Trivial Pursuit? Do animals love you? Are you great at crossword puzzles?
1 How you react: Where are your buttons? What makes you blow up — what words or phrases or situations? We all have them, and they're often connected by a long, sturdy thread to our past. I hate being told to shut up. "Keep quiet" is okay; "stop talking" is okay; but someone's saying "shut up" makes me see red and purple and black and blue.
«sjWEfl Don't get hung up on the belief that some people are just naturally good at dating and some are awful; it's basically not true, and even if it were, it has nothing to do with you. The goal of this book is to help you figure out how to build relationships in a way that makes some sense to you and is effective and honest and sincere and fun.
Don't assume that everything you can do, everybody else can do. It's just not true, and the beginning of any good relationship is the relationship you have with yourself. Don't be shy and don't be overly critical or overly kind. Paper and pencil can help you to focus on your strengths.
When you're done, you'll probably have a pretty detailed list of the most super New Year's resolutions of all time: how you're going to polish, trim, highlight, and embrace who you are and who you are cheerfully and enthusiastically becoming. The more specific the list, the more obvious the path and the more straightforward the task.
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