15- Men Play With Barbies,and I Am Not One

“No” is a complete sentence.”
Anne Lamott

Today, I “realized” a boundary in relationships that I needed to establish. For once, there was no justifying or pushing aside my needs and what I knew was right for me.

I have been the trophy wife, the barbie doll, the pretty girl on someone’s arm. In fact, I quite enjoyed the attention I received from dressing up and looking nice. Who wouldn’t like compliments? Yet, by letting myself be the trophy, I was letting myself be reduced to an object. That’s not to say that I didn’t love my husband and vice versa. And it’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my time with those I have dated.

It is a game though, and so many people play it. The game involves pushing boundaries to see who is the follower. You have a man that is a self-professed “sucker” for pretty women. In walks a woman that fits his description of a pretty woman; in this case, someone with nice legs, high heels, and usually a short skirt.

They joke and tease, and it’s all fun and games to start, but who is leading when the dance starts? Not so subtle compliments centered around the woman’s appearance when she dresses a certain way are the narcissist’s way of molding the woman. When the woman starts to dress differently and wear clothes that attract this man’s attention, she has handed over the car keys.

She now is “earning” attention for her outside, not her inside, for her appearance, not her heart. So many pretty women are pros at this game. They are so good, that they often feel men only want to be around them for their looks, and that their personality is not enough to hold a man’s attention.

Part of my therapy is to learn to intuit when I am allowing boundaries to be crossed and then to establish healthy boundaries. At lunch the other day, a close male friend of mine joined my sister and me. I brought up my fancy new platform heels in conversations, and his ears perked up. He half jokingly asked if I would wear them to a certain restaurant, and I told him, “most definitely!”

After lunch, I was invited to this restaurant by my male friend. The premise seemed to be centered around me dressed like a doll, donning these sexy shoes of mine and a skirt to show off my legs. In the past, I might have agreed to go, but something felt wrong, so I bought some time to think about it. Nothing bad was meant by it, but it is not safe behavior for me.

Talking to my counselor later, we talked about how I used to feel that men only liked me for my looks and flirtatious nature. I realized that I actually was perpetuating that feeling by surrounding myself with men who wanted to play the game.

Playing Barbie Doll is a game I became quite adept at, but that game is not part of a healthy relationship. In fact, it reduces emotional intimacy by focusing on the outer person.

MEN, listen up. You can set your boundaries as well.

By setting a boundary and stopping the dance, you are actually helping to break the other person’s cycle as well. You were drawn to each other because of your mutual attention to the surface beauty, and setting a personal boundary (NOT a wall) brings attention to the heart of the matter. It acknowledges the issue at hand and allows an opening in conversation for emotional intimacy.

Lessons (this applies to men and women):

  • Trust your gut when it says something feels wrong
  • Be honest with yourself about your motives in relationships
  • Do what is right for you and be clear with the other person about your boundaries
  • Pat yourself on the back for setting a safe boundary