Honest Advice From an Online Dating Coach

Honest Advice From an Online Dating Coach

Honest Advice From an Online Dating Coach

Honest Advice From an Online Dating Coach:

Dating Do's and Don'ts | Common Online Dating Mistakes | Pandemic Dating | and More!

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HONEST ADVICE FROM AN ONLINE DATING COACH: Have you found yourself saying lately, Help! I think I'm falling in love over Zoom?” Or possibly, “That's it! I'm never dating again!!” It's not just you: these are challenging times for singles. Pandemic relationships in particular can get hot and heavy fast, but that's not always a good thing. The new reality of Covid-19 has changed so many things about life, not least of which are the new possibilities (and perils) of online dating. 

The days of waiting in a restaurant for your date or planning a trip with your new romance are gone, at least for now. As such, many have looked to online dating to find that human connection.

Many dating apps already exist, but the difference is the possible absence of a face-to-face meeting. You are now getting to know someone almost exclusively through the screen of your devices. Depending on your preferences, that could make dating easier or more difficult. 

Today’s episode of the podcast will tackle the new reality dating in the time of a pandemic. My guest, Growing Self online dating coach Markie Keelan, M.A., LPC will be sharing her honest dating coach advice to help you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the new reality of dating and how you might discover more about yourself through it. 

Listen to the episode to understand what you truly want in your dating life and how to find love in these strange times.  

Honest Advice From an Online Dating Coach

In today's episode we're discussing:

  • Know how the new reality of dating may or may not work for you. 
  • Learn the benefits and drawbacks of online dating. 
  • Discover how to navigate your expectations when meeting someone online.  
  • Find out the problem with being available all the time to the person you're getting to know. 
  • Understand the importance of communicating what you want. 
  • Know how online dating may affect relationships. 
  • Learn how to deal with the continuous evolution of dating. 
  • Learn how to form positive relationships through online dating.  

 

 

Episode Highlights:

The New Reality of Dating

Michael Stahl, in an article titled “Help! I think I'm falling in love over Zoom,” narrates his dating experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. He talks about feeling emotionally intimate with someone over Zoom and how it faltered when they met in person. Sadly, this is the new reality of dating — dealing with the uncertainties of finding love online.

This type of situation is what my team and I have noticed lately from our clients. The way people are connecting these days can create new opportunities but also some potential pitfalls. 

Struggles with Online Dating

Markie Keelan, who helped Michael with his story, is a licensed therapist who provides dating coaching services with Growing Self. In the episode, she shares some of the questions about dating her  her dating coaching clients have been asking lately. She mentioned that her online dating coaching clients have been sharing struggles like:

  • The lockdown period has added extra layers of complexity to an already complex dating environment. Navigating connections with one another has become different with technology.  
  • Many tend to invest in relationships early on since most of them have been — and are capable of — talking frequently online.  

The Good Things About Online Dating

One of the good things about online dating is feeling safer since you don't have to meet face to face amid a global pandemic. Markie also said online dating allows people to feel more comfortable and vulnerable toward their date because meeting someone at an unknown place can make you feel anxious and hinder the way you communicate.

Because digital communication is convenient and you’re familiar with your surroundings, you feel safe being vulnerable. This way, you can have longer and more in-depth conversations. 

The Pitfalls of Online Dating

Dating during a pandemic is new territory for all of us. Therefore, it’s good to recognize the adverse impact it may have. Markie says meeting a person on the computer screen leads to miscommunication. The benefits she mentioned previously have drawbacks when you look at them more closely.     

  • People tend to judge others more quickly online. Meeting face to face reduces judgment as both people feel vulnerable or nervous, especially on a first date.
  • In-depth discussions usually occur on date number three or four when dating in person. Online dating allows you to create conversations so in-depth that the other person may not be at the same vulnerability level yet. 

 

Dating Mistakes: The Problem with Being Always Available

Since many people are now more likely to be in their homes, we assume people are available 24/7. But others may have a job or a daily structure they planned for themselves. Here are the reasons why Markie advised not to be available 24/7 to the person you're getting to know.  

  • Constant availability can disrupt your day-to-day activities.
  • Being overly available can overwhelm the person who doesn’t have access yet to that kind of vulnerability. 

If you find yourself talking to someone you feel can’t understand your boundary, you have to assert yourself. Learning that the person can't respect your boundaries early on is a signal that they may not be suitable for you.

Dating Advice: Say What You Mean Out Loud

Not all people have the sensitivity to know what you're trying to say. Women, in particular, tend to use other tactics to express their desires. Clear communication is vital in building relationships. Here are reasons why you should verbalize what you're thinking:  

  • By telling what you want clearly, you can see if the person can listen and respect your decision. Then, you can determine whether to pursue the person or not. 
  • If you don't say it out loud, the issue can be brought up later down the road, especially in fights. 
  • The other person may not be aware of what you’re thinking.  

How Online Dating Affects Relationships

You probably already know this, but people present a perfect picture of themselves when dating online. In turn, this can put you in a tough spot — once you meet in reality, they may not be what you have expected. 

Markie shared the ways online dating can affect relationships: 

  • The emotional connection can be edited, so you might fall for someone who is a different person in real life. 
  • You can't see the whole picture of the person, such as how they interact with people and deal with adversity in life. 

Markie added that you need to get as much information as you can when you're dating. One critical factor is how they treat others because it reflects how they will treat you in the relationship. 

Dating Advice: Living Up to the Expectations of Your Online Persona

Set reasonable expectations, for people tend to curate themselves differently online or on first dates. Attachment to someone or an idea of someone can upset you once reality hits. 

Conversely, you also have to be honest online so that you won't feel pressured to live up to a false persona. Here's how you can lessen the possible stress of shouldering expectations when it comes to online dating:  

  • Be the same whether you are in Zoom or in person.
  • Remind yourself that you're still getting to know the person. Reserve your final judgment until you have all the information you need.

If you are going to be dating during this time, embrace all of it. Embrace the fact that you will get to know someone through more of a friendship lens first, and treat it like that.

Dealing with the Continuous Evolution of Dating

From telegraphs to telephones to texting to Zoom calls, there's a constant evolution in navigating relationships. Although everyone can adapt, no one can change the landscape when it comes to building relationships. So how do you navigate dating with the continuous evolution of communication?

  • Expect that your connection online is going to be different on your first date. 
  • Give grace to the other person.  
  • Give the first date the space it deserves.  

Forming New Positive Relationships Through Online Dating

Online dating can work. Just as Markie’s clients had proven, you can learn more about yourself in doing things differently.

  • Through online dating, you can get to know the things you're comfortable with while in a relationship. 
  • Markie’s clients have connected with people who are more like-minded because they're aligning with their values more these days. 

Despite the struggles, Markie still believes that online dating can have a positive effect on people. 

Resources 

  • Check out more of Markie's great dating advice on the Growing Self website. If you'd like to enlist her services as a private dating coach, you can schedule a free consultation meeting with her to discuss your hopes and goals, and how she can help you attain them.
  • If you'd like to get more help to master the art of modern dating (but aren't ready for private dating coaching) consider our Online Dating Coaching Program, “Find The One.”
  • Michael Stahl’s website — Read more about Michael's commentary around dating these days, and his other observations about life. 

Markie shared some valuable tips on dating during a pandemic. Which part of the episode was the most helpful? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment down below.

Hope these ideas help you on your quest for love during these perilous times…

xo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby & Markie Keelan, M.A., LPC

 

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Honest Advice From an Online Dating Coach

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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Online Dating Coach Advice: 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, and Success podcast.

Dr. Lisa: Very cool atmospheric tune there by Dasia May called Will I Ever Be. I thought it was a nice combination of sort of wistful and hopeful in tone and topic because that is kind of our theme for today. We are talking about dating and not just any kind of dating, but a special kind of dating because there is a new sort of circumstance, a new set of both opportunities, and potential pitfalls for singles these days in the era of Coronavirus and dating during quarantine. 

So, just in time for cuffing season 2020 we are going to be speaking about the new reality of dating. And I have to tell you too, the impetus to this whole topic came from a story written by an acquaintance of mine who's a writer named Michael Stahl. Michael's actually been on this program with me before and he recently wrote a couple of really great pieces about his experience of dating recently. One was published in narratively.com another one was in mel.com.

And his story actually got picked up by like the Guardian, it's been all over the place. So if you google Michael Stahl dating, you'll get the scoop. And I interviewed Michael to participate in this with us. And unfortunately, the audio file was corrupted, so we cannot include it. But here is the punch line, Michael, like so many people who are out there dating these days connected with someone online, and over a period of weeks established a relationship that felt very emotionally intimate over zoom, only to have it falter when they met in person. The dating coaches on my team have been hearing a similar story over and over again that the way that people are coming together and connecting particularly since there's so much online involvement can create really interesting new opportunities, but also some pretty major pitfalls that need to be navigated in a very kind of conscious and thoughtful way.

So to help us with this, I have invited my dear friend and colleague, Markie Keelan, who is also a licensed therapist, as well as a dating coach here on our team to give us the her inside perspective, and the things that she shared with Michael for his story. 

Markie, I know that you contributed to Michael's piece about the strange reality that is dating these days. And I'm curious to know, from your perspective, as a dating coach, what kinds of things you've seen struggle your clients, struggling with? It's maybe a little different run of the mill, dating concerns?

Markie: Right. I mean, I think there's a few different factors involved in dating during the Coronavirus that has added extra layers of complexity to an already complex dating environment. One of the main changes that I've noticed are people highly investing into relationships pretty early on. And I spoke with Michael about this. But just to kind of share with your listeners, if you know, haven't already talked about this. This idea of connecting online through video chatting, feels very safe for multiple different reasons, right? 

You're not going to contract a disease when you're facetiming or zooming in someone. But on the same time, the level of vulnerability that occurs on a video chat versus in person over coffee is different. So you might feel much more comfortable sitting in your house with a glass of wine talking about you know how, your struggles in life have come, you know full circle to successes, then you would you know, at the first meeting with someone at coffee, you might feel a little bit more hesitant to share things. And then the ease of meeting online and texting. We'll find out really quick.

Dr. Lisa: So you're saying that people if they're sitting in their living room talking to somebody’s face on a laptop, that they're actually sharing more, more personal things feeling less vulnerable than they would if they were like, you know, in a restaurant or something having a similar conversation, but people are less careful. Is that what you're saying? Right?

Markie: Well, I believe. I kind of— now that you say it out loud. There's two things is the more careful or less careful,

Dr. Lisa: Less careful..

Markie: Yeah, less powerful to share with them with their potential partner on zoom. Partially because of just the similarity of, you know, being at your living room with a glass of wine with a friend, right? Like you just feel more comfortable in your own surrounding whereas when you go to a new surrounding, you're already feeling a little bit anxious, but good anxiety. If you know you're excited to meet someone, and all those things come together and maybe slow you down from sharing every single thing about yourself or—

Dr. Lisa: Got it

Markie: —have kind of catching you in. Hey, this is a first meeting.

Dr. Lisa: You know, and just what else I thought of like. If you go to a restaurant, at a certain point, the waiter brings the check. And like if you don't pay it, like..

Markie: Oh my gosh, right!

Dr. Lisa: Hover, and I start refilling your water every 17 seconds, until you leave. Right? But like if you're sitting in your living room with a zoom call, you could seriously have like a four hour conversation that isn't like — Okay, everybody time to go, like by the server. I mean—

Markie: 100%

Dr. Lisa: —little logistical things. That's interesting. Yeah.

Markie: It's the structure that's different. Now, I say that there's this other piece too, that I want to bring up, because it's kind of counterintuitive to what I just said. And that is also the person that's judgmental — that dates around. And you know, no one's good enough. They're also going to be more likely to judge much quicker rather, the person that you know, sits back on the zoom call, and is talking in this trying to get information from them and doesn't have that investment. So they'll be much quicker to judge then if they're at that foreign restaurant. They're also feeling a little bit off kilter, because it's their first experience. And then there's also some normality. And, you know, I'm vulnerable, you're vulnerable and kind of reducing some of that judgment, because you might feel a little bit uneasy.

Dr. Lisa: At a restaurant, right?

Markie: Exactly. So I think it depends on what you're kind of bringing in already—

Dr. Lisa: Okay

Markie: —to the dating scene, like what was going on before coronavirus, I think is just kind of, you know, exploded a little bit now during coronavirus.

Dr. Lisa: So Markie, I think I'm hearing you say that, um, someone could actually literally have a checklist next to their laptop on the coffee table and be ticking things off on the list, but that's not actually in your head. And that would not happen in a restaurant.

Markie: Right!

Dr. Lisa: Like maybe, not quite that literally, but like that it feels like that more to people. There's a like, okay, let's talk about financial solvency, like that kind of conversation with the first online zoom date. 

Markie: Yeah. Right! Exactly! Or it could be the second or third because they're happening, you know, two days apart. Versus logistically again, the lack of logistical planning that goes into planning a date in person versus date actually matters when it comes to connection because these conversations around financial planning happen on day three maybe. Right like oh, what do you know? How much money do you make? You know, what, those aren't great date questions in general right? But you know you might..

Dr. Lisa: Fell off the checklist, right? 

Markie: Or reasonable to you know—have these three hour long dates, you know, three you know, in a row in one week, and then all of a sudden you're disclosing this information after knowing someone for one week or asking that of someone after one week.

Dr. Lisa: What is so hard right now because like if somebody texts you in the afternoon is like what are you doing like the answer for pretty much all of us is absolutely nothing would you like to hang out because I'm here in my house and that is almost like whereas normally it would be like yes, you can schedule an appointment with me five days from now that's going to require more advanced notice than it does right now. When…

 

Markie: Totally I'm so glad you bring that up because I actually think that is a topic to talk about really quickly that overly available. You're the people that you're texting that you're talking to — it's never necessarily like the best idea. But because of what you just said, like “What are you doing?” “Yeah, I'm at home alone not doing really anything.” Then you know one that creates that boundary of, “Oh yeah, you can you can access me at any time.”

And then all of a sudden we feel guilty if we don't respond right away because before that whole like, “Oh, there they left you on read,” narrative was actually quite rude. Right? Hey, I know that they could text me back. Well, now that's even more solidified they can text you back and so the expectation is now respond quickly and I think if possible to get that out of the way in the beginning would be really helpful for people to say you know, I do have all of my day kind of like open and free but I really value structure and so even though like I'm not doing necessarily anything work related or anything, you know, creatively related whatever it is that would structure you pre-coronavirus still have structure. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Markie: Don't be available 24/7 to someone that you're getting to know.

Dr. Lisa: That is such good advice, Markie. And also just like when you think of it in terms of like almost power dynamics, being overly available communicates a, I think, level of vulnerability — that people that you're just getting to know they probably don't need. Don't need access to that, like there's almost a power thing to be able to say, “I probably won't text you back immediately. Don't take it personally, I just have a lot going on to communicate that to someone who's getting to know you.” They'll be like, “Oh, she has a lot going on.”

Markie: Right! Yay. Maybe you do, maybe you don't. Regardless, that is a good place to start communication from boundaried understandable seeing if they can also respect that boundary. But also that you feel that you can assert that boundary and good in the relationship.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Yes, that boundary is respected. That's right there. Yeah.

Markie: Well, I am again, I know people might do testing in relationships, but I always just say, you know, make sure the person knows what they're being tested on. You don't give pop quiz of like, “Oh, you know what, they keep texting me all day long. And they're so annoying. I'm going to move on to the next,” you know, actually verbalize. “Hey, you know, I noticed that we have been texting a lot. Is it okay, if we pull back a little bit, you know, I noticed myself getting really distracted from the projects I do have going on outside. And I really want to see where this relationship goes. And I just want to make sure you're comfortable with that.”

Dr. Lisa: Right. And to say that out loud. But gosh, I mean, what a fantastic piece of advice under any circumstances. I think for particular, for women a lot of times is to say very clearly and out loud. This is what I would prefer. And then to watch what someone does with that, because there can be a lot of information that comes from, you know, whether or not people listen to what you're saying, whether or not they respect the things that you're asking for. And if you could find that out sooner rather than later, that would be to your advantage in a relationship. 

Markie: Yeah. I think that brings up there like someone who's communicating that boundary out loud to someone. It brings that also into your own awareness. So I think sometimes we think about boundaries being for the other person. Mm hmm. But it's also for us, in the sense that we're telling them what we need. But we're also able to say, oh, okay, if I do make a judgment on this, if I do notice that this person cannot uphold this boundary, I will feel more validated—to maybe make that a place of judgment for myself to say, you know what, I'm going to have to step away, or I'm going to have to talk about this again. Otherwise, when we don't say it, you feel somewhat uneasy around bringing it up later on down the road, or in general, if we get really upset, and we have an outburst? And they're like, “Whoa, what happened?” And then that's when some of that, you know, gaslighting can come in, like, “Oh, well, you know, I never did that, or I, you know, I never text you that much.” Well, you do, but maybe that person wasn't aware of it. Just communicating in general, I think is really helpful. But it's really important for the person saying and communicating that boundary, I think.

Dr. Lisa: I agree. I agree. And even more, so these days. And then on kind of along those lines, well, actually, no, let me let me get your take on something. So when this was kind of gearing up, you know, March, April, kind of moving into quarantine and the dating landscape really abruptly shifted. You know, changing from having the opportunity to meet someone, in person, have a cocktail potentially have a romantic encounter, at some point. It shifted from, you know, talking on the phone or skyping, or even texting to not having the opportunity as quickly for physical interactions. And the couple  school of thought and one is, is that in this time of kind of increased anxiety, people are understandably maybe more motivated to get serious about finding their person and are coming into interactions with maybe a hope of commitment on their mind.

And think that is maybe something that has increased and also that in the early stage of dating a lot more like just talking about hopes and dreams and who I am and who you are and personality and values and life goals. And that is not being — the word obscured is coming to mind, I don't know if that's the right word or not — but by like sexual chemistry or drinking a little too much wine, you know, like you're really like face to face getting to know someone? And do you think that that shift has led to, you know, on the one hand, maybe relationships that start with a stronger foundation around friendship and have commonalities and common goals? Or do you think that that has led to, I say, problems, but like relationship experiences that counter intuitively have kind of arisen from not having had those in-person interactions in the beginning? I know that's a kind of meandering and unintentionally overly complicated question. But what do you want to know..

Markie: I think I understand kind of the root of this question, because I think I wrestle with it too. A bit. What are some of the benefits of connecting in this way? And what are some of the drawbacks, and what I am seeing from that first statement around, you know, developing that really strong friendship as a basis for a relationship. I think that this is really good for people that have done some of their introspective work, and are saying, “Okay, this is really what I am looking for, I'm connecting with this person, on a different level,” you know. Maybe I was too focused on that physical connection. And now I'm being able to, I'm almost forced to be able to prioritize this emotional connection, or intellectual connection. And that is helpful. I do think that physical presence matters in dating. And not being able to have that physical presence early on, I think can kind of rise two, or two drawbacks can arise from that. One is that that emotional connection can be somewhat edited. So again, a lot of these interactions are in settings that we can very much control. Our home.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Markie: You know, what we are presenting the camera angles. You know, that sounds silly. But really, you know, and a lot of this is also still through texting. And we know from texting, it's completely edited. You know, when we are in a conversation in real time, and an unknown location, we really get to see how someone is out and about in kind of our nature.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, I was like random things that come up how they interact with the server, what happens if they get agitated when they can't find a parking spot? Like all this kind of stuff that in a very, like, controlled environment, like a zoom call? You don't? You don't get to see the full picture, I guess. 

 

Markie: Right. Yeah. And we're all courting each other, right? So this idea of like, we always present our best selves, when we're starting to date someone, right? We're not going to tell them about all of like, our dirty laundry right up front. And so, you know, it's funny because you bring up a really good point of like, how they interact with the waiter, or like, how they deal with uncertainty or things kind of going amiss. You know, how do they manage that when it's not in, within their control to like, navigate or change. And so you get a lot of information about someone when you're in person with them, that you're missing when it's over zoom, or text. And so I think some of that missing information can lead to some security being built on some unsteady ground, if that makes sense.

Dr. Lisa: Yes, that there are inferences or assumptions being made about who somebody is based on those zoom conversations that might be different, if you weren't with them in person, right? You don't maybe have as much infor— even though maybe like, you have more information about the things they want to tell you about who they are that you don't have the opportunity to see who they are. 

Markie: Yeah, absolutely. And like Lisa, you, you know, this from even working with client work, right, like a client talking about a hard situation they had earlier that week is one thing. But seeing a client during like, in the middle of that crisis, is it can be a different person. And so that's the exact thing of when we have so much insulation around how we arrived to the relationship. It's like, we're presenting our best self on steroids. And I would argue some of the most magical parts of a relationship are built off of our flaws, are built off of how does this person deal with the adversity in their life? How do they deal with the unknown? And falling in love for that person for those reasons of wow, you know what, even though they're not perfect, I really appreciate them. But, you know, of course, alluring perfection that can come from an edited version, of course, is also there, too. 

Dr. Lisa: Got it. And so what I think I'm hearing you say is that there's, you know, potential, the potential for having a relationship that's established on more friendship, as opposed to sexual chemistry. But the dark side of that is running the risk of having a relationship that is based on an overly curated self image that leads you to believe that you know who someone is. And you don't actually. And so maybe developing an attachment or an idea about who this person you're dating is that is not fully based in reality. Is that an overly harsh way of saying it? Or?

 

Markie: No, I mean, I think that's pretty appropriate. And I also say that the inverse is true, too. You know, I have some clients that are more on the anxious side. And they're really worried about “delivering” — I’m using air quotes here — on that first date in person, you know, what we made all these connections, you know, over zoom calls, and am I going to live up to their expectation. Maybe I overplayed or overly confident in talking to them about all these vulnerable things, what if they see me and the connections not there. And of course, you know, like, that may be a possibility. But also I don't encourage people to align with that type of anxious thinking, you know, if you are going to be dating during this time, embrace all of it, you know, embrace the fact that you are going to get to know someone through more of a friendship lens first, and treat it like that, you know, treat it in the same fashion, as you're going to be vulnerable to an extent, you're going to hopefully meet in person at some point, and allow that to be your first in person interaction, you know, make it special. Don't put that pressure on it of, it needs to be exactly like, you know, the connection over zoom. It's not going to be, it's going to be different. It could be better, could be worse, but it could be better.

 

Dr. Lisa: It could be better. Yeah. But and also, like, I think to—my takeaway from hearing you talk is like to be reminding yourself that you are still getting to know that person. Even if you've been spending a lot of time talking with them is that until you do have the opportunity to be with them in real life. And you know, getting to know someone over time to maybe keep reserve your final judgment until you have all the information you need. And I, you know, I'm thinking right now. And I think, I don't know if this is true for many people dating, I hope it's not, but I'm thinking of two clients that I have talked to recently, who had this experience. They got to know guys through zoom and calls that seemed really nice. And they wanted to get to know better, and wound up having really, like, actually unpleasant experiences with them in person that surprised them. And like, let's not forget that, you know, there's safety issues still, when you're out there dating, particularly if you're not meeting at a restaurant, where do you meet? Do you go to somebody's house like and to be, and not to be overly, like cynical or darker being it but to be using good judgment and be cautious.

Markie: Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa: And it’s not making assumptions about based on who you think you have come to learn someone is over zoom calls. Is that fair? 

 

Markie: Yeah. I mean, absolutely no one, no one feels good about being kind of duped by someone, especially on a dating app. And having that interaction, validate some of what you're feeling. And I want to also say, you know, even if you do go on an in-person date, you know, there's the potential to you know, second third date realize they are a different person.

Dr. Lisa: I don't like you. [laughs]

Markie: Right, you know, this is an evolution of our relationship. And it's adding a new layer. That's the way I'm looking at it. It's like, you know, before you know what, for telephones were invented, everything was in person, then telephones were invented. And then you know, we got to call, you know, our crushes and our boyfriends and things like that, and then text and all of a sudden more communication. And now it's this other form. And so we've just added something new to dating, and so make that adaptation, but no one is going to change the landscape, you know. And so that connection that you have in person on a first date is going to be different than when it's a zoom first date. But it's also going to be different when you can meet in person. And so just mitigate your expectations, you know, understand and give grace to the other person too. You know, don't be overly harsh, but also, you know, it's a first in person date, you know, really give it its space that it deserves.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Great advice. And then lastly, before I let you go, I'm curious to know, from, you know, as you kind of scroll through your clients and people that you've talked to that have been dating, have you had any experiences with clients or even people that you know personally, where this has really worked out well for them. And they have been able to form new relationships that feel really positive, and it seemed to be enduring?

Markie: Yeah, you know what, I'm glad you asked that question, because I definitely have, I think that one of the things that this time period is bringing out for individuals in general, is the need to really know what you are comfortable with and what you're not comfortable with in relationships. And so all of a sudden, this kind of landscape that where a lot of people had to go on a first date to know who someone was. Now, this kind of more open access to dating either multiple people through zoom, or being more open to like, Hey, I don't do first meetings in person, I need to like do a zoom call, or I, you know, we can socially distance, whatever that is. Yeah, that is actually. think bringing about a lot of people finding others that are in the same value system as they are. You know. And I think that that is something that I've really seen come out of this that I enjoy as a dating coach, of just seeing my clients go through is, they're really being able to connect with people that are more like minded, because they're also aligning with their values, much more so now. So I think this at minimum has that positive effect for people.

Dr. Lisa: Markie, thank you so much for sharing that. I'm glad to leave things on a positive note. And thank you so much too for sharing all your really good advice and tips.

Markie: Great. Well! No, thank you so much for having me. And, you know, I hope to continue to discuss this topic with you more in the future. 

Dr. Lisa: As things evolve. We'll see how it all goes. If you'd like to learn more about Markie and her practice, you can learn all about her on her site at growingself.com. And you can also cruise over to our blog at growingself.com and do a little search for Markie Keelan, or the search word “dating advice.” And you will see so much more from Markie. She's written a number of articles on the topic. And if you scroll back in this podcast feed, you'll also find more great dating advice from Markie as well as others on our team. And also if you would like to get all of the details about what it's really like to be dating these days, again, go to www.michaelstahlwrites.com or do a search for Michael Stahl to find his thoughtful, vulnerable, and oh-so-insightful writing, and commentary around dating these days at mel.com or Narratively.

So thank you guys for tuning in. And I'll be in touch again soon with another episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast.

 

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Constructive Conflict: Arguments That Help Your Relationship Grow

Constructive Conflict: Arguments That Help Your Relationship Grow

Constructive Conflict: Arguments That Help Your Relationship Grow

Why Constructive Conflict is Vital to Every Relationship

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Having conflict in a relationship is often viewed as a negative thing. In reality, having disagreements is not just inevitable — successfully working through differences is what leads to health and growth in a relationship. Constructive conflict allows you to talk about the most important things, and find positive resolution for both of you. 

Literally, all couples will have different expectations, preferences or hopes around certain things. This causes friction, AND this is normal and expected — not a sign that there is anything wrong with your relationship.

The Difference Between Constructive Conflict and DEstructive Conflict

DE-structive conflict occurs (ironically) when people try to avoid conflict, and let things build up to the point where they’re angry, hurt, or explosively reactive. Generally, this happens between two people who love each other, don’t want to rock the boat, or who don’t know how to talk about their feelings in the moment. 

They tend to NOT engage in conflict until their feelings build up to the point that they are feeling really hurt, resentful or angry. Then they lash out or act out in ways that lead to unproductive conflict that often makes things worse instead of better.

Learning the keys to constructive conflict can help you avoid this.

Learning How to Talk Through Differences Constructively and Compassionately

The first key of constructive conflict is changing your internal beliefs about what “conflict” is. Try this on for size: 

  1. Conflict is NORMAL: Two people will of course have differences of opinion, different needs, different expectations or different wants. All “conflict” is, is discussing those things openly for the purpose of finding compromise and solutions. That's all! 
  2. Constructive Conflict is GOOD: Talking through differences constructively will not just resolve the issues, these conversations are the vehicle for partners to understand each other more deeply, strengthen their bond, and develop a more satisfying and functional relationship for both people. In this way, “conflict” (at least, constructive conflict) leads to deeper connection.
  3. Not Addressing Conflict is BAD: In contrast, couples who don't talk through problems openly and honestly will instead often begin to ruminate about unresolved issues, feel increasingly resentful, and feel more hopeless about the relationship itself. Particularly when people have negative beliefs about “conflict,” they may find it difficult to explicitly express moments when they feel hurt, disappointed, or frustrated. Instead, they stuff their feelings, don't talk about it… and then it festers like an infected wound.
  4. Avoiding Conflict Damages Your Relationship: When “festering” happens, people become reactive. They are walking around feeling low-grade annoyed and resentful much of the time, and when they have a new (even fairly neutral) interaction with their partner, the anger and hurt feelings they've been holding on to often come out sideways. People will be snappy, critical, snarky, or cold.
  5. Avoiding Conflict Creates a Toxic Dynamic: Often the reactions seem out of proportion to the current situation because they are the buildup of unresolved feelings that are (ironically) created by attempting to avoid conflict in the first place. But — here's the hard part — because in their partner's eyes they're behaving jerkily, without obvious cause, their partner will react negatively to them. That's when an actual fight starts.

Avoiding Conflict Perpetuates Problems

Couples who are not able to learn how to communicate with each other and talk through problems constructively will often have repeated nasty feeling fights about the same issues over and over again. Arguments that never end in increased understanding or positive change, but rather partners feeling increasingly distant and alone. Over time, this rots a relationship from the inside out. 

Couples who have been bashing at each other unsuccessfully for years will get to a point where they don't fight anymore. That's when couples are on the brink of divorce: They've stopped engaging with each other because they have given up believing that change is possible for their relationship. They are emotionally withdrawing from the relationship. It's only a matter of time before it ends. 

There Are a Number of Crucial Conversations that Every Couple Should Have

On an ongoing basis as the relationship and life circumstances continue to evolve “going there,” and talking about points of potential conflict as soon as you and your partner feel out of alignment with each other will help you both get back on track, understand each other's perspective, find solutions, and build bridges to the center. These conversations don't just solve problems and reduce conflict; they are the engine of growth for a relationship. 

Talking About Expectations in a Relationship

Couples (hopefully!) come from different families. Every family has a culture; a way of doing things, and a set of unspoken expectations about what “should” happen that is transmitted to their children — sometimes explicitly, but often not. When two people come together to form a new family they each carry with them a set of subconscious beliefs about what their partner should be doing or not doing as they build their life together. 

These expectations will often lead to conflict sooner or later, as each partner does what feels normal to them — unintentionally ruffling the feathers of their spouse. This is especially true for partners whose families differed in the way that love was shown or the way that people communicated. It's critical that partners have self-awareness about their own beliefs, and understand that their expectations are simply a byproduct of their own family of origin experience, not necessarily “correct.” 

Being able to talk through their beliefs openly and honestly can help a couple understand each other's perspective, gain empathy for why the other person behaves the way they do, and find ways of meeting each partner's needs. Ideally, in doing so, they explicitly create a new family culture together; one that they both feel good about.

Talking About The Way You Talk

Couples will always have to talk about the way they talk to each other. As described above, when people don't know how to lean into hard conversations constructively, negativity in a relationship increases. Then, when topics do come to a head, there is often a lot of negative energy around them. People then begin fighting with each other about the way they're communicating, rather than about the problem itself. Learning how to stay calm and listen non-defensively is a core skill that is often hard-won for many couples. 

Furthermore, because people come from different places, they carry with them different expectations about how to communicate. One partner may be more conflict-averse, believing that “if we're not fighting we are okay.” They may seem distant and uncommunicative to their partner, which is problematic. Another person may come from a high conflict family with an aggressive communication style, and their “normal” may be perceived as threatening or hostile. Still others may come from families where things are not addressed directly, but rather through behaviors. They may feel very frustrated when their partner is “not understanding them” when they are, in fact, not actually saying how they feel, or what they need out loud.

The variations of these differences are endless. But without an open discussion of them, and a willingness to learn new skills and bend in each other's direction, these types of communication issues can cripple a relationship. 

Talking About Teamwork

When you're dating, and in the early stages of a romantic relationship, your connection centers around being companions and finding novel ways to have a good time. As you enter into a committed partnership and begin building a life together, each partner needs to be putting time, energy, and work in creating and maintaining that life. 

As we all know, “adulting” is actually a lot of work: Jobs must be worked, homes must be cleaned, meals must be prepared, finances must be managed, yards and cars must be maintained. Throw a few kids and pets into the mix, and very quickly, life becomes a lot of care-taking.

All couples will encounter bumps in the road as their partnership evolves into one of increasing responsibility due to each of their expectations about what should be happening. Frequently one partner will begin to feel that their shared responsibilities are out of balance and that their partner is not contributing enough or in the way that they would like them to. [More on this: How to Create a More Egalitarian Partnership] Sometimes this is as a result of subconscious family of origin expectations or gendered roles that overly burden one partner (often the female, in heterosexual relationships).

This is not bad; it's normal. All it means is that conversations are required to discuss how you're each feeling, create new agreements, and find new routines that work for both of you. When this happens, and both people step up and follow through, balance and harmony are regained.

Leaning Into The Three “Touchy” Topics of All Relationships

How to Talk About MONEY

Most couples have conflict about money, sooner or later. This too is inevitable; money means very different things to different people. Each individual in a couple has a different relationship with money, different approaches to handling it, and different expectations about what should be done with it. In nearly all relationships, one person will have a more conservative approach to money (the “saver”), and the other person will be a bit more liberal (the “spender.”)

Again this is completely normal. All couples need to build a bridge to the center and create agreements around what “we” are doing with money that feel good for both partners. Many couples clash and fight about this topic, which is simply a sign that they've not yet come to agreements and learned how to work together as financial partners. Having constructive conflict where they each feel heard and understood by the other allows them to create a shared vision for their financial lives, as well as a plan for how to work together financially to achieve their goals. 

How to Talk About SEX 

Sexuality is another emotionally charged topic for many couples. Over the course of a long term partnership, most couples will experience ebbs and flows in their sex life. Sometimes people become disconnected sexually when they have a lot of unresolved conflict in their relationship, or their emotional needs are not being met by their partner. This is especially true for women. Other times, life circumstances such as job stress or having children make it difficult for partners to have the time and energy for a healthy sex life. 

While it's normal for all couples to go through a “dry spell,” losing your sexual relationship can start to erode the foundation of what makes you a couple (rather than roommates, or friends). Because sexuality can be so strongly linked to attachment needs, body image, and self-esteem issues, people are often hurt or angered by the experiences they have (or don't have!) with each other sexually. Conversations about this topic can feel extremely tense, uncomfortable, and even hurtful. Many couples find this subject more comfortable to avoid than to address, but avoiding it only leads to increasing distance.

It's vital for couples to talk with each other about how they are feeling about their sex life so that they can reconnect with each other in the bedroom. Over the course of a long-term relationship, as the road of life twists and turns, this conversation may need to happen over and over again as you both evolve physically and as your family structure changes.

How to Talk About PARENTING

The parenting of children is another area in which couples will always have differences that need to be addressed and agreed upon. This is largely due to our family of origin experiences; we all subconsciously parent the way we were parented. (Or we parent as a conscious decision to NOT parent the way we were parented if coming from a patently abusive or neglectful background). 

There is a spectrum of approaches to parenting that range from more authoritarian to more easygoing. The problem is that couples may have highly negative reactions to the way the other person is interacting with or caring for their shared children if things are happening that are different from the way they think parenting “should” be. This is also an extremely triggering topic for people because of the deep love they have for their kids. When they see their partner doing (or not doing) something that they view as having a negative impact on the children, it's completely understandable that people get emotional. 

The path to resolution is being able to respectfully talk through each of your feelings, perspectives, and preferences and find ways of parenting together that feel good (enough) for both of you. Remembering that there is no “right” way to parent is often extremely helpful for couples attempting to find unity in this area. 

Remember, addressing conflict openly, authentically, and compassionately IS The Path to a strong healthy relationship. (NOT the symptom of a problem!)

Differences are normal and expected. After all, you're not marrying your clone! Getting married is an event. Becoming married is a process. All couples need to have a series of conversations as they do the work of coming together and creating agreements for how they communicate, how they show each other love and respect, how they work together as a team, manage money, and parent children. These conversations are critical, not just to resolve problems, but to grow together as a couple. Healthy, productive conflict is absolutely necessary for couples to flourish. Lean in!

All the best to you both,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

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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.

Let's  Talk

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Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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Dating After Divorce

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Markie Keelan, M.A., LPC is a therapist, life coach and dating coach whose mission is to help you create authentic happiness and satisfaction in your life especially when it comes to dating after divorce. She supports you to create a deeper connection with others, as well as actualize your life's purpose.

 

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Ready to find love again?

I often hear the question, “When is someone ready to start dating after divorce?” That’s a hard question to answer, but those who are newly divorced give dating a lot more consideration than the majority of single folks out there.

Their hesitation to jump back into the dating pool makes sense; the reason being is that divorce shakes our confidence in our ability to connect. When you've gone through a traumatic relationship loss or breakup it can make you question your ability to trust others but also your ability to trust your decisions on choosing a partner. Dating after a divorce feels much riskier.

So, if you are lost with no idea where to even start with dating after divorce, don’t worry, you are not alone and there are ways in which you can help yourself. Here are some guidelines to help you recover and get back out there.

Tips For Dating After Divorce

  • Revise your self-talk to support your success

Confidence plays a major role in the healing process of divorce. Some relationships can be similar to an addiction to another person. Addicts don't believe that they'll ever be able to survive without their drug. Divorcees can sometimes feel like they'll never be able to find love again.

This is a negative thinking pattern that can lead to more than just lack of confidence but isolation, anxiety, and depression. So be in-tune with what you are telling yourself, and try to create a more empowering narrative. Chances are a good dose of loving self-talk could help your situation. For more on how to do this, check out our Happiness Class.

  • Assess whether you are you really ready

You may not be ready to date if you're still, in your heart of hearts, privately carrying a torch for your Ex. Like an addiction, when a relationship ends we can be ambivalent and question whether or not we’ll go back into that relationship again. Many people spend months after a breakup or divorce half hoping your partner may change their mind and realize they made a huge mistake. If that's the case, you then are putting your healing process in their hands. Furthermore, any new relationship you attempt is likely to spin its wheels.

Take back control by committing to moving yourself forward. It may be helpful to get clarity and closure about why your breakup or divorce was a good thing. For example, recognizing that your past relationship wasn’t meeting all of your needs and working on clarity and closure for yourself. This may mean you keep distance from this person and take every precaution not to slip back into the purgatory of waiting and hoping. For many people, getting the support of a great breakup recovery coach or participating in a breakup recovery group can help them heal and grow, as opposed to wallpaper over the pain by dating prematurely.

Only then will you be genuinely emotionally available to begin a healthy new relationship with someone else.

  • Make a needs list

Many times in failed relationships we were not getting our needs met before they ended. Maybe you don’t even know what your needs are in a relationship because they have been on the back burner for so long. Take your time to write out a list of what you NEED in a relationship. This list could include, honesty, trust, quality time, etc. This list will help guide you in the dating process to be honest with you and your future partner of whether or not this relationship will work for you.

I also encourage my dating coaching clients to ask themselves, ‘What do I need to be able to come to a new relationship the way I want to?’ This way you are also looking at what you need to be able to provide in order to connect back to others in a way that isn’t compromised by manipulation or feelings of inadequacy.

  • Let go of the pressure to heal  

Depending on what the reasons were for the divorce, it could take days, or it could take years to grieve this relationship trauma. Don’t let a time frame determine your journey towards love. Feeling pressured by time or other people doesn’t help us grow into the person we want to be. I encourage divorcees who are not ready to enter back into the dating world to engage your support network and surround yourself with people you can rely on.

  • Focus on self-care

Lastly, I’d suggest making time for self-care. Surround yourself with people who support you, do things that are fun, and make sure you invest in rest, nutrition, exercise, and your healing process. When you put energy into your self and your own wellness, you'll exude the confidence and self respect that's so attractive to potential new partners.

Dating after divorce can feel challenging, but you have a lot of power. Remind yourself that although your mind may be trying to trick you that the rest of your life is going to be an uphill battle, it doesn’t have to be. Using some of these different approaches I've described, like revising your self talk, working through the past before moving forward, prioritizing your needs, honoring your own timeline, and practicing good self care can arm you with a set of tools to help you feel genuinely able to move forward, and challenge yourself to be open to finding love again.

All the best to you,

Markie Keelan, M.A., LPC

Ps: If you're ready to jump back in the pool, here are more ideas to support you in this podcast: The New Rules of Modern Dating — check it out!

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Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

Let’s Talk About YOU

Let’s Talk About YOU

Let's Talk About YOU

Your Questions, Answered.

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The latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast was absolutely devoted to YOUR questions. Your relationship questions, dating questions, dating questions, communication questions, therapy questions were all answered. If you've left a question in the comments section on the blog lately, or through Facebook or Instagram (or via one of our quizzes) you'll want to turn in and hear the answers!

Specifically, we discussed: 

  • What if you're having an argument with your partner and need to take a break to calm down, and they keep pursuing you?
  • How to handle it when you're married and have a crush on someone else? What if you have a crush on an EMPLOYEE? 
  • Are you dating and hearing, “I like you but just as friends” a lot? We're talking about what that might mean! 
  • What are some tips to handle a hard breakup or divorce when you coparent with your Ex and have to see your Ex?
  • What should you do if your family members are fighting with each other and you keep getting dragged into it?
  • Can you do couples therapy by video if you're in a long-distance relationship? Why might that be a good idea?
  • How should you approach your partner if you think they would really benefit from individual therapy or couples counseling, but they won't go?
  • And so. Much. More.

Listen now, using the podcast player below, or WATCH the discussion on YouTube below! (FYI, this podcast was recorded LIVE on Instagram — if you'd ever like to join, tune in (most) Mondays at 12pm Mountain. 

Your partner in growth, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

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Let's Talk About YOU: Your Questions, Answered.

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

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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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And Other (Complex) Questions About Dating

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Modern dating is complex and challenging. I've had so many listener questions about dating coming in lately, that I just had to address them on a podcast! In particular, we're diving deep and talking through some of the more complicated aspects of “dating life” that many people struggle with.

Single And Sad

SAD ABOUT BEING SINGLE? Many people are bravely putting themselves out there, but feeling discouraged that they'll ever find “the one.” On top of the normal frustrations of dating, there's a hidden emotional complexity here: They feel sad about being single. Like, really sad. They watch coupled people longingly, and may even find it difficult to be around couple-friends.

This experience adds a layer of anxiety and stress to dating. When you often feel down about your single-ness, it's hard to put on a brave face and be the sparkly, fun-loving person you feel like you need to be to attract a new person. A listener wrote in sharing that she was feeling so triggered by her couple-friends, and so DONE with doing things alone that she felt herself withdrawing from many things. She asked, “How do you cope with intense feelings of sadness about being single?”

I addressed this question in-depth on the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. (Hint: The punchline is NOT about how to be happy alone — just the opposite!)

Here's another great question about dating:

Dating After Divorce

WONDERING WHEN YOU'RE READY TO START DATING AFTER DIVORCE? Another listener wrote in asking about how to know if it was okay to be dating another recently divorced person, or if you were rushing into things too soon? On the podcast, I talked him through some of the pros and cons to consider to help him decide if his dating was a positive thing for him… or potentially interfering with his process of growing and healing after divorce.

On the podcast I shared some insights for all of the positive parts of starting a new relationship after divorce, as well as what kinds of personal growth work may potentially be blocked by jumping into a relationship too soon after divorce, and what kinds of personal blind spots (if unaddressed) may lead to a less successful new relationship going forward.

Yet another listener asked:

Dating As a Single Parent

WHEN SHOULD YOU TELL THE KIDS ABOUT A NEW RELATIONSHIP?  Modern dating can be complicated enough, but if you're dating as a single parent there are many more things to consider than how you feel about someone new. A listener of the podcast wrote in, describing a situation of dating a woman for quite some time. Both of them are single parents, but he's becoming increasingly concerned and frustrated that she is still refusing to tell her children that they're dating.

On the podcast I talked about a few of the things that might be going on behind the scenes for her (and that all parents who are dating should be aware of, frankly) to point out some possible reasons she may not be comfortable telling the kids about this new relationship. I also touched upon some ways that he might communicate about this subject without starting a fight, and that will help him determine if this is a relationship he'd like to pursue. (Or whether or not he's with a person who is, in fact, not emotionally available for a relationship right now).

I've also heard from a number of listeners lately struggling with this question:

Daring To Trust Again

HOW DO I TRUST SOMEONE NEW AFTER BEING CHEATED ON? If you've been hurt or betrayed in a past relationship, it can be very hard to even want to date again, much less trust again. I talked through what the process of healing after betrayal looks like, in order to give you a roadmap of some of the personal growth work to do before dating again so that you are dating from a place of strength and self-awareness.

Secondly, I also addressed the process of how you can feel safe after betrayal, particularly when it comes to dating new people after you've been cheated on in the past. Part of it has do do with cultivating confidence in your own judgment, and understanding some of the warning signs that you're getting involved with someone who is likely to cheat on you or betray you in the future.

All that, and even MORE of your dating questions on this edition of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. Thanks for listening!

xoxo,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: Do YOU have questions for me about dating, or anything else related to your journey towards Love, Happiness and Success? I'd love to hear them, and just might answer them on an upcoming episode of the podcast, or in a new blog article or IGTV video. You can ask YOUR questions either in the comments below (I read every single one!) or by submitting your question through this secure online form. All the best, LMB

PSS: At least for the next few weeks, I'm going to be recording new episodes of the podcast LIVE on Instagram so that I can answer listener questions in real-time. I hope you join me! @drlisamariebobby, every Monday at 12pm Mountain. Hope to see you there!

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Your (Complex) Dating Questions, Answered.

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

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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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More Love, Happiness and Success Advice on The Blog + Podcast

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