- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2000

Dating has gone from carefree to cautionary, and according to a batch of recent books, it can be downright hazardous for women.
Two authors have even come up with "Mr. Wrong" in their title. One, Stephen Arterburn, founder of a chain of Christian counseling clinics, says more than half of all American women are "married to Mr. Wrong."
Citing an April 13 study published in USA Today, he says that more than 55 percent of the married women polled say they suffer abuse. Thirty-eight percent said the abuse is physical; 18 percent said it is psychological and emotional.
"I was a Mr. Wrong," he says, "and I've a 9-year-old daughter. I wanted to write something for her to keep her from meeting someone like me."
He came into his present marriage as a 28-year-old divorced man who had made one of his girlfriends abort his child. Only when his wife asked him to move out did he go to a psychiatrist to get help. The marriage survived and he's now publishing a series of books about finding the right mate.
"Avoiding Mr. Wrong," the first book, is in its fourth printing since April and has sold 45,000 copies.
"You're not looking for Mr. Perfect," he says he tells women. "You're looking for Mr. Right. Take your time. Stop being in a hurry. Stop having sex. A Mr. Wrong will use that to keep you connected to a bad relationship. Smart women stop that.
"When you're engaged sexually, you justify the behavior and protect the other person more."
His book describes 10 types of Mr. Wrong to avoid: the "Mama's boy," the "eternal kid," the "detached man," the "control freak," the "cowardly lion," the "angry man," "Mr. Wonderful," the "deceiver," the "addict" and the "ungodly man."
Why do women put up with obvious losers?
"Lots of women have low expectations," he says. "They are people pleasers who have a record of abuse and they are hanging out at the shooting gallery where these men are."
His advice? "Be the most dynamic, wonderful person you can be. Do interesting things. Volunteer. That's the way you bump into someone who might be a great partner and have a great life.
"I tell women there are a lot of great men out there, but many of these men aren't handsome, don't have a lot of money and don't have jobs that sound important."
Laura Zigman, the 37-year-old Washington author of "Dating Big Bird," a novel about single women, disagrees about the availability of men. Planning to be married for the first time this summer, she describes how the dating scene is difficult for women up and down the East Coast.
"In New York, there's a lot of eye candy. You see these handsome guys and they're all gay," she says. "New York really attracts a particular kind of narcissist. People who move to New York don't move there to find love. They move to become famous, to find their fortune, to become big on Wall Street, to become a famous writer, to reinvent themselves. They all come from somewhere else. They're not there to meet you.
"There's so many incredibly beautiful women there models, gorgeous women the men just trade up. It's a hard place to connect with someone. It's not a real married town."
Washington is not much better, she reports.
"Everybody knows 10 or 15 or 20 great women who are not married," she says, "and then there's one guy, maybe. You can't match them with anyone. American women are vastly superior.
"Our generation realized that marriage wasn't the Holy Grail or if it was, you wanted to wait for something good. Women have held out for a better type of marriage. Some got it, some didn't. Or you would have waited too long."
In their new book, "The Evolving Woman: Surviving Mr. Wrong," authors Catherine Lanigan and Jodee Blanco counsel women who didn't hold out for a good marriage.
"There's nothing quite as painful as finding yourself in a relationship that makes you feel like a deer caught in the headlights," they write. "You're paralyzed in a lonely, dark place, blinded by the forcefulness of the oncoming hurt … .
"In today's culture, if a woman asserts she's being abused, no one takes it seriously unless she means her mate is beating her black and blue. If the hurt and humiliation being inflicted upon her doesn't emanate from the back of his hand, her complaints are often rendered impotent, and she's perceived as a whining, selfish, overindulged female."
However, many of the women they cite did move on to much better marriages. And, Mr. Arterburn reports, miracles do happen "Sometimes," he says, "men get desperate enough to change."


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