As an ESSENCE.com woman, you probably know of the four "Will You Marry Me?" couples, and seen the stories of how they met and fell in love. But you may also be wondering to yourself, "Why not me?" You have met guys at happy hours with work colleagues--the way Jasmine met Gabriel. You have met cute guys while part of a business transaction--like Dean of Student Affairs at Dillard University, Dewain did when she planned an event using Irvin's food and beverage company. You have been fixed up by friends the way Genine was with Andre. You may even still have a classmate you've known since eighth grade--the way Maya knew Cleveland. Maybe you've even been a part of a long distance relationship the way they have been. So why are you still not finding Mr. Right--for you? Dr. Michelle Callahan, TV host, psychologist, and author of dating guide Ms. Typed, says it may be because you are not you--not the real you when it comes to romance, that you may be sabotaging yourself with men and not even realizing it, that you are "Ms, Typed." And, as an African American woman you could be particularly vulnerable to losing your best self in the dating game. ESSENCE.com: How do women sabotage their relationships? DR. MICHELLE CALLAHAN: My theory is that most women are mistyped. As a result of their dating and everyday life experiences, they have taken on a personality and dating type that doesn't reflect who they truly are, but reflects more of who they've allowed themselves to become as a result of their circumstances. They lose sight of their true personalities and see themselves through the world's lens, instead of through their own eyes as the women they were meant to be. When it comes to romance, in particular, women often take on dating habits and behaviors that are counterproductive and undermine the development of healthy and successful relationships. It's as if they forget who they really are and their insecurities dominate their thoughts and behaviors. As a result, instead of exuding confidence and success, they often act insecure and desperate (even if they don't realize it). They don't want to be stuck acting this way, but they don't know how to stop sabotaging their relationships and reclaim their happiness. ESSENCE.com: Are you just blaming the victim by saying that women sabotage themselves? DR. CALLAHAN: Absolutely not! My whole point is that women should not feel like powerless victims in their relationships. They have a lot of power and choices in relationships, they just need to stop choosing to use their power to try to change their partner (something only their partner can do) and use that time and energy to focus on changing themselves and their approach to life and love. You can't control what a man does but you can control how you respond to it. ESSENCE.com: What are dating types and who is Ms. Typed? DR. CALLAHAN: Your dating type represents how you typically behave in dating situations. It's like your dating personality. Ms. Typed is a woman who has taken on dating behaviors and personality traits that don't reflect who she wants or is destined to be. In Ms. Typed I describe the top ten dating types to help women recognize their dating patterns, to understand why they act the way they do in dating relationships, and to show them how to change those dating behaviors that are no longer working for them or that don't represent who they are. ESSENCE.com: Why are Black women vulnerable to becoming Ms. Typed? DR. CALLAHAN: Statistically, the odds are currently stacked against Black women for finding a long-term mate. Over 40 percent of Black women have never been married (that's double the number for White women), Black women outnumber Black men, and if you eliminate Black men who are either without a high school education, unemployed or incarcerated, that leaves only about half of Black men even eligible for marriage. Under those circumstances, many Black women feel an even greater need to be more accommodating to the remaining available Black men. The longer they put the man's needs first and their own needs second, the more likely they are to become and remain Ms. Typed; unable to get their own needs back on the relationship agenda. In addition to that, many Black women have been through so much drama in their lives with their own upbringing and in romantic relationships that the happy, healthy version of themselves has been long lost and they are not starting from a healthy foundation when it comes to dating. They need a chance to resolve some issues of the past so that they can change their future. ESSENCE.com: What are some of the most common dating types among Black women? DR. CALLAHAN: There's "Ms. Second Place" who allows herself to be a low priority in a man's life. She is often dating a man in another relationship and during this man shortage, she may feel like she has no choice but to hang in with him in hopes that she is the last woman standing. "Ms. Mom" who makes it a priority to fix her man's life instead of working on her own. Many Black women meet men who are "under construction" and need a place to stay, money to borrow, etc. and out of the kindness of their hearts the women try to help but end up falling into a counterproductive role of a mother instead of a partner. Another type is "Ms. Bag Lady" who carries around a load of emotional "baggage" and lets her old emotions negatively affect her new relationships. She lets her unresolved problems from the past ruin her present and future. Many Black women have been through so much by the time they start dating and at the hands of some of their Exes, that they have a lot of "issues" left to resolve before they can be healthy and successful in relationships.
ESSENCE.com: If you're Ms. Typed, could you miss the opportunity to meet Mr. Right? DR. CALLAHAN: Yes, Mr. Right could easily pass you by. You could miss out on the man you've been looking for because he's ready for you but you're not ready for him. This could be the man you've been hoping and praying for but if you and your life are a mess, in his healthy state of mind he might decide to move on. Men aren't going to want to date you if you're a hot mess on the inside or the outside. So why not spend time when you're single working on being the best you can and resolving your own "issues" so that when he shows up, you're ready? ESSENCE.com: How can women stop sabotaging their relationships and find dating success? DR. CALLAHAN: You can't change what you don't acknowledge so it helps to first determine your dating type because you can use it to identify what challenges you usually face in relationships and learn how to transform yourself. There is a quiz in Ms. Typed to help you determine your dating type and then there is a chapter in the book for each of the ten types filled with stories and specific advice for that type. I believe that improving your love life starts by improving yourself. When you are happy and healthy, love will come looking for you. The book includes a Ms. Typed Makeover Kit with exercises and specific advice on how to stop sabotaging your relationships by transforming yourself and then your relationships. My three step makeover plan includes the following: 1) Create a vision for your life, 2) Let go of what's holding you back, and 3) Take action. ESSENCE.com: Why is it so important to take time out to focus on yourself both before and while dating? DR. CALLAHAN: What women don't realize is that approaching dating and relationships from a position of desperation and weakness will not attract a healthy partner or long-term relationship. If they approach dating by first spending time making sure that they are happy with themselves and their lives without a partner, they will be much less vulnerable in dating relationships. A woman's purpose or goal in life is not to find a mate; their goal should be health and happiness and that healthy state of being will bring Mr. Right to them.
MICHELLE R. CALLAHAN, Ph.D. is the host of the syndicated talk show Wedlock or Deadlock and the author of Ms. Typed: Stop Sabotaging Your Relationships and Find Dating Success (Three Rivers Press, 2010). She has appeared on Oprah, the Today Show, The Dr. Oz Show, The Tyra Banks Show, and America's Next Top Model. You can learn more about Dr. Michelle at http://www.drmichelle.com Read more: