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Sample Chapter - Introduction

Ever wonder why it’s so hard to figure out if your boyfriend is the right guy for you? After all, he tells you he loves you, lends you his favorite T-shirt, kisses you like no other guy ever has. Nobody else has made you feel so alive and happy. You can’t believe how lucky you are! But he also calls you names, breaks his promises, treats you like a beer slave at parties, accuses you of wanting to sleep with his best friend. So is this guy a Frog or a Prince? A little of both? Confused? You’re not alone.

As women, we’re hard-wired to seek love. We’re on a quest to love and be loved. We grow up believing that when we do find the guy who loves us, we’ll be happy forever. Remember the daisy game? You pull off the first petal: “He loves me.” And then the next: “He loves me not.” We hope the last petal is “He loves me.”

In the real world, the daisy game gets us nowhere. Yet if you turn the game around -”I love him, I love him not”- a new question arises: “Is he the right guy for me?” And this leads to an answer that will get you somewhere. How? By making you look at your own needs first.

Natalie’s Story

Natalie believes that if she follows her heart, she’ll get to live happily ever after. For the past year, she’s felt that her life has become ho-hum. Her family is boring, college classes are boring, hanging out with friends is boring. She envies Meghan, her best friend, who’s been going out with Ben for six months and who seems to be so alive, “growing happy” all the time. Natalie finds herself daydreaming about a handsome Prince, a guy who’ll come along in his elegant carriage (actually a red, late-model BMW) and change her life into the fairy tale Meghan seems to be enjoying.

One day Natalie’s in the student cafeteria listening to her iPod. (She’s skipped philosophy class again.) Her eyes are closed and she’s really into the music, so when someone taps her on the shoulder, she’s startled and a little annoyed. But when she gets a look at the culprit – a guy asking if he can sit at her table – she’s temporarily speechless. The guy is dropdead hot, with a smile and a voice that send shivers up her spine. When she comes to her senses and invites him to sit, they immediately get into a great conversation.

His name is Ethan. She finds him warm and attentive, and she keeps looking into those deep-blue eyes, lovely pools she could fall right into. When Ethan smiles at her, she knows what it means to feel alive and grow happy. Before he heads off to class, they exchange contact info. As soon as he leaves, she calls Meghan.

Before long Natalie and Ethan are seeing each other (creating a new outfit crisis every date, which she solves by blending the contents of her closet and Meghan’s). She knows that Ethan is attracted to her by the way he noticed her right off the bat. She knows he desires her because he can’t keep his hands off her when they’re alone. She knows he likes her as a person, too, because he wants to spend all his time with her. (In fact, his friends – and hers, for that matter – are starting to feel abandoned and a little pissed off.) All Natalie knows is that when she looks at Ethan or spends time alone with him, she has intense feelings of love. She’s never felt this alive before – everything is easier to do, and she has bundles of energy. She gets up early and rushes over to borrow Meghan’s blue sweater before she studies for her criminology test, then meets Ethan for a fast-food lunch.

A few months later, the blissful feeling wears off a little. The force driving Natalie to meet Ethan’s needs starts to feel like work. One Saturday, while they’re watching tv, he suggests they go out.

Natalie: Sure.
Ethan:
What do you feel like doing?
Natalie:
I don’t know. What about you?
Ethan:
I asked first.
Natalie:
I don’t care, baby. Anything.
Ethan:
Do you want to go out or not? Maybe we shouldn’t . . .
Natalie:
Huh?

At this point, expectations, reasonable or unreasonable, don’t get met and their squabbles – fights about nothing – begin.

Ethan: Hey you, go get me a glass of water. (Gives her a big kiss)
Natalie:
Go get your own.
Ethan:
I got you one last time you asked.
Natalie:
I don’t feel like getting up.
Ethan:
Sure about that? (Tickles her until she gets him his glass of water. A few minutes later he asks her to make him a sandwich)
Natalie:
Ethan, I’m into this show. Go make your own.
Ethan:
You make it . . .
Natalie:
Stop it. I’m missing a good part . . .
Ethan:
What’s more important to you – the show or me? (He goes on and on until she gets up, turns off the tv and gets into a yelling squabble with him)

Natalie finds herself doing girlfriend duties she doesn’t really want to do.

Ethan: Hey, Nat, the guys are coming over tonight and we’re gonna watch some DVDs. Can you run over to Flick Picks for us?
Natalie:
No, Ethan, I’m not doing that. I have to pick up Meghan or we’ll be late for the movie.
Ethan:
Come on, she’ll understand. All you’ll miss is the trailers. Please, baby.
Natalie:
Okay, fine, Ethan, what movies do you want?

Fast-forward to the middle of the relationship. There have been lots of changes. The biggest is that Ethan has gone back to his old life and routines – the ones that pre-dated Natalie – while she hasn’t gone back at all. She’s still eager to spend as much time with him as she can. She’s confused, so when she sees Ethan’s best friend in the library, she approaches him.

Natalie: Hey, Tim. Can I talk to you?
Tim:
Sure, what’s up?
Natalie:
Anything going on I should know about?
Tim:
What do you mean?
Natalie:
Well, Ethan hasn’t been himself lately. He seems really distracted. Has he said anything about me?
Tim:
He hasn’t mentioned you in a while, Nat, and he seems the same as always.
Natalie:
Okay, then. Just checking. Thanks for the chat.

The next day she meets Ethan.

Ethan: What are you doing flirting with my friends?
Natalie:
What?
Ethan:
Why were you talking to Tim?
Natalie:
I’m just trying to understand you. You never tell me what’s going on.
Ethan:
Come on, you were flirting with him.
Natalie:
Look, Ethan, I have a rule about flirting. I never flirt with my boyfriend’s friends, never mind his best friend.
Ethan:
Whatever. So, do you think he’s cute?
Natalie:
Ethan -
Ethan:
You wanna sleep with him, is that it?

He storms out, slamming the door. Natalie immediately calls Meghan.

Meghan: Don’t worry, Nat. He just doesn’t know you well enough yet to know you’d never flirt with Tim.
Natalie:
You think so?
Meghan:
We have rules about flirting. Didn’t you tell him?
Natalie:
Yeah, but it didn’t seem to matter much.
Meghan:
Sounds like Ethan’s one of those guys who doesn’t tell you when his feelings get hurt, but you know because he gets angry. Besides, he’s jealous because he’s crazy about you. Don’t worry. He’ll call you later.

Natalie hangs up feeling better but unsure what will happen next. She leaves Ethan a message, and when she gets home she puts on Ethan’s old T-shirt, then sends him an email, explaining why she did what she did. The next morning he hasn’t called her back yet, so she cuts class to meet Meghan (wondering what she’d ever do without her). After they chat, Natalie feels strong. On the way to her next class, she uses her sexy-kitty voice to leave Ethan another message. He calls her back and they go through the enjoyable make-up part of their relationship.

More changes take place in the relationship. Ethan’s opening lines in many conversations shift from “Hey baby, I’m on my way” to “I don’t really feel like going to your parents’ tonight.” He spends more time with Tim, and Tim treats Natalie differently, becoming distant. None of this makes sense because she’s worked hard to please Ethan; to have a great relationship, she believes, you have to please your boyfriend. Ethan has also become critical of her; his new favorite line begins “I’m not happy that you . . .” She can’t understand because she jumps through hoops to meet his needs. She’s trying to give him what he asks for and to let him get his way without being a total doormat. In return, it seems, he’s become less attentive, often not even returning her calls or ignoring her when they’re out with his friends. It seems he’s bored with her.

Meghan suggests she try to spice up the relationship by making plans that she knows interest him.

Natalie: Hey, let’s go to Playland this weekend. You haven’t been on that old roller coaster since you were a kid. And you really used to love it, didn’t you?
Ethan:
I can’t believe you remember that.
Natalie:
Great! Should I ask Meghan and Ben too?
Ethan:
I can only go if Tim doesn’t need help with his car.
Natalie:
When will you know?
Ethan:
I’m not sure. I’ll let you know.
Natalie:
(disappointed) Okay then.
Ethan:
Hey, get over here. (Leans in to give her a kiss)

She doesn’t get why Ethan doesn’t want to do stuff with her as much as he did before, but she hopes it’ll blow over and they’ll get back to the way it was in the beginning. Then it seems her wish comes true: they have a “Let’s put our relationship back on track” night and have so much fun she can’t even find the words to describe it to Meghan.

But this lovely interlude doesn’t end their squabbles. One of their rerun arguments is about who gets to pick what to do: what tv show to watch, what station should be on the car radio. Ethan’s stubborn about getting his way and phrases like “Good point, Nat. Sure, it’s your turn” just don’t come up. Natalie is baffled by why they fight over these things. She finds herself giving in just to keep him happy.

Lately, things have been getting really confusing. Stuff comes up that has nothing to do with what she and Ethan started fighting about. This stuff is actually a list of what Natalie hasn’t been doing for him lately; the things she does do for him are never mentioned. Sometimes she just stares at him. She can’t believe what she’s hearing. What he’s saying is not true, but she doesn’t know exactly why. She worries that he’s growing to know her by what she doesn’t do for him, but then she throws her own list of his “won’t do’s” at him, too. The last time they had one of these ugly arguments, Natalie felt so messed up she had to back out of her promise to help with a birthday dinner for Meghan’s dad, which was so not her! But Natalie felt that if she hadn’t stayed to fix things up with Ethan, they wouldn’t still be together.

When Natalie thinks about how stuff with Ethan is affecting her friendship with Meghan, she feels a little anxious. She hasn’t been as good a friend to Meghan since she started seeing Ethan; in fact, the time they do spend together gets eaten up with “Ethan this” or “Ethan that,” so actually she’s lost track of what’s going on in Meghan’s life.

Lately, Ethan has started disappearing with Tim for long stretches without telling Natalie what he’s doing; it’s starting to feel like Tim has stolen her special spot in Ethan’s life. Last night, for instance, he called her to cancel their plans. Of course, he couldn’t tell her the reason, mumbling instead, “This just came up. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Gotta go.” Next morning she learned what “this” was when Sara, a girl they all hang out with, called and asked why she hadn’t shown up at Michael’s with Ethan.

Sara: By the way, Nat, have you met Gwen’s new friend, Ella?
Natalie:
Yeah, I met her at that beach party last weekend with everybody else. She seemed really nice.
Sara:
She was at the party last night, too. I was surprised you and Meghan didn’t show up. Elizabeth was there . . .

The call ends with an awkward goodbye. Natalie wonders if Sara was trying to tell her something or just stirring up trouble. She immediately tries Ethan on his cell; she leaves a message.

Then Meghan calls her, upset about her life. Natalie heads over to talk, but not before telling her what Sara just revealed about Ethan. Then, just as she’s pulling into Meghan’s driveway, her cellphone rings. It’s Ethan, who has obviously picked up her message: “Hey baby, get your butt over here. I love you. We need to talk.” Natalie says a too-eager yes because anything Ethan says right now will make her feel better. Meanwhile, Meghan watches Natalie pull into and then back out of her driveway. Natalie calls her.

Natalie: Look, I’m sorry. I just got a call from Ethan. Do you mind if we talk later?
Meghan:
Natalie, Ethan lied to you last night so you wouldn’t show up at Michael’s. When are you going to get it?
Natalie:
Maybe he just needed some space. Besides, he just told me he loves me and wants to talk this out.
Meghan:
You’re so different since you’ve been going out with this guy.
Natalie:
I am not! I love him. I can’t imagine my life without him.
Meghan:
Come on, Nat. You need to break up with him. Anyway, call me after you’re done with Ethan.
Natalie:
I will. Sorry. You do understand, right?

Natalie calls her back next morning to tell her everything’s good again with Ethan and she’s on her way to pick her up for coffee. Later on, Natalie runs into Elizabeth, who she was going to call to get “Ethan information.” Since Elizabeth doesn’t have any juicy Ethan bits from Michael’s party, the conversation moves to Natalie’s love story. Before Elizabeth runs off to music rehearsal, she promises to think about what Nat confided and call her later. Natalie looks forward to talking things through with Elizabeth to make more sense of her Ethan feelings. The next morning all hell breaks loose when Ethan calls Natalie, fuming.

Ethan: Natalie, what were you thinking gossiping to Elizabeth about us?
Natalie:
What?
Ethan:
You know she’s crushing on Tim. Did you think I wouldn’t find out?
Natalie:
I wasn’t gossiping -
Ethan:
You expect me to believe that?
Natalie:
Yes, Ethan. I do. You’re acting like I betrayed you and -
Ethan:
Come on, you were talking behind my back!
Natalie:
I wasn’t! I’m confused about some stuff . . . .
Ethan:
Sure, whatever.
Natalie:
Ethan . . . I love you. Maybe talking to Elizabeth was a bad idea.
Ethan:
You think? (Ethan hangs up)

Natalie calls Meghan to tell her what just happened.

Meghan: I can’t believe Elizabeth would do that.
Natalie:
Yeah, well – she did.
Meghan:
She was probably trying to get info from Tim about Ethan – to tell you.
Natalie:
I don’t know what to think.
Meghan:
Call her and find out.
Natalie:
Meg, I can’t. What if Ethan hears about it?
Meghan:
You and Elizabeth are friends. You have to work this out.
Natalie:
I don’t know what to say to her.
Meghan:
What?
Natalie:
I don’t want to fight with Elizabeth about this too. It’s just too hard right now.

As usual, she and Ethan muddle through the drama and move to the make-up part. She holds on tight to the hope of love as her happy experiences grow further apart. She doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on, and she finds herself unsure and struggling to figure it out. The joy she once felt when she thought about Ethan is being replaced with an anxious feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Still, she’s looking forward to the camping trip on the long weekend. She drifts off dreaming of putting up the tent with Ethan and building a little nest, canoeing, swimming, cuddling by the fire . . .

The next day he calls and says he’ll pick her up at seven – he’s taking her to dinner. The evening starts well, but the conversation takes an unexpected turn.

Ethan: I need to talk about something important.
Natalie:
Okay . . .
Ethan:
Well . . .
Natalie:
Hey, remember we have to sort out our plans for the camping trip.
Ethan:
Yeah, well, here’s the thing. Listen, I really love you and you’re great . . . .
Natalie:
Ethan, what are you trying to say?
Ethan:
I think we should break up.
Natalie:
What? When did you figure this out? I mean, you just said you loved me!
Ethan:
It’s more like a break, not a break-up. I need a time-out to figure out some stuff. I love you, Nat.
Natalie:
So we’re not breaking up – we’re just on a break? What does that mean? Can we see other people?
Ethan:
Nat, that’s not what this is about. It’s about me.
Natalie:
What are you talking about? Of course this includes me! What about the camping trip – are we still going together?
Ethan:
I don’t know – I don’t think so.

Ethan doesn’t seem to have more answers. Later, when they pull up in front of her house, she puts her arms around his neck. It feels so sweet and good she wishes he’d tell her he’s changed his mind. She gets out, biting back tears. Before he pulls away, he rolls down the window and tells her he loves her and he’ll call tomorrow.

By the weekend Meghan has convinced Natalie to go camping anyway, saying she can hang out with her and Ben and the rest of the group. Besides having fun, she’ll have a chance to spend time with Ethan. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out that way. She spends the weekend watching Ella and Ethan’s budding love unfold, all the while listening to Ethan deny that anything is going on. Mostly she wishes she were anywhere but on this stupid camping trip, except for during and right after her talks with Ethan. But those talks do not get her any closer to the make-up part, and she can’t help thinking that Ella is so much prettier and thinner than she is.

A couple of weeks later, Meghan tells her that Ethan and Ella are officially going out. The parties go on, but now Ethan and Ella show up together, with Tim in tow, and Natalie shows up unattached. Feeling like an outcast in her own circle is just too hard, so to fix the hurt she starts to build Ella a nasty reputation. As for Ethan, at first she hates him, but then she decides to keep him “on reserve.” Who knows, he and Ella might not last . . .

what went wrong?

Going out with a guy is about choosing to share yourself with another person who is special to you in a different way from anyone else. You always hope the guy is going to be your Prince, but life doesn’t usually work out this way. Princes and Frogs can be hard to tell apart: Princes are not perfect and Frogs are not necessarily bad guys. So making a good boyfriend choice – choosing a Prince rather than a Frog – is tough.

Once we’re in a relationship it can get even tougher, especially when we believe we should follow our heart. Even when our friends and family tell us that the guy we’re with isn’t the right guy for us, we tell them (and ourselves) over and over that everything will be okay. After all, our guy keeps promising he won’t do this or that anymore (whatever this or that may be), and we believe him. We love him. We can’t imagine our life without him. We have so much invested in the relationship it’s too hard to think about not being able to work things out with him – to accept that he might not love us enough. So we tell ourselves that yes, love hurts (as the songs say), and we should accept our guy, Frog warts and all. These beliefs can lead us, like Natalie, to decision disasters, where we try with all our might to build a healthy relationship with a Frog, which – by the way – is impossible.

Natalie’s a smart, strong, beautiful young woman who plans to become a lawyer. So how did she get herself into such a painful relationship with a Frog like Ethan? The answer is that while she has a lot going for her, she isn’t equipped with enough self-knowledge, information and tools to choose a Prince – let alone build a relationship with one. She mistakenly believes that when you add a boyfriend to your life, you automatically start growing happy. Life doesn’t work that way. There are no Princes in shining carriages who come along and hand us a beautiful life.

When Natalie met Ethan she didn’t know what needs she deserved to get fulfilled in the relationship. Sure, she felt as if all her needs were met at the beginning – and then some – but she didn’t have a concrete idea of what needs she deserved to get met. We don’t just wake up one morning knowing what needs we deserve to have fulfilled in a relationship. Wouldn’t life be great if we did!

Natalie also didn’t know what warts she could accept while still maintaining her self-respect. She allowed Ethan – and ultimately herself – to use disrespectful tactics. Because she couldn’t see the point at which his Frog warts became too much, she accepted many more life-with-Frog experiences than she should have. Ethan’s warts and disrespectful behavior hurt her in a way that made it hard for her to respect herself, or him. She didn’t know that who Ethan is as a person – Frog warts and all – determined how well he could meet her needs.

It’s hard to see the big picture when making choices, to see what all of your experiences add up to. Even listing positive experiences on the left side of the page and negatives on the right wouldn’t give you a clear answer that you could act on. Since Natalie didn’t even have a clear picture of what Frog warts were, how many of them do you think she’d have listed? Not a lot, probably. Ethan’s good points, on the other hand, would have been plentiful.

Then there’s coping amnesia, which is a condition caught from Frogs, usually by kissing and/or listening to Frog-speak (bullshit). This condition erases Frog behavior from a girl’s memory, and there is no hard-and-fast rule for how long the condition lasts. For example, Natalie displayed coping amnesia when she forgot how Ethan had treated her, accusing her of wanting to sleep with Tim or using nasty words and names to get his way. Natalie could only (or only wanted to) see the little picture of her relationship with Ethan. Her positive experiences – the affection she got; the “Let’s get back on track” night; and his make-up tactics, showing up at her door with a red rose after every one of their wicked fights, wining and dining her till she was blissful again – all sound like? How any girl could catch coping amnesia!

Natalie’s story is a little-picture part of this book. The big picture – what this book is really about – is the self-knowledge, information and tools each of us needs to figure out if our boyfriend is right for us or not. Reading the story of Natalie and Ethan, you may have thought, “Yeah, I’ve been there.” So how do you sort through the confusion?

You need a “bar.” Think of your bar as something like the one in high jump; only your boyfriend has to clear this one for you to let him into your life in any serious way. How to set your bar correctly, according to how you expect your boyfriend to treat you – anyone to treat you, for that matter – is also what this book is about. Without knowing enough about who she is and what she needs, Natalie will dust herself off and be on her merry way to dating another frog. She could end up in a life of struggling with her own self-worth and settling for unmet needs. Before she even thinks about going out with another guy, she has to realize that she can, and must, create a beautiful life for herself. This book will show you how Natalie goes about doing so – and how you can too.

Let’s define a beautiful life. It’s the life you’ve always dreamed of, where you wake up every morning excited about the coming day, where you feel yourself grow happy, where you can fix difficulties that once appeared too big to overcome. A beautiful life is not a fairy tale in which a fairy godmother comes along and makes wonderful things happen. You have to build your own beautiful life, first by becoming familiar with yourself, then by using that self-knowledge to figure out what you need, and finally by making the right choices to get those needs met. The path toward a beautiful life begins with understanding yourself and your needs so that later you’ll be able to choose a guy who will help you to meet them.

Childhood fairy tales rarely happen in real life. So build your own fairy tale. In this one, you get to live a life in which your needs truly are met, and since this is a story about Princes and Frogs, you end up living happily ever after with your Prince. How ever long happily ever after is these days? Knowing and respecting yourself will let you identify your needs and then make smart choices to get those needs met. Making smart choices can bring wonderful consequences. Needs, choices, consequences – this process is your learning loop.

In fairy tales, the heroine takes a journey, making marvelous and speedy progress, ending up at happily-ever-after. This character gets manipulated by at least one villain who tries to stop her from reaching her goal. We all encounter Frogs who thwart our progress toward self-fulfillment and happily-everafter. The villain fails because the character is helped out by strange coincidences, like being in the right place at the right time or having the answer she needed right under her nose.

When you become good at using the information and tools in this book, you’ll be the character in the fairy tale who gets to make speedy progress toward the happy ending that is possible. We’re all characters in our own personal stories. As we move through our stories, we can be helped along by something that’s been under our noses all along: self-respect.

We’re all pretty clear on the basic rules of respect – to respect our own and others’ belongings, for example. What we’re not clear on is how to respect ourselves and others while getting our needs met, and how to get others to do the same. Self-respect will help you to develop great “filtering skills”- skills that enable you to recognize and reject a Frog, and recognize, accept and build a relationship with a Prince.

This book will provide you with a set of “dating beliefs” that will show you how to make smart choices in your relationships. Even if you have lots of dating experience, the beginning of any relationship is like the entrance to a maze. We make our way through the maze by making choices, seldom knowing where those choices will take us. When you understand the differences between life with a Prince and life with a Frog, you’ll be able to set your own bar correctly, using information from these dating beliefs. Setting your bar will help you make better, more deliberate choices. Choices lead to consequences. By looking carefully at your choices, both good and bad, and linking them to their consequences, you can avoid becoming lost in the maze – lost in your love and in your life.

Since any guy is going to have both Prince and Frog traits, it’s hard to decide if your own boyfriend is one or the other. You too might have been thrilled to meet Ethan. At some point, though, maybe when Ethan accused Natalie of wanting to sleep with Tim, you may have said to yourself, “Frog alert! Dump him – he’s a jerk!” Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could do the same in your own relationship – be certain about whether to stay or go, able to make a decision based on any of your little-picture Frog experiences? Of course, it’s easier to see what’s wrong with a relationship from the outside; Meghan knew Ethan was a Frog, and she told Natalie to break up with him. When you’re in the relationship, it’s much harder – sometimes impossible – to see what’s wrong and to know what to do about it.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could be certain about whether to stay or go? Fairy tale girls make it to happily-ever-after, helped out not only by strange coincidences but also by magical incidents like the appearance of a fairy godmother or a yellow-brick road to guide them along their way. You too deserve a fairy godmother of sorts. How about a tool, like a Prince/Frog List to help you see the big picture of your relationship, to understand the good and bad of your relationship even though you’re in it!

You deserve to have your needs met – we all do – and to find someone who adds to your happiness. When you find the guy whose needs you’re driven to meet and who’s driven to meet your needs – who you like and who likes you – you’ll find love and grow happy. He’ll be a guy you enjoy hanging out and doing things with. When you’re alone, you’ll feel good – truly good – about yourself and him and the relationship. You deserve to live your life with a Prince.

How do you come to believe deep down inside that you deserve a Prince? In the next chapter you’ll take the first step that leads to the fairy tale that’s possible – the one you build yourself.