Juan Van Wyk, clinical psychologist at The Lighthouse Arabia, answers our readers’ and viewers’ most burning questions surrounding love, dating, relationships, and marriage in the Arab world. You can watch the full interview below, on our weekly show Behind Closed Doors.
- Why do women always say men don’t make effort?
Juan Van Wyk: “Probably from their experience… Men might say, ‘women don’t respect me’. It’s not necessarily the case, but what they need to receive, in order to experience respect, is not necessarily expressed [by women]. There are differences in expectations and what we look for. We speak different languages as individuals, so it might be that women aren’t experiencing what men might feel [is] effort… It’s not effort for them… [Effort is] getting lost in translation… it’s lack of communication.”
- [My issue is] unresolved trauma that attracts us and them to the wrong type of people, being emotionally unavailable, gravitating to j*rks in general, and responding more positively and affectionately to those who mistreat them.
Juan Van Wyk: “We are attracted to what is familiar and usually what is not helpful or healthy for us. We fall in love with what we know, subconsciously, with the good and with the hurtful. That’s the purpose of relationships; this journey of growth healing. I want to heal from my early painful experiences in attachment not because we’re blaming parents or caretakers but it’s [from] those experiences… that we developed as patterns. We want to rectify it or heal it. In order for that to happen, I consciously choose something that is similar.”
- [My problem is] they [girls] are all psychos. One of my ex-girlfriends had her new guy smash my car while I was on holiday, another one spat in my face, and another said that her mom’s a witch – let’s just say I had a series of unfortunate events after we broke up.
Juan Van Wyk: “You have to reflect on what the pattern is. To experience not just one but a pattern of several experiences like that, what I hear in ‘they are all psychos’ is that he has had a pattern of terrible experiences, and that pattern is something that needs attention, otherwise he will continue experiencing something terrible like that, which I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”
- [My issue is her] time management and being late. I’ll never understand why it takes an hour to get ready.
Juan Van Wyk: “It’s about empathy, kindness, compassion, and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. If he’s okay with her going out in shorts, a t-shirt and kakis, [straight after] getting out of the shower, [then that’s] beautiful. But again, can I put myself in the other one’s shoes and develop more patience, kindness, and clear communication? If we need to leave at 8 [o’clock], say, ‘okay, I know it takes you an hour [to get ready], I would really appreciate it if you can be on time. I know it takes you a lot of time. I love the effort it takes you to be so beautiful. It’s amazing. I love you for that. It’s an hour before we leave, I would really appreciate you being on time’.”
- [My problem is my husband] wanting to lead the marriage
Juan Van Wyk: “First and foremost, acknowledge the need and desire for it, and that it offers something for him. And to be curious about, what [does it offer him]? In what way does it serve him? Understand what it’s about. It’s never about the breadcrumbs. We get into arguments about breadcrumbs. My first approach is always to see what the behaviour is, the frustration is, and to show an openness to understand it, and get into a place to communicate empathy, and find out what is behind it [the behaviour] so you can address that, so that person becomes more agreeable, more open to allow you to start co-creating the relationship.”
- Most women, especially in big, cosmopolitan cities like Dubai, will spend their entire lives looking for their “Brad Pitt,” or “the perfect one,” especially in their youth. I saw women, who are attractive, brush away good men because they were not “good enough”. No one is perfect but looking for perfection is a sickness.
Juan Van Wyk: “There is this idea, this fantasy that there is this one Mr. Right or Mrs. Right; The One. And I have bad news: you’re going to choose the wrong one, who is right for you. We choose because we want to heal and we want to grow, and, in order for that to happen, you’re going to choose from your pains, from your frustrations, but also, from your joy. You will always choose the right one without knowing why. What happens is, if it doesn’t lead to an intentional relationship with two conscious partners, that’s where things go horribly wrong. And you either re-experience the pain of your past or even worse, pain that is worse than the past. So, looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right is bad news.
- I’ve seen many people choose the wrong people for them, over, and over again. How do you avoid doing that?
Juan Van Wyk: “Even if you stay in that relationship, the pattern will continue to play out in the relationship forever. The pattern is the pattern – it’s about consciously and intentionally working with it to grow and heal, but if you want to make better choices in the future when you end the relationship, find out what your pattern is. What are the fears and the pains that are not addressed that you keep on looking to the outside, or expecting someone from the outside, to come and heal them? Your fears and insecurities may remain [after the relationship has ended], but already, you may choose… someone who is more aware of your pattern and who is willing to work with you on that for the rest of your life.”
- [My issue is the] lack of communication i.e. what is the nature of the relationship?
Juan Van Wyk: “Usually, it all boils down to safety. Whenever there’s either overcommunication, hurtful communication, or avoidance of communication, whatever the case is, it’s usually due to the disconnect that happened that makes the relationship space unsafe. And then we revert to our coping [mechanisms]. If your coping mechanism is to attack, you will let go of your words. If your coping mechanism is to get out of there or to freeze, you will avoid and go quiet. The issue isn’t whether there’s a lack of communication. The issue is whether the space is safe enough. It’s all about the connection; to move from communication to communion. Are we communing together, or are we just communicating? Because if I yell at you, it’s very effective communication, you will get my message.”
- People say Dubai’s dating scene is hard because most guys are players… that’s true, but equally, and judging from my female friends – who I am still trying to matchmake – most women are just not ready to settle. It’s like they are immature.
Juan Van Wyk: “I hear the word ‘all’ and ‘most’ – immediately overgeneralizing, because there are many people in Dubai… but it is something that I also hear a lot. And again, where are you trying to meet people? Are you living your life? Are you doing things that give you joy and that take care of you? Then you are more likely to meet someone who shares that. You should go into a relationship already happy and content, and then whatever the person adds to your life is a bonus, it’s on top of that. No one can make you happy. Take care of yourself. Make sure that you are fulfilling your life, that you are taking care of yourself, and then if you meet someone, the relationship might add to it, but the relationship is going to be very hard work. It’s not going to make you happy, because again, you’re going to be confronted with your own inner world. It’s going to be your workspace, for the rest of your life, to do your work.”
- [My problem is] the influence of her social circle and best friends, and its impact on our relationship.
Juan Van Wyk: “My recommendation would be, take advice from someone who has done it, and who is in a relationship that you would like to create for yourself. Don’t take advice from someone who isn’t doing it, and hasn’t done it, in a way that you dream of doing it.”