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Dear Breakup Girl,
I hope you can give me some help or at least some insight into a man's brain. I am a 30 -year-old woman and I am fairly independent, believing in standing on my own two feet most of the time and having strong relationships based on intellect and feeling. What I keep finding is that the strong (strong inside and out), intelligent men who seem at first to be my equal are only interested in me for either "just friends" and/or sex. They don't want a woman their equal, they want a woman who is meek and dependent, who NEEDS them all the time -- almost as if the woman needed them in order to live. I do realize that people do need each other from time to time, but I am not the needy/clingy type. I have had men actually say to me, "Well, you don't need me," in a sad matter-of-fact tone of voice, and then dismiss me as a girlfriend altogether! What am I supposed to do, beg and say, "Oh no, I really really do need you! Please don't go!?" I want men to realize that a woman will stay with them NO ONLY because she needs him, but because she likes him and wants to stay. So my question is, how do you show a man that you do need him but in a healthy give and take way? I don't want to have to become a needy, clingy woman who seems to need a man 24/7 just to get a boyfriend.
-- Puzzled Near the Pacific
I've asked/answered this question before -- for background and review, read Sassy's letter and response -- but here's some elaboration.
It's all about Pretend Need. This goes for guys, too. See, the point isn't to BE needed (or needy); it's to FEEL needed. It's cool to feel "needed" when you know that the other person doesn't actually need you, when you both know that s/he can do whatever they're doing just fine, thanks, but that it's also just plain nice to step in and say, "Here, let me," just because. This is the only fathomable reason why Dr. John Gray would get away with saying stuff like "When a woman reaches across to unlock a man's door, it defeats the whole purpose of the date and confuses their roles." Haw!!!! I know, I know. But the point is that you let whoever invited you out (gal, guy, whatever -- or, well, in this case, whoever's driving) do a little of the work. You don't need them to open the door for you; as far as I know, you can do it yourself. But you let them. Remember, this is not about gender roles, and frankly, it's not about doors. (And God knows, it's not about Dr. John Gray, who in the same book says stuff like [in order to meet your soul mate], "Wear a uniform occasionally, even when you are off-duty. It makes you more accessible to others.") It's about stepping back and allowing a would-be partner step in and be supportive and helpful and strong -- as a good-faith gesture, not as an E.R. moment. And as far as I know, stepping back is the opposite of clinging.
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