Becoming The High Status Woman: Or, how Helen got her status back & her ring on

Wise Readers,

Many a column has covered how to convey High Status, but never has Love Science addressed *recovering* Lost Status.  Yet every few days, fresh letters arrive from She Who Lost Status By Becoming (sexually or cohabitationally) Involved Too Fast—resulting in a man who decelerated from gung-ho to ho-hum in 60 seconds.  And the questions boil down to this: Can she again become the high-status woman she was when he fell in love? 

Yes.  Helen waited four long years for a proposal that was never coming, no matter how sweet, adoring and available she was.  In just four weeks, she got her status back and her ring on.  How?  Our correspondence is below…    

Letter 1, in which Helen ponders Four Lost Years and whether she can regain High Status: 

I knew better than to sleep with my boyfriend right away, but I did.  I promised myself I would never live with another man unless we were married, but Troy and I were talking marriage, so I moved in.  Now –four years later!—no ring is in sight.  So how do I become that high status woman now? Is it even possible?

Letter 2, in which Duana delivers advice requiring Bravery:

 Most women hear wedding bells at move-in, and most men hear the ball-game on TV.  So sayeth the science.  Your experience is, sadly, the norm.  But all is not lost. 

First, here’s the good news:  You can become the hard-to-get, high-status woman, and you can wind up married to, and cherished by, the man you’re now with. 

The bad news?  The only way to do it is by leaving your man and seeing whether or not he comes *crawling* back to get you.  And when you leave, you’ll have to be prepared for the possibility that he might let you go with only a slight grumble or two

But taking the chance of losing him when you leave is worth it, because staying is only going to get you one or more of the following bad things:

a) A man who is half-a**ing his way through your relationship.  Which I hope is not good enough for you.

b) Dumped/cheated on for/with someone else later;

c) An emotional life that is increasingly marked by anger, fear and uneasiness;

d) Zero permanent commitment. 

And moving out with “I don’t know; it’s just not working out for me” as your explanation will get you one or more of the following good things:

a) The freedom to get into a real relationship where you are 100% desired and valued (and committed to) if this isn’t it;

b) Commitment and enthusiastic partnership from Troy if he is at all inclined to really want you as his wife;

c) Certainty about his feelings.  Both you and *he* will be sure, after this—you can’t make a man commit, but you can certainly clarify which side of the fence he’s on, pronto

d) Being cherished rather than taken for granted. 

And you need to leave sooner rather than later.  The longer you remain living with any man in an uncommitted relationship, the lower the chances that he will ever marry to you, the higher the chances that he’ll cheat and leave, and the worse it bodes for your emotional health even after you’re married.  Making him more breakfasts, treating him better and better, pleading for marriage?  Are going to get you nowhere. 

This takes bravery.  But if you want a happy life, staying will not get you there.

Letter 3, in which Helen muses how to treat Troy after she’s moved out: 

I kind of suspected that would be your answer, but I was hoping there would be an easier way.  You’re right though. This time I have to follow the rules of relationship science.  I do have a further question though.  How receptive should I be to him when he calls or wants to see me?  How standoffish is too standoffish? 

Letter 4, in which Duana advises awaiting the Proposal Maneuver—but Not Dating Troy:

Sorry to have to give you the tough advice, but at this point, it’s important to create a barrier to further contact; that’s what will move you off dead-center and show you whether your man is ever going to commit, and commit whole-heartedly, rather than feeling generous that he’s allowing you to tag along in his life.  Ugh.  A high-status woman would never, never put up with that attitude.  And you’re becoming that high-status woman as of this minute. 

How hard-nosed you need to be about this depends on how much commitment to you he’s currently lacking, and how much commitment is good enough for you.  I hope you aim for a man who is entirely devoted to you, knows he’s lucky to have you (not because you’ve told him, but because he feels it in his bones), and adores (not just loves) you.  Any other way of being treated means you and not he will be doing all the heavy lifting in the emotional realm of the relationship, in parenting, and in general.  It means being ignored when you express what you need or want, rather than having a mate who actively seeks ways to please you—the way you do for him.  That’s because men only treat women the way we *want* to be treated when they emotionally connect with how fortunate they are that they *got* to marry us rather than *had* to marry us. 

The price of admission is passing up all the men who fail to treat you as you wish to be treated, and to say yes to the one who treats you properly.   You’re fortunate in that you’re leaving before you’re really Done with Troy.  This man has a chance to win you back.   

So, if he asks to see you, you might agree—once.  But at that meeting, he needs to have a plan and real enthusiasm for the plan, if you’re to see him again after that.   “Babe, I want you back,” won’t cut it.  Flowers won’t cut it.  “Gee, I’m confused and don’t know what you want” won’t cut it. 

Don’t explain anything to him—a man who wants to marry you can figure out he wants to marry you.  A man who wants to marry you can’t be prevented from proposing.  Leading him up to it is proclaiming low status and low desirability.  “It’s just not working out for me” is all the information you ever need give.  In this case, Less really is More.

You’re looking for signs of the *willingness* to commit, not the resignedness that he’s going to do what he must so you’ll stick around.  If you sense the latter, just say something along these lines: “I don’t know.  It’s just not working out the way I hoped.  I think I need to get a fresh start.”  Then—observe his behavior, and begin getting a fresh start.  (You should be dating right away, both for your emotional separation and his understanding that other men want you and he is lucky to have had you for even one day.) 

If he begs you to return, presents you with a ring and a proposal and a firm wedding date, and says he can’t live without you—by all means, if you really want him, say Yes.  He will never forget having had to Work to have you—it feels good to him because he connects with your high value and status, and conveys your future fidelity to his Genes.  But if he says something amounting to, “Well, if I have to marry you, I guess I will,” then dump him.  Watch Bridget Jones’ Diary a few times—even she eventually figures it out that a half-hearted proposal “just isn’t good enough for me.” 

What not to do is date him again.  By this time, he either wants to marry you, or not.  Spending more time is only going to achieve your continued tie to someone who is wasting your time.  No matter how much it hurts, leaving and moving on hurts a lot less than spending your life with someone who is not quite sure he wants you as his wife. 

Let me know how it goes.  I wish you strength and success.

Letter 5, in which Helen Gets Her Status Back & Her Ring On:

Remember me?  A mere month ago, I was the Low Status woman who was waiting, waiting, waiting for a proposal…for four years.    Well, I (mostly) followed your advice, and yesterday I GOT MY RING!!

I didn’t actually have to leave all the way, but I was going to and he knew it.  I found a roommate and told Troy I was leaving and would stay with friends for a few days while getting my things.  The next day Troy wanted to talk.  I didn’t stick to your advice to be vague, but I also didn’t beg him to marry me, whine, snivel, etc.  I calmly informed him that I was leaving because I didn’t want to waste any more of my life living in someone else’s house where there was no commitment.  I stated simply that I needed to move on.

He didn’t outright propose at that moment, but he begged me to stay while I got established, and said he would marry me.  I stayed, but I was resolved that I’d leave if the proposal was long in coming, and doubtless he sensed that.  Yesterday, he knelt down and proposed with a very large, very shiny diamond ring!  Thank you so much for your advice.  I wouldn’t be wearing this ring today if I hadn’t (mostly) followed your advice.  You will be invited to the wedding. Thanks!!!!

Letter 6, in which Helen & Troy are wished every happiness:

 Dear Helen Of High Status,

In four weeks, you achieved with resolve and bravery what four years of devotion did not: You are engaged to the love of your life, and he is unreserved in his gratitude for, and commitment to, you.  I wish you and your Troy every happiness. 

And in the meantime, may others derive inspiration from you, a reader who applied the science and loved to tell the tale. 




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All material copyrighted by Duana C. Welch, Ph.D. and Love Science Media, 2010

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Reader Comments (26)

Kudos, Duana! I love this. Reminds me of a turning point in my own relationship, a mere (almost) 19 years ago!

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJudy

Hi, Judy, Thank you. This week was to be about Housework: The Ultimate Aphrodisiac. But then Helen's final letter arrived and...well, this one is a winner. It isn't politically correct, but it's scientifically correct, and --bottom line-- It Worked.

April 26, 2010 | Registered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

Yes Yes Yes -- and verily so.

It works with husbands, too, when they go through a mid-life crisis and move out. I worried and cried and turned myself inside out trying to get him to let me in and work through our troubles -- all to no avail (this was the 2nd time he had left our home). So, I decided to visit an out-of-town friend for a week, telling him that I needed to think about my future and whether it included him. When I came home, he had come back with roses. It is important to note that this wasn't game-playing -- it was an honest gut-level realization that I didn't deserve to be in such a wishy-washy relationship. Unfortunately for us, I didn't demand enough groveling (aka commitment-professing). Three years after the event, real damage had been done to our relationship and I realized I could never trust his commitment to me and our children. I could stay and be forever fearful of his next departure, or leave and take positive steps to finding someone who adored me. And guess what? I found one. And it didn't take long. :) I didn't know this kind of mutual adoration existed outside that "golden" period of courtship. I'm surprised when I find I love him even more each day. He works hard to maintain that feeling in me, and apparently loves the challenge. Woo-hoo :) and I wish I could have learned this lesson earlier. Thanks to you for helping folks realize how these deeply-ingrained mating strategies truly affect our lifelong happiness.

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Thanks Love Doctor.

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

It's great that this column is not politically correct. PC is a sad substitute for truth, compassion and sincerity about how we all are "differently and wonderfully made". I am so grateful that you took the risk to speak bluntly about things that are difficult for us all to hear, and lovingly force us to confront ourselves with our often tragic mistakes.

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

Dear Dr. Duana:

I have a dear friend who is afraid to leave her husband because he has serious (and I mean SERIOUS) abandonment issues. He instigated divorce proceedings, but claims to still love her more than anything. She thinks he's just "afraid" that they will not make it long-term because his parents couldn't do it, and so she keeps "being there" whenever he calls. I've told her the Love Doctor wisdom -- "Be dating by Tuesday" -- but she fears that he will feel abandoned in his greatest time of need. My personal thought is that, even if that IS the case, she is setting herself up to be a hostage of this presumed "abandonment thing". At minimum I feel that she has lost her "high value", and even if he does come back it will be along the line of, "Well, I guess we can stay married."

So, in the event they do stay together, how could she ever get her status back?

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous


You gave me the same advice and I took you up on it just about a year ago now. I was crazy about the guy I left, but it wasn't going anywhere and you and I agreed that (a) I needed to cut ties and (b) there was a decent chance he wouldn't come after me. I drew back, and he didn't follow. It was hard at first, but now it's easier, and I don't miss the uncertainty, hurt feelings and resulting dents to my self esteem one bit. Thanks for the advice--spot on, and I appreciate it.

How inspiring! Way to go, Helen! You are brave, and you've stood firm for your own self-worth.

To Duana: I'm wondering about the "oooops" situations, i.e., where couples are living together and the girlfriend (accidentally or secretly on purpose) becomes pregnant. Boy marries girl under mixed emotions. How likely are these marriages to succeed?

April 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGillian

lol!... I always knew women were manipulative! :p

April 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Dear Mike:

Obviously Troy needed help in clarifying his feelings. Helen provided that service.

"Manipulative" doesn't fit, but "brave" and "self-respecting" do.

April 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGillian

Dear Kelly,
Good for you for finding your very own Mutual Adoration Society, and thank you for sharing your experience.

I'd like to address your statement that "Unfortunately for us, I didn't demand enough groveling (aka commitment-professing)." How much to hold off in an on-going relationship does depend on what has gone before--how much commitment has been lacking, and therefore how much proof needs to be offered.

Although there are those who will say it's manipulative, waiting for proofs--what scientists call Testing The Bond--is something women do all over the world because It Works in sorting out the Timeless from the Time-Wasters.

Not only does Testing allow women to conserve their own high-status markers of Youth & Beauty for someone who is truly willing to invest in us, it also lets women figure out quickly whether a man is not only able but Willing to provide and protect.

Anything that powerful is too good to pass up. Hence Bond Testing around the globe.

April 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

Hi, Barbara, Monica and Anonymous. Thank you. You made my day.

Anonymous, to your query about whether your friend married to the Commitment-Averse can regain her high status:

Some people do have abandonment issues, which I prefer to refer to as insecure (and in this case, specifically, avoidant) attachment. They're basically ambivalent about long-term entanglements regardless of which relationship they are in. Doubtless, in some this is severe enough that they really cannot fully invest, heart and soul, into a relationship--it's just too terrifying.

Maybe your friend is with a man like that. Some of the Commitment-Averse do wed, but the aftermath tends to be ugly. Picture a marriage in which the wife is eager to be emotionally involved, spend time together, make joint decisions, make plenty of eye contact while making love...
And the husband defines all of this as intrusive, unwanted, threatening, and/or needless--avoiding every bit of it he can, and resenting the parts he can't get out of.
As you can imagine, the implosion of the relationship is awful as the husband crabs off under his rock while his wife becomes increasingly resentful and insecure.

Some folks will actually stay "married" like this for decades. The union mostly exists on one side and on paper. It is emotional torture for at least one party, and perhaps for both.

If this is the scenario for your friend, my guess is that she was never High Status where her mate is concerned. I do not mean that harshly--I mean that a person who is avoidant probably never courted her...and so, when she courted him, she lost the status she might have had hopes of. Did *she* make this relationship happen from the very start? Did she escalate each level of commitment--from exclusive dating to engagement to marriage?

So my guess, based only on what you've said, is that if she leaves him, her husband will let the marriage go. But the way to check is --as you've surmised-- by leaving, not by remaining available. More of what already does not work is rarely the solution!

And Leaving doesn't sound like a move she is prepared to make right now. The hideous thing about being with someone who can't quite decide he really wants you is: Eventually you yourself come to believe it's all you deserve.

At this point, then, your friend may be at an all-time low with her self-esteem, and might feel she's being encouraged to do the hardest thing she could be asked to do--leave her man--just at the time when she feels least emotionally ready.

Which is one reason I heap kudos on Helen and those like her who dredge up superhuman strength and prepare themselves to Move On. Just as not everyone has it in them to fully commit, not everyone can muster the bravery to leave.

But for those who do, the rewards are well worth it. I wish this bravery and strength for your friend.

April 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

Dear "The Other Possible Ending To This Story"--
Thank you for your kind and enlightening letter. I am sorry that your former boyfriend's clarity didn't come in the form of pursuing you. But I truly commend your bravery in leaving--and I congratulate you on your renewed availability to someone really Right for you as you shed the gnawing unease, hurt and self-esteem dents you'd experienced. Good for you!

Whoever Mr. Right is--he is getting Ms. High Status when he gets you.

April 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

Hi, Gillian,
Regarding "Honey, We're Pregnant" as an engagement strategy--
Long-term stress rarely brings out people's best in long-term relationships. And babies--charming, adorable, precious though they truly are--are Stress.

The odds are not in favor of a marriage surviving or thriving under such circumstances, even when the guy really wanted to marry her--nevermind when he didn't. "Have a baby/are pregnant at the wedding" = a reliable divorce predictor.

In fact, marital happiness takes a substantial nosedive in 2/3 of couples right after the birth of a baby--and that includes couples who were already married when they conceived. Most of those couples don't seem to recover their former level of happiness, although--as a future column will show--there are ways to bounce back by doing what the Happy 1/3 do.

Adding stress in the form of a baby, then, tends to create more conflicts rather than greater intimacy and commitment, even for those who wanted the baby and one another. It's entrapment at its worse, and can readily be perceived as low-status (The Ball & Chain) even at best.

April 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

Hi, Mike, I appreciate your statement, because I suspect it's the gut reaction many men (and not a few women) have to this highly politically incorrect tactic. Let's look more closely. Is a woman Manipulative if she leaves a man because his commitment was not forthcoming?

On the Yes, It's Manipulative side:
I believe that most human efforts are manipulative, inasmuch as we're all trying to get what we want/avoid what we don't want. Some people just use more effective strategies than others, or are more consciously aware of the possible impact of their actions.

So we can see that Helen and other Women Who Leave are indeed trying to get something. They want commitment above all, but if they cannot have that, then they want their freedom.

Yet men who are spending years with a person whom they know wants marriage--without offering it, but while alluding to it now and then--are, in my view, being no less manipulative. They are trying to get the sex and companionship without sealing off their other possible options.

Although it seems that only one or the other person can "win" in that scenario, research shows that the situation where men and women live together in ambivalence is the worst for *both* of them in terms of immediate *and* long-term psychological, physical, financial, and emotional well-being. They're both better off on one side of the fence or the other--but not in the middle.

On the No, It's Not Manipulative side:
Perhaps the most manipulative thing a woman can do is put herself constantly in front of a reluctant partner--cajoling, pleading and whining for his commitment with every bed she makes, every I Love You, and every family holiday. Not only is this unapplealing and counter-productive--it makes the guy into a total heel if he abandons such a generous woman. Many a man has been guilt-tripped down the aisle this way.

Much less manipulative, then, is the woman who simply Leaves. In my opinion, although this move is indeed calculated to gain commitment if at all possible, it is a gift.

A Gift? Yes. It gives the ambivalent-but-willing man his clarity, and it gives the reluctant mate his freedom (and an end to The Drama. There will be no more guilt-tripping, no more pleading, no more tearful entreaties from She Who Is Perhaps Not Really Wanted Here.)

If he does not want her, all he has to do is...nothing. If he does want her, then he needs to prove it. Which, for the Woman You Want, is not asking too much.

April 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

Hi, Gillian and Kelly,
I'd like to emphasize two things you said that rang particularly true:
"Obviously Troy needed help in clarifying his feelings. Helen provided that service."
Yes, Gillian. It probably felt more like emotional gut-wrenching for both of them. But ultimately, Clarity--in whatever form it takes--is a gift for all. We can't make others love us, but we can certainly get out of the way and let them figure it out for themselves.

"It is important to note that this wasn't game-playing -- it was an honest gut-level realization that I didn't deserve to be in such a wishy-washy relationship."
Excellent point, Kelly, and one often made to Love Science readers who are seeking commitment from the Reluctant. *Playing* hard-to-get is not advisable. If Helen had merely been toying with the idea of moving out, then she would have been in an even worse situation if Troy's clarity led him to decide he didn't want her. In all probability, she would have been the one begging for a reconciliation--the lowest-status thing she could do, and a move guaranteed to push him further away.
*Being* hard-to-get, on the other hand, involves the rock-solid Deep Knowledge that We All Deserve To Be Loved--and that if this one isn't The One, it's best we figure that out and re-launch the search.

Thanks again for your ever-outstanding contributions.

April 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

I think you need even more men here to stir the pot ;-)

I agreed, Duana, with your answer to Mike. As a guy I found your explanation entirely fair to both sides, and certainly true to the science. We all do want to get what we want and avoid what we don't want. I also like to refer to Dr. Tannen's concept, that we are all working to balance Involvement and Independence in our relationships with others. And the balance point can change with individuals and their circumstances over time.

It's also worth considering, that a man has to be **ready to commit** before he is even a prospect. From my own experience, I had no intention of becoming a husband until after I reached the age of 25 . . . had my education, my good job and my own place to live. At that moment, I was burning to be attached and I wanted to be married. It happened soon after.

Now it's [many many] years later. I am a proud father of grown young men, and I am single. I have no real need to be married, ever again. However, I am right for a committed partnership with a woman. She just has to have complementary objectives . . . and I promise that I will **not waste** her time.

So I agree completely, as a guy, that a woman should maintain her High Status. It will not truly hurt those of us who are not right for her, and it will help those of us who do want what she wants.

Peace, to the good-lookin' doctor and her friends here ;-)

April 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Hi there, Tom Of Outstanding Olfaction,

Nice hearing from you again--thanks for contributing another male voice and perspective for all the Lurkers out there, lol.

Re: "I also like to refer to Dr. Tannen's concept, that we are all working to balance Involvement and Independence in our relationships with others. And the balance point can change with individuals and their circumstances over time." Well-said, and thanks for your reminder of Deborah Tannen's work. Her books on how men and women communicate --in intimate relationships as well as the workplace--are riveting.

I'd like to respond to your idea that a man must be ready for commitment before women consider him a prospect. I think you're mostly right. A man who wants to commit will be a safer candidate, especially if he's so ready that he's actively looking. Most men fall in love sooner than their mid-20's, but they don't commonly marry that person. Instead, most men wed around their 28th year in the USA--giving a clue that this is when many men feel established enough, and willing enough, to marry. (For women, it's around age 25/26, on average.) It's almost as if men *and* women marry not whomever they love, but whomever they fall in love with when the timing is right.

And it does a disservice to men if I indicate that men don't want or benefit from commitment. They do, and they do. For example, most men marry (or, if gay in the US, eventually partner long-term), and are happy they did; most who are divorced want to remarry, and typically they accomplish it within two years. But very young men and those never-married are often more hesitant to dive in.

On the other hand, it's amazing how routinely a man who had no plans of marriage can *become* ready, willing and able when he meets The One He Can't Live Without. Men tend to know they can't do without us by our absence; women, by men's presence.

I think this comes from inherited mating psychologies that confer high status on hard-to-get women--but communicate a lack of willingness to provide and protect if a man tries the same strategy.

Viva le difference!

April 28, 2010 | Registered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

I'm curious as to how all this might relate to a couple who are already married. Can a wife lose her high status with a man who is less than committed to their marriage? What can she do to regain her status with him and still retain the marriage?

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

I loved this article. It's what I did to gain marriage with my man. Even though it was necessary, I still felt manipulative having done it, and your columns have given me significant emotional freedom from this. Thanks, again, for your totally different approach to relationship advice.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKirstie

Duana - If it were appropriate to applause a discussion this would be the reason. What a compelling insight to the mindset when we are all in the forest and can't see the trees. I do think as men we often do have an objective and vision to what we define as the High Status woman. Its that "Everyday" good of the relationship. And mistakenly if we are given that before actually getting there we do believe we are already there. I get it. Lost in that are obvious steps that are not taken and as a result become discounted.

In a perfect world its easy to say expectations should have been managed properly. But when the mountains are crumbling, the ocean is roaring and the birds are singing who has time for rationale???

Glad to see Helen's intentions always for preservation and not spite. I met a woman who no matter how much I offered would not consider moving in with me even when financially it would benefit her. She clearly saw a future with me and told me but felt more time was needed for our growth and she would want us to be not just speaking of marriage but having real life plans in place. It was somewhat frustrating but perhaps she too had lost her high status once before.

Thanks for a view behind the curtain. :)

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterQuinn

Dear anonymous,
A wife can indeed lose high status if her husband is less committed--some might even say that's part of the definition of low status in regard to a particular couple. So your question regarding what she can do to regain that status *without* losing the marriage is important.

Kelly's post, and my answers to her and to the first 'anonymous' (above) might give an answer--*if* the wife never had high status in her mate's eyes, even from before the marriage. A man who didn't want to get married to his wife may not ever come around to reversing that feeling. And if he does become more devoted, it is likely to be because the wife pulled back and let him figure out whether or not he cherished her.

But let's assume your question relates to a woman who had her man's adoration and commitment before and at the start of the marriage--but later, not so much. Maybe the stresses of parenting and day-to-day life and a flirtatious co-worker have worn down the friendship and goodwill that used to make the union a joy rather than a job.

In that case, there is a research-proven technique to help restore the marriage. And it's so simple. Here it is:

Help your man remember positives about your courtship and early marriage.

John Gottman's research on hundreds of couples over the past 40 years has shown that men (but not women) who can't recall many details about the courtship and early marriage--or who can recall details, but only about bad things--are headed for divorce.

But if there was ever a time when that man loved that woman truly, and he can just be prompted to recall those things, Gottman found that the marriage's commitment and happiness could be re-ignited. Just guiding men to recall the reasons they pursued, fell in love with, and proposed to their wife can begin turning the tide. Asking questions such as, "What do you remember about your wedding day? What drew you to your wife when you first met? What made you know she was the one for you?" have proven enormously helpful in re-generating love and commitment. What a simple therapy.

Yet some husbands, even when guided, cannot recall anything positive. And those marriages end, seemingly no matter what the wife does. My guess--untested, as far as I know--is that these are the men who were guilt-tripped down the aisle, the ones whose wife made the courtship and proposal happen, the ones who--if they'd just had more backbone to back away, and if the woman had given him freedom--would never have gotten together with that particular woman.

April 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

Kirstie, thank you for letting me know this information took a weight off. It never occurred to me that perhaps some women have lived with guilt over Leaving as a commitment strategy. I'm glad your guilt is gone; staying is no less manipulative, and much less productive for both parties. Kudos to you for having had the strength to move on--and congratulations on your marriage.

April 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

Quinn, what a pleasure to hear from you again.

Perhaps the woman you courted was burned before. Or maybe she just didn't want to do all the work of melding a life with anyone else unless it was her husband. It's funny. I just recently met a woman who told me that her reason for holding off on cohabitation had nothing to do with fearing the man's lack of commitment--it was due to her own distaste for giving up her freedom for less than a marriage. As she put it, "I just never got the living-together thing. Why would I want to learn what groceries to buy, what meals to fix, deal with other people's family, budget for this and that, etc. with someone I wasn't entirely sure about, or who wasn't entirely sure about me?" She is now happily married--but never did live with anyone beforehand.

I like your appreciation that Helen was not acting out of spite. Interestingly, research I reported on in another article showed that the *vast* majority of the time, women are Testing The Bond so they can figure out whether or not to remain in a relationship--and not out of a desire to hurt or break the other person. This is true even in cases where women are intentionally provoking jealousy. They're getting clarity on the guy's feelings, and see the resulting pain as a necessary but undesirable cost.

Thanks as ever for your thoughts. Glad you enjoy the peek behind the curtain ;).

April 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

"But I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more
Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles
To fall down at your door"

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Proclaimers
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