Finding yourself / Of men and women

Do not settle for Mr. Wrong

To hear Joy read this post in English, subscribe to the GlobalRencai podcast on iTunes, or hear or download the MP3 here.


Dear readers, thank you for all the lovely 加油s for my forthcoming book!  Here’s an update:

This week, I’m happy to be submitting final translation comments to my publisher, CITIC Press. Since the book is so full of English slang, the translating process has included many fun discussions with my wonderful translator, Ivy Wang.

As to the title of the book, I personally like “Do not marry before age 30,” but some of the higher-up publishing executives feel this may be a little too controversial, so we shall see where we end up on this….

The publisher plans to get the books into bookstores across China in late May of this year.  Dave and I plan to be in China with our babies from late May to late July, and during that time, I plan to have lots of events and parties with fabulous 新锐women like you to discuss the big issues of our lives.  I can’t wait!

Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from the-book-with-no-name…

Do not settle for Mr. Wrong

My friends and I all have stayed in relationships longer – months, even years – longer than we know is good for us.  We try to change him, we try to change ourselves, we struggle to make a fit where there is not a real fit, and in the process of trying to make things work, we make everything worse.

We stay because we don’t want to hurt his feelings.  We stay because we lack the courage to listen to our hearts.  We stay because change is scary, the prospect of being alone is scary, and we feel safer in a bad situation than in venturing out into the unknown.  We stay because it feels too hard to climb out, and we’re tired, and we don’t want to start all over again.  The dull ache of being in an unsatisfying relationship seems less sharp than the shattering of a relationship.

And so we stay too long, reliving the good times, reminding ourselves that we can’t expect to have everything.  We rationalize it to our friends, saying, “This is what it means to be grown up.”  We tell ourselves that a bad relationship is better than nothing.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The biggest mistake that women make in relationships is not saying no.  This is a deadly mistake, because the biggest obstacle to finding Mr. Right is being stuck with Mr. Wrong.

No relationship is far better than a better-than-nothing relationship.  Being in a better-than-nothing relationship ensures that you’ll never be in a good relationship, because being with Mr. Wrong takes you off the market.  Mr. Right will never be able to find you if night after night, you’re curled up in front of the TV with Mr. Wrong.  Simple inertia can keep you from experiencing real love for months, for years, or for a lifetime.

Moreover, more insidiously, being with Mr. Wrong is a huge drain on your essence as a human being.  If your primary life relationship is with someone who doesn’t fully appreciate and love you, if he criticizes you or doesn’t cooperate with you, then being with him inevitably will chip away at your soul.

Our society conditions us women to expect so little that we’re always staying too long in bad relationships.  We find a boyfriend – any boyfriend – and we think it’s love, when it’s really just that longing for attachment. Each day that we stay is new evidence that we lack power and control over our lives.  We let our spirits wither away just so we can have a relationship.  In this way, we allow our essential selves – our souls – to be submerged forever.

Don’t throw yourself away like this.  Don’t stay with him because you like his parents.  Or because the two of you already share an apartment, a checking account, and friends.  A relationship must be more than a lifestyle.

Don’t stay with him because you feel a sense of obligation to him.  You have no obligation to date anyone you are not completely drawn to.  It’s kinder to be honest than to be fake.

Be honest with yourself on how a relationship adds or detracts from your life. Deep inside, you know when a relationship is not right for you.  Don’t just live to survive.  Do not view yourself as someone who should settle.

Any relationship in which you don’t feel truly happy and secure and honored is not a good enough relationship for you. You are worthy of love and you are worthy of great love.  Being in a great relationship is far better than being in a better-than-nothing relationship.

Growing up does not equal giving up.  Growing up means finding yourself and becoming independent and learning to take care of yourself.  Once you’ve grown up, then you can find a partnership where your spirit can soar. Saying no sets you free.

How to say no to a man

When we fall in love, it’s easy to confuse “love” with “forever.”  We feel that if we love someone, we should want to be together forever.  If someone breaks up with us, we assume that he didn’t really love us, and feel rejected and betrayed.  “How can you just end this relationship?  I thought you loved me!  Why aren’t you giving us a chance?”

But love is not enough to sustain a relationship.  A good marriage requires much more – shared vision, shared values, among other things.   Understanding this frees us to end relationships without feeling guilty or betrayed.  We can say, “We loved each other, but we weren’t right together.  Now we each can move on to find the right person.  I feel sad, but I wish you well.”

Hard as it is for us women to say no in our daily lives, the hardest no is the one we sometimes need to say to the man in our lives.  And so we lose track of no as an option.  This is the reason for many of the troubled relationships in the world.

Headhunting taught me to say no, since rejecting candidates is a routine part of headhunting.   On a given search, my team and I typically evaluate hundreds of candidates.  As a matter of professional courtesy, we personally say no to all unsuccessful candidates, to advise them of the outcome of the search and to wish them the best.  To candidates with whom we had only minimal phone or email contact, we send an email.  Candidates with whom we’ve had more extensive contact, we call.  That’s given me a lot of practice in saying no.

Saying no to a boyfriend can be really hard.  It requires trusting yourself, trusting your own wisdom, and trusting in a better future.  The only way to overcome the difficulty of saying no is to just do it.

Don’t waste your time or his. The best time to say no is the first moment you realize that someone is not going to meet your needs, even if he’s a wonderful person, and even if you’ve shared some wonderful moments. That moment when you know may occur on your first date, in six months, or years later.

Here’s how:  be clear and simple.  Mention the things you like about him.  Do not blame him.  There is no need to review past events, analyze the relationship, or give critical feedback.  If you want to dissect all that, call your girlfriends.

If he’s sad, be understanding: “I’m really sorry this is painful for you.”   But know that you are not responsible for explaining things to his satisfaction, and it’s not your job to fix his pain.   If he blames you, don’t accept the blame.

After you break up, don’t look back.  Don’t feel like a failure, or feel like you’ve wasted two years of your life.  A relationship is not a failure if you learn something from it.

When you say no to Mr. Wrong, good things will happen.  You’ll feel better about yourself than you have in a long time.  You’ll gain the self-confidence that comes from truly taking care of yourself, and that comes from the knowledge that you’re not a slave to whatever people or events just happen to come your way.  You’re taking your life into your own hands and making things happen in your life.

Because having designed your career and your life so beautifully up until now, the last thing you want to do is to wreck everything by being bound for life to a man who’s not right for you.  Each time you say no, you’ll be closer to saying yes when Mr. Right does come along.


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** L.A. area friends, don’t forget to join me this Friday March 30 for a very special discussion about the choices facing us in life, career and love.  This event will be held in Chinese and will be especially directed at modern Chinese women.  Brave men interested in eavesdropping are welcome too. Friday March 30 from 1:30-3:30p on USC Campus. Details here.



Comments welcome, in Chinese, on the Chinese version of this post, here.
To hear Joy read this post in English, subscribe to the GlobalRencai podcast on iTunes, or hear or download the MP3 here.