If a relationship doesn’t last more than six weeks or so, there’s probably a perfectly simple explanation. No big deal. No hard feelings. No problem. But if no relationship of yours ever seems to last more than six weeks or so, there’s something more serious going on. And it’s worth finding out what. Sometimes a date turns out to be a creep. Or a commitment-phobe. Or a cult-member. But if you’re always finding reasons to dump men after a few weeks of dating, it probably says more about you than them.
Each time Tina, 26, meets a new guy, her friend Annie knows what to expect. ‘He’s always really nice and crazy about her and everything’s great for a few weeks. Then I get the inevitable phone call – Annie ringing to say, “Oh, I dunno, he’s cute but …” Then she’ll say he’s becoming too serious, or she doesn’t like his friends, or he’s too this or too that. No long after, she’ll have dumped him and, soon, the cycle will start again.
Other women habitually get dumped, rather than do the dumping, after a few weeks of dating.
Michelle, 31, who always seems to have ‘six week things’, says, ‘I don’t know what I do wrong. The men I meet are always keen in the beginning. But then, just when I begin to feel a bit settled and start calling him my boyfriend, the phone calls start petering out, he begins making excuses not to see me, and soon he’s telling me he ‘needs space. It’s getting me down. It’s hard to believe in yourself when you keep being rejected’.
But women like Annie, who keep getting dumped by their boyfriends, are not as different as they may seem from women like Michelle, who keep dumping their boyfriends. Psychologists say both are sabotaging their own relationships for reasons that have little to do with the men involved.
‘Women like these are serial relationship-seekers’, says clinical psychologist Ingrid Sturestrom. ‘Not content to be single, these women pursue relationships – and find them. All’s well until the partnership begins to change into something more serious, usually at around six weeks to two months.’ This is when some women bolt – telling themselves the guy is not good – and others push so hard to make the relationship more than it is that they push the man away. And then, they too can tell themselves that the guy was not good.
But it usually isn’t a question of being ‘unlucky in love’ as the women may complain to their friends, says Sturestrom.
There are several common reasons why a woman will end a relationship just as it’s becoming serious, she says.
1.The manhunt: Sturestrom says it’s often that, on an unconscious level the woman isn’t ready for a committed relationship, but society makes it hard for her to admit that to herself.
‘There is still an inordinate amount of importance attached to finding a man to make our lives “complete”, she says. Ultimately, getting married still gives us status in society.
‘Young women like Michelle have internalised this message without even realising it. Believing they need a man in their lives, they keep starting relationships when the reality of being in a relationship doesn’t really suit them at all. Chances are, there isn’t really anything wrong with the men they’re meeting – the real problem is that these women aren’t ready for everything a relationship entails.’
2.Fear factor: On the other hand, women could be afraid of letting themselves care about the relationship. ‘Sometimes a woman gets out of a relationship because she wants it too much’, says Sturestrom. ‘Perhaps, she feels insecure or lacks self-esteem, and fears being rejected when the new man in her life “finds out” how dull she is, or how stupid or how disorganised … or whatever flaw she believes she has. ‘A woman like this may be subconsciously protecting herself by ending the relationship, convincing herself that there’s something “wrong” with the man in question. This is easier to do, and much safer for the psyche, than letting the relationship develop to a point where her feelings for him will begin to make her vulnerable’.
3.Show and tell: Jonas Bergman, a social worker and couples counsellor, says a third possible reason is not wanting to open up to another person. ‘A woman who consistently meets men, then dumps them after a month or two, is likely to have serious intimacy issues.
‘At the beginning of a relationship, nobody is expected to bare their souls. You’re getting to know one another and the relationship generally has a lightness to it. After a month or two of seeing one another a lot, the atmosphere usually intensifies and many people begin to talk about their feelings for each other. From this point, the relationship moves from being casual alliance between two people to being “a relationship” with a different modus operandi, and you commonly begin to place different expectations on each other. This is when women with intimacy issues panic and try to convince themselves it’s the guy who is the problem, not them’.
Women like Annie, on the other hand, are so keen to be in a stable relationship that they scare men off. The more nervous they become that yet another relationship will end just as it’s beginning, the more clingy they become – and the more likely they are to lose the men.
4.Any man will do: People sense when they are liked not so much for themselves but for what they represent, and it isn’t a good feeling. No man wants to feel less important to a woman than her plan for the future – to feel she wants a husband, home and children, and that he’ll do to complete the picture. John, a 30-year-old dentist, says, ‘With some women you get the sense that what they’re after is not you, but what you can provide. They don’t really give a damn about who you are, only that you have the credentials of “a good catch”. These women start talking about future plans before I even know them. They ask how I feel about moving in, and whether or not I like children. Suddenly, every night it’s home-cooked meals, and I find myself at home on a Saturday night thinking, when did I get married?’
5.Out of step: ‘Often, when younger women and men get together, their goals are not aligned’, says Sturestrom. ‘Women tend to be ready for an established relationship earlier than men, who spend more time playing the field and enjoying their freedom and singledom. Often young men drift into relationships because they’re having fun and enjoying regular sex’.
But after a while they begin to realise that what their new girlfriend wants – a committed, monogamous relationship – doesn’t fit in that well with the boys’ nights out, and all those babes they run into at parties. ‘Suddenly, the bountiful sex comes with a price tag, and he ends the alliance’.