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What Makes Women So Obsessed with Relationships?

By Beverly J. Valtierra, Ph.D., LCSW

Why are relationships so important to women?  Why does a women need someone in her life even  if she has to sacrifice so much of herself to get it and hold onto it? 

We now know that girls and women are by nature very relational beings.  If you are a women, think of yourself,  when you were a young girl or think of some young girl that you know now, maybe your niece or daughter. Think of their interests..  Relationships with boys and with their girl friends are a constant source of concern and strain. 

If you are a man, think of what the women that you know are interested in. Think of how much of their lives are centered on their relationships Girls and women are heavily into being-in-relation according to a new theory on women’s development originating at the Stone Center at Wellesley College in Boston. This way of being continues throughout her adult life.

A women  needs and wants a growth-fostering relationship and many times she  thinks that is what the relationship will be but since she did not grow up where that type of relationship was modeled,  she does not pick partners  and sometimes friends who can be in that type of relationship. She herself does not know how to do this either. But she  yearns for relationships where she can connect with another but unfortunately she has to disconnect from parts of herself in order to connect with the other person. Because women are so relational, and relationships are so vital, she will tolerate and sacrifice sometimes her life or certain aspects of her life to be in a relationship.  For example, a women who is smart but plays “dumb” so as not to intimate or push the other person away.  Or the women who feels like she has to act “like a lady”, whatever her definition of a lady is, in order for the other person to like and accept her. Or a women may have to has to shut down her feelings because they are unacceptable to the other. It may be that a person has to subdue their interest in music, for instance, and study science because that is what a parent would prefer.  These persons disconnect from parts of themselves in order to be in connection with others.  A person may also disconnect from what they feel, what they know, what they want, and what they believe.  All as a way to be or stay in a relationship that has some semblance of connection.  This pattern begins early in life for some or is learned through  experiences later. 

What effect can this have on a women?  First, it makes her disconnect from herself.  She feels she is nothing without the other and she feels she cannot be herself with the other. She becomes so focused on the other, on the outside of her life that she forgets that she has an inside part that is her. She loses touch with her feelings, her thoughts, her beliefs, her dreams and with the ability to voice them.  Second, she can become depressed, anxious, dissatisfied, resentful, feeling trapped and alone. Thirdly, she can become obsessed with food, her body, alcohol, work, her partner or her children.  She  develops a relationship with an object to pacify her longing for connection with herself and another.

Women will always be relational. That is a gift and a treasure.  These bring nurturing and love to the our world instead of distance and alienation. I think women need to learn and practice being in a loving relationship with themselves just as much as they need to be in relationship with others.  And women do need others, others with whom they can tell their stories, speak their truth and be real, authentic people. She needs to be able to hear other’s stories and truth without having to sacrifice herself. Women need to know they have a voice and lean to use it.  She needs to know she can be herself and not call it selfish.  She needs to experience and understand what a healthy relationship is and move toward  this  and away from others that are unhealthy and problematic.

This requires making some changes; being in relationship with others who have the same focus; healing from the past and not continuing the old patterns; and developing new ways of being with self and others.