Does Your Honey Have Your Back?

People who love each other take action when their partner needs protection. Are you dating someone that’s got your best interests at heart? We share the clues and behaviors to watch out for here.

By Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D.

hen Sandra Bullock won a Golden Globe in 2010 for The Blind Side, she said her acceptance speech, “To my husband: There’s no surprise that my work got better when I met you, because I never knew what it felt like for someone to have my back.” Women audibly sighed over that romantic testimonial as they wondered whether their guys had their backs. (I was one of those women.) At
Everyone wants to feel protected by the person he or she loves.
the time, I was dating someone who was crazy about me — but obviously not crazy enough, since we are no longer together. Prompted by Bullock’s speech, I asked him: “Do you have my back?” His shocking response was, “You’re such a strong woman. Why would you need anyone to have your back?” Wrong answer, boyfriend; everyone wants to feel protected by the person he or she loves — as strong or as weak as that person might appear. Sayonara!

As my Gilda-Gram says, “Back protection signals love intention.” Is your honey willing to be inconvenienced for you? If not, you may want to consider making your next word “Sayonara,” too. Sadly, the world watched Sandra Bullock’s romantic house of cards collapse. Yet, thanks to that beautiful actress, the idea of being shielded by someone special has now become an element singles are weighing as a part of the overall package as they prospect for love.

Why do we want our honey’s protection?
Alice and her significant other, Robert, were at her company’s annual cook-out together. Before she knew it, she was embroiled in a dispute with a female coworker. Robert stood on the sidelines without saying a word — which incensed Alice. When they left the gathering, she told him she was angrier with him than she was with the woman with whom she had argued that day. Why? Because Robert had not come to Alice’s defense during the argument. And what was his reasoning? She seemed to have everything under control, he said. But the way she saw it was that her date had abandoned her when she needed him most!

While Alice’s desire for this kind of demonstrative love can be appreciated by many women, it is not appreciated by all of them. Some ladies prefer to fight their own battles without interference from their man. This puts the guy in the precarious position of not knowing whether to jump in or remain on the sidelines, as Robert had done. In order to avoid needless conflict such as theirs, the question of whether your honey has your back is all the more important to discuss during the early stages as your relationship unfolds.

All of us want to think of ourselves as capable and self-sufficient adults. But having an extra pair of eyes on us to watch out for our best interest — even if it’s only occasionally — demonstrates love in action. So it’s not unusual for singles to unconsciously choose mates who will help fend off potential threats. This protection is not only a kind of instant immunization against the tougher side of world; it also enunciates the strength of commitment made between two people. The only abiding caveat is that it must be mutual.

John emailed Melissa to thank her for “having his back” during a concert he was running. Being interested in this man romantically, Melissa knew that one-sided love didn’t work. So she responded to him with: “I do have
All of us want to think of ourselves as capable and self-sufficient adults.
your back, John. I hope you also have mine,” but she never received a return email from John afterward. Unfortunately, unilateral back protection does not constitute an equitable match, nor is it a formula for lasting love. When Melissa realized the one-sided nature of John’s involvement with her, she chose to move on to someone who appeared to be more interested in her romantically. And it was a good thing she did; the next email from John detailed the new love he’d found — and it wasn’t with Melissa!

Three clues that tell you if your honey’s got you covered
There are always signs as to whether someone you’re involved with will watch over you when you need it most. Here are some examples of these clues that my clients recently witnessed:
  1. Alice, a writer, helped George create a new promotional piece for his business. She invested two hours on the phone with him in producing it. Several weeks later, she asked him to review a business report she was about to submit that covered a discipline in which George had great expertise. Alice explained that she was on an urgent deadline and needed his input. Six days later, George got back to her, saying that he didn’t have time to help with the report. Obviously, George did not have Alice’s back when the roles were reversed!
  2. In an effort to sound “manly” and “in charge,” Carl told Laura that he had a tough time welcoming acts of kindness done by others for his benefit, describing the ability to receive such acts a “girlie” quality. From our sessions together, Laura knew that if someone couldn’t be a graceful “receiver” he also couldn’t be a good “giver,” since giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin in relationships. As she proceeded to date Carl with her eyes wide open, Laura discovered that he was withholding both his money as well as his love from her. See ya!
  3. Throughout the year that Katie had been dating Jeff, she showered him with expensive gifts. Of course, deep down, she hoped her material offerings would “buy” back-protection status from him. But Katie’s purchasing power fell flat once she became sick with the flu. When she asked Jeff to bring her some chicken soup, he said he didn’t want to catch what she had, so he was staying away for now. I advised Katie to knock off her expensive gift-giving habit and instead “teach” Jeff by example how to care about someone he loved. So, instead of providing Jeff with extravagant presents, Katie began doing thoughtful things for him. Surprise, surprise — Jeff finally began returning the favor! Jeff now covers Katie’s back whenever she needs it, regardless of whether it’s against a flu bug or an irate neighbor.
Discover early in your relationship whether your honey is a back-protector or not. If this person isn’t, either model the behavior that exemplifies the treatment that you want to receive (as Katie did), or choose a more considerate partner! You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache in your future romance just by asking about your honey’s position on this issue.

Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D., gives Instant Advice throughout the world via Skype, email and phone. She is the 30-Second Therapist for Her best-selling books include Don’t Bet on the Prince!, 99 Prescriptions for Fidelity and How to Win When Your Mate Cheats. Please visit her website at (
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