How to be Successful Online Dating

How to be Successful Online Dating

How to be Successful Online Dating

Dating Profiles, First Messages, and Red Flags

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As a relationship therapist and dating coach, many of my single clients who are looking for that forever love, come to me asking, “What am I doing wrong?” expressing feelings of confusion, hurt, and even outrage at the current state of the dating world. Today I want to share with you dating tips to navigate the online dating pool of uncertainty and discomfort so that you can enter the dating world with confidence and assuredness that you’re not alone in feeling this way. 

It’s Not You…It’s Your Dating Platform

Okay, you’ve decided to jump in – to try out this online approach to dating, and what better time than now when social distancing is in full swing? It’s not like you can go to the bar or join a club to meet someone new these days, you have to get a little more creative and with SO many people circulating on and through dating apps and websites…where do you even begin?

When it comes to online dating, there are apps and websites galore for you to choose from. The biggest difference between using an app like Tinder vs. a website like OkCupid is that dating sites that require a questionnaire (or a financial commitment) tend to attract people that are more serious about looking for a relationship. Where it is more common to find people that are looking for a relationship as well as causal hookup up on swipe apps. 

Using an app or website is not necessarily better than the other but it may be helpful to think about what you are looking for and to choose a site or an app depending on the type of person that particular platform attracts. I often recommend that people join more than one platform to increase their pool of people.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

Dating profiles are intimidating – they’re intimidating to create and they're even intimidating to read. Dating clients will ask me, “How can I trust that this is real?” And it is true…people have a tendency to answer personal questionnaires as they would like to be, not as they really are. 

We all want to put our best foot forward, especially when it comes to meeting someone new. So, it’s likely that there will be embellishments on dating profiles. Consider the profile similar to a first impression – while you aren’t getting the full impression of the person, you are seeing (typically) who they want to be or believe they can be if they aren’t that person already.

My advice here is to not jump to conclusions. Don’t assume that what you read in the profile is completely true, but don’t discount what the profile says because it seems to good to be true. So while the personality questionnaire may not be 100 percent accurate they may at least give some idea of who that person is or at least who they aspire to be.

Use the dating profile as a jumping-off point to get to know the person, not to judge who they are or aren’t based on the answers they filled out. 

Finding Your Perfect Match: More than a Questionnaire 

For many online dating sites, the questionnaire will allow you to connect with similarly minded people – those who have a high percentage of matching with you based on the answers that you filled out. 

The truth is, there is no foolproof way to succeed in finding the perfect match but there are definitely things that will increase your chances such as having a great profile, clarifying for yourself what you are looking for in a partner and how to assess others for that quality, having a positive mindset about dating, having a positive mindset about yourself, identifying your shortcoming when it comes to dating and taking steps to improve those things, and obviously being willing to go on lots of dates!

Don’t discount a potential match because your “match rating” is lower than others. Dating requires getting to know people – talking, listening, and seeing where your compatibility is outside of the questionnaire answers you both filled out. 

Your Dating Profile IS Your First Impression

You may get the opportunity to turn your matches into real-life dates, but the relationship ultimately starts from your profile. As mentioned before, dating profiles (creating and reading) are intimidating! Some of my tips for creating a standout dating profile are: 

  • Include good quality and thoughtfully chosen pictures. The pictures may be the only thing someone looks at – each picture should have a purpose that gives information about you (no selfie bathroom shots!!!!). It should also be easy to identify who you are in the photo (keep it simple, don’t include a bunch of group photos). For more tips on taking outstanding dating profile pictures, see: Denver Dating Coach: How to Get The Best Online Dating Profile Photo
  • Share something unique, interesting, and important. Give people enough interesting information in your profile that they have something for a conversation starter. Saying “I like dogs and beach volleyball” might be an easy way to plan that first date, but ultimately doesn’t share anything about who you are.
  • Don’t complain. I cannot stress this enough, don’t complain and especially don’t talk about how much you hate online dating in your profile (you’d be surprised at how often this happens). 

When you find a match – or someone you’re interested in getting to know a little more, you may have the opportunity to send them a message. When messaging others, ask a specific question or comment about their profile, don’t ever a start a conversation with nothing but a “hey.”

Avoid Appearing Desperate

Dating apps are often used for casual hookups and brief interactions – and when you are looking for more than just a one-night stand it can be hard to come off as fun and flirty when you know that ultimately what you want may not be what 99% of your matches are looking for. 

Be honest about what you are looking for in your profile, and then behave in ways that are consistent with what you want. If you want a serious relationship then don’t engage in behavior that is consistent with hook up culture – meeting up late at night, texting when drinking, etc.. Also remember that the main purpose of a first or second date is only to see if you’re interested in a second or third date. Relax and enjoy getting to know people without interrogating them about future plans on the first date to avoid coming off as desperate. Be patient, these things take time.

Beware of the Bright Red Flag 

The biggest red flag is someone that waits extended periods of time between responses (days to weeks). People that are committed to this process tend to be responsive and make themself available. People that are looking for a partner are not wanting a pen pal. Limit your messaging to a couple of days and then find a time to meet in person (in public), that way you don’t waste time messaging someone for weeks only to find out that there is no real connection when face to face.

Dealbreakers – What Matters Most

Dealbreakers are specific to each person. You need to decide what are YOUR dealbreakers are before you begin dating. Some people feel like a difference in politics is a dealbreaker where that is totally fine for someone else. Be thoughtful about what you are ok with and what will end up destroying a relationship in the long run. 

If you are looking for a serious relationship, a long-term commitment, you have to be honest with yourself about what works and doesn’t work for you. To say, “Oh, I can grow to love that about them,” or “It’s not that big of deal, really” will only hurt you in the long run. 

Dating More Than One Person at a Time

Your matches are lining up, you’re feeling pretty good about your prospects and the conversations that are unfolding – but is it okay to date more than one person at a time? How many people you choose to date at a time needs to be dependent on each person. If you tend to jump into relationships quickly and put all your eggs in one basket, you’re better off dating multiple people at once. If you tend to struggle to commit, and dating lots of people supports that avoidance, try dating one person at a time. 

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to go about online dating – show up as yourself and be honest with yourself throughout the process. When things start to feel like “too much” know it’s okay to walk away, and if things start to “fit” then move forward. The wonderful thing about dating is you get to choose how you’ll move forward or when you’ll walk away based on your wants and needs. 

Here’s to you and your online dating adventures!
Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT

 

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Online Marriage Counselor Denver Couples Therapy Premarital Counseling Online Family Therapy Postpartum Perinatal Denver Tech Center Therapist

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is a couples counselor, premarital counselor, therapist, and life coach who is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness.

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How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

Let Yourself Feel Loved

OVERCOMING INSECURITY | It's not uncommon for both women and men to feel insecure in a relationship from time to time. We often see emotional insecurity as an underlying issue to address with couples who come to us for marriage counseling, couples therapy, premarital counseling and relationship coaching. After all, when couples don't feel completely emotionally safe and secure with each other it tends to create conflict and problems in many other areas of their partnership. [For more on the importance of emotional safety and how it may be impacting YOUR relationship, access our free “How Healthy is Your Relationship” Quiz and my mini-couples coaching follow up video series.]

It's especially true for people in new relationships to have some anxiety, but even people in long-term relationships can worry about their partner's feelings for them sometimes. While very common, feeling insecure in your relationship can create problems — for both of you. 

Root Causes of Insecurity

If insecurity is an issue in your relationship — either for you, or your partner — you might be speculating about the root causes of insecurity and how to heal them. People can struggle to feel emotionally safe with their partner for a variety of reasons — sometimes due to their life experiences, but sometimes, due to things that have happened in the current relationship itself. 

Insecurity After Infidelity: Certainly being let down or betrayed by your partner in the past can lead you to struggle with trust in the present moment. Insecurity after infidelity or an emotional affair is very common. In these cases, the path to healing can be a long one. The person who did the betraying often needs to work very hard, for a long time, to show (not tell, but show) their partners that they can trust them.

Anxiety After Being Let Down Repeatedly: However, insecurities can also start to emerge after less dramatic betrayals and disappointments. Even feeling that your partner has not been emotionally available for you, has not been consistently reliable, or was there for you in a time of need, it can lead you to question the strength of their commitment and love. Trust is fragile: If your relationship has weathered storms, learning how to repair your sense of trust and security can be a vital part of healing. Often, couples need to go back into the past to discuss the emotional wounds they experienced with each other in order to truly restore the bond of safety and security. These conversations can be challenging, but necessary.

Insecurity Due to Having Been Hurt in the Past: Sometimes people who have had negative experiences in past relationships can feel insecure, due to having been traumatized by others. For some people, their very first relationships were with untrustworthy or inconsistent parents and that led to the development of insecure attachment styles. This can lead them to feel apprehensive or protective with anyone who gets close. However, even people with loving parents and happy childhoods can carry scars of past relationships, particularly if they lived through a toxic relationship at some point in their lives. It's completely understandable: Having been burned by an Ex can make it harder to trust a new partner, due to fears of being hurt again.

Long Distance Relationships: Certain types of relationships can lead people to feel less secure than they'd like to, simply due to the circumstances of the relationship itself. For example, you might feel more insecure if you're in a long-distance relationship.  Not being able to connect with your partner or see them in person all the time can take a toll on even the strongest relationship. Couples in long-distance relationships should expect that they will have to work a little harder than couples who are together day-to-day, in order to help each person to feel secure and loved. In these cases, carefully listening to each other about what both of you are needing to feel secure and loved is vital, as is being intentionally reliable and consistent.

Feeling Insecure When You're Dating Someone New: And, as we all know, early-stage romantic love is a uniquely vulnerable experience and often fraught with anxiety. Dating someone new is exciting, but it can also be intensely anxiety-provoking. In new (or new-ish) relationships where a commitment has not been established, not fully knowing where you stand with a new person that you really like is emotionally intense. If you're dating, or involved in a new relationship, you may need to deliberately cultivate good self-soothing and calming skills in order to manage the emotional roller coaster that new love can unleash. 

Feeling Insecure With a Withdrawn Partner: Interestingly, different types of relationship dynamics can lead to differences in how secure people feel. The same person can feel very secure and trusting in one relationship, but with a different person, feel suspicious, worried, and on pins and needles. Often this has to do with the relational dynamic of the couple.

For example, in relationships where one person has a tendency to withdraw, be less communicative, or is not good at verbalizing their feelings it can lead their partner to feel worried about what's really going on inside of them. This can turn into a pursue-withdraw dynamic that intensifies over time; one person becoming increasingly anxious and agitated about not being able to get through to their partner, and the withdrawn person clamping down like a clam under assault by a hungry seagull. However, when communication improves and couples learn how to show each other love and respect in the way they both need to feel safe and secure, trust is strengthened and emotional security is achieved.

Types of Insecurities

Emotional security (or lack of) is complex. In addition to having a variety of root causes, there are also different ways that insecurity manifests in people —and they all have an impact on your relationship. As has been discussed in past articles on this blog, people who struggle with low self esteem may find it hard to feel safe in relationships because they are anticipating rejection. The “insecure overachiever” may similarly struggle to feel secure in relationships if they're not getting the validation and praise they thrive on. 

For others, insecurity is linked to an overall struggle with vulnerability and perfectionism. People who feel like they need to be perfect in order to be loved can — subconsciously or not — try to hide their flaws. But, on a deep level, they know they're not perfect (no one is) and so that knowledge can lead to feelings of apprehension when they let other people get close to them. In these cases, learning how to lean into authentic vulnerability can be the path of healing. [More on this: “The Problem With Perfectionism”]

Sometimes people who are going through a particularly hard time in other parts of their lives can start to feel apprehensive about their standing in their relationship. For example, people who aren't feeling great about their career can often feel insecure when they're around people who they perceive as being more successful or accomplished than they are. This insecurity is heightened in the case of a layoff or unexpected job loss. If one partner in a relationship is killing it, and the other is feeling under-employed or like they're still finding their way, it can lead the person who feels dissatisfied with their current level of achievement to worry that their partner is dissatisfied with them too. 

Insecurities can take many forms, and emerge for a variety of reasons. However, when insecurity is running rampant the biggest toll it takes is often on a relationship. 

How Insecurity Can Ruin a Relationship

To be clear: Having feelings is 100% okay. Nothing bad is going to happen to you, or your relationship, or anyone else because you have feelings of anxiety or insecurity. The only time relationship problems occur as a result of feelings is when your feelings turn into behaviors.

If people who feel insecure, anxious, jealous or threatened don't have strategies to soothe themselves and address their feelings openly with their partner (and have those conversations lead to positive changes in the relationship), the feelings can lead to behaviors that can harm the relationship. Some people lash out in anger when they perceive themselves to be in emotional danger, or that their partner is being hurtful to them.  Often, people who feel insecure will attempt to control their partner's behaviors in efforts to reduce their own anxiety. Many insecure people will hound their partners for information about the situations they feel worried about. Still others will withdraw, pre-emptively, as a way of protecting themselves from the rejection they anticipate.

While all of these strategies are adaptive when you are in a situation where hurtful things are happening, (more on toxic relationships here) problems occur when these defensive responses flare up in a neutral situation. A common example of this is the scenario where one person repeatedly asks their partner if they're cheating on them because they feel anxious, when their partner is actually 100% faithful to them and has done nothing wrong. The insecure person might question their partner, attack their partner, check up on their partner, or be cold and distant due to their worries about being cheated on or betrayed — when nothing bad is actually happening. This leaves the person on the other side feeling hurt, controlled, rejected, vilified… or simply exhausted. 

If feelings of insecurity are leading to problematic behaviors in a relationship, over time, if unresolved, it can erode the foundation of your partnership. 

How to Help Someone Feel More Secure

It's not uncommon for partners of insecure people to seek support through therapy or life coaching, or couples counseling either for themselves or with their partners. They ask, “How do I help my wife feel more secure,” or “How do I help my husband feel more secure.” This is a great question; too often partners put the blame and responsibility for insecure feelings squarely on the shoulders of their already-anxious spouse or partner. This, as you can imagine, only makes things worse. 

While creating trust in a relationship is a two-way street, taking deliberate and intentional action to help your partner feel emotionally safe with you in the ways that are most important to him or her is the cornerstone of helping your insecure girlfriend, insecure boyfriend, or insecure spouse feel confident in your love for them. The key here is consistency, and being willing to do things to help them feel emotionally secure even if you don't totally get it. This is especially true of the origins of your partner's worry stem from early experiences of being hurt or betrayed by someone else. 

Tips to help your spouse feel more secure: 

  • Ask them what they need from you to feel emotionally safe and loved by you
  • Give that to them (over and over again, without being asked every time)
  • Rinse and repeat

How to Stop Being Insecure

Of course, it's very frustrating to partners who feel like they're not just true-blue, but doing everything they feel they can to help someone feel safe and secure… and yet insecurities persist. While partners of anxious people do need to try a little harder to help them feel secure, the person who struggles with insecurity needs to also take responsibility for their feelings and learn how to manage them effectively. Note: This doesn't mean not ever having worried or insecure feelings (feelings happen y'all), but rather, learning how to have feelings that don't turn into relationship-damaging behaviors.

Without the ability to soothe yourself, become grounded in the here and now, and get your emotional needs met by your partner (or yourself), unbridled insecurity can put a major strain on a relationship. But how? How do you manage insecurity? That's the million-dollar question, and that's why I've made it the topic of the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast! 

If you're struggling with insecurity in your relationship — either as the person who worries, or the one who's trying to reassure them — you'll definitely want to join me and my colleague Georgi Chizk, an Arkansas-based marriage counselor and family therapist who specializes in attachment therapy as we discuss this topic. We're going deep into the topic of insecurity in relationships, and how to overcome it. Listen and learn more about:

  • The root causes of insecurity
  • The surprising ways insecurity can impact a relationship
  • Practical strategies to help someone else feel more secure
  • Actionable advice to help yourself feel less insecure
  • How trust and security are healed and strengthened
  • Concrete tools couples can use to banish insecurity from their relationship

We hope that this discussion helps you both overcome insecurity, and create the strong, happy relationship you deserve.

With love and respect, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby & Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT

P.S. Pro Tip: Once you listen to this podcast, consider sharing it with your partner. Doing so can be an easy, low-key way to start an important, and necessary conversation about how to increase the emotional safety and security you both feel in your relationship. xo, LMB

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How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Juniore, “Panique”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Boundaries in Relationships

Boundaries in Relationships

SETTING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES

Relationships, by definition, include two people. But sadly, there are times when people forget to take care of themselves because they prioritize others so much. They may slowly feel exhausted and lost, and this affects the energy in their relationships. However, you can prevent this from happening by learning how boundaries in relationships can be beneficial.

In this interview with Denver Therapist and boundary expert, Kathleen Stutts we discuss the significance of building healthy boundaries in your relationships. Kathleen gives us her thoughts on how to maintain lasting relationships with others while respecting yourself. She also talks about the different signs of having poor boundaries in relationships.

Listen to the full episode to know how to set healthy boundaries in your relationships!

In This Episode: Boundaries in Relationships. . .

  • Learn the importance of having healthy boundaries in your relationships.
  • Learn the common misconceptions and fears about building boundaries.
  • Understand why it's difficult for you to develop your boundaries.
  • Know how you can help the people you care about while taking care of yourself.
  • Know the different signs that you're in an unhealthy relationship.
  • See examples of healthy boundaries in relationships.
  • Discover how to handle people who disrespect your boundaries.

Episode Highlights

What Are Boundaries?

For Kathleen, setting up boundaries is a “healthy and clear understanding of what you need to do to take care of yourself, what you're in control of and what you're not in control of.”

There are a lot of misconceptions about boundaries. Usually, people associate them with conflict or relationship barriers. However, it's the complete opposite, as boundaries nurture and protect relationships.

Many people are afraid of setting up boundaries in their relationships. Here are two reasons why:

These fears push people not to build boundaries in their relationships. However, they are just products of misconceptions of these limits. 

Why You Need Healthy Boundaries in Your Relationships

We need to develop healthy boundaries in our relationships to honor and respect ourselves

To be a good and decent person means having boundaries in your relationships. When there are no boundaries in your relationship, you're just stretching yourself thin. You'll end up burned out and exhausted.

When we become assertive and build boundaries, we reach a compromise with people. For Kathleen, letting your foot down means “we're taking care of ourselves while respecting other people.”

Being a people pleaser and taking other's responsibility as your own will only leave you exhausted. You'll always feel anxious maintaining that sense of harmony within your relationship, even at the cost of your stability. 

Kathleen reminds us that it is our responsibility to take care of ourselves. We must take care of the things we can directly control and let go of the things that we cannot. 

Examples of Setting Boundaries in Relationships

It is difficult to see someone you care about getting hurt or having a hard time. However, it does not mean that you should shoulder their responsibilities or that you owe them. Remember that a healthy and loving relationship and setting your boundaries aren't mutually exclusive. 

Kathleen tells us that “It feels bad to see someone hurting if you're a good, kind person and you have empathy, but acting on that is not always the right or nice thing to do.”

In moments like this, you can do the following:

You can Show Them Support. Instead of owning what someone else is going through, you can instead let them know they're not alone. You can be supportive while establishing your boundaries in that moment.

Offer Help. Offering help if you feel they need it, is always on the table. However, only commit to assistance you can provide. Keep in mind that you also have boundaries to keep.

By being transparent with your limitations, you can help and support the people you care about while also taking care of yourself. Just as Kathleen says, “The beautiful thing about boundaries is that it is not really requesting something of somebody, it is letting them know what to expect from you.”

Signs of Unhealthy Boundaries

Boundaries must be present in your relationship, and it goes both ways. You must know the limits of your boundaries, and the person in your relationship must realize their boundaries as well.

Here are the common signs that you have unhealthy relationship boundaries:

You're taking other's responsibility as your own. 

When people you care about have a hard time, you step in and do everything for them. This action is a sign that you have unhealthy boundaries in your relationship because you're taking the opportunity from them to learn and grow.

Kathleen adds that “When we try to rescue people from them, we're taking away, we're violating some of their rights—their right to feel bad.”

Others don't respect your boundaries.

You must be aware if another person is always stepping on or over your boundaries. It's okay to follow through with your limits and let others know what they're doing wrong.

You need boundaries to establish what is and isn't good or okay for you. You can't brush off instances like these when your boundaries are disrespected or overlooked, they'll only get more frequent and hurt more in the end.

You might not speak up because you're afraid of conflict and/or making people uncomfortable.

When people have wronged you or have stepped on your boundaries, you should let them know right away. Keeping silent about what you feel will only make things worse. You and your relationship will suffer.

Remember that setting up boundaries does not mean conflict. You must steer away from this common misconception. 

What to Do When Someone Crosses a Line

However, there would be times when people would disregard your boundaries. You must be wary of these instances, especially if they happen more than once. If it happens almost always, then you might be in a toxic relationship.

Here are the things you can do when such situations happen:

  • Let them know that they're disrespecting your boundaries.
  • Show them there are consequences to crossing your boundaries.
  • Reach a compromise. 
  • If following through with limitations or the situation is too much, consider working with a coach or a therapist.  

Building Healthy Boundaries: Where to Start?

Kathleen has helped many of her clients build healthy relationship boundariesLearning how to create boundaries is a process. You cannot impose them in your relationships, especially if you were unaware of their importance. 

Luckily, Kathleen shared some of the things you have to consider in learning how to build healthy boundaries. Here are some of them:

Understand why you're feeling this way. Have some time to reflect and ask yourself why you're feeling anxious, exhausted, or inadequate.

Here are some of the questions that may guide you in your introspection:

  • Why do I feel this way?
  • Why do I struggle with standing up for myself?
  • Why am I feeling bitter, resentful, or angry?
  • What makes me exhausted and burned out?

Develop a sense of self-compassion. For Kathleen, this means stepping back and looking at the whole picture while being compassionate with yourself.

By seeing the bigger picture, you learn why building boundaries in your relationship is complicated. It may be because this is how the people in your life taught you to treat your limits. 

Learn how to self-validate. Once you know why you have difficulty building boundaries, you must remind yourself that what you're feeling is okay and valid. 

By learning these things, you get to shift your perspectives, seeing relationships and boundaries in a new light. Hopefully, you can start standing up for yourself and make healthy boundaries slowly. 

In the end, for Kathleen, building boundaries means being authentic. “That means that we're opening up the opportunity to have intimacy and closeness with that person.”, Kathleen says. 

Sometimes we avoid building boundaries for many reasons, but you're developing deeper and meaningful relationships by having limits. 

Resources

Kathleen Stutts has shared with us the importance of building healthy boundaries in your relationships. What are the things you picked up in this interview? How did this interview change your perspective on building boundaries? Don't hesitate to share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below.

Did you like this interview? Subscribe to us now to discover how to live a life full of love, success, and happiness! 

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Boundaries in Relationships

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: edapollo, “Relearn Me”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. 

[Relearn Me by edapollo ft. Akacia plays] 

That was the song Relearn Me by edapollo. I'm not quite sure how to pronounce it. But the song is gorgeous. And it's the perfect, I thought, introduction to our topic today because today we are going to be talking about how to create and maintain healthy boundaries in relationships. And I know that this is a topic of great importance because we hear about it all the time from our therapy and coaching clients. Here at Growing Self, a lot of people are working on this. And we've also had so many listener questions come through on Instagram, Facebook, on the blog at growingself.com around how to establish healthy boundaries in a way that allows you to have positive, high-quality relationships and maintain really good connections with others. 

That is where we're going on today's episode of the podcast. And I am so pleased to include in our conversation today, my dear, dear friend and colleague at Growing Self, Kathleen Stutz. Kathleen and I have worked together for many years. And Kathleen is a true expert on the subject of healthy boundaries. She is a licensed professional counselor here. And she also does team training for us from time to time. And we have people from all over our group come and sit at Kathleen's feet to learn how it's done. And today, she is sharing her wisdom with you. So Kathleen, thank you so much for being here.

Kathleen Stutz: Hi, thank you for having me. I'm happy to be here. 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: I can't wait to talk with you about this topic of how to create healthy boundaries. I know that you frequently do this work with your clients. Again, you train others around this. But I can also attest to somebody who has had a personal relationship with you for many years, that you live it.

Kathleen Stutz: Thank you. Thanks very much. I take that as a very, very good compliment. That means a lot to me. 

Dr.Lisa: It's good. You really—you're like a role model for me. I'm like, “I wish I could be more like Kathleen.” Because you have so much clarity around what you can do, what you can't do. And when you say no to me, like I feel happy anyway. There's something about the way you say it.

Kathleen: Definitely one of my passion topics, a topic I'm passionate about. And I love to talk about it. So I'm happy to be here. 

Define Boundaries

Dr. Lisa: That's wonderful. Well, what do you say we just, we take it from the top? Because I think sometimes just the term boundaries gets thrown around all over the place to mean all kinds of things. So from your perspective, what do boundaries mean? What is a boundary in the sense of, you know, what we do? Because sometimes, like an aside, sometimes I think people use the word boundaries. It's like telling people—telling other people what to do can be a boundary, or like, yeah. Like don't say this to me, it could be like a boundary. But what do you think of as being like a boundary? A reasonable boundary? Right.

Kathleen: Right. You're so right. I can't tell you how often I hear professionally, but personally, too, people have so many different, either negative associations with boundaries about you know that’s a barrier. It means that something is wrong. It means conflict, or just complete, you know, they come by it, honestly. But just misunderstandings about what boundaries are. So, to me, a boundary is, it's this healthy and clear understanding of what you need to do to take care of yourself, what you're in control of, and what you're not in control of. 

It’s just this healthy, clear understanding of the things that I can empower myself around versus the things I need to practice radical acceptance around or letting go of. So having that understanding between you and any person in your life, in any situation. I know that sounds very abstract, right? But that's because we can use boundaries and we can assert boundaries in so many different ways, in different situations. And they do change and flux in different relationships as needed. Right? So we can get into the details of it more. But from a starting point, that's sort of the general way that I think about boundaries. 

Boundary Issues

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Thank you for clarifying that. Yeah okay. So then, let's start with this other question. Why do you think so many people, particularly women, but many men too, really struggle to have that clarity that you describe? Then also communicate that effectively to others that just the whole thing feels incredibly—to people? Why? Why is that so hard?

Kathleen: I think it's because, and I'm going to say we because I think this is a human experience, you know? I think it's because we're afraid of losing people, honestly. And whenever I talk with people about what is so scary about boundaries, that's always where they go. Now ultimately, “I'm afraid people won't like me.” “I'm afraid it's going to cause an argument” or “I'll lose that relationship.” 

Because we are wired to attach and we need people as the social creatures that we are, I think the fear of putting those relationships at risk is what underlies the fear of setting boundaries and being assertive. Because there are misconceptions around what boundaries are, what assertiveness is, and what it can do for us. People think that it is a threat to those relationships rather than something that protects them, which I think is a misunderstanding—an unfortunate misunderstanding. But ultimately, that fear of losing people I think, is really what makes it scary. 

Dr. Lisa: That is so insightful. There's almost a subconscious thing. It's if I say no, or if I ask for what I need, it's going to damage my relationship with you. You're saying that is a misunderstanding. This actually brings me to another question. So one of the things that I loved so much, I love so many things about your team training that you did with us on this topic. But you had this saying in your presentation, which is that “Good, decent people set boundaries.”You have this as like a concept. And I wanted to ask you, why do you think it's so important to teach people, to teach our clients that good people set boundaries? 

Kathleen: Wow. Because one of the misunderstandings that's so prevalent around assertiveness and boundary setting is that it is aggressive, or mean, or even overly confident, or bully-ish and that you don't set boundaries, if you're nice. Or you can't be nice to people and be liked by people, and be assertive. I think what's happening there is that there's a confusion between assertiveness and aggressiveness. You know, you mentioned earlier people using the idea of boundaries is telling people, “You can't do that to me”, or “You can't say that to me.” That's not that's not really assertiveness. That's a little bit of bullying, actually. And so, I think, all of the confusion between assertiveness and aggressiveness leads to the idea that you can't be nice and set boundaries, which just simply isn't true. And as a matter of fact, to be nice, I think you really even need to set boundaries. Right? 

If I'm not setting boundaries, I'm going to grow and I think we're all good. I'm sure many people have experienced this personally. We grow tired, we get burnt out, we grow resentful. This can be in our personal lives, in our professional lives. We're not very nice, and we don't show up as our best selves. We don't have anything left to give the people that that we do care about. Right? So I think that the misunderstanding, or the confusion between assertiveness and aggression is the underlying cause there. But that in fact, to be nice, we actually need to set boundaries. 

Setting Boundaries in Relationships

Dr. Lisa: Oh, I love the way you say that. Like you're not doing anybody any favors by not setting boundaries. That really when you don't set boundaries, it's impossible to show up as I mean—I hate to use this phrase but this is what's coming to mind—but as like your best self in relationships because you're going to be exhausted, and resentful, and depleted, if you're not able to know what your limits are and communicate those. So that's part of having positive healthy relationships is actually being good at boundaries. Those two things go together. 

Kathleen: Yes. As a matter of fact, right? What can happen is if we are—if we tend to be people pleasers, and have anxiety in our relationships around that. Say around how our relationships are going, being liked by people, making sure there's no conflict, that there's always harmony, that we’re in a good space. If you find yourself feeling worried or anxious about that, and not saying “no,” or setting boundaries, because of that, what that actually tends to lead toward are the very, very fears and problems in those relationships that we're so scared of happening. Right? It kind of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Personal Boundaries

Dr. Lisa: Oh. Yeah, I can see that. Well, and another theme that I'm hearing as we're talking is this concept of assertiveness. We could probably talk about assertiveness versus aggressiveness. But first, you've used that word a lot. What do you mean by assertive? 

Kathleen: We are assertive when we treat ourselves with respect, when we respect our basic human rights and means, while also respecting the rights and needs of others. When we do that, we're being assertive. We're also opening up the opportunity to have clear and open communication, and compromise, and negotiation with the other person on how we can achieve that win-win where we can both be treated with respect and both take care of ourselves in that situation. But in a nutshell, assertiveness is when we're taking care of ourselves while respecting other people.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Kathleen: Aggression, on the other hand, is when we are taking care of ourselves while not respecting the basic rights, or needs, or boundary of the other people in this situation. 

Dr. Lisa: That makes so much sense. I've never thought about it that way. That the core aggression is taking care of you without thinking about the person on the other end of it. 

Kathleen: Yes. On the other end of that spectrum, when we're being passive, when we're taking care of others and putting their needs first to the detriment or neglect of our own. Right? So we kind of end up with this sort of continuum here. With passive on one end, aggressive on the far other end. Assertiveness is that sweet spot—that balance right in the middle, where we can say, “I'm okay and you're okay”, and hold space for each other's feelings and needs, knowing that we're each responsible for ourselves. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Oh, and I'm glad that you just use that word—that responsibility—because I'm hearing that to be assertive, it requires a high degree of like, self-awareness, respect for self, respect for others. There's like this responsibility component. Whereas, I kind of got this sense when you were talking about the passive perspective that it's people like, and well-intentioned, like really legitimately doing what they feel is best and trying to prioritize relationships. Maybe you're trying to be the “nice person”, but they're in some ways, like, by over giving or not having almost like having more respect for other people than themselves. There's like this abdication of responsibility a little bit. Have you found that? Yeah.

Kathleen: Yeah, absolutely.. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves. Just that in itself is a new way of looking at things, I think sometimes. But absolutely. It's kind of like, if you're at work for example, and you try to do everything, you know? You try to do everything all at once, and you try to do everyone's job because you want to be really great at what you do, you end up not doing some of the basic things you really need to to get to, or a lot of things fall through the cracks. Right? Because we can't do it all. In fact, and this analogy, taking care of other people's basic needs and rights is not really your responsibility. Because it's not really in your control and it's not realistic. So trying to do it means that while you might have the best of intentions, you end up neglecting this core sort of foundational responsibility over here, which is you. That is in your control. Right? With the best of intentions. With that really important piece that sort of the foundation of the rest of your life gets neglected. 

Personal Boundaries Examples

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, yeah. Well tell us more about the emotional experience of having that kind of, to use your word passive orientation—because I think that people who sort of leaned toward the aggressive end of the continuum are probably not the ones listening to this podcast. Except to that, I mean I have seen this as a therapist and as a coach, that sometimes people who have a really passive orientation can get to a certain point where they become aggressive.They kind of swing back and forth a little bit. 

For the benefit of somebody listening to this podcast, and trying to figure out where they are on that continuum. I mean, what have you heard your clients say that maybe come to you for help with boundaries? With who, or without maybe even realizing it, doing a lot of the things that keep them stuck on that passive end of the spectrum? I mean, like, what does that feel like? But also, what do you see them doing that is unintentionally creating that situation that… before they have the benefit of working with you, Kathleen, to get to get much better at this. But like, where is the starting point? 

Kathleen: Let me say that I can answer this question from a personal space. Right? Because the reason I'm so passionate about boundaries is because I don't always—I don't—I'd love to say that, “Yeah, this is what it's like.” Every, all the wonderful compliments you gave me at the beginning of our talk. But I'm always working on boundaries. I don't always set the best boundaries. And I've been a people pleaser, and can be a people pleaser. Right? So I… this is important to me. And I like to help people with it because I'd like to think I have some empathy around what it's like. Right? So whether it's from a personal place, or what clients have shared what, what family members have shared, friends, right? 

I think that being in that passive place where we're not taking care of ourselves feels really exhausting, and it feels really anxious. Anxiety comes to mind a lot because we're scrambling around trying to manage things that we don't have control over, trying to prevent the outcomes that we're so afraid of happening. So anxiety comes up a lot, and exhaustion and inadequacy. If I had to pick three big feeling words, those would be the three. Right? Because never enough, never good enough. Again, because we're trying to do the impossible, quite frankly. Right? So I think that's how people feel. 

To give you a short answer, there are a lot of emotions in that: guilt, shame, resentment, and anger as well. Because what we're doing, what it looks like, is now saying yes when you really need to say no. Stretching yourself too thin and taking on too much. I think a lot of those things that we might think of off the top of our heads when we think about people pleasing. Also, it looks like reading every little nonverbal cue, and your significant other when you think they might be in a bad mood and thinking, “Oh, no, that's not okay. I need to fix that.” Or keeping a long to-do list and beating yourself up at the end of the day because you didn’t manage to get enough things done. Aso help your neighbor, and your best friend, and run your parents’ errands for them. You’d do everything on your list to be that, be that exceptionally functioning person helps everybody right. 

Dr. Lisa: And showers.

Kathleen: And showers. Yeah, yeah. It also looks like I'm not speaking up too. Right? Not being so scared of having direct communication because you're so afraid of conflict, or making, or someone else feeling uncomfortable or unhappy, possibly with you that we don't speak up. We stay silent. We stuff our feelings and sweep things under the rug. Those are just a few examples that I think a lot of people can relate to. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. No, definitely. I can certainly relate to the part abou—I think the guilt is always what gets me. That, like, I could do it? If I rearranged some of my personal priorities, I could do this for you, and therefore I should. Yeah.

Kathleen: Oh, that's a great example. 

Dr. Lisa: That's my Achilles heel, for sure. Okay, so—oh, you're about to say something? 

Kathleen: Oh, just just that's such a great example. Just because we can do something doesn't mean that we should. I think that even that idea that “I could,” even if it means, right, that I'm not taking care of myself, or I'm going to have these negative consequences as a result, but I could. I could do it so therefore, I should. I think, right, is one of those not necessarily accurate beliefs that a lot of us hold. Isn't it also connected to the idea that if somebody else needs us, needs help, is unhappy with us, or even just experiencing any kind of negative or uncomfortable emotion? That sort of trumps up most other things. Isn't that something that I think is sort of in the background, as a belief, or a feeling even? When we want to people please, when we feel guilty? 

Boundary Violations in A Relationship

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. I'm hearing in what you just said. It occurred to me a couple of minutes ago, when you're talking about the anxiety component of that passive orientation. There's some kind of relationship here with codependence and having trouble setting boundaries. I think I'm hearing this. Is that true? 

Kathleen: Oh, sure. Yeah. I mean, codependency is another one of those terms that is misunderstood. Sometimes. That makes sense because it is a broad term that can refer to a lot of different things. Totally non-scientific, by the way. Codependence is nowhere in the DSM. It's a self help term, I guess. But I find it helpful to simplify it and think of codependency as a lack of healthy, clear boundaries in your relationships. So definitely, right?

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Kathleen: I think, for me, I literally define codependency as a boundary issue. 

Healthy Relationship Boundaries

Dr. Lisa: Well, it really is. It's that, you know, “Where do I stop and you start?” That “What is my responsibility and what is your responsibility?” “Can I function independently, even if…” like going back to your point just a minute ago, “even if you're upset, and not feeling good?” or, “Is that maybe not actually my problem to solve?” Yeah.

Kathleen: Right, absolutely. There are all these beliefs that we sort of take for granted that are at the root of codependency, of not having clear boundaries. That your feelings are mine to solve, that having uncomfortable feelings is just catastrophic. We've got to do something about it. That if I can do something, I should do something. None of those are actually necessarily always true. This is the part I'm just thinking out loud here. This is the part in our conversation where I have this feeling that people are wondering, “Yeah. But that sounds pretty cold”, or, “How do you be there and support somebody that you care about? Aren't their feelings your responsibility if you care about them? Or shouldn't you care about their feelings?” Those kinds of questions. 

I think it's just a good time to say that you can care about someone—what they're feeling, what they're going through. If they're struggling, you can even show up for them and support them without taking ownership, or responsibility for their feelings or situation, while having clear healthy boundaries. That those things are not exclusive. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. What an important message. That you can care very much about how somebody is feeling, and even help them in healthy ways, but without taking on their problems as your own. That's huge.

Kathleen: Yeah. Look, I understand it's easier to talk about that than it is to do, as so many things are. 

Dr. Lisa: Right. 

Kathleen: Having healthy boundaries and being assertive while still caring for people and supporting them requires a lot of self-awareness, and mindfulness, and a lot of emotional regulation. To be able to feel your feelings and feel empathy, or concern, or worry, or for this person that's in your life from whomever they might be. Hold those feelings, carry them with you without them taking over, and sort of becoming the driver in the driver's seat. Feeling those feelings, but still showing up in your behavior in your words with assertiveness and healthy boundaries. 

How to Set Boundaries in a Relationship

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well, as you brought up, Kathleen, very much easier to talk about this than it is to actually put it into practice. I mean, I know that the path of growth in this area is far beyond the scope of what can be learned through a podcast. Right? I mean, I know that you have worked as a therapist and as a coach, for, I mean, years sometimes with people who are really working to develop these skills. So I just want to say that to people listening, because sometimes I feel like I am all for self-help and kind of advice and sharing ideas. 

I think sometimes people feel like if they heard it, or like, “Oh, this is what Kathleen said. So I should be able to do this.” Like it was easy. I don't want anybody to feel badly if they can't just magically do these things that Kathleen is sharing. Okay, this is a growth process.

Kathleen, if you were to start with a client as either like a life coach, or a therapist who is really working specifically on boundaries, what would you imagine the arc of the work would look like with that person? Like what kinds of things would you guys be working on or talking about first? Then how would that evolve over time? Not that you have to talk through every moment of the growth process, everybody's different. But like, what are some of the starting places that you've experienced with clients? 

Kathleen: Gosh. I think that one of the starting places is probably because if we struggle with assertiveness, we tend to beat ourselves up, quite a bit. Right? Compassion—self-compassion is in short supply. So one of the starting points is really understanding, “Why do I feel this way?”, “Why do I struggle with standing up for myself?”, “Why am I feeling resentful, jealous, bitter, angry, burnt out, guilty?”, “Why am I feeling that, and where did I learn these kinds of… just this way of showing up in my relationships?” Because it's important, self-compassion is stepping back and looking at the whole context, considering the full picture. To see yourself as with compassion. Like, “I learned this stuff, this was passed on to me. I learned to think about relationships this way I learned, this is how I need to be for people to treat me well or to get my needs met. These are the sort of unspoken rules that were taught to me about being a nice person, or finding love.” Right? And so that's usually where we start. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, there's this whole exploration process of unpacking. Like, “how do I feel?” “Why do I feel this way?” “Where did these beliefs come from?” So there's just, like a whole, like self-discovery is the word that's coming to mind, in a very compassionate way. That “how do I make sense?”

Kathleen: Yeah, and self-validation too. Like these feelings make sense. It's okay—not only is it okay and valid—and I'm still a good person and a nice person. But it makes sense too. That I'm angry or resentful. Those are the big feelings that come up a lot when we aren't setting boundaries that we then have feelings about. Even so, it becomes this negative snowball. So a lot of validation. 

Also, a lot of—this is one of the other sort of starting areas because they kind of do overlap. Surprising—surprises, I guess I'll just call it surprises. People are often surprised to learn new perspectives on this. Like the idea that we can be nice and assertive, or that we need to be assertive in order to be nice. Just even that process of shifting your paradigm, your perspective, and looking at boundaries, and assertiveness, and relationships in new and different ways. It can become sort of this eye opening experience. And I think—I don't think—I have seen what a relief it can be. 

Emotional Boundaries

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, these new ideas can be so liberating. I'm thinking of a moment in my own life, where I felt like I'd been struck by lightning. It was this idea. I think, probably from my work and becoming a therapist, potentially. But I think also supported by like, the whole Montessori, and we Montessori families are very much around this idea. But the idea of like, that somebody else's emotional experience, like a painful emotional experience, can actually be an incredibly positive thing. Because if they feel badly, then they become motivated to do their growth work, or healing, or learn, or change something. That if I am trying to like rescue, and fix, and make it better, and overstep, and whatever, that I'm actually depriving them of the opportunity to have that motivation and to have that kind of self-directed growth. Like if I take away their natural consequences. 

That idea totally changed my life. And I think, made it a lot easier for me to set boundaries, personally. Just going back to what you're saying. And I hadn't thought about that, until you just mentioned those surprises. And I'm sure that they're very different for different people. But that was a huge one. For me this idea that pain is positive. Yeah. That changed a lot of things for me. So you're saying in your work with clients, you help them kind of work through those old beliefs and find new ones that are liberating in similar ways? Maybe? 

Kathleen: Absolutely. And that is such a good one. Right?

Dr. Lisa: For me, yes. Yeah. 

Kathleen: Yeah, I think I've definitely had that in my own way. I had that moment too, where I came to that emotional understanding. Not just intellectual understanding of… those really difficult feelings are good. They can be good. They're definitely necessary. That when we try to rescue people from them, we’re taking away, we're violating some of their rights. Their right to feel bad. Go through that growth process. A good—what is this—a metaphor that I found at some point and love and use sometimes is that of the butterfly in the cocoon. I don't know if you've heard this one but… 

Dr. Lisa: I don't think so. Tell me.

Kathleen: Your cats have heard the story. They would like to tell us their thoughts on this, that is setting boundaries with them. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, how do you set boundaries with cats?

Kathleen: To be continued, right. But do you know, when a butterfly—when a caterpillar has changed into a butterfly and is ready to break free of its cocoon, it will struggle to sort of shed that cocoon, and break free, and fly away. If we were to stumble across that and say, “Oh, wow. That butterfly is struggling, it needs help. I'm going to rescue it. I'm going to help it because it feels good for me, and I'm going to do that.” We steal away from the butterfly, the opportunity to strengthen its wings through that natural process, that flow process, that challenging process. It won't be ready to fly and it will possibly not make it. Right? It's at risk, it’s vulnerable because it hasn't gone through those literal growing pains. Right?

Dr. Lisa: You're saying that that's like actually how the butterflies muscles develop is through that exercise of liberating itself from the chrysalis. I did not know that. But what a perfect metaphor. That if you're like, “Oh, I'll save you.” Then the butterfly then like, “Thanks!” And crashes to the ground. Right? 

Kathleen: Like yeah, right. It feels good to help. It feels good for us to help people. It feels bad to see someone's if you're a good kind person and you have empathy. But acting on that is not always the right or nice thing to do for others or possibly for yourself too. Yeah, so that’s a good example. 

Examples of Healthy Boundaries

Dr. Lisa: This is such an important idea. I also—just knowing my listeners that are very practical folks—we are, and if we don't talk about this, Kathleen, we're going to get questions asking us. Can you please give us some examples of healthy boundaries in action? What does this look like? We should talk about this now to just go ahead and get out of the way. 

Kathleen: All right. Well, let's start with this example that earlier that we're talking about just now, which is maybe seeing someone that we care about struggle. How do we care and support with healthy boundaries? That looks like—I'm just full of metaphors today but let's imagine that they're swimming, and I'm gonna get practical and real here in just a second. So let's imagine that they're swimming in choppy waters and struggling. If we jump in there with them, right? We might both go down. 

In that case, how would you support them? You might throw them a lifesaver, or perhaps they're, I don't know, swimming in a triathlon. You might stand on the sidelines and cheer them on, see if they need anything that you can give them. With that, having healthy boundaries might sound like, “I'm so sorry that you're going through this. I can see this is really difficult for you. I hate to see you in pain.” You know, empathy. “Is there anything I can do for you?”, “What can I do for you?” At that point, you may or may not be able to give that thing to them that they're asking for. That depends, and we—the assertiveness continues on from there—we can talk about that. How to say no assertively, and so forth. But supporting someone looks like, supporting them from the sidelines. 

Respecting Boundaries in a Relationship

Dr. Lisa: Yes, and offering to help in the way that you can. But I'm also hearing like the next thing here. So that would be like one example of setting a boundary. But I think like what I hear a lot from my clients, and I'm sure you do too, ss this question around, “Well, I've set a boundary with someone and now they're doing the thing anyway.” So like, going back to your example, you say, “Yeah, let me know how I can help you, friend.” 

The friend doesn't maybe say this, but they do start calling you at 11 o'clock at night, sobbing hysterically, and wanting to tell you all about everything, and texting you like nine times a day, and being annoyed with you when you don't respond right back. Or asking you to do things that are actually starting to interfere with your life and ability. You're like, so I'm imagining Kathleen would say being appropriately assertive would be like, “You know? 11 is pretty late for me. I'm usually in bed at that time. I'm happy to talk with you when I'm free. Can I call you on the way home from work? Sometimes in the afternoon, I'm in the car anyway.” You have this nice conversation. And the next day, your phone rings at 11:30 at night. I thought, “What would Kathleen do?” Because that's the thing that I hear a lot about my clients is like, “Well, I told my mother-in-law to not talk to me that way anymore”, or “I told so-and-so to not do this.” I think people sometimes feel that setting that boundary is like requesting something of someone else. Then when that somebody doesn't do that something else then they're like, “what do I do?” 

Kathleen: That they’re still stuck and feeling helpless. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. So like, what's your take on that aspect of it? So like, “Please don't call me at 11.” 

Kathleen: Well. First of all, that was a great example—the way that you verbalize that was beautiful. Right? But they keep calling anyway. You got to, when that happens… the beautiful thing about boundaries is that it is not really requesting something of somebody. It is letting them know what to expect from you. This is what I'm going to do and this is what I'm not going to do. 

Dr. Lisa: There it is. 

Kathleen: Right? So if they're not respecting the initial boundary, and they continue to call you at 11:30. “I asked you not to call me that late because I'm usually in bed by then. I know that you're going through a really difficult time, I'm not able to talk at that time. Here are the—here's when I can support you, or I will call you during this time. If you keep calling me at 11:30, I’m gonna have to…” and then you can fill in the blank with a boundary that you feel you can follow through. 

I think that's really important with setting boundaries is that whatever you choose, it's something that you know, you can stick to. Whatever that is, wherever you are with that is okay. So maybe it's, “I'm gonna have to turn my phone off at night.” Or it may be something a little bit, let's say, more drastic. “I'm not going to be able to talk with you if you don't respect this boundary.” It depends on the person and the situation. If you have somebody who's really actually getting angry with you, and criticizing you because you didn't text back right away, or you're still not picking up the phone at 11:30, even when you asked them to call at that time. That's a pretty difficult situation. 

I just want to validate that if you're experiencing something like that, that's a pretty toxic relationship. Those are harder to be assertive in. It's giving you information. When someone doesn't respect your boundaries, it's giving you information about if that relationship is healthy for you. So I just want to context that.

Keeping Boundaries in a Relationship

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. No. That's good to say that. That's actually a sign of an unhealthy relationship is like when you say, “Please don't do this” or, “Please respect me in this area.” Somebody continues not just to do it, but gets upset with you for setting boundaries. Like, you should actually be paying attention to that is what I'm hearing, you say.

Kathleen: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. That's a red flag. To answer your question directly, we set boundaries. When they're not respected, we need to up the ante and set a boundary that's, if you want to call it a little further out, if you will. Let them know, not to be patronizing, but just as you would be disciplining a child, “If you don't do this, here's the next consequence.” So, “If you don't stop calling me in the middle of the night, I'm gonna have to shut off my phone.” “If you don't stop talking to me that way, I'm gonna have to take a break from our relationship for a while.” Let them know what it is going to be. If you're having trouble upping the ante, so to speak, or finding a boundary that you feel you can follow through with, or struggling with a difficult person like this, that's something to work with a coach or counselor. Because it's pretty difficult at that level.

Dr. Lisa: It really is. I think also—many people experience these kinds of dynamics with their families. So it's sort of people that you're… it's hard to like, and it can be done. I mean, some people limit relationships with certain family members, and it's a positive thing. But it can be a sticky situation for many. So,but that's good advice. 

How to Set Healthy Boundaries in Relationships

Oh my gosh. We could talk about so many different aspects of this, Kathleen, but I want to reiterate what I'm hearing you say, which is setting boundaries is not about controlling anybody else. It is about deciding what you're going to do, and what you're okay with, and how you're going to communicate that. You being responsible for your actions. That we can't actually control others. 

Kathleen: Exactly. Right. Healthy boundaries, non-codependent boundaries are assertive boundaries, rather than passive or aggressive ones. Or about taking care of yourself and making sure everybody knows what that's gonna look like. It's not about bargaining with people, or getting certain reactions out of them, or even asking things of them. Even when we compromise, again, that is, “Well, here's where I can meet you. Where can you meet me? Is there a place that overlaps?”

Setting Boundaries in Romantic Relationships

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. So much good stuff. Well, and I want to be respectful of your time. Do you have time to tackle a little listener question with me  for a couple of minutes?

Kathleen: Sure Okay. 

Dr. Lisa: So with all of these things in mind, we had someone get in touch. I'm not sure if it was through Instagram, it may have been. It may have been through the blog at growingself.com.

But this person writes, “My hope is to be able to have a healthy relationship where I'm not sabotaging things or letting my anxiety ruin it. But a big piece of this is me getting better, and my ability to maintain healthy boundaries, and also be comfortable asking people to meet my needs, while at the same time being able to meet theirs. 

What are a couple of things that I could do to get better around the boundary aspect of this?” Just as I read this question out loud to you, my immediate reaction is that this is not an answerable kind of question. This is, like, enter into this growth process that will probably take a while. Is that your reaction to this question? Or am I—maybe there is an easy answer. I don’t know.

Kathleen: Based on what this person is saying. I'm hearing that sabotaging relationships and anxiety. So I think I'm hearing—they're saying that their anxiety around asking for what they need, setting boundaries, etcetera, there might be other stuff there, creates the sabotage. So this is a complicated, multi-layered.

That being said, though, maybe this is because I've been reading Brené Brown. Maybe it's because it’s a quote that I saw earlier today. I wish I could pull it up real quick. But what's coming to my mind is that when we set boundaries assertively, which is so nice, and kind, and compassionate, and all of that good stuff. We are being authentic. Right? That means that we're opening up the opportunity to have intimacy and closeness with that person. That can be scary, and it can feel risky. Sometimes, when we avoid that, we end up sabotaging those relationships anyway. But sometimes we need to sort of dip our toe in that vulnerability pool and see how the person reacts. I'm not talking about “Let's move my boundaries based on how they react”, but rather, “Let's see, is this person safe?” 

If they do respond with love, and compassion, respect, empathy, validation, and respect my boundaries, then maybe next time, I can lean into my anxiety a little bit more and express a little bit of me that makes me little bit more scared, and see what happens. Like learning to feel less anxious. If your partner's a healthy partner for you and a safe partner, we can ease into the practice of setting boundaries and expressing our needs in relationships. 

Dr. Lisa: That is amazing. Yeah. You're saying to do reality testing. “What happens when I do ask for something?” Then there's almost like this exposure therapy component. Like, every time I ask—and it's positive—I'm kind of on, like, a healing those old ideas about who I need to be, and what boundaries mean, because it is actually okay. It's like that healing in the context of the healthy relationship. 

Kathleen: Exactly. Reality testing. Exactly. Especially if you've been with this person for a while already. You know them well, what… are they someone who can hold space for your needs and respect your boundaries? Still—what's the word I'm looking for—still have a strong sense of self and a hearty self-esteem in order to just stand by your side. That, if the evidence is there for that, then it's appropriate to slowly lean into that anxiety. Well, but yeah, that's the process. 

Dr. Lisa: Definitely. And if they can't, or they fall apart, or they get mad at you, or try to punish you, I will refer you back to the recent episode of the podcast in which I discussed narcissism. And there's also one about when to call it quits in a relationship. Just saying it. It might not be the case.

Kathleen: But that's a really good point. Right? All of those things are not okay. 

Dr. Lisa: Not okay. 

Kathleen: Right? We can—we feel like we don't say that enough, right? Hearing things, like well, defensiveness. Even just defensiveness, right? We all feel defensive sometimes. I think that's a natural human emotion. But again, can your partner feel defensive and still be self-aware enough, and regulate to show up with love and respect?  “Oh, wow. I'm feeling defensive and I want to be here for you. So let me take a moment and come back.” Or “I notice I’m feeling defensive, and your feelings are valid, and really important to me.” Or something like that, right? But acting defensive with minimization, invalidation, blame shifting, that's not okay. 

Dr. Lisa: Not okay. Yeah. 

Kathleen: You don't have to live with it.

Dr. Lisa: What a powerful message and what a nice note for us to land on. It’s beautifully, just affirming, and empowering conversation about boundaries, and what they are, and the path to growth around them. But that also that's a big takeaway for me. That if you encounter these kinds of reactions in someone when you're trying to set healthy and appropriate boundaries, it's not you. It's that. Then to not get tricked into believing otherwise. That's an important message for a lot of people to hear, I think, especially for women.

Kathleen: Yeah, yeah. That’s a great point. It’s not a reflection of you or the appropriateness of your boundary.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well, we could talk for a much longer. So this is such an interesting conversation. And maybe we can revisit this topic and have a part two at some point. But I've really enjoyed your time today. It has been wonderful. 

Kathleen: Well, thank you. I really appreciate being able to be here and talk about this. And it has been, I think, fun. This is my idea of a good time anyway.

Dr. Lisa: We're letting our nerd flags fly, Kathleen. I love it. I had a good time too. Thank you.

How to Avoid Ghosting in a Relationship

How to Avoid Ghosting in a Relationship

Relationship Ghosting

If you’ve dated for an extended period of time, especially online, you’re probably familiar with ghosting. Ghosting is when either you or the person you are talking to discontinues contact without providing explanation. This is usually a confusing experience but for some, this might actually feel relieving! 

Today we are going to dive into ghosting: Why it happens, why you might want to ghost someone, and how to handle both situations. Because the truth is, there is a better way!

As a dating coach, ghosting is the number one topic that comes up. Whether it’s left you wondering “What the heck went wrong?!” or “I just don’t know how to tell them I’m not interested,” this topic gets brought up often in my dating coaching sessions. I want to demystify the act of ghosting for you today, so you know what to do if you think you might be getting ghosted and how to avoid ghosting others.

Why is this Happening to Me??

So, you’ve been chatting with someone for a while, things seem to be going great, maybe you even meet up for a date or two then…nothing. No follow up text, no plans made, no response when you check in to see if everything is okay. Being in this position is hurtful and confusing and it’s hard not to feel like something went wrong. 

If you’ve been ghosted, you may be wondering “Why did this happen to me??” And understandably so! It’s difficult to know what truly went wrong if you’re left with little to no feedback. 

However, instead of allowing yourself to get stuck in the muck of “Is this my fault? What could I have done differently?” I encourage you to take a step back from the situation and find gratitude in knowing that you didn’t continue down a path with someone who wasn’t the right person for you. 

Just because you’ve experienced ghosting first hand, doesn’t mean that you’re unloveable or that something is inevitably wrong with you. It really has more to do with the other person than it has to do with you. 

Being ghosted is confusing so I wanted to outline some tips to utilize if the person you’ve been talking to suddenly becomes MIA:

4 Ways to Move On When You’ve Been Ghosted

#1 Wait to See if They Respond

How long should you wait before calling it? Typically around 5-7 days is a good time frame to see if this person will respond. Unless something emergent arises or they explicitly tell you they aren’t able to respond, if you haven’t heard from them in more than a week, it’s safe to say that they have discontinued contact.

# 2 Try Not to Take it Personally

This is important. When you get ghosted, it’s normal to reflect on your conversations and dates to analyze every little thing trying to figure out what happened. I want you to stop, take a breath, and let yourself be okay with not knowing. Whatever happened, it was on their end. In the end, you’ll be happier dating someone who likes you exactly the way you are and who can effectively communicate their thoughts and feelings!

# 3 Send a Closing Message (optional)

For some people, once they get ghosted, that’s the final straw. If you are feeling like you need that closure, create a message to provide that closure for yourself. You don’t even need to send it, just writing down your feelings can help provide that closure. Being able to state something like “I haven’t heard from you since our last date. It was really nice getting to know you and good luck in the future!” can be relieving and a symbolic way to move forward. Remember to be kind and courteous, we’re all going through our own journey.

#4 Get Back Out There

Don’t let this experience discourage you from moving forward. This might even be a great talking point in future dates because chances are, they’ve been ghosted too!

Why Do People Ghost?

There are many reasons why someone might ghost a new relationship. However, the most frequent reason I see with my dating coaching clients is usually because they don’t know how to communicate their needs or express that they just aren’t interested. 

Instead of having the sometimes tough and honest conversation, they just disappear. *POOF* Ghosters aren’t typically bad people, but they aren’t great communicators. If you’re finding yourself in this position, I know it feels like the easy way out is by ghosting the other person, but I have some tips for you today so that you can provide closure moving forward instead of confusion. 

How to Avoid Ghosting Others

Being on the other end, it’s easier to understand that sometimes, ghosting happens! Some of the more common reasons I hear, as a dating coach, are: I’m not interested, I don’t want to hurt their feelings, I’m too busy, etc. Whatever your reasoning is, more often than not, ghosting feels worse than directness.

# 1 Be Explicit About Your Expectations

Before going on a date, let the other person know and understand what your expectations are. Talking about your expectations of the date and future relationship BEFORE beginning a relationship can help you sort through whether you even want to continue forward with this person. It’s easier to end a dating conversation than it is to end a relationship several months later. 

# 2 If You’re Feeling it On the Date, Address It

If you’re on a date with someone and begin to feel uninterested, bring it up! Being able to be vulnerable and say “I’m not feeling like we are connecting the same way we used to. Do you also feel that?” gives the other person the opportunity to voice their feelings and thoughts. This is a good chance to see if it was situational or if you really aren’t feeling it. If you’re feeling it, chances are the other person is too.

# 3 Communicate

After you’ve done some thinking, perhaps you’re feeling like this isn’t going to work out. Send the other person a text or call them to let them know that you’re not interested in continuing to pursue this relationship at this time. Here are some examples:

  • “Hey! I had a lot of fun last night- thank you for inviting me. I didn’t feel a romantic connection and I am not interested in going on a future date. Good luck!”
  • “After talking to you, I realized we don’t have the same desires for a future relationship. I think it’d be best for us to both continue seeing other people. Thanks again.”
  • “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you recently- thank you for sharing about yourself. Because I respect you and your time, I wanted to let you know that I am not interested in pursuing a relationship.”

# 4 Anticipate a Reaction

Being able to communicate and be vulnerable about how you're feeling, leaves you open for hurt. I believe this is part of the reason so many people ghost because you don’t have to see or hear the reaction that the silence has caused. In most cases, people appreciate the open communication and might be disappointed but understanding. Other people might show their hurt differently. Try to remember during these times that you are making the best decision for you and that you are being respectful of the other person’s feelings.

Dating is a tricky world to navigate and it’s become even more complex with the integration of dating apps and social media. Because there are so many ways to hide and avoid through the use of technology, it’s even more important that we show up fully and sometimes that means recognizing your feelings of discomfort, sadness, or loneliness. I want to encourage you to continue to push through, listen to yourself (not your inner-critic), and not feel discouraged with your dating experiences. 

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Trust Yourself

Trust Yourself

Trust Yourself

[social_warfare]

Trust Yourself

Anxiety vs. Intuition, and How to Tell the Difference

The phrase “trust yourself” is easy to toss around. It sounds inspirational, and certainly looks great on a coffee mug or instagram post. But learning how to trust yourself, like really and truly trust yourself, is actually a life-skill that requires practice and hard work to develop. I work with many of my private Denver therapy and online life coaching clients around how to trust themselves (or, more accurately, how to tell the difference between trustworthy and untrustworthy aspects of their experience). It's definitely in the realm of “advanced personal growth” but is truly life changing once you figure it out.

For example, before you can really trust yourself you need to know the difference between anxiety and intuition. When do you listen to that small voice in your head, because it's right? And when is that small (or loud) voice in your head just scared, jumping to conclusions, or trying to protect you from something that's not really a threat? Learning how to differentiate between the two will help you trust yourself.

This alone can take a lot of deliberate energy and effort, through therapy or life coaching, to figure out. It requires a lot of radical honesty and self-awareness. But true personal growth requires it.

For example, people working on themselves in therapy or coaching quickly learn that there are ALL KINDS of thoughts and feelings zooming around in their heads and hearts. Some of these thoughts are reality based and true, and some are helpful. Many of our automatic thoughts are neither objectively true, nor helpful. Figuring out how to tell the difference between the two is life-changing (as well as the heart and soul of evidence based cognitive-behavioral therapy or coaching).

Similarly, we can routinely feel all kinds of things. Some emotions, when listened to and explored, are veritable treasure troves of invaluable information about ourselves, our truth, our values. Stepping wholeheartedly into these healthy emotional currents are like being carried forward effortlessly towards growth and healing. But, like our thoughts, not all of our feelings are healthy or helpful. Some, like anxiety, shame, and depression, though they feel real, are the emotional equivalent of drinking poison. They are not to be indulged wholesale, but rather assisted in transforming themselves into something more helpful.

At the same time that we have unhelpful thoughts and feelings, we also receive messages from deep and knowing parts of ourselves that are worth listening to. We all carry intuition and wisdom inside of us. We can know things without knowing why we know them. Often those “gut feelings” or ideas that bubble up in your brain seemingly on their own can be powerful and accurate sources of self-guidance, and you can trust them. And sometimes our anxiety flares up around all kinds of things, and has little basis in reality.

Anxiety will conjure up perceived threats in many situations, irregardless of their basis in reality. Being led (or more often, blocked) by anxiety is exhausting and self-limiting. In contrast, intuition is the product of real information that's simply being processed on a non-conscious level. Even though flashes of intuition may seem, in some ways, just as baseless as anxiety, it's not. It's helpful, useful, and true. When you learn how to tap into your intuition, (and differentiate intuition vs. anxiety) you can trust yourself.

As is so often true in the realm of personal growth therapy, learning how to tell the diffference between anxiety and intuition and trust yourself is easier said than done. That is why we're devoting an entire episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to exploring this topic. Listen, so that you can understand how to recognize the different signs and manifestations of intuition, and learn how anxiety is different.

In This “Trust Yourself” Podcast Episode, You Will…

  • Understand the difference between anxiety and intuition.
  • Discover the importance of feeling fear (and how it's different from anxiety).
  • Learn what to do with your gut feelings.
  • Understand the importance of clarity, and how to get it through your intuition.
  • Find out the best way to combat anxiety.
  • Identify the reasons why intuitions happen, and how to increase your intuition.
  • Learn how to tell the difference between anxiety and intuition in relationships.

I often discuss the subject of how to trust yourself with my therapy and coaching clients. I have so much to share on this important topic of learning how to trust yourself, and I'm so excited to share it with you too. You can listen to “Trust Yourself” on Spotify, the Apple Podcast app, on the player at the bottom of this post, or wherever else you like to listen to podcasts. Show-notes and the transcript are below, if you're more of a reader.

I hope this discussion helps YOU learn how to tell the difference between anxiety vs intuition, so that you can trust yourself with confidence.

xo,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Trust Yourself: Podcast Episode Highlights

Gut Feeling About Relationship?

“We all have ideas, interpretations, perceptions about what's happening, that are only our conscious thoughts after they have been filtered through our set of life experiences, our core beliefs.”

We take in a lot of information without realizing it, but our brain can only consciously process so much. Most of this information is insignificant, but some is extremely important even if we don't recognize it as vital data. When that happens, we can have thoughts or feelings without knowing why. Then we have to consciously decide whether to act on the feeling or not. When you're having a feeling about a person… what do you do? Trust yourself? Minimize and explain away your feelings? Act on your feelings, realize belatedly they were anxiety, and then live to regret it? Agh!

When It's Anxiety: Our feelings can be in direct contrast to reality. We should test feelings of discomfort, especially if they don't coincide with what is happening. These feelings could manifest as fear or dislike of someone, but sometimes without a rational, apparent cause. It's essential to remember that these feelings do stem from something — past experiences, for example. The other person might remind you of a painful part of your history. Anxiety often doesn't hold up to scrutiny. 

When It's Intuition: “Even if you have trust issues, it doesn't mean that you might not have a spidey sense feeling about someone that you should listen to.” Intuition, even though it's processing information on a subconscious level, is still processing reality-based information. Often, when you talk through thoughts and feelings that are worth listening to, they make sense and are based on facts. 

Recognizing Anxiety

Your past experiences will determine how you act in a relationship. Different people with different issues will react differently. If you tend to have anxiety in certain types of relationships, or know that your anxiety is triggered by certain types of things, your self-awareness will help you identify anxiety. Anxiety is familiar.

“Somebody else standing right next to you looking at the same situation would perceive a fairly neutral thing — they would not have the same kind of emotional reaction, or sort of instinctive reaction that will feel very much like intuition.”

For example, if you have trust issues, it's critical to be aware of your patterns. Should you feel uncomfortable about someone, you must recognize why. The feeling may not be related to the person at all! If you dismiss them without analyzing why you feel the way you do, you might miss the opportunity to meet a wonderful person.

  1. Pay close attention to your internal dialogues, especially in neutral situations, like a lunch with a friend. Ask yourself whether you attribute meaning to actions that have none. Are you mind reading, jumping to conclusions, or beating yourself up? Knowing your tendencies is 80% of the game.
  2. Ask if what you’re feeling is unusual for you. If you're having funny feelings outside of your usual pattern about someone, it could be a sign of intuition — your mind could be giving you information that you should pay attention to.
  3. If the thought and feeling are familiar, and ones that you commonly have in similar situations, it's probably anxiety.

Listen To Your Intuition

“We all know things that are true without knowing why we know that they are true.”

Your brain receives factual information from many different sources, but some sources don't get the benefit of conscious awareness. Just because data doesn't immediately connect with your conscious awareness doesn't mean it's not valuable. These feelings are still valid and real — and sometimes, they may be an actual, intuitive warning about someone. These messages from a different, though very real and trustworthy part of your show up as intuition.

When To Go With Your Gut

Our brains process truth by absorbing the tiny details of our surroundings, especially regarding people. We are highly evolved social animals, and our minds are wired to spot danger instinctively. However, our conscious minds do not always recognize these details.

“And so, because this is happening, we can be gathering a ton of valuable information about people, about situations, about relational dynamics, about whether or not somebody is telling the truth or is trustworthy, or, you know, all of these things that are never consciously noticed.”

You get this information through feelings. To illustrate, we may feel that a person is wrong for us without consciously knowing why, or you feel good about someone for no reason.

“What many others want to dismiss as a coincidence or a gut feeling is, in fact, a cognitive process. It is faster than we recognize and far different from the familiar step by step thinking that we rely on so willingly. We think conscious thought is somehow better, when in fact, intuition is a soaring flight compared to the plodding of logic.”

Your intuition is the rapid analysis of all those small details. It bypasses conscious thought: suddenly, you know something, but you don't know why you know it. The speed of intuition is useful for protection; when you are afraid, it may be best not to ask questions. Trust the fear, and figure out the fear when you're safe.

The Gift of Fear

If you feel afraid of someone, nothing else matters. Always listen to fear, whether around your personal relationships or personal safety. Fear is not the same thing as anxiety. 

But even fear can be confusing. For example If you have a history of toxic relationships or come from a dysfunctional family where emotional safety was not something you could count on, you might be used to ignoring fear. Not listening to or respecting healthy fear is one of the reasons why people can fall into toxic relationship patterns.

Even worse, if you have a history of toxic, unhealthy relationships you might feel apprehensive in safe, stable, healthy relationships. If you have this type of history, you may develop “trust issues” or unrealistic concerns about your partner in a healthy relationship. 

But the path to trusting yourself is to understand your patterns and what feels “normal” to you. Do you have a pattern of minimizing fear? Do you have a pattern of trust issues even in relationships with good, safe people? (Or do you tend to reject good, safe people?) Knowing yourself will give you the answers, and will help you trust yourself going forward. (And here's the link to our How Healthy is Your Relationship Quiz, if you want to do some reality testing.)

To Know Yourself: Learn and Grow

Some of us may have struggled for a long time in damaging, toxic relationships. Those relationships can sometimes damage our ability to trust, to feel good about ourselves, and to have healthy self esteem. To overcome this, we should face the past, remember it, and accept it for what it is. It is not impossible to move on — often, with the help of evidence-based therapy, it’s easier to grow beyond your past. Your history isn’t the end.

“If you’ve been in a relationship that wound up being hurtful to you. . . there’s gonna be stuff, and that’s not that there’s anything horribly wrong with you. It’s part of the human experience.”

But it’s part of our responsibility to be aware of what issues we have. We have to work through it. While we can't get rid of our experiences, we can become familiar with them, so they don't destroy us.

You might feel apprehensive in relationships regardless. A therapist can help you learn to recognize your patterns and internal dialogues. Even if you feel anxiety, you can still be the way you want to be in a relationship.

Listening to Our Feelings

Once you recognize your patterns, you might think you can talk yourself out of your fear and anxiety. However, the critical thing to do is to analyze your emotions.

“With judgment comes the ability to disregard your intuition, unless you can explain it logically. The eagerness to judge and convict your feelings rather than honor them. And that is the other side of this coin that we all have access to this sort of subterranean part of our brain that is providing us with highly reliable intuitive intuition and information, and the work isn't.”

In my experience as a Denver marriage counselor, I encountered three clients having problems with their relationships. They had a sense that their partners weren't faithful, and were trying to figure out how to rebuild trust after infidelity. As hard as they tried, they could not feel safe with their partners despite working hard at it. As it turns out, all three of them were indeed not with trustworthy partners. Their intuition was trustworthy. Your feelings of fear and mistrust might be anxiety — or they might be an accurate, intuitive analysis.

In another instance, I've worked with people were cheating on their partner. Despite leaving no trace of infidelity, their partner still felt anxious, emotionally clingy, and suspicious. “Your partner doesn't have all of the factual information, but they can feel the truth of the situation. They know what is happening even though they don't know, they still feel the truth. You can't hide that.” 

Patterns in Relationships

It might feel discomfiting to think that all your feelings have a basis in truth. But again, you must analyze them  —knowing the patterns in your relationships is a big part of the battle. For instance, your attachment styles can also play a part in how you form your relationship patterns.

However, it could be intuition if you've already done the work on yourself by asking questions like:

  • Why did I choose a partner I was suspicious of?
  • Is there something in my pattern around the partners I choose?
  • Am I seeking a specific personality type?

Understand why a particular person attracts you. Knowing this can help lessen your anxiety and help you understand your patterns in relationships.

“It requires a lot of self-awareness to know that so that you can make informed choices based on what you know about yourself as opposed to what someone else is telling you.”

Therapy is a great way to help guide you on your personal growth work. With self-awareness and therapy, you can gain more clarity about yourself. Is something bad happening to you, or is it all your old stuff?

Trusting Yourself and Gaining Clarity

Another way of attaining clarity is by talking your problems out with a neutral third party, someone with no stake in what's happening. Not someone close to you, like your mom or your best friend — someone genuinely neutral. They might have a completely different perspective.

The point of asking a third party is to borrow someone else's brain to get a better read on a person or situation. For example, at Growing Self, we interview new therapists, counselors, or coaches as a team — multiple people compare notes and see if anyone has a gut feeling about the interviewee.

Building self-awareness involves work. Two exercises you can try in addition to talking to a third party are as follows:

  • When you have an intuitive feeling about someone, flesh it out. If you listen to the emotion and examine it, you might find that it has a basis in factual information! 
  • Look back to moments when you knew something wasn't right, didn't listen to it, and the feeling turned out to be correct. What did it feel like at the time? Reexamining your history goes back to understanding your patterns and seeing what fits.

These feelings might not be conscious thoughts. They can manifest as dread or even physical, visceral sensations. Intuition can take many forms, so it’s vital to know what language your intuition speaks.

Signs of Intuition

Anxiety usually feels familiar, but intuition often seems to come from nowhere, unattached to anything. It typically means that there is a fully formed thought in your mind. Even dreams can be part of your intuition. While most dreams have no basis in reality, some might feel different and worth investigating.

“If it is an intuition and something trustworthy, when you do give it a voice, your intuition will make perfect sense.”

As always, analyze the feeling. See what feels different — intuition feels different from your usual anxiety. Have tools in place to help you sort out what you’re feeling: the strategies here can help you, but it would be best to find professional assistance. If you'd like to get involved in evidence based therapy or life coaching with one of the therapists at Growing Self Counseling and Coaching, get started by requesting a first, free consultation session.

I hope that this discussion around understanding the difference between anxiety and intuition helps you trust yourself. What part of this podcast did you connect and relate to the most? Or do you have any follow up questions for me? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment down below.

Lastly: If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to the podcast and pay it forward by sharing this with some you love who could benefit from hearing it!

All the best, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Trust Yourself

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Trust Yourself: Podcast Transcript

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Access Episode Transcript

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. 

 

[I Know I Know I Know by James Parm plays]

 

That’s James Parm, and the song is called I know, I know, I know. That's what we're talking about today, you guys, is how you can know and trust your intuition. Or here's the hard part—know when to not trust your feelings because they are, in fact, anxiety, and not intuition. This is a very, very difficult thing to tease apart. But this is something I think we all struggle with. And we have had a number of people—thank you so much if this was you—get in touch through Instagram @drlisamariebobby or @growing_self on Instagram, and through our website growingself.com to ask exactly this question: how do I tell the difference between anxiety and intuition? 

 

We've actually had this question come up in different variants. People asking, “How do I tell if I'm having a healthy thought that's based on something that I should listen to, and trust, and take guidance from? versus Is this my own kind of tendency to worry about these situations? Am I overthinking unnecessarily? Or is there actually something for me to be worried about?” These are really tough things to wrestle through. But I am going to attempt to help you with this on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast. 

 

So if you are one of the people who has gotten in touch recently, with this question or another, thank you so much. I try to really make these podcasts in alignment with what would be most helpful to you. If you are listening to this for the first time, or are a new listener, and would ever like to get in touch, you're welcome to do this. You can track us down at growingself.com, send an old-fashioned email, Instagram, Facebook, all of the usual outlets. We're all ears. 

Anxiety or Intuition

All right, so let's just dive into this topic. Okay, this is a tough one. Have you ever been in a situation where you are getting vibed by someone, or like it's a new person? Maybe you're dating a new person, or getting to know a new person, and you're sort of having a weird reaction to them but you don't quite know why. When you look at what is actually happening on the surface, it sort of doesn't add up. They're not doing anything wrong. They're not saying anything wrong. Nothing has happened that you're aware of. But nonetheless, you are having this kind of gut feeling about someone, and you're not sure if you should pay attention to this. Or if it's just you thinking weird thoughts, and having anxiety that you shouldn't listen to. 

 

I have to tell you, I think that when I talk to clients in—I mean—individual therapy, life coaching clients, but even like couples counseling, and relationship coaching clients, this question comes up more more often than you would think. And because I think that many people really struggle with this. And the difference between intuition and anxiety can be quite tricky to sort through. Let's just kind of look at this from two different angles here. 

 

First of all, what is true? Undeniably true is that we all have ideas, interpretations, perceptions, about what's happening that are only our conscious thoughts after they have been filtered through our set of life experiences, our core beliefs. This is true for everything. I mean, things that make us feel upset or apprehensive, but even totally random stuff too. I mean, you know what I'm going to have for lunch today? My opinion about some of the color shirt that someone is wearing.  I mean extremely benign things that are of absolutely no consequence at all. 

 

There's a lot that we sort of take in without even realizing that we're taking things in, and that we do have opinions or life experiences or judgments on some level. But that we're not even consciously aware of because that's something interesting to know about the way our brain works. We have discussed this on other topics, but that there's so much information around us every day, all the time, constantly. From physical sensations, to noises in our background, to things that we see, things that we hear, things that we could be doing. It is literally impossible for the human brain to consciously hold all of the information we're receiving all of the time. We sort of have to be selective about what we choose to pay attention to and what we don't. Otherwise it would just be overwhelming. We're constantly getting barraged with information. Most of the time, again, we don't have any reaction to any of this information at all because it's just not important. 

 

But there are times when things trigger us. We are in situations where all of a sudden, we start to feel threatened, or uncomfortable, or worried, or suspicious. At that time, we then have to make a conscious decision about what do I want to do with this feeling. Is this something I should take action on? Is this something that I should do, like a manual override and keep going? I talk to people a lot about this especially in the context of dating or other relationships. But even like in career coaching situations, and I'll tell you why in a second, but that's really what we're what we're talking about today. 

 

When it comes to relationships, there is information that's coming at us on all these different levels. There's oftentimes a difference between what our emotional minds are sensing or noticing, what we term intuition versus, like, our conscious thoughts about “this is why I'm doing that,” “this is why I have decided,” “this is a person that I'd like to get to know better or not.” Our conscious mind is seeking factual information. But there are other parts of our brain that do not operate on factual information the same way, but are still quite reliable sources of information. It can be really challenging, I think, to figure out when do you trust that? When do you not? 

 

I am just a full transparency. I mean, I'm like everybody else. I have had this situation happen to me these days, when I am confronted with that. I have a nagging feeling or thought about a person, but it doesn't quite add up. I have to figure out, “Okay, what do we want to do with this?”  

 

Recently…Well, I should say over the last couple of years, in my role here at Growing Self—so you know, I'm the founder and clinical director. But I also participate in decisions about who we want to add to our team, like as a new therapist, or coach, or couples counselor because we're super, super selective about who we work with. When we're interviewing people, they have to have like criteria in terms of their education, and the schools that they come from, the types of therapy that they practice, or their coaching education.So to kind of get in the door, they have to have all the stuff, the pedigree. 

 

But when—even that, our bar is pretty high for that, and most people honestly don't make it further. But then there's this other thing where we're talking to prospective therapists or coaches, and they seem nice, they seem personable, they seem competent, they seem like they probably do a good job. But then, there's just this weird feeling. Sometimes not even a feeling when I'm with them in the meeting. Although I've had that too in the first meeting. We had numerous interviews with people. But the first or second time that I'm getting to know them. Even after that first meeting, it's like, there's this weird aftertaste like I'm sort of left with this feeling. It's almost like an energetic feeling, although I hesitate to use that word because what I'm talking about here is not like some woowoo, Hocus Pocus, psychic thing. This is just different sources of information that all of our brains have access to. But it's like not intellectual conscious information doesn't mean that it isn't valid. 

 

The way I often experienced this, it's like, there's this weird, just sort of troubled—like, “I don’t know” feeling. And that feeling is often in direct contrast, because when I kind of scroll back through the situation and the things they said, and their answers to questions like it was absolutely appropriate, from an intellectual rational point of view. It all added up. They had great qualities, objective, they lead, they would be a nice addition to the team. And it's like, “I can't figure out why I have this feeling,” and it drives me crazy. Because then I'm sure you can relate to this—you're put in a situation where you're like, “Okay, do I give this person a chance? Do I kind of go into this more deeply with them? Do I try this and see how it goes?” 

 

I'm also sort of wrestling with myself around the troubling feeling that I have, like an artifact of my own life experience? Do they remind me of someone that I had a bad experience with? Am I sort of projecting some of my weird anxieties onto them? it isn't true that I am thinking or feeling things that are not actually in alignment with reality. So what do I do if I listen to this feeling that I feel troubled and then it isn't linked to any sort of reality? Then, I have missed an opportunity to potentially work with a very cool new person who would do a great job and be fabulous. Or do I trust this feeling and listen to myself and say, “Thanks, but no thanks. I'm sure you'd be a valued member of some other team, but this isn't going to be the right place for you.” you'd be surprised at how often this happens. And I know that as you're listening to me share this, you can relate. I know you can because it happens to all of us. 

 

If you are in a relationship with a significant other, particularly if you are dating and out there, like meeting new people and trying to get a sense of who people are. Or even with friends, family members—we're all sort of like what is happening here. Again, trying to sort through: what's me? What's my stuff? What are my trust issues? We talked a couple weeks ago about trust issues, and relationships, and that is such a real thing. 

 

If you have trust issues in relationships, you will frequently routinely feel kind of doubting, and mistrustful of people who are not doing anything wrong because it's what you're sort of carrying around with you from one relationship to another. But then there's also the converse is that—this is what makes it so confusing. Even if you have trust issues, it doesn't mean that you might not have a spidey sense feeling about someone that you shouldn't listen to. I think it was Kurt Cobain, the late great, “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're aren’t after you.” That's where it gets so confusing, I think for everyone, is like to figure out, what do I listen to and what do I can't? 

 

Again, like just going a little bit deeper into this idea because this is actually one of the things that can help you, slash, all of us sort through whether or not we're having feelings that we should trust, or override. Whether it's anxiety, whether it's intuition, is that if you have an anxious attachment style, or an avoidant attachment style, for that matter, you will, just by virtue of the way you typically feel around people, be kind of vigilant for signs that other people might be up for something. You might have worries about people's commitment to you. Whether or not you can trust them, whether or not they are going to be reliable, worthy partners for you.

 

It will be sort of your tendency in relationships to get activated over things that too—Like somebody else standing right next to you looking at the same situation would be perceived as being a fairly neutral thing. They would not have the same kind of emotional reaction, or sort of instinctive reaction that will feel very much like intuition. They won't have that same thing that you would because you tend to not trust people as easily. You tend to feel a little anxious in relationships, or have trust issues. It's very, very important if you want to have a better sense, I guess, because it's never possible at the end of the day to know for sure what's anxiety, and what's intuition. But to become very aware of your own patterns. 

 

That kind of self-awareness knowing “I routinely feel this way in my interactions with many different people. I've felt this way before and it's turned out to be nothing,” is really important information for you to have so that you can be thinking about that, “I'm having this feeling about this person, is this part of my usual MO?” Is this what I do? Because if the answer to that is yes, there's a good chance that this is related more to your anxiety than it is an actual specific thing related to this person, that you should do something about. Again, there is no way of knowing. You can frequently feel anxious about other people, and feel that way with a new person, and they are actually untrustworthy. So again, I'm going to give you more like tips and strategies to help kind of parse through this. But like, there's that. 

Intuition vs Anxiety 

But step one, if you want to tell the difference between anxiety and intuition, notice your own internal dialogue, particularly in situations that are fairly neutral. You are out to lunch with someone—again this is like in a hypothetical world when any of us are able to go out to lunch with friends. Your person goes and goes to refill their soda out of the machine, and doesn't ask you if you want to refill. Does that trigger you? Do you attribute a lot of meaning to that? Do you label this person as being selfish or not caring about you? Or do you feel anxious, and get activated, and want to talk about that? Is that part of what you do? Not that there's anything wrong with that. But it's like, knowing, “Oh, yes, this is a thing for me.” 

 

If you tend to have an avoidant attachment style, you will tend to kind of pick other people apart. You know whether or not you do it out loud, but you'll sort of have this running commentary in your mind that kind of criticizes other people. And notice if, slash, when that shows up—if it sort of shows up a lot of the time, and makes you feel certain ways about people, just your knowing that that's a tendency, is 80% of the game. When you can be able to…if you're having funny feelings about people that you will know, “Is this unusual for me?” Because that can be one indication, this is actually an intuition thing, or your mind is giving you information that you should pay attention to. What we're talking about here is…let me let me just back up for a second, because in case I didn't really talk about this clearly. 

Feeling or Thinking 

We all know things that are true without knowing why we know that they are true, which sounds very confusing. But again, going back to this idea that there are different sources of factual information that are received by your brain without the benefit of conscious awareness or thought. But just because we're not thinking about them, or they're not—we're not perceiving them as intellectually accurate data points, doesn't mean that they're not true, and reliable, and valid and that they need to be paid attention to. 

 

Because, again your brain is doing all kinds of processing that is outside of your conscious awareness. If we were consciously aware of everything that our brain was doing, your head would drop off, it's just too much. So, even when you're not having conscious thoughts about, “Hmmm. That looks like a nice person because she just sort of nodded her head, and tilted it a little bit, and smiled at me. She's making sort of affirming noises, that means that she's like, connected with me. She's interested in what I'm saying.” That is not actually an internal dialogue that you're having most of the time. What is happening is that your brain is absorbing all of these tiny, tiny little details, particularly when it comes to people because we are highly evolved social animals.

 

Your brain has so many hardwired systems baked into it that are there for the purpose of assessing social connection. Are other people dangerous or not? How do I stand with this person? And there's all this sort of neurological machinery that is only there to read faces, notice gestures, I mean, the tone of somebody's voice. These are all things that get absorbed, and sort of computed without being a conscious thought in your head. Your brain is just doing this all the time. So because this is happening, we can be gathering a ton of valuable information about people, about situations, about relational dynamics, about whether or not somebody is telling the truth, or is trustworthy, all of these things that are never consciously noticed and registered by that conscious part of your mind. 

 

How they do come into informing you is through a feeling. You feel good about someone without consciously knowing why. Or you feel badly about someone without consciously knowing why, because it has not been a conscious part of your brain that has been gathering this information. Now, there are people who have written extensively on this topic, about different layers of your brain, and how to take influence, and guidance from all of them. 

 

One of my very, very favorites on the subject, and I would encourage you to read it if you're interested to learn more about all of this, and it's an amazing book. Anyway, the book is called The Gift of Fear. The author is Gavin de Becker. He talks about using this kind of subconscious, highly-aware part of our brain to protect ourselves from dangerous situations. The Gift of Fear is like a scary book, in some ways. I mean, he's talking about how to understand if you're in the presence of a predator, or somebody who wants to hurt you, so that you can stay safe by trusting your intuition, which is this primal part of your brain that understands things that your conscious brain doesn't. 

 

He also talks a lot about how we have a tendency to take messages from our intuition, aka more primal evolved parts of our brain and that our conscious brain can discount them, discredit them. I think that's something that we all need to be aware of. 

 

What we're talking about in this podcast today is certainly not at the level that Gavin de Becker is talking about, like basic safety issues. We're really talking about how to trust your intuition and sort of a garden variety relational situations. But here's one quote from the book that I think would be really helpful to our discussion today. The quote is, “What many others want to dismiss as a coincidence or a gut feeling is, in fact, a cognitive process. It is faster than we recognize and far different from the familiar step-by-step thinking that we rely on so willingly. We think conscious thought is somehow better. When in fact, intuition is a soaring flight compared to the plodding of logic.” 

 

What he's referring here to is this more elemental part of your brain that is so highly-attuned particularly to other people, knows things in what feels like a flash. It bypasses conscious thought it's like you don't even know why you know something, but all of a sudden, you know something and it is just the truth. When it comes to things like fear,if you feel afraid, you do not have to ask anybody questions. You do not have to figure out why you feel afraid. I would implore you and if you read this Gift of Fear book, you'll arrive at the same conclusion: to act on that feeling every time if you feel afraid. Trust it, and figure out the rest later. Don't don't wait. Don't linger. Don't try to justify your feelings of fear if you feel afraid, it's okay. 

 

That is actually—when we're assessing couples, and it is not a specialty here at Growing Self—but domestic violence is a thing in relationships. Again, we don't provide that kind of counseling. If you're in a relationship where you are being hurt, or your kids are being hurt, you need very specific kinds of help. We don't do that here. I would encourage you to get into the hotline.org. It’s a website with more resources that can help you. 

 

One of our screening questions when we suspect that there might be something like that is going on, is that we try to get two people apart and simply ask, “Do you feel afraid of your partner?” And when people say yes, nothing else matters. We don't need to parse apart. Okay? Well, exactly what happened and what was said? And it doesn’t meet the level of criteria to be considered that we're done. If you feel afraid of another person, you act on that. Irregardless of your history, irregardless of your reason why, your feelings of fear should always be trusted, until proven otherwise. Right? 

 

Now, again, the thing that makes this really confusing is that while you should always trust—it is also true. That if you have been in relationships in the past where you weren't safe with other people, particularly if you grew up in a volatile family where safety was not something that you could count on. You are going to be highly attuned to whether or not you're safe with other people. Small signal, you're going to be incredibly perceptive. You may have a tendency to override what you know, and form attachments to people who are unwell because it feels familiar and because it feels like, what you know. So expect that you will have a highly attuned spidey sense, and you will have a tendency to override that. 

Self Development

When you are in relationships with healthy people who are there to have a secure, safe, trustworthy attachment with you, it will feel uncomfortable.You may feel not, like, afraid for your life. But you will probably feel triggered by things that healthy people with healthy boundaries are doing in relationships because you're not used to it. Again, this goes back into what I was saying previously, that part of being able to parse apart, what is my intuition versus what is anxiety is having done a lot of work on yourself. So that you know, “These are my patterns. I have had bad experiences with people in the past, and so because of that, this is how I habitually feel.” 

 

It takes, I think, a long time in therapy to understand that and kind of make peace with that past because when you feel uneasy with people, or worried if you can trust them, it doesn't always mean that something bad is happening. Particularly if you'd have a difficult history because of that filter. If you generally struggle to feel okay in relationships, and trust people, and often find yourself needing to work on managing anxiety. When you recognize that for what it is, you become much better able to regulate those thoughts and feelings so that you can stay connected to people in a healthy way. That will be the work, is getting to know what you usually do and figuring out how to manage that so that it's not disruptive to your relationships. So there's that. 

Individual Therapy

There may be some of you resonating to this right now. If you want to do more work in this area, honestly, like therapy, or sometimes coaching. But honestly more often therapy is a good way of kind of getting into, “Have there been experiences in relationships that made me feel a little afraid of other people, or made me not trust people that maybe are trustworthy? What is my history?” 

 

So it's really like, “Is my history consistent with me having stuff to work on in that area?” My goodness, who isn't? If you've been in a relationship that wound up being hurtful to you, if you were bullied as a kid if your parents were not ideal, there's gonna be stuff, and that's not that there's anything horribly wrong with you. It's part of the human experience, and it's part of our responsibility to be aware of what our crap is so that we can take responsibility for it, manage it, work through it, or… 

 

When I say work through it, what I mean is, you know that it's not always possible to make those old artifacts go away. We cannot banish them from our experience, but what we can do is become extremely familiar with them. So that way they don't get to break crap in our lives as adults. Right? So it isn't that you're never going to feel apprehensive in relationships, it's that you're going to be able to say, “I know that I often feel apprehensive in relationships, and here's what I know.” And that you have strategies for being able to manage that so that even if you have anxious feelings, you can still be the person that you want to be in your relationships, and have healthy relationships. You don't wind up pushing away, or hurting other people because of your own anxiety because that's a risk, as we've talked about on past podcasts. 

 

Trust Yourself

But here's the other thing that may may make you feel better, or may make you feel worse, is that while we can carry habitual anxiety or mistrust into different situations with us, there is also a thing that is true, which is that it's very, very easy to discount feelings of apprehension, or misgiving, or “No. I don’t know about that person. Kind of a bad feeling, or a hunch,” very easy to talk yourself out of those feelings when you should, in fact, be listening to them. 

 

Going back to the Gift of Fear book, just another quick quote here, “With judgment comes the ability to disregard your own intuition, unless you can explain it logically. The eagerness to judge and convict your own feelings, rather than honor them.”. That is the other side of this coin is that we all have access to this sort of subterranean part of our brain that is providing us with highly reliable intuition and information and the work isn't, “Okay, this is just me in my anxiety.” The work is figuring out, “How do I give myself permission to listen to this without brushing it off, without doubting myself, or talking myself out of it?” This is really important because it happens. It's happened to me personally. 

 

Going back to my story about when we're hiring people, or seeking to connect with new counselors on the team here at Growing Self. There have been a number of times over the years, I'm less likely to do it now because of the work that I've done. But a number of times over the years where I have had a not good feeling about someone, and the only way to describe it is like—the sort of dread, or apprehension, or not wanting to schedule another meeting with them. Not wanting to interact with them is the only way that I can describe it. But intellectually, I had that same experience of like, “No, she has amazing training. I mean, I don't think we've had a candidate who's had this kind of training, and all the experience that she's had. We've been looking to connect with somebody good, who's licensed in this state for a long time. Her references had good things to say about her. So I'm just, This is just my crap. And I'm going to override it.” Not always has it come to fruition. 

 

There are a couple of times when I had a not so great feeling about someone it turned out to be fine. But I tell you what, nine times out of 10 when I have overwritten that feeling, I have come to regret it. It wasn't immediately the other shoe didn't drop until sometimes a year or two out. But when it did, I was like, “Oh, I knew it. I knew it.” If you think back to situations in your own life, where you wound up getting hurt, or disappointed, or trusted somebody that maybe you shouldn't have from that—the place of hindsight. If you're really honest with yourself, I would bet you a cookie that you would have that same conversation that you would be like, “I knew it. When I first met her, I knew something was off. I had that little sense, talked myself out of it, and then X,Y, Z happened.” We've all been there. How do you get familiar with that experience, and pay attention to it, and learn how to trust it? This is true in little ways, and in big ways. 

 

As a marriage counselor, I have been in on three occasions, there have been three because they were so distinctive. But on three occasions, I have worked with couples where one person has been persistently anxious, fearful, that their partner is doing something that they shouldn't be doing. In all three of these situations, it was people in the either in the aftermath of an affair, it was two of them. In one of them, it was in the aftermath of a partner who previously had a substance use disorder that they've since gone into treatment for. So in all three of these situations, I had one person who was like, “This doesn't feel right. I'm not safe. I don't trust them.” In the context of their partner, saying the right things, doing the right things that we had talked about, and objectively not giving any evidence that they were continuing with an affair, or using substances, or anything like that. To the point where the people who were so worried about their partners, or was actually like, “I need you to take a polygraph test because I feel like I'm losing my mind. I need to take a lie detector test because I am having these thoughts and feelings but you're telling me that this isn't true, and I don't know what to believe.” 

 

I will tell you that on every single one of those occasions—all three—if somebody was like, “No.” And you say a lie detector test because this is how crazy I feel. Every single one of those times, it emerged that the people were actually doing exactly what their partners were afraid that they were doing. I will tell you that two of the people refused to take a polygraph test, they never did. The one who did take the polygraph test passed it. Sociopaths are people who have convinced themselves that they're not doing anything wrong, or don't really feel remorse, or guilt in the way the rest of us do. They will pass a polygraph test. So that's that's only one of the reasons why white polygraph tests are not admissible in court; it's because they are not always accurate barometers of the truth. But nonetheless, the true story did emerge over time. Every single one of those people who was like, “I do not trust you. I don't know why I don't trust you but I don't”, were right. 

 

I have also been in situations where I'm working with an individual client, either in therapy or coaching, and part of what they're trying to work out with me is the fact that they're in a relationship, and they are having an affair. They are cheating on their partner and I—no judgment right there. They're here with me in therapy or coaching because they're trying to get clarity around what they want to do, and that is valid. This is a safe, non-judgmental space, no matter what is going on. Right? 

 

But irregardless, working with individual clients who are cheating on their partners, or doing other kinds of things that their partners would be very unhappy with if they knew about. They're telling me that they're working very hard to conceal this from their partner. They're being absolutely aboveboard. They're covering their tracks. Their partner has no information. But their partners are still having these weird emotional reactions. They're getting upset. They're accusing them of things. They're being suspicious. They're being emotionally, kind of clingy with them. My clients are like, “What's wrong with them?”  What I tell them is what I will tell you, which is that, “Yes, your partner doesn't have all of the factual information but they can feel the truth of the situation. They know what is happening even though they don't know. They still feel the truth and you can't hide that,” which is disturbing for my clients. So we’re trying very hard to conceal things sometimes to know is that they can't actually hide. 

 

That their partners are having anxiety, and apprehension, and suspicions about the relationship based on other sources of information besides what they rationally, factually, know. Yes, you will be pleased to know that one of my goals is always to help my clients achieve congruence, to bring it out in the open, and allow their partners to make fully informed decisions about whether or not they would like to continue that relationship under these circumstances,that does have to be a goal. But that's not where we start. But I think it's important to have these in mind. 

 

Again, this is so hard because if you tend to have trust issues in relationships anyway, what I just shared with you probably scared the heck out of you. That there are situations where people in relationships feel very suspicious, they are actually being lied. There is gaslighting happening, and they have to figure out do I trust my partner? Or do I trust the way that I feel? 

 

So how to tease this apart? Again, if you are very, very, very well aware of your own patterns in relationships, that's a big part of the battle. If, in every single relationship you have ever had since the time that your partner had an affair, and you didn't know, and it was totally traumatic. If ever since then you worry a lot, that is a good indicator that it could be anxiety. Unless you haven't done the personal growth work around, “What led me to choose a person that I had that kind of suspicion about to begin with?” Or “Is there something in my pattern around the kind of partners I choose that I'm habitually, either not noticing warning signs in relationships, or if I'm making choices, sort of seeking a personality type?” We're going to be talking about narcissists. Soon, my friends. But like, “Am I attracted to narcissists, who would be more likely to do these things to me? I mean, it requires a lot of self-awareness to know that so that you can make informed choices based on what you know about yourself as opposed to what someone else is telling you.

Anxiety Support 

The way that we figure this out, is often through a lot of personal growth work. Again, therapy is a great vehicle to come in, and say, “I'm feeling anxious in my relationship, and I can't figure out if it's because there's something bad actually happening to me, or if this is my old stuff.” Even coaching I think can be helpful around getting clarity around what you know about yourself and whether or not this situation is in alignment with what you usually do and what you usually think and how you usually feel, or whether or not this is an aberration. 

 

Also, another strategy to kind of get that clarity is not just through like, rationally, “Okay, is something bad happening? Did something bad happen?” Because that is not always in alignment with the truth. What you know is not always the same thing as what that intuitive part, that automatic part of your brain knows. But to be able to kind of talk through it with a neutral third party who does not have any skin in the game. So it’s not your mom, it’s not your best friend who kind of hates your boyfriend a little bit anyway. But somebody else. You could say, “Okay, this is what's happening. This is my history. What do you think?” Have somebody look at that and be like, “No, that doesn't actually sound weird to me.” Or, I can't tell you how many situations I've been in where I have had an individual client come to me with exactly that question. “I think I need to work on my trust issues. Let me tell you what's happening in my relationship”. And I'm like, “Oh, my God.” I will—I'm annoyingly honest. So I will say “Based on what you're telling me, It sounds like you maybe do have some things to be worried about. How could you find out for sure, whether or not those things are happening, and the relationship that isn't just asking your partner about it.” 

 

If you're worried that they're not being honest with you because to my ear, this sounds consistent with somebody who's up to something. So it's like, looking at it with somebody else who is neutral. That is actually another one of the strategies that can be really helpful if you're trying to figure out, “Okay. Is this my intuition talking to me?” Is like, I don't know, there was a movie that came out years ago. I think it was called A Brilliant Mind. It had Russell Crowe, and he was a math professor who struggled with schizophrenia. Part of the way his illness presented itself was that he would see things that weren't there. There was this cute little moment at the end of the movie after he had done a lot of work, where he saw one of the characters that he often saw when he was in the grips of his illness, and she sort of pulled aside a student in one of his classes and he's like, “Do you see somebody standing there?” The student was like, “Nope.” He was like, “Okay, just checking.” But it's sort of like that. It's like, can you borrow somebody else's brain to say, “What do you think about this? Am I making something out of nothing here?” 

 

I have to tell you, what I have learned to do for myself, at Growing Self, when it comes to how we find really high-quality therapists, or marriage counselors, or coaches to work with is that we do interviews as a team now. So it's not just one person having to make sense of all of this. Before anybody starts with us, we have a series of interviews, but also at least one where there are multiple people on the team with that person. Then after that, we can compare notes like, “Did you have a little bit of a weird feeling about that person?” Or even prior to that have made it okay, for anybody who interviews somebody to begin with to say, “I have a weird feeling about this person.” And the response is, “Tell me more.” 

 

It's very interesting because what I have often found—and I found this with dating coaching clients—I found those with therapy clients. Somebody has a weird little gut feeling that I learned they aren't sure if they should listen to or not. It doesn't make sense. But then like, when we sit down, I'm like, “Okay, tell me why. If you had to give that little feeling in the pit of your stomach, a voice, what would it say?” And we just let it talk without any judgment. We're not criticizing it. We're not trying to evaluate, whether or not it is true. It's just like, free associate for the next five minutes. 

 

What I hear people say, is really like factual information that this deeper part of their brain had been picking up, making associations, lining up all these little dots. And when they verbalize it, it's like, “Oh, yes. Then you know what, she was a little bit late to that first meeting. Then she had this weird pause when I asked her about the case that she found hardest,” or whatever it was. “But as we talked through it, it's like, oh, no, there was actually stuff there. But I didn't really know at the time, what I was picking up on until I'm telling you about it right now.” 

 

That is very often the case with counseling and coaching clients too. It's that they have a feeling they're like, “Yes. I've been kind of texting with this guy. But I don't think I want to go out with him. But I don't really know why because he checks all the boxes. He seems really nice, but I just have this feeling.” And I'm like, “Okay. Well, let's just—how does that feeling make sense for a minute?” And when people give it a voice, it's like, “Oh, yes. Let's actually not pursue this.” 

 

That's the other side of this coin that I think, the same sort of process of self awareness can offer, is that when you have had intuitive feelings about people—first of all, flush it all the way out. Why does it make sense to kind of get in the habit of learning how to not talk yourself out of it, or criticize yourself for it? Or if you have—I have a tendency for the intellectual part of my brain to—if I have a gut feeling because I'm a thinker. I'm an idea person. So I'm like, “Okay. Well, let me tell you 57 reasons why that's not true, why I shouldn't listen to it.” I've done a lot of work on myself, just knowing that I have that tendency that I try really hard now to not do that and sort of elevate my intuitive ideas that don't really make sense. Like, how do I practice trusting those more? 

 

Also, another great exercise that can help you with this is to scroll back in your life and be like, “Okay, what were the times that I knew on some level something wasn't quite right, and I didn't listen to that?” Or maybe you did listen to it but that it wasn’t justified. Like in time, all the information came out, and that you're apprehensive, or uneasy feelings about someone were spot on. Asking yourself questions like, “How did that feeling show up for me when I know I should have trusted it, but I overrode it?” Because it's not a conscious thought. It's for many people, like almost a physical feeling. 

 

What I have learned for me, again, that it's like a feeling of dread, or like kind of wanting to avoid someone. The sort of like, if somebody starts to make you eat something that's like, a little bit gross. You're like, “No.” It's this visceral sort of feeling. But I had to get acquainted with what that feels like for me. Iit may feel very, very different for you.  I've had clients where it feels just sort of like this cold feeling, or they're around somebody, and they sort of feel like crying and they don't know why. I mean it can show up in many different forms. But it's figuring out what the language of your intuition is. 

 

I will also tell you that one of the differences between intuition and anxiety, where anxiety is often very familiar, it's your MO. It's like all and it feels like worry. Right? When you know things about people or situations that are coming from that intuitive part of your mind, it often feels like, or is experienced, like a fully formed thought out of nowhere that is not attached to anything else. You're just sitting at the breakfast table, eating your cereal, not thinking about anything staring at a wall, and all of a sudden, it's like, “Oh, my God. This is happening.” There's that you're getting a transmission sort of quality to it. That's a sign of intuition. 

 

Similarly, dreams—I have dreams about all kinds of things. Most of them have absolutely no basis in reality, thank God. I've never been actually chased around by a giant rabbit yet. But you know, we'll see. But I have had dreams and I've noticed that there's like a special quality to these dreams, though. I have—over the years—learned how to recognize message dreams from other just random brain processing kinds of dreams. In my world, they are often related to business. 

 

I actually have had the experience on multiple occasions of having had issues happening in my business, Growing Self Counseling and Coaching, that were operational or related to people that I was working with. It were never a conscious thought in my head until I had a dream about it. Then I went and investigated it. It was like, “Oh, this thing is happening.” I had no idea. It was like—and I do not believe that I am psychic. I believe that that deeper part of my brain was just sort of like paying attention to little random things that I consciously was not, and it added them all up, and it offered. “Here's the sum total of all the things that I've added up for you, Lisa, in the form of a dream.” Or is this, sometimes just sort of these thoughts out of nowhere. 

 

So feelings that are different from anxiety, feelings out of nowhere, thoughts, dreams. Then also, when you do have the opportunity to talk through why it does make sense. What comes out, if you don't judge yourself? Because, again, if it is an intuition and something trustworthy, when you do give it a voice, your intuition will make perfect sense. As you lay it all out, it'll be like, “Oh, yes. I do actually need to listen to this.” 

 

So I hope that these ideas have helped you just kind of get a sense of what’s anxiety, what's intuition. If we were to recap, self-awareness with anxiety—when you are feeling anxious, what tends to trigger you? Why does that make sense? How does it show up? Is this a pattern for you? Also intuition,when you happen right in the past, how did you know? What do you do when you try to talk yourself out of stuff that maybe you should stop? Also what feels different? The intuition is going to be different from usual anxiety most of the time. Having tools in place that will help you sort it through, does this make sense for me to listen to? Is this anxiety that I should probably override? Giving yourself ways to open the door for intuition. 

 

I have shared with you some of the strategies that I used to tell the difference between anxiety and intuition and some of the things that I do with my clients. But you know what? I also think that we should crowdsource this one. If you have things that you have learned over the years have helped really, you tell the difference between anxiety and intuition, like what those ringers are? I would love it if you would share because I don't want this to be just about me and my ideas, because this is so unique. I think that particularly with this question of how to trust yourself, I think that we develop more confidence and ability to trust ourselves when it's actually confirmed, when we can kind of compare it to what other people do. 

 

So be part of this conversation, come over to growingself.com/trust-yourself. growingself.com and trust yourself with a hyphen there, and share your story, times that you have trusted your intuition, and it worked out. Maybe times that it was actually anxiety and how you were able to figure out the difference. I think that being able to compare and contrast our different experiences will be a lot of fun.

 

So join me, growingself.com/trust-yourself. I will be eager to see what you share, and I'll be back in touch with you next time for another episode of the podcast.

 

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Finding the Right Person

Finding the Right Person

Finding the Right Person

— With Dating Coach Damona Hoffman

[social_warfare]

FINDING THE RIGHT PERSON: Are you looking for “the one” and feeling frustrated with the fact that despite giving your best efforts to online dating apps, you still haven’t connected with anyone? You're not alone. Many of you reached out through the blog and on Instagram regarding the difficulties of finding true love. I've spent many years as a dating coach, and know that it can be incredibly confusing and frustrating to make progress in your love life.

But! I also know, from the same years of experience, that you just might have more power to achieve the love you're looking for than you know. It's super easy to fall into thinking traps that can subconsciously block you from connecting with the love that IS out there for you. What do I mean by “thinking traps?” Those are the core beliefs or inner narratives — your internal script — that you operate by without even realizing it. Once you become consciously aware of this script and how it may be impacting your dating experience, things change. Really!

While I've been on this journey of discovery so many times with my private dating coaching clients, and witnessed the power of thinking traps first hand, I'm not alone in this. For example, dating expert Damona Hoffman has much to share on the subject of how to find the right person as well.

A little bit more about Damona: She is the Dating Expert of The Drew Barrymore Show and NPR, a dating coach & TV personality who starred in the A+E Networks' (FYI TV) series #BlackLove and A Question of Love. She’s a contributor for CNN Headline News (HLN), BET.com, The Washington Post, LA Times, Match dating app, e News and more. Her advice has been featured in hundreds of publications, podcasts, and TV shows and she was the subject of an Oprah O Magazine cover story in 2019. She hosts The Dates & Mates Show as well as the “I Make A Living” podcast.

Today, on this “How to Find The Right Person” episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I am getting Damona to spill ALL THE BEANS about the strategies you can use to navigate the perils of dating and find the right relationship for you.

Damona is sharing her thoughts about why dating is not as simple as we may think — it is really about our personal growth and understanding. You'll discover why it truly starts with overcoming fears and self-reflection. You will also find out why character is better than chemistry and how to bring curiosity into your dating life. Finally, you will learn the nuts and bolts of successful online dating strategies and making sure that there are no weak spots.

In This Episode…

We're dishing out dating advice and success strategies like:

  • How (and why) it's so important to understand yourself first before finding the right person.
  • How to tell that you may hold limiting beliefs about relationships that are creating obstacles to your success.
  • Learn that rejections in dates are not about you but the situation.
  • Find out the five simple steps in the dating process.
  • Discover the power of being deliberate and focused on the dating process (and what that entails).
  • Recognize the importance of overcoming your fears.
  • Become aware of what makes a person compatible with you.
  • Uncover some biases you may have.

Tune in to the full interview to learn how to finally find the right person while being at your best and most confident self!

You can listen to “Finding the Right Person” on Spotify, on Apple Podcast, or wherever else you like to listen. Or you can scroll down and listen to this episode on the player at the bottom of this page. 

While you're listening and soaking up all the great dating advice Damona shares, don't forget to rate, review and subscribe to the podcast. (You can follow us on Instagram too, for a daily dose of positive, affirming, Love, Happiness & Success advice.

Thanks for listening!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Finding the Right Person: Episode Highlights

First: Knowing What You’re Looking For

Cultivating and finding the right relationship is much like any skill — it’s a skill to be learned and honed. The first step is finding what we want in the first place. Damona notes that “the biggest mistake that I see is that people have no clarity on what they're looking for in a long-term relationship.

Clarity does not mean a checklist about how the other person should be. Instead, it starts with self-reflection and a deep understanding of your values and beliefs.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What is your ideal partner like?
  • What are your needs in a relationship?
  • What are your goals for the future?
  • What kind of person can be compatible with my personality?

Misconceptions About Dating and Relationships

It is easy to fixate on things that we think are important — money, status, career, and similar interests. We need to change this mindset and understand that empathy and communication will ultimately be the cornerstones of a relationship.

Damona lists out a few things to remember about dating and relationships:

  • It's not about a list but about doing deeper work. Dating and relationships require learning skills over time, such as building better profiles, communicating better, learning how to follow through, and so much more!
  • Don’t confuse chemistry with love. Chemistry may be a response to familiarity with a past attraction or just a physical attraction. Remember, build your relationships on something more substantial. For more, see “Don't Let Over-Focusing on ‘Chemistry' Ruin a Great Relationship”
  • Instead of looking for chemistry, be driven by curiosity. Let the connection grow and see if the interest develops over time. “If you get to the third date and you're not feeling anything, you're not more curious, then I think maybe there isn't a love match,” Damona says.

The Process of Self-Understanding and Acceptance

A lot of people are looking for reasons to say no before they're looking for reasons to say yes,” Damona says. In dating, people may resort to extrapolating the other person's personality and values. She invites us to ask instead: How can we possibly judge and stereotype someone if we haven't seen them in practice?

Rushing and looking for closure is the root cause of this extrapolation. In this era where everything is fast, it pushes some to want relationships even though it's not a good fit.   

So what if it’s not a good match? Damona says to move on — this is not a rejection of you but just a rejection of the situation. 

The process of dating can be crushing if you keep looking at the perspective of your self-worth. Damona gives this golden advice: “You date your best when you feel the best.” When you have fears and limiting beliefs, these may lead to finding validation from others. Work through these first and find self-love and confidence.

The Real Reason You’re Still Single

From her work as a dating coach, Damona was able to simplify the process into five simple steps:  

  • Mindset. What is your mindset going into this? Are you serious and willing to give time to put in the work? What is your foundational thinking about looking for a mate or about yourself?
  • Sourcing. Where is your dating pool? Is it large enough for good choices?
  • Screening. How do you determine if someone is the right date or not?
  • Presentation. How are you showing up as your best self?
  • Follow Through. Do you follow through and close the loop?

If your love life is not flowing, Damona says that there are likely leaks in any of these areas. We need to patch those up! She encourages, “You just have to believe it's possible. And you have to be willing to do that. The biggest myth is that Prince Charming is just going to come up and knock on your door.

Be deliberate and focused. People may have impressions that dating apps like Tinder are only for people who want to hook up, but we need to stop giving too much meaning to the app — it's just a connector. What we use it for is what matters.

Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

For Damona, she needed to go through a deep understanding and awareness of her fears. It was during that time that she met her person. Whatever stage you are in, she encourages you to face and work through your fears. 

Damona reminds us:

  • We are always works-in-progress. Don't be too hard on yourself when you're not getting the results you want, whether in personal growth or dating. What matters is that you keep moving forward.
  • If you don't like yourself, how can you expect someone else to do it for you?
  • Everything starts with self-acceptance and develops with change.

Finding a Good Match

There are certain aspects of compatibility that we need to watch out for. These include attachment styles, love languages, basic orientation around planning, values, among others. Beyond compatibility, it can also be about how we accept and love people who are different from us.

Relationships should not be chaotic and full of drama. These may feel wild and exciting, but know that a good match may feel more peaceful and consistent.

When looking for a match, you can widen your dating pool. These can be through online meetup groups, setups from friends, interest groups, and more. Don’t limit yourself and think that there’s no one around — look for them!

Unconscious Biases in Dating

“I would encourage people to just look beyond your traditional parameters, even within your own city, just expand your search criteria a little bit and see what else might be out there,” Damona says.

Damona shares in The Washington Post that people may still have associations around race that affect their search criteria. She notes, “That may not be reality. It may be part of their history or may not even be their stuff. It could be their parents’ stuff or their parents’ parents’ stuff.”  

She shares that we may need to expand our thinking and maybe find our person that way. 

Damona shared valuable insights into taking dating seriously for long-term relationships. What did you connect and relate to the most? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment down below.

I'll be watching for your comments and questions!

xo, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

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Finding The Right Person

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Finding The Right Person: Podcast Transcript

Access Episode Transcript

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

That is the Vivian Girls with a song, Tell The World. Tell the world about the love that I've found. And that's what we're talking about today because finding the right person can be really challenging. And I know that that is on the minds of many of our listeners, is to figure out how to create the kind of relationship that they really want. And you know what? There's a lot to be said for creating a good relationship with your partner. We talk a lot about that on the podcast. And finding the right person to have a relationship with is that first foundational step many times. I've been hearing from so many of you through Instagram, through the blog of growingself.com, that this is a point of frustration for so many. It is really hard to connect with the right person and find the true love. To think this is the one that I've been looking for, and know what you want in a relationship, and feel like you're able to get it. You deserve that, and that is what we're talking about on today's episode of the podcast.

And in that spirit, I have to say something. Many times, people come to Growing Self. We— if this is your first time listening, so I do Growing Self counseling and coaching. I'm the clinical director, so we do love happiness and success. We do a lot of couples counseling. We do a lot of career coaching, believe it or not, life coaching individual therapy. Also, though, a fair amount of dating coaching. Right? And so, people often show up to our practice and they believe. Sometimes rightly so but sometimes it's not the whole picture. But the belief is, I just haven't found the right person yet. And if I could just find the right person, everything would sort of fall into place. And so it's, “what dating apps should I be on? What should my profile say?”, and “Where do I find the one?”. Right? And while this is an important piece of being successful in dating and creating a healthy new relationship, what many people are sometimes interested—sometimes maybe uncomfortable in learning about themselves through the actual process of deep, deep and authentic dating.

Coaching is not so much that—it's just a matter of like literally finding the right person, and meeting someone and saying, “Hello”. It is, first of all, understanding that there are a number of things going on inside of themselves—in terms of the way they think about relationships, the way they think about themselves, the way they think about other people, the way they feel the core beliefs that they're carrying into the dating experience themselves. They're their own sort of mythology or like story about how relationships should be. That they are carrying with them into all kinds of situations. Be it new relationships, new friendships, romantic partnerships. It's one thing to date, but there's also this like new relationship experience that lasts six months to a year, that can be a really trying time for many people too. And it's through these experiences that they learn about themselves that it's not just about finding the right person. It's about in some ways, becoming the right person—becoming someone who is in the right kind of mindset, mental state, emotional state, to cultivate a happy, healthy, enduring relationship. And that is where the real growth is, particularly when it comes to dating, coaching, relationship therapy, and personal growth therapy that really focuses on that relational component of our lives.

And so I thought that this topic was worth revisiting because I've heard again from a lot of you through Instagram at @drlisamariebobby, or through our website at growingself.com, that this is something that is very much on your mind. And so in order to really go deeply into the nuts and bolts of what's really going on, what it feels frustrating to find the right person, I have a very special guest joining us today. And I'm so excited to introduce you to Damona Hoffman. Damona is an incredibly busy woman. Among other things, she's the dating expert of the Drew Barrymore show. She shows up on NPR, on the reg. She has her own podcast. She is doing things with the Washington Post, LA Times, Match Dating App, CNN, bet.com. I think Oprah and you are friends.

Damona Hoffman: Oh, I wish. I wish one day. But I was in her magazine so…

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Congratulations. I mean…

Damona Hoffman: I mean basically…

Dr. Lisa: And now, she's here today to talk with us about only one of her specialties, which is dating and relationships. It's gonna be good.

Damona: I got very excited for a second because I thought you were saying Oprah was here. And I was like, “Where? Oh my gosh. Am I gonna get something? Am I gonna get a prize or a new car?” But no.

Dr. Lisa: Diamond earrings? I'm not nearly cool or interesting enough for Oprah to even have heard my name. But…

Damona: No.

Dr. Lisa: …but you are. So…

Damona: I'm so glad to be here. Thank you for having me.

Dr. Lisa: Well, I'm excited to speak with you. And just from our little chat prior to jumping into this interview, I have come to understand that you are incredibly knowledgeable. This conversation could go in many directions. So I'm excited to see where it takes us. But first of all, I think many of our listeners today are extremely interested to hear your insights when it comes to dating and new relationships because this is like a huge specialty of yours. You have hosted a podcast on this topic for eight years?

Damona: Eight years? Yeah.

Dr. Lisa: Tell us a little bit. Not just about that but I'm always curious to know, how did that even become a thing for you? Like, how did you get interested in helping people in this part of their life?

Damona: Quite by accident. I was working as a casting director and television, and I was— maybe like some of your listeners—frustrated with the dating scene. And my boss at the time had just gone through a divorce, a semi-amicable one. But she was like out on the town right away. And she was like, “You have to try this thing called online dating”. This is like 2001. So it was very new then and…

Dr. Lisa: Right. Trying to like make it work on your flip phone. I was there.

Damona: Oh yeah. No. This is like—not even like—our phones weren't even used for that. Literally just straight up desktop. And I was like, “Online dating? Isn't that what like weirdos do in their mom's basement?” And she was like, “No. There's all these guys. It's like man shopping”. So I started online dating. And I really—I had the same experience she did. I was like, there are all these great guys, and I can really find what I'm looking for. And then I began to sort of fine tune my approach because I was working in casting the whole time. And I was also teaching classes for actors and marketing because I'd see all of these really talented actors that had no idea how to get their foot in the door. They would have headshots that were completely forgettable. They would come in the room and ruin the job before they even had an opportunity to get it, like the minute they opened their mouth. And I was like, “Gosh, if only there was somebody that could teach them—just the marketing piece and the presentation piece to help them be more successful. So I started doing that. And then it clicked for me that basically the headshot was the same as the dating profile photo that I was using, and the first date is an audition. Let's be…

Dr. Lisa: Realistically, right?

Damona: Oh. I kind of systematize that for myself. And I ended up meeting my husband online. In 2003, I think. And then people started coming to me saying, “Well, you met this great guy but online dating doesn't work”. And I started polishing their profiles doing the same techniques. And after I got a number of calls saying, “I met someone. I'm getting married. I'm having a baby”. I thought, “Oh, wow. I might have something here that I could actually teach to other people”.

Dr. Lisa: That is so cool. What an interesting story.

Damona: You don’t hear it every day, certainly.

Dr. Lisa: No, really. Okay. And so then, I wonder if we could start there because like—as I was reading through your things and thinking about the sorts of things that I would like to ask you about. Do you know what came up for me? And so, I don't know if you know about me, but so my background is as a therapist. I'm actually a licensed marriage and family therapist. And so what I often do with clients—do a lot of, like, couples counseling, and all couples invariably have stuff that they run into sooner or later that needs to be worked through. And couples who are fundamentally not as easy of a match have a lot more stuff that they need to work through. And it's also more complicated and difficult to get into alignment, when from the very beginning, they weren't just quite a good fit. Some relationships are just easier than others.

And so also, I think too, like when I do relationship coaching, it's from that viewpoint of what's a healthy relationship? And like, how do you connect with people that you can have that kind of partnership with? And what is also true is that there are these lovely loving people who are so compassionate, and they have so much to give, and they would be the best partners. And like that piece right there, they are having so much trouble even just connecting with people. And certainly through that online world, or connecting with people who from the get go don't feel like a good fit. And I think it can be very easy to talk about, like best practices, and do this instead, and just to get like straight to the point. I'm wondering if you would feel comfortable with talking about some of the things you've learned over the years? As, like, some of the mistakes that people are making, without even realizing that they're making them. So it's like not conscious, just sort of blindly walking into things from the very beginning. Like even with the profiles. Does that make sense?

Damona: Yeah. I can talk about the mistakes, certainly. But I'm really curious to hear from you—about the partnerships that you see that have that friction, and what was foundationally missing? Because I do think that the biggest mistake that I see is that people have no clarity on what they're looking for, for a long term relationship. And most people come to me for coaching for relationships. Plenty of pickup artists out there, if you're looking for that you can find somebody else. I move people into relationships.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Dmaona: And I see that, like, I'll ask people, “Will you tell me about your ideal mate?” And they're like, “Oh. I never thought about it, or I'll know it when I see it”. And I'm like, “Well, if you haven't seen it yet, then maybe you—maybe you wouldn't know. Maybe you haven't done enough of the foundational learning about yourself and about your needs”. Somebody will do these lists—the little lists. Still do these long lists of all of the qualities that they think that they need. And ultimately, it's a lot of superficial stuff. A lot of the time, it's not the deeper. I focused on—I focus on values and goals for the future. And so when I was building my life that I wanted to lead, I was not fixated on how much money my husband made. I was fixated on being a career woman and having a partner who would support me in that who'd be a 50-50 partner. I didn't care about chivalry or how this fantasy would play out. I was just like, “This is the life”. I need a guy that is okay living in that dynamic. And now that is the life that I live today. But I think it's because I built it so long ago. And that's what I'm really passionate about—helping people figure out so that they don't continue to make the same choices, fall into the same kind of relationships that aren't serving them, and then end up frustrated, heartbroken, or in the same place again. I want to know from you what some of those mismatches are because I think a lot of people do miss the cues and the signals early on. And then they just kind of get caught up in the momentum of the relationship, and it leads them down the wrong path.

Dr. Lisa: That I could not agree more with every single thing that you're saying. And what I see is the same as that many times people get fixated on things that they think are important in a partner. Somebody yeah, making a certain amount of money, or looking a certain way, having a certain type of career, being interested in similar things. And then what they find is that those things have no bearing on the quality of a relationship going forward. And what really matters is someone's capacity for empathy, their emotional intelligence, their ability to communicate even when they're not feeling good. The way that they show love and respect is tremendously important. And what I see, many people—even beyond that kind of mistaking is that—many people, I think, mistake that chemistry or sense of attraction for love. And they will prioritize many things under that feeling of chemistry or attraction.

And at the end of the day, and I say this as somebody who's been—oh my god, what year is this? I’ve been with my husband since 1993. And it was absolutely thoughtless. I met him when I was 19 years old. I had no idea who I was or what I want, so there's that. And with that in mind is that I am attracted to my husband, and he's a wonderful man. But that is not nearly the most important thing in terms of his character. His—the way he shows up. I find him interesting after all this time, and so it's like going a little bit deeper. And I was a teenager when I met my husband so I did not have that kind of insight or self-knowledge that I might have as an adult. But what I see, sometimes adults doing, particularly very successful adults who've been able to achieve amazing things and other parts of their life, is that they sort of approach relationships with a similar kind of like checklist mentality. Or they're looking for things that are ultimately not the connection, and the attachment that they really not just want but need and deserve. And they're disappointed, and frustrated.

Damona: Yeah, yeah, I see that too. And I work with a lot of, particularly women who are very career-focused and successful in that area of their life, and are perplexed as to why they can't seem to work through their love lives. And I actually take an approach where I want them to use the skill set that has made them so successful in their professional life. But it's like you said, “to use it in the right way”. So it's not to make a list but it's to do the deeper work. And it's also—I really have people put a process around dating. And that's where I feel like I see the biggest shift because we just—if we haven't—I look at dating as a skill set. It's a series of skills that you can learn. You can learn how to have a profile that draws in the right dates. You can learn how to text message someone to build anticipation. You can learn how to connect with someone better on a date. You can learn how to have better follow through all of these things that we think should be innate.

Like I should just know how to attract someone because we've seen fairy tales. We've seen romcoms in which that happens. But I just feel like in our society, it is a set of skills, and nobody's really teaching them. It's the same thing I'm sure that you end up having to counsel people through is that the emotional learning, but then also just the interpersonal communication learning that gets glossed over. So in my program, we do a lot of just putting a process around dating so that it doesn't feel out of your control. And then I just wanted to address what you said about chemistry because I've been known to say that chemistry is a lie. A lie to you because you're responding to maybe a familiarity that might have been something that made you attracted to someone in the past who wasn't necessarily that helped me for you. And, or maybe it's something else that's making you feel that physical spark. But true relationships are built on more substantive stuff, and I encourage my clients and my database podcast listeners to be driven by curiosity. All you need to know at the end of the first date is, are you curious enough about that person to spend another hour? Maybe an hour and a half with them? Not overstaying your welcome on the first and second dates especially, but to really practice a little love and let that connection and that curiosity develop over time. If you get to the third date and you're not feeling anything, you're not more curious then, I think maybe there isn't a love match. But I find that a lot of people opt out after the first date or the second date, and they never get to the juicy stuff, and that sort of connection like you were talking about you have with your husband, and I have with mine. Where I'm just like, I love his mind. I love the way he looks at the world. I love his heart. And I love just seeing how he navigates through the world. And I look forward to continuing to see how he and I evolved together throughout this journey.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, yeah. But even I mean, it's based on empathy, and appreciation, and admiration for who he is, as opposed to the sort of, if only XYZ, then it could be feedback.

Damona: A lot of people are looking for reasons to say no before they're looking for reasons to say yes.

Dr. Lisa: What do you make of that?

Damona: Yeah. Instead of thinking like, “Okay, this is coming in a different package”.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Damona: But I can see his empathy. I can see his heart and I'm curious. They're like, “Oh, gosh. At least I hear this all the time”. I'm just thinking through all of these stories of clients in my mind who came to me and said, “Well, he has this, this, this, and this”. They're going against the checklist again. But I don't know about this or that. He doesn't have the same—like they'll pick on things that are very ultimately inconsequential. They'll say, “I'm really close to my family and he doesn't have a good relationship with his family”. So therefore, and they extrapolate out meaning that may or may not actually be there. If you don't know the work that someone has done, you don't know how they show up in their daily life…how can you possibly make a determination about what those set of facts may mean about them if you haven't seen it in practice?

Dr. Lisa: Yes, and it's like that one of like those primary ladies award mistake. But like things that we could easily fall into is sort of like rushing for closure. Like we have a little bit of information about someone, and so we are extrapolating, and assuming all of these other things about them that may or may not be true. So we're sort of closing the door in our own mind, when in actuality—and I think this is the hard part about relationships—is that it takes a long time to get to really know people and characters revealed over time. And that a lot of people seem great when you first meet them. But it's like, I think that there can be anxiety that comes up is that you do need to take time and invest before you really do get a sense of who people truly are. That can be difficult I think and sort of goes against the grain of what our immediate gratification kind of control culture says. It should be that you just know just the one and that I don't think that's true.

Damona: I agree with you. And the speed of dating is the thing that I've seen shipped the most since I started coaching 15 years ago. We are in such a rush like you said, to get to the end of the story. And I'll hear so many times from people, “Well, I know that he's not right but I just don't want to have to go through this all again and start all the way over”. And it's like—I don't know that that's the way that you want to live your life. Trying to fit a square peg into a round hole because you're afraid of having to go and hunt for another peg. But I've just seen so many times, like when my clients are in these situations or relationships that aren't really fulfilling, and that they're willing to be brave to express what they truly want. And let go of the outcome. We're so—we're always trying to manipulate the outcome of getting the other person to see it in, through our eyes, or to behave in the way that we want. And if we could just give ourselves a break by releasing responsibility for that.

And say, let me just speak my truth. And then if it's in alignment, then we can move forward. We can figure out a path forward together. If it's not in alignment, what if instead of looking at it as a rejection—just speaking with a client about this this morning. She didn't get the response she had hoped from after a first date. And she was like, “Well, I…” She kind of placed all of these additional meaning on it. Like, “Well, it's because he didn't like the way that I looked or my…my—I'm…I'm heavier than he thought I was”. And that was not something that was ever discussed on the date, but that's how she assigned meaning to it and then imprinted it on herself as a rejection. And if we can just step back and look at it not as a rejection of you, but as a rejection of the situation. Maybe they're just looking for something completely different. Or maybe I mean, we have to take responsibility for our side of the street. Like, were you showing up authentically? Were you listening? Were you responding? Were you asking them questions? Were you letting them know you were interested in hearing what they had to say? But once you've done all of that, sometimes it might look great on paper. It might feel great from your side of the street, but you don't know what's happening on their end. And you cannot internalize that because that's crushing—that will crush you from being able to continue to show up the next time.

Dr. Lisa: It turns into this, like, this means something about my fundamental worth as a person, my love ability, when we sort of internalize it. And what I hear you saying is that it's a good thing when you realize at the beginning that it's not a match, through no fault of your own. That it's, I think, much harder and more soul crushing, ultimately, and has very difficult long term consequences when you try to force a relationship into being with someone that it's not quite a good fit. That they are looking for something that's maybe a little bit different than what you have to offer. Not that there's anything bad with what you have to offer, or vice versa. To let that be a positive thing, as opposed to something that becomes like internalized and made into a negative thing about me. We can release each other and…

Damona: And it's really interesting how we marry those fears with whatever is happening out in the world. Like if I have concerns about my body image, and I take the actions of this other person to confirm…I’m limiting belief about myself. And I just especially, I'm really passionate about working with women. I work with men as well. But I just—I hate seeing us beat ourselves up in that way. And people always ask me like, “What's your style as a dating coach? Are you like Patti Stanger? The Millionaire Matchmaker? Are you gonna get in people's face, give them some tough love?” And I just don't believe in that. I think you date your best when you feel your best. And so I'm all about positivity, lifting people up. I'll be direct and real with you. If there's something that you're not looking at that you need to address, but I'm not going to send you out in the world to date feeling depleted, or like there's something wrong with you, or like, you need to get that validation from someone else.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Very wise. Yeah. Well okay, so let's go there. And so I, again, I caution other people from doing exactly the thing that I'm about to do, which is trying to find simple answers to very complex questions. Because I know—you know, that dating coaching is a process that there is a multi-step thing that you do with people, and it's not like specific to answers with a capital A at the end. We all have individual answers. And I am curious to know, if over the years that you've worked as a dating coach, you have seen sort of even patterns, or like kind of the usual suspects. If your classic client is a woman, and she comes to you, and she doesn't know yet that she has been maybe operating in a way that has been getting in the way of her achieving what she wants, which is a happy, healthy relationship. What have you found over the years, as being some of the usual suspects, that through your work with them you sort of slowly gently take away from them over time. But what are some of those things if you had to identify them?

Damona: Well, I actually—I love finding simple problems. Because I think a lot of times we overcomplicate it, and that's why I actually have systematize my program. When I started and I was doing only one-on-one coaching, I was like, “It's so personalized. There's no way that I could create a system that's going to work for everyone”. And then I really started to look at what I was doing year after year with clients. And I was like, “Wow. It is the same thing. process every time”. And pretty predictably, I can tell if somebody is going to get results from my program within about—with probably with two sessions. In my program, my one-on-one coaching program is only three months long.

Dr. Lisa: Oh, really?

Damona: So, I was thinking one way that they're showing up, first of all. If somebody—if it's like very hard for me to schedule sessions, and they're like running around busy, and like…I've had people that are like, “Oh. I'm driving to my next meeting, but I thought we could talk in the car”. No. Like, you know from being a therapist. No, no, no. We can't do that deep work. If you can't carve out one hour—and we meet every two weeks—so it's like, one hour every two weeks to just focus on this, and to make this a priority. I guarantee you, that's how you're going to be showing up in your date.

Dr. Lisa: Like how they have a relationship with you is other—making other people feel as well, which is something they're kind of cramming in, as opposed to being intentional about it. Okay.

Dmaona: And then we give homework every week. And if you show up to the second session, and you have nothing but excuses about why you couldn't do the homework, then I can see also that you might not be ready to to do the work. But of the people who actually show up, I had a 90% success rate from my program last year. COVID kind of threw a wrench in everything. But that means 90% of the people who committed to three months of focusing on their love life were dating someone exclusively by the end of three months.

Dr. Lisa: That’s so hopeful. I mean… I hope it feels hopeful.

Damona: I hope people aren't like, “Well, good for her. Good for them. That's not me”. Because I just seen that. When you come in with that kind of clarity, like, “This is the thing I want to have happen, and I'm ready to make a shift”. And I know that there is a system. Literally, if you just follow the plan, it just works. So there's five steps. And I'll give you the overview. Its mindset, sourcing, screening, presentation, and follow through. And that's it. So I call it the dating funnel. There's an area—if your love life isn't flowing, there's an area where you have a leak. I'm like the plumber of your love life. I go in and I patch up the funnel. And then love life—your love life flows. So it's either something in your mindset, the way that your foundational thinking about finding a mate or about yourself. Sometimes we repeat. We loop these steps. But basically, we just keep running it until it clicks.

It's either sourcing where you're finding the dates, and maybe your dating pool is not big enough. It's screening, how you're determining if someone is the right date for you or not. It's presentation, how are you showing up as your best self on the date. Or its follow through, “Well, I didn't—I wasn't sure if he was interested in me. So I wasn't—I'm not that—I didn't follow through. And I don't know, I didn't really give him the message. And I don't know how to close the loop”. And then we just kind of get stuck in this no man's land situationships. Clarity, clarity, clarity the whole time. It's that simple. And of course, people have different—like you could get…you could be in that mindset phase for a long time. And I'm a big fan of therapy. I have worked with therapists pretty much my entire life. And a lot of my clients are in therapy simultaneously. But usually, by the time someone comes to me, they've already done a lot of that deep inner work that we really do need to do before we can be our best selves in the relationship. But once you learn the dating steps, that is a—that's a process in and of itself. Then moving into the relationship might be another place where you might need to continue your therapy work as well.

Dr. Lisa: Well, I hear what you're saying. That, and I mean, this is really such a hopeful message Damona. You're saying that it really, actually isn't that complicated. That there are sort of best practices. There's actually a funnel, and that if you kind of figure out what to do in these different stages. The part about connecting with someone who has the potential to be a good match for you becomes much, much easier.

Damona: And I wouldn't believe it. That's exactly it. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't lived it myself and seen it happen so many times over the last 15 years. And I don't know that if I really, really hit this point home at the beginning, but I was a big a cynic around love. Everything else in my life was poppin’. I was like, on the executive track at work. I have friendships that—I've strong friendships. Life was flowing except for in love. And I was like, “Why do I…why does it always feel stuck here?” And I didn't have the system. I didn't have that clarity at the time. So for anyone that's listening and thinking like, “Well, it sounds really simple but she doesn't know me”. I do want to reinforce that message of hope that it really is possible. But you just have to believe it's possible, and you have to be willing to do that. It's not—the biggest myth is that Prince Charming is just going to come up and knock on your door. And like people will say to me all the time, “I just want to meet him organically”.

Okay, well. If we, first of all in COVID, we’re at the grocery store with your mask on. That's how 40% of new couples are meeting today, and I think that number is only going up. I've been on the online dating train for a long time. But now everybody's starting sort of catching up. And look, if you're busy, and you're career-focused, you don't have a lot of time to be out here in the streets, trying to meet a man. You can be really focused and deliberate about the way that you are online dating, not get caught up in the games. People always ask me, “Well, what's the best dating app? I heard that Tinder is only people who want to hook up. I hear that this app is better than that”. It's not the app. We're associating…we're putting too much meaning on the app, and giving it too much—putting too much stock in what the app can do. The app is just the connector. It's all in what you do, once you've connected.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. I have a couple of questions that are kind of playing musical chairs in my mind that I'll try to sit in the same little space at the same time. So let me organize them here. Okay, one of the—is it okay, if I asked you a…hopefully not too personal question?

Damona: You can ask me anything.

Dr. Lisa: Okay. When you look back at your own process, and kind of—not even what you're doing, but sort of like the mental space that you were in before you connected with your husband, that kind of experiencing that frustration? How would you sort of articulate what that was? And what shifted inside of you that allowed you to ultimately connect with your person? You want to put that into words?

Damona: Oh, yes. I am able to put it into words because I actually was working with a coach at the time myself. I'm not a dating coach, but a life coach. And I—she helped me recognize that I had a lot of blocks and limiting beliefs myself. And I actually had a tremendous fear of being alone. I have no idea where it came from but that was something that was really scary to me. And even the idea like, I would see people out at a restaurant eating by themselves. And I go, “Oh, that's so sad. They're alone”. And I constantly filled my schedule with people, and things, and chatter, and activities so that I didn't have to feel that aloneness. And she made me walk through it. And I tell you, Lisa, that was the scariest thing I ever had to be— had to go through in my life. I was terrified of this process of sitting with myself, and really digging in there. But the more that I worked with her, the more that I really got comfortable. And like people always talk about self love. But I—really, it was even deeper than self love. It was just self understanding, and awareness, and a deep sense of comfort in my aloneness that helped me get to the place where I could stand alone and be okay with that. And could find someone who would be complimentary to me, but not completing my life.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Damona: Right? So I…the time that I met him, it was just a very auspicious time in my life because I had just gone through this very—I had gone through a very deep emotional process. And at the same time, I also had really fine tuned my dating approach.

Dr. Lisa: Sure.

Damona: Simultaneously, and so then now I've just been able to kind of marry those two things.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Damona: They think they do need to work in tandem.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. And so in certainly, it was like the approach and the dating stuff. But you're also saying that you had really done a lot of work around understanding yourself. And this self-acceptance piece that was sort of the fertile ground in some ways for the dating approach. To that, perhaps, that hadn't had to happen previously for the seeds to fall on fertile ground, so to speak. That when you did right, people would take?

Damona: Yeah, and it's like, think of it this way. If you don't want to even be with yourself…

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Damona: Why would another person want to be with you? And even as I'm saying that, it's like, it's still a little bit raw for me to think that I thought of that. That was the headspace that I was in. But I know it had to be. I know it was. And so now I can look at it from the other side. And even just acknowledge some of those—those thoughts that I had towards myself. And why that tremendous fear of aloneness, why I was not enough for myself then? At that there's no way I could have really been able to move into this relationship if I was not in a place where I had processed a lot of that. And I think, we're always works in progress. I'm sure you believe everything. Not everyone believes that. But I do. And I think also, I think you learn in motion. And I think I learned through this relationship too. So I chose someone who constantly makes me want to be the best version of myself. And I learned so much from him. Hopefully, he learns a few things for me too. But I just want to keep showing up so that I can keep growing and being my best self.

Dr. Lisa: What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing that with me. And I think it's—I'm glad we're talking about this part of it too. And just like the courage and the commitment that it takes to work on on that level. And even the last part that you mentioned, like connecting with somebody who motivates you to grow. I would imagine, and we certainly not to talk about that, but like that doesn't always feel comfortable in some ways. A bit like—a really good healthy relationship that has a lot of growth potential isn't always going to feel comfortable. And there's positivity in that piece too.

Damona: The pacing of it is different, I would say. And sometimes it's a slow burn with the people that bring you to that place. And did I know that he was my husband when I first met him? Absolutely not. Like I—and we dated for almost four years before we got married. So by the time he proposed, I was like, “Obviously”. But yeah, I think it's—that's why I was so curious by by your statement at the beginning of working with couples because I mostly work with singles, or people who are moving into relationships, and help them shepherd the beginning phase of the relationship. But you're kind of coming at it from the other side, and hindsight is 2020. So that's what's so interesting to me is like, how can we learn in this lab of our life, and see how the choices we've made may be either helping us grow or maybe stifling us from reaching our full potential.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, yeah. And that the journey I think, goes into our own heads because it's—I think on some level, there are certain aspects of compatibility that are definitely a thing in terms of somebody's basic desire for closeness. Like their attachment style, there can be differences in that. Also people's basic orientation, believe it or not, too. Some people need a lot of structure, and planning, and knowing what is going to happen next, and have just this basic orientation to the world. They're very much thinkers. And there are like a lot of different values attached to that, sometimes around home and sort of stability and community. And there are other people who have a very basic orientation to the world that is much more in the moment, and kind of roll with it, and even novelty-based. And that has the potential to be a difficult pairing, unless there is a lot of real, I think, intentional cultivation of our capacity to love and appreciate someone for their differences. And understand how somebody else's way of being that maybe isn't ours, is also still valuable, and has advantages in certain situations. I mean, like, even this COVID situation. People who have—and you see this in couples have a really strong like planning orientation and kind of need to know what's happening next—falling apart because of the chaos and the uncertainty of this time. And many of them, fortunately, are paired with people who have a different orientation, which is more like, “I don't actually need to know exactly what's going to happen next because I trust in our ability to figure it out, and it's all going to be okay”. And there's been an interesting shift, I think, in relationships because the people who had more of that planning orientation can get a little bit judgey about the way their partners do things. And right now, it's the people who have a more—not type A but type B approach—to the world who are actually handling this whole situation much better. But it's how do we develop the ability to appreciate that, as opposed to believe that people need to be more like us in order for relationships to be successful? So there’s that.

Damona: That whole opposites attract, or like, do I need to be more similar? My database podcast listeners, I swear, have written this question in like ten times. And I just—I don't believe that. I don't believe either end of the spectrum is correct. Right? that opposites attract or the sameness attracts. I do think that you need balance in every way. I do find it interesting. As I've kind of studied the love languages a little bit more. And I'm in no way an expert in this at all. But my husband and I did the quiz and found that we have the exact same three primary love languages in the same order. Yeah. And I was like, “Oh, that makes sense”. Maybe that's why because it's just always been so easy with them. And I realized that maybe it's easy because we speak the same language in many ways. So we're completely different. He's an ex—He's an introvert. I'm an extrovert, in case you can't tell. And just the way that we approach, we're just really, really different people. But at our core, I think we feel love in the same way we communicate similarly when it's just the two of us. I think there are a lot of similarities and complimentary skills.

But it's so interesting how we get caught up on this idea of what it's supposed to look like to be. Right? Or what it's supposed to feel like. And I would say in the beginning, too, because he was a slow burn. I kept feeling like nothing was happening because I had been attracted to so much chaos and drama before that it feels passionate, and wild, and exciting, and you could never anticipate what's going to happen. And then I was like, “Wow, this guy's just like super consistent, and really nice, and a genuinely good person who I could trust”. And like, is anything actually happening? People will tell me this too. What is it supposed to feel like? And it's been really rewarding to see this happen for clients to—who came to me with the predisposition to be attracted to those chaotic relationships. And I've seen so many of them, in the recent years, choose differently. And then realize, like, “Oh, my gosh. Wait. We don't have to have all this friction there. We don't have loud dramatic arguments”. And you can be that way with one relationship and have…be a completely different way in another relationship. And then a lot of times when I see that with them, when they make that shift, it happens so quickly. I've seen clients that were hopeless in love one day, and that were literally engaged within six months. And it's just happened time, and time, and time again. So, if nothing else, just keep the hope that your relationship past does not have to be your relationship future. But you have to reprogram yourself if you want to get a different outcome.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, and thank you for saying that what a healthy, stable, long-term relationship actually feels like and is like can be very different from what people think it should feel like. And when they make that shift, and begin appreciating—maybe a calmer, more peaceful feeling relationship, it starts to feel much easier.

And hey, I know we're getting to the top of our time here, and you are fascinating. I feel like I could just talk to you all day. You're very interesting to talk to. And I wonder if it's in the last few minutes of our time, I could impose on you a couple of questions, like listener questions of this podcast. Also, at Growing Self, we often have—because there's a—we have a number of therapists on our team. And so part of our process, we do like consultation groups, like talk about things. And a couple of questions that have been coming up in various areas. What would you say to a dating coaching client, who, by virtue of their circumstance, lives in a small town, possibly a more rural town? And even though they're like, “Okay. Yes, open to doing online dating. The actual pool of candidates is not as robust as it might be in a larger area. Or I think, related to this, somebody by virtue of their circumstance is dating and living in an environment where, culturally, it is a different orientation than the one they're bringing to the table. And so, in this sense, somebody who has maybe more progressive values living in an area geographically where just by virtue of the population that isn't shared, and that feels like an important thing. What would you say to those people who are dating but who feel a little bit like they are on an island in some ways, or have limited options?

Damona: Yes, I’ve dealt with this. Both of those situation in the past and in my programs. And it's tricky when your pool—your actual pool is limited. So that goes to the sourcing part of the funnel, where you're finding dates. And I've discovered because people…it's funny. I live in Los Angeles, and I have a lot of clients here, and in New York, and in San Francisco, and in Atlanta, and in Chicago. And they'll say to me, “I think…just New York is just not a good place to date. There just are no men or no women”. Yeah. And I’m like, “Really?” Like move to my hometown, Lansing, Michigan, and then tell me the same thing. There's far more options than you realize are there. It's the overwhelm of sorting through those options that makes us feel like nobody's listening and nobody's there. So you actually, in a smaller market, have a benefit that you have a finite pool. You have a smaller pool to sort through. But the double-edged sword of that is that it is finite. And in all my years of coaching, and many years of hearing, “There's nobody here today”. I have actually only once been like, a dude, “I don't even know…you're—you might have to actually move”. I was working with someone in Lubbock, Texas, and I'm sure there's some people, some listeners that are like, “Oh, yeah. I know. college town”. And he was, I think, in his 40s. So he couldn't date the college people. But a lot of people were in relationships. And like I went through and I get when I'm working one-on-one with someone, I get really granular in their dating app. And I was like, there really isn't anybody here.

Dr. Lisa: You're actually at the bottom of the barrel. Yeah.

Damona: Yeah. We'll try like, I'll try that. I love the dating apps because I just think it's the best way to expand your dating pool today. But it's not the only thing. There's social media. There's online meetup groups. There are setups from friends. There are interest groups. There's so many ways that you still can make a connection without using a dating app. But if you go through all of those and you're like, “Literally, there's no one here”. Not like no one that I would date but just literally the pool that small. Then, you have to really ask yourself, “Well, how does—how important is finding a mate versus how important is it for me to be here?” And the interesting thing about COVID is it really is changing the dating landscape because a lot of people are moving to places where they'd rather live because they can work virtually right now. Dating apps are obviously seeing a huge spike in new users and in communications. Many of them are taking down the paywall on features, like being able to search outside of your immediate area. So I would encourage people to just just look beyond your traditional parameters, even within your own city. Just expand your search criteria a little bit and see what else might be out there. Because I always have to remind people, if you're looking for a one-on-one monogamous relationship, you're only looking for one.

And we get really caught up on, send 10 messages. The average response rate is 20-30%. So we send 10 messages, and we get overwhelmed. We get so consumed by the seven that didn't reply when you have three great ones that are sitting right there. And all you're thinking about is the seven that didn't come through. So maybe if you can flip your thinking there and just remember that you're just looking for one. You're just looking for one that can help you in navigating through. If you're in a place where the pool is a mismatch for you, it's kind of the same advice. But I have been through it myself. Being from the Midwest, and being—I am half black, and half white, and Jewish. And growing up in the Midwest and living in Chicago, where the standard of beauty really did not, at the time, was not tilted in my favor. I took it really personally for a long time. And when I moved to Los Angeles, I saw it just—it did create a lot of opportunity for me that wasn't there otherwise, and it actually made me see myself in a different way. And I've seen this also, like I wrote an article for bet.com, about black women who date abroad, and how here in the United States, we don't—we could get into a whole conversation around race and dating…

Dr. Lisa: It’s an important conversation. Yeah.

Damona: But there's so much in our history of unconscious bias and associations we make here from with race, that don't necessarily exist in other places. And you so internalized it, that when some of these women moved to Europe or to Africa, and they found they were not only having dates and attractive, but they were appreciated and revered. It completely changed their perspective of themselves, as well. So it's about not internalizing the results, right? And making that mean something about yourself. It means something only about the pool that you're dating in.

Dr. Lisa: Right. Right. To be able to move away from it where it can be easy to internalize those messages and then having some distance be able to say, “Oh, no. It's actually a white supremacist culture that has been devaluing me, and I don't have to participate in that”. And it's actually not true, what kind of—the basic lie. But getting that perspective…

Damona: Yeah. It's the first step is just acknowledging that it's there, being aware that it's there. And I think this is work for people of all races to do. What is your unconscious bias? I wrote an article for The Washington Post in June, right after the George Floyd protests ,and got a lot of hate mail. Not gonna lie.

Dr. Lisa: Did you?

Damona: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, I got my website hacked. I got attempted to be hacked. People did not like what I had to say. But in the article, I was just asking people to examine their beliefs, and to ask the questions, and really see what associations they've put around race that may not be reality. It may be part of their history, or may not even be their stuff. It could be their parents’ stuff, or their parents’ parents’ stuff. And it was actually really rewarding. A friend of mine who is a dating coach—he's a male dating coach—and he said, “Damona, I've read your article, and I really thought about it, and realize that even though I tell people to date race open, I realized I wasn't doing it. And I had to ask—I used your techniques that you talked about in the article—and I had to ask myself why. And I realized that I didn't have a good reason for it”. Like maybe it's just the discomfort of having to learn a new culture, or go through that experience of maybe people staring at you, and just the awkwardness of being in a new space. And he was like, “and now I've actually started talking to a couple of black women that I probably—I changed my filters on my dating app, and I might not have been talking to them otherwise”. And it was really rewarding for me to hear that because I thought, “Okay, for all of those negative messages I got, if I just cracked the door open enough for him, or for him, and he's pretty open minded as it is. But for him to even have that reaction to it. And I'm sure a lot of other people, if I could just nudge the door open a little bit, to get them to examine their beliefs, then I think I've done my work”. I think that's really what the point was. It's an ongoing conversation.

Dr. Lisa: What was the name of your article? I’ll be sure to link to it and I'd like my listeners to check it out.

Damona: What was it called? Let’s see. I'll tell you in 30 seconds. I write for a column called Date Lab on the Washington Post. So normally, it's…I set people up on dates, and then I write about it.

Dr. Lisa: But wait, you do date lab? I'm so sorry, Damona. I remember, I think reading a couple of those stories.

Damona: Oh yeah, yeah. I’m not the only Date Lab writer. There's a team of us, about six or seven of us who write them. But yeah, I really enjoy it. The article that I was referencing is daters say they don't—you can tell I don't title the articles—Daters Say They Don't Tolerate Racial Bias. Their Actions Say They Do Have Racial Preferences. So yeah, I do. And I also—I have a column in the LA Times called Dear Damona. And I also did one on like some questions I've received around recent dating this fall as well. So I'm just open to having the discussion. I know some people are feeling a little bit triggered by it right now, and that's okay. That's okay. It's just, I'm here to ask the questions that maybe you've been scared to ask yourself.

Dr. Lisa: And I'm glad…

Damona: And I’m glad he’s on the other side. Maybe really transformative.

Dr. Lisa: I'm so glad that we had the opportunity to talk about this. And you're right, I—we could certainly fill a whole other hour on that subject. And it would be time well spent. So we'll have to put that on there. Maybe in the future list. But in the meantime, I'll be sure to link to your articles and columns that you mentioned. And if our listeners today would like to learn more about you, and your miraculous coaching program, where would they go?

Damona: datesandmates.com is the best place to learn about my programs. And then of course, listen to the podcast, which is also on whatever platform you're listening right now. So that's where I give like it's topical advice. I look at studies, and news, and who's dating who, and all of that, and why you should care what you can learn from it, and then talk to two experts, and answer questions from listeners every single week.

Dr. Lisa: Oh wonderful. I'm going to start listening myself. Thank you so much. And this was wonderful. So we will link to that too. And thank you for a really interesting conversation. This was a lot of fun, and I appreciate your being so generous with your perspective and your wisdom. You have a lot of experience in this area. And I'm sure our listeners would have benefited from spending this time with you. So thank you.

Damona: Thank you. I really enjoyed it.

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