I’m starting to notice a phenomenon.

On Saturday I went to the gym for my circuit training class, and because I had left my iPod at home, snatched up a tattered copy of Elle Canada to read on the stairclimber. As I flipped through the pages – some stuck together – I came across what is your typical Q&A column where women had written in with their various relationship problems, seeking words of wisdom.

As I scanned over first the questions and second the answers, I was amazed. “Do these women really believe that this is what they’re supposed to do to fix what’s wrong?” Some of the so-called advice astounded me in its absurd logic.

Photo: jamielondonboy on Flickr

Several hours later, I found myself wandering the downtown Chapters with a friend. While her and I both managed to grab a cheap beach read for ourselves, we browsed the store since we had nowhere else to be. By the time we reached the third floor – and often dreaded self-help section – I couldn’t help but notice the large volume of books dedicated solely to women and their “dysfunctional” relationships.

As I scanned over titles such as the classic Men Are From Mars… Women Are From Venus, Why Men Love Bitches and the soon-to-be movie He’s Just Not That Into You, I noticed more than their splashy, brightly coloured covers. Not only were these books aimed to sucker in hurting women everywhere, they all smelled of complete bullshit.

Heartache and heartbreak are great for the economy.

Photo: mollybob on Flickr

I turned to my friend and reiterated to her what I’d thought just hours before at the gym: “Seriously, do women read these and consider them the Holy Grail of relationship advice? I think that’s unfortunate.” Why do I think it’s unfortunate? Any back covers or inside pages I scanned for their purported insight all point to the same issues – that women screw up, pick the wrong men and just need to find “the right kind of guy” instead of the so-called toxic ones.

How about this instead? Women don’t always screw up (but neither do men), sometimes we don’t always consciously “pick” the ones we do and just because a man is broken doesn’t mean he isn’t “the right kind of guy.” Perhaps instead of trying to change how women relate to potential suitors in their lives, they need to re-think how they relate to themselves.

Less of We, More of Me

As women, we have the right to feel empowered, the right to take care of ourselves and the right to make the best choices as we see fit. Playing the blame game gets no one anywhere, so perhaps it’s time to take responsibility for our own actions and choices. Some are so quick to label men as “toxic,” but if that’s true, then we as women are equally capable of being toxic.

Focus on yourself, on your growth and your development. Instead of over-thinking and overanalyzing the differences, I think it’s time to instead appreciate the delicate distinctions between men and women and how we all function – within relationships and, more importantly, as individiuals.

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  1. On a side note.. I have read the “He’s just not that into” book. I don’t know if its complete BS but some items in it did make sense to me.. and couldn’t figure out why the woman in the story couldn’t figure out that the guy she was into.. was seeing someone else. *shrug*

  2. very well said. the self-help industry is set up to convince us that we’re all crazy and in need of insights which are only available from ‘experts’. it’s tragic, really.

  3. Amen sister! The comso-tv commercials get to me, “watch, and learn how to get your man to do anything you want!” I truly believe in the simple rule, love yourself. Confidence in who you are, and knowing what you want/need will get you almost anywhere in life, love, and work!

  4. The “kingdom of heaven”, or the peace of mind, joy, accomplishments, are IN you… somehwere… Look no wheres else. When two align, it is just that much better I guess.
    You filled my conscious belly this morning, Keira :) thanks

  5. What YOU said!

    I will admit to having read “He’s Just Not That Into You”, but only after reading “It’s Called a Break-Up Because It’s Broken” – the latter was much better, btw. Sometimes you just need to be smacked over the head to realize some obvious things … but, by no means should you let someone convince you that you’re a victim.

    And, as much as we bemoan the differences between the sexes, it is more often than not those differences which we end up loving the most in another.

  6. I’m very wary about reading those “self-help” books. So often they focus on what’s “wrong” with us and our relationships instead of what’s “right” with us and our relationships. We all have shit – man or woman – there’s shit in every relationship – the important thing is to recognize our weaknesses and try to build on our strengths. Every man and woman is unique and every relationship is unique. You are right, we all have choices – choices about who we are with – choices about how we treat others and choices about how we allow ourselves be treated. There are no hard and fast rules – no die-hard formulas. There’s just us, humans, individuals, fallible, perfectly imperfect. The key is self-awareness, awareness and acceptance of responsibility for the decisions we make and above all, forgiveness – of ourselves and others.

  7. Great post Keira.

    Having sifted through a few of my gf’s magazines in the past, the articles you speak of are very familiar to me. While there are many books that advise in a similar fashion, we have to be careful not to generalize all books of that genre into that category.

    I really agree with you on your last 2 paragraphs. Many relationships are based on a heavy inter-dependability between the 2 involved usually creating tension when circumstances get tougher. If both partners simply focused on themselves and their own growth, then there would be less pressure on the relationship, allowing it to grow and prosper, without the heavy burden and expectations it’s normally trying to live up to.

  8. Your last paragraph strikes me as something I’ve always believed but now seems to be biting me in the ass. I work very hard to make myself be the best person I can be. But the last few times I’ve gotten broken up with, I hear the list.. all these reasons why I’m a great person – all the ways I’ve developed myself into what I think is a great person.

    To still be broken up with over and over, when it’s not because you suck, is really tiring. I feel like I can’t take solace in being a good person anymore.

  9. great post and i couldn’t agree more

    it takes two to tango … but if I can’t dance, giving her dance lessons won’t help

  10. “As women, we have the right to feel empowered, the right to take care of ourselves and the right to make the best choices as we see fit.”

    I think if you replace women with people the message is right on target. Everyday you have the power to choose. Not choosing is also a choice.

    I agree that most of the self help books are crap. many of the “issues” I see in the world seem to come down to ignorance of choice.

  11. I realize this comment may offend some (how is that for a disclaimer) but I think men and women in NA and of a specific generation are just not very tolerant of other people in general and wary at the same time which is lethal.

    Men don’t seem to be men anymore. That kind of rock solid sensability that comes with women and children first, hard work, and knowing how to fix shit. I realize that sounds incredibly 1950, and it isn’t true of all men, but all you have to spend an evening out downtown Toronto (or any other urban metropolis) to wonder … when did men grow pussies? when did it become ok for men to only know how to operate a Blackberry and find $600 jeans?

    Perhaps casualities of the women’s movement? The more things change the more they stay the same. Just a thought..

  12. @Shane – “I think if you replace women with people the message is right on target.

    Actually, women were my target audience with this message. I say that only because it seems as though we are the ones who are targeted by relationship literature and propaganda, constantly victimizing us as the ones who are getting it wrong in relationships all the time. I just think it’s time to buck the trend, smarten up, make proper choices and realize that you men aren’t nearly as “screwed up” as all these books would like us to believe.

    @Jen – Not offensive; I totally agree with you. While I am all for choice, I also believe that men and women have different and distinct roles, both in society and within relationships. I wish I could remember a time when men were men and didn’t have their chests waxed and drank beer out of cans. Perhaps some women find metrosexual males attractive, but I like my men to look like, well, men.

  13. @Jen & @Keira-Anne – I also believe men and women have distinct roles in a relationship. It’s funny the men that you describe sound exactly like my husband, no joking! Women and children first, hard work, knowing how to fix shit, drinks beer out of cans…barely knows how to text (let alone ever THINK of getting a blackberry!) and could care less where his jeans came from. These men are still out there! Just hard to find? I found mine in a city, but his roots were still small town and I think that’s what made him who he is. That and his strong values.

    I find it really hard to be attracted to men who are prettier or think they are prettier then me!

  14. Really good post, Keira.

    The ones I find particularly offensive are the ones (as above) in your picture – that are about how to be the woman he wants to marry – implying that’s the ultimate goal (still!): to get married.

    Most infuriating was that book called “The Rules”, I believe (written by two women I think any sane man would run screaming from) which was about all the manipulating things a woman should do so that a man will marry her. Niiice.

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