The I Factor™
Simple Insights for Connecting in Your Personal Relationships
Several years ago at dinner, a close female friend was telling me about her boyfriend of four years, how much she liked him, what a good guy he was, how well they got along, and that they never fought. “Do you think the two of you connect emotionally?” I asked. A puzzled look, a pause, and then she said with a smile, “I’m not sure what that means, so I guess not.” Four weeks later, she called to say she had broken up with him. “But you were telling me at dinner what a great relationship you had,” I said. Her reply: “One morning I woke up and realized we were just roommates, that he didn’t have a clue who I was. So I left.”
My friend was 28 years old, and I’ve seen precisely this phenomenon over and over, women of approximately the same age describing the end of their relationship with a simple, “One morning I woke up…” And when I listen to women around this age describe their relationships, almost without exception, I can predict that their relationships are about to end. Not because there’s anything wrong with the guys, but rather because the women are on the cusp of what I call an emotional awakening.
More broadly, what I’ve observed over the last 15 years with women often goes something like this: In her early twenties, she typically dates the cool, hip guy with the goatee. He doesn’t treat her particularly well and doesn’t have much going on, if he even has a job, but he’s cute, edgy, and fun to be around. Eventually, she decides she deserves better, and in her mid-twenties, starts dating a genuinely nice guy who’s less exciting but more responsible, has a job, and treats her well. She can only say good things about him and the relationship, until… that’s right… one morning, she wakes up and realizes he’s not the guy for her. If she’s lucky, she’s 28 or 29 and they’re still just dating. If she’s unlucky and waited too long, she’s 32, married with a kid or two, and about to become a single mom. Either way, she abruptly ends the relationship.
What’s Going on Here?
My personal theory is that somewhere between the ages of 28 and 32, women experience that emotional awakening. In other words, they start to wake up emotionally, to develop an awareness of what their emotional needs are, or simply that they have them. Meanwhile, the nice, emotionally unavailable guy they chose before they knew they had emotional needs – or what that meant – can’t possibly meet them. And how do I know that the guy they were with was emotionally unavailable? Because if he had been, they would have run for the hills when they met him; his emotional availability would have been a total turnoff.
I’ve run this theory by many women and it’s resonated with most of them, but I wasn’t sure if I was on to something until recently when I talked about it on a radio talk show. Later that day I received the following email from a listener:
Heard you on radio today, my wife is going through that 28-32 year stage right now and we’ve been separated for a month and a half; coincidentally this is the same time frame my first wife ran off. I see a lot of divorces in the military and many are in that time frame. I always ask how old is your wife — (they’re) usually in this range. I thought it was my own theory till today. My wife agreed when I told her what you said.
So… what do you think? Does this ring true for you or the women you know?