Stages Of Getting Back Together With Your Ex

Stages Of Getting Back Together With Your Ex

Stages Of Getting Back Together With Your Ex

Is This Relationship For You?

When you and an ex have broken up, it’s completely normal to find yourself wondering whether you’ve made a mistake! When someone who used to be a large part of your daily life suddenly isn’t, it makes sense that you will experience sadness and miss the wonderful parts of your former relationship. However, sadness and missing your ex doesn’t necessarily mean you should get back together. Couples break up for a reason, and the sadness of missing a former partner can sometimes impact our ability to see and remember those reasons clearly.

As an online breakup recovery coach and Utah couples counselor – I want to explore with you questions that I find are helpful for my clients when figuring out whether “working it out” with an ex and getting back together is the best thing for them, or whether it’s time to move on. 

Why Did The Relationship End?

This question is important, layered, and may actually be different from the “official” reason for why you broke up! For example, if one of you was unfaithful in the relationship, that may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. While there is no excuse for betraying your partner when you’ve both committed to a monogamous relationship, these types of events typically don’t happen in isolation. What else was happening in the relationship that contributed to its downfall?

When working through the stage of “should we get back together” it’s important to view your relationship as a whole. It’s very easy to push aside the negative or uncomfortable memories and focus on the good and warm memories that are most likely drawing you back to your ex in the first place (or making it incredibly difficult to get over them). With every relationship though, there are good and bad times and habits. To truly care for yourself and your ex, you must weigh the good and the bad before moving forward in your decision to get back together. 

What’s Different This Time Around?

The things that caused the end of your relationship, have they changed? If not, are the things that caused the end of your relationship resolvable or acceptable? Think about the different factors that contributed to the end of your relationship. For example, if you struggled with communicating openly about your emotions, have you since worked on your ability to do this? If not, are you willing to? 

Depending on the nature of the things that ended your relationship, some may be more changeable than others. For example, behavioral changes like improving communication, learning patience, or even learning to be less messy can be changed and learned. 

However, character qualities and core values are often less changeable, meaning that you need to consider whether acceptance is a viable option. For example, if you and your ex support different political parties, is this something you will both be able to accept?

While compromise is a necessary ingredient to any successful relationship, sometimes the change required to meet that compromise is just not doable and that’s okay. Being honest with yourself and with your ex is the only way to move towards a happier, healthier future – whether it’s with your ex or not.

What Level Of Responsibility Are You Willing To Accept?

Okay, so you broke up for a reason and you’ve contemplated the good and the bad of your relationship. You’ve come to a personal understanding of what it means to compromise in your relationship, and you’re ready to give this a go, again. However, forgiving your ex for the wrong or pain they’ve caused you will not set your heart free – it will not lay the foundation for a better and brighter future together. You must be willing to accept responsibility for the part that you played in the relationship’s past. 

Do you each recognize your own part in the problems of your relationship? Think back to the last time you and your ex communicated about the end of your relationship. What did they attribute it to? Are you both capable of taking responsibility for your part in the problems that led to the problems you experienced?

If you both just “move past” the relationship as it was, hoping to enter into a new and shiny place together – you’ll find that a lot of what wasn’t working before is still not going to work for either of you. Accepting responsibility for your own part of the problems (and your partner doing the same) will help to strengthen your bond and trust in one another. Without that acceptance, your relationship problems are ultimately doomed to repeat themselves.

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Why Do You Want To Get Back Together With Your Ex?

There are many different reasons why you might want to get back together with your ex, and it is important to honestly examine all of them so you can decide whether getting back together would be healthy for you. 

Some of the best reasons to consider getting back together include believing that you have both grown in ways that would make you good partners for each other and believing that you could have a healthy relationship if you both put the work in. 

There are also less healthy reasons to consider getting back together. While it is normal to experience some of these, on their own, they may not be good enough justification for pursuing someone as your life partner. 

Some of these reasons include: feeling lonely, missing the good parts of your relationship, feeling afraid that you may not find someone else, and missing the familiarity of your old relationship. If you find that you are primarily experiencing this second set of reasons for wanting to get back together, it may be a sign that personal growth work with a therapist or coach would be helpful for you.

Remember, these moments of honesty with yourself will lead you to a happier and healthier future.

Does Your Ex Want To Get Back Together With You?

This may be an obvious question, but it’s an important one to consider! Ultimately, we all deserve to be with someone who wants to be with us. If your ex has moved on and is not interested in exploring reunification, you owe it to yourself to do the same.

If you and your ex have decided that you both want to give things another shot, as tempting as it can be to jump right back in where things left off, it’s often a good idea to start off slow. As eager as you might be to start posting pictures together again or jump right back into your sexual relationship, try to treat the early stages of getting back together as a provisional period of exploration when you can learn how you have each changed during your time apart, figure out what you both want and need from the relationship, and test out whether you’re each willing and able to make necessary changes.

Depending on how long it’s been since your relationship ended, there may be more or less for you and your former partner to catch up on during this exploration phase. Here are some helpful questions to discuss with your ex as you explore what getting back together might look like for you:

  • What are some of the insights you’ve had about why our relationship didn’t work out before? What do you think were some of my and some of your contributions to the problem?
  • What are some of the important experiences you’ve had and lessons you’ve learned since we were last together?
  • What would you want to be different in our relationship this time around?
  • How do you think we could make sure those things would be different?

Discussing these questions with your ex can help you each figure out whether you’re looking for the same things as well as how successful giving your relationship another go is likely to be. For example, if your ex has a hard time taking responsibility for their contribution to what went wrong in your relationship or if the things they have learned about what they value in a relationship seem fundamentally different from what you are looking for, these may be signs that giving things another go won’t be as successful. 

However, if they are able to engage in an insightful conversation about some of these questions and express a willingness to take concrete steps such as participating in relationship counseling or coaching, these may be signs that your relationship can be more successful this time around.

Red Flags That Getting Back Together With Your Ex Is NOT A Good Idea

As you move through the provisional exploration phase of getting back together with your ex, here are some additional warning signs that the relationship may not be headed for success:

  • When it comes to making things better, it’s all talk and no walk. It’s always easier to talk about the things that need to change in order for the relationship to improve than to actually do them. If you realize that the promise of getting back together was so alluring to either you or your ex that one or both of you committed to making more changes than you were ready to (like committing to doing couples counseling but then complaining about going), it’s a sign that you may need to re-evaluate getting back together.
  • You realize that the fantasy of being back together is better than the reality. Often when we have a break-up, we conveniently forget all of the bad stuff about our former relationship and instead fantasize about how wonderful it would be to get back together. If you find that, once you are back together, the fantasy was better than reality, you may need to re-visit questions about what is solvable and what you are willing to accept.
  • You or your partner keep bringing up past mistakes. Relationships end for a reason, and it’s likely that you and your ex hurt each other’s feelings in the past. If you find that you or your partner keeps bringing up mistakes from when you were together previously, it’s likely that those past mistakes haven’t been completely forgiven. Re-evaluate whether you have each fully apologized to each other for past hurts and whether you believe that full forgiveness will be possible in your situation.

Signs That Getting Back Together With Your Ex IS A Good Idea

On the opposite side, here are some additional “green lights,” or signs that your relationship is on the right track and is changing for the better:

  • You and your partner have been able to identify specific goals to improve your relationship and are actively working towards achieving them. For example, if one problem you experienced in your prior relationship was feeling as though you were never on the same page, one new habit you might be developing together is eating together at mealtimes without any distractions such as phones or the TV.
  • For the issues that you know you would like to improve but are having a hard time handling on your own, you have found a relationship therapist or coach and are actively working with them. Having a hard time making changes on your own doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed–we all need an outside professional opinion sometimes. As a relationship therapist, I often have couples come to me who have the right intentions but need a little help gaining insight and finding personalized strategies and action plans that work for them.
  • You are both actively working towards your own personal growth. The healthiest relationships are ones where both partners are actively working towards personal growth in order to become better partners rather than casting the responsibility for change and improvement on one person. 

Getting Back Together With Your Ex: Moving Forward In The Relationship

Once you both feel confident that your relationship is heading in a healthy new direction, the provisional exploration phase is over. Communicate openly and regularly with your partner about when you each feel ready to shift from “trying things out” to “making it official.” You don’t need to wait until the relationship is perfect, but should wait until you each understand and agree on what went wrong the first time around, what each of your contributions to the problems was, what you want to be different this time, and are taking concrete steps individually and as a couple to make those changes.

Making the decision about whether to get back together with an ex can be difficult, but through open self-reflection and honest conversation, you have the power to make a decision that will be healthy for you. Also, remember that it can be very worthwhile to ask for help from a professional. Whether you are deciding whether to get back together with your ex and want to bounce your ideas and feelings off of someone or you and your ex have decided to give it another go and want help creating an action plan for change, don’t be afraid to seek out help.

Warmly,
Kensington

Dr. Rachel Merlin, DMFT, LMFT, M.S.Ed.

With compassionate understanding and unique insights, Kensington Osmond, M.S., LAMFT, MFTC helps you improve the most meaningful parts of your life, from your emotional well-being to your relationships.

 

 

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Unhealthy Relationships

Unhealthy Relationships

When to Save a Distressed Relationship

Unhealthy Relationships: All couples go through a rocky period in their relationship. They may grow distant from each other and encounter problems that seem to be impossible to overcome. It is agonizing to decide whether or not to save a relationship because we never know the possibilities. How will we know when our relationship is worth saving?

In this episode, marriage and family therapist Brittany S., will touch on healthy versus unhealthy relationships. We talk about what a normal distressed relationship looks like and how to deal with it. You will also discover the different markers of an unhealthy relationship. Knowing the difference between the two will help make the big decision whether to save your relationship or knowing when it’s time to let go. 

Tune in to the podcast to learn more about the role of attunement, responsiveness, and vulnerability in cultivating an ideal, healthy, and loving relationship!

In This Episode: Unhealthy Relationships

  • Find out what a distressed healthy relationship is versus an unhealthy one.
  • Understand the pursue-withdraw cycle in distressed relationships.
  • Recognize the general markers of an unhealthy relationship.
  • Know where to start and what steps to undertake in couples counseling.
  • Identify when growth is and is not possible in a relationship.
  • Understand the importance of having aligned expectations for the future.
  • Know the importance of attunement as the fundamental heart of every relationship.

Episode Highlights

“Is My Relationship Healthy?”

Brittany shares with us today that a “good” relationship ultimately depends on what you think of yourself and your experience within the relationship itself. She suggests asking three main questions when identifying the health of your relationship:

  • What is the overall quality of the relationship?
  • Do I feel good about myself in the relationship?
  • Do I feel like the relationship benefits and serves me well?

How We See Ourselves

How we see ourselves is affected by the people who surround us. Usually, when you begin feeling like you need to change yourself, you are not enough, or you need to be better for your partner to treat you well, is a sign that the relationship may be unhealthy. 

When we start to believe we are unworthy of love, connection, and belonging, the foundation of the relationship begins to fall away (if there even was one to start with). 

Because of this pessimistic view, we begin to feel more angry, aggressive, and hostile towards ourselves. Brittany shares that most of her clients that are struggling with this dynamic will internalize feeling unworthy, “I have done something that makes me inherently unlovable or unworthy of having this healthy relationship or healing.” 

Fixing the Negative Subconscious Belief

The issue here is that people who find themselves in an unhealthy relationship begin to believe they are the sole problem. To address this, we need to be aware of what stories we are telling ourselves. Fixing the negative subconscious belief requires challenging these stories. To do this, challenge these stories by:

  • Identifying if there is evidence that there is some truth to the story; and
  • Cracking the narrative and expressing it

When working with couples, Brittany shares that partners often blame each other for their unhappiness or unwillingness to show up for their partner how their partner may need. Partner responses can tell so much about the health of the relationship.

If our partner is willing to comfort us and offer help, it provides some reassurance that we are in a healthy situation. But if the partner lacks comfort and responsiveness, it is a sign to take a deeper look into the relationship. 

What does this mean? It means that by challenging the stories that we tell ourselves (I’m unworthy of love…) and getting to the root of why we feel these ways, we can better understand whether or not it is something we can work on and grow through, or if it’s a sign that this relationship really isn’t good for us after all.

Is a Distressed Relationship Normal?

According to Brittany, “When people are in distressed relationships, it impacts each other. Both people are impacted in such a way that they both stop being the best version of themselves.” A distressing situation creates reactions in each person that can be hurtful and support the negative pursue-withdraw cycle

The pursue-withdraw cycle is characterized by:

  • One partner who is demanding, critical, and demands reassurance, comfort, or engagement from the other; and
  • The other partner feeling overwhelmed by these demands and, in turn, withdrawing

The more one partner shuts down, the more the other demands and becomes more aggressive, thus feeding the cycle. The cycle is normal in distressed relationships but requires a path of healing. 

Brittany relays that this cycle propagates because “there's usually a need for comfort or safety or connection or a vulnerable attachment—a need that isn't being met, and we're just scared to ask for it in that way.”

The General Markers of an Unhealthy Relationship

It is important to assess early on in counseling if the relationship is in a distressing situation or more problematic. Some questions to ask yourself if you find you are in an unhealthy relationship are:

  • Is there essential responsiveness
  • Can somebody take accountability and responsibility for their actions in the relationship? 
  • Can they identify their part in the distress?
  • Is there a desire to control or to have power over our partner? 
  • Are there elements of shaming and severe criticism present in the relationship?
  • Is there manipulation happening? 
  • Is one partner trying to isolate the other?
  • Is one partner threatening the other? 
  • Is verbal abuse happening?

According to Brittany, it's common to blame each other. However, partners should step back and realize their part in the problem. If one partner is insistent on blaming the other and claiming no-fault, then it becomes unhealthy.

Brittany recommends seeking individual therapy from a trained professional in domestic violence cases, a professional who has the background to help you keep safe. She also advises seeking domestic violence support.

Starting the Process of Healing

When starting the process of healing, Brittany refers to this time between her couples as a dance. Brittany begins by asking her clients to map out their dance and identify their part in the relationship. It is critical to be aware of:

  • What is happening to your body
  • What emotions you are feeling; and
  • Is there any judgment happening

Partners should become intimate with their dance and tell each other about it. The more open and willing to connect with your partner at this time, the higher likelihood of healing taking place. 

It is essential to identify emotions, bodily sensations, and the stories we tell ourselves. By learning how to communicate better with your partner, you can begin to break the pursue-withdraw cycle. If you find that your partnership needs help better communicating, Brittany suggests seeking the help of a relationship specialist.

Brittany says that when there is growth possible in the relationship, a healthy couple will be able to engage in their dance, self-reflective, and talk about their emotions.

Is Growth Possible?

Healing is a process; being aware of each other's roles and emotions takes time. It may be more challenging for some people to express themselves due to their previous experiences. 

However, having a hard time at first does not mean that the relationship is horrible or will not survive. Brittany emphasizes that her role as a couple's counselor is to help people grow and go through the transformational process. It's normal to have a hard time because the process takes vulnerability. 

However, if you cannot establish vulnerability and safety, consider individual counseling to heal from childhood trauma or past relationships. 

“Couples can do this work together because I really do believe that we heal best in trusted relationships with others,” Brittany says. If the wounds run too deep that you cannot show up in your relationship, that is a sign to work on yourself. 

Keys to a Healthy Relationship: Can This Relationship Be Saved?

If you have been working on fixing your relationship and have been in counseling for months, but nothing has changed, then you can use that valuable information to decide whether the relationship can be saved. 

Responsiveness is an essential factor in the survivorship of a relationship. We have to express what we need and see how someone responds to that. 

Healing requires vulnerability and baseline safety. If your partner disagrees, you may consider the possibility that they are not suited for you.

“It's okay to mess up and make mistakes, but there has to be a motivation to work on things, grow, and stay in it together,” says Brittany.

Pushing for the Future

It's part of our culture to encounter difficulties in being present and focusing on what's happening now. We often look forward, believing that the future will be better.

However, it’s important to look at your situation and relationship in the present. We must focus on:

  • What the relationship feels like now 
  • What is and what isn't serving us
  • What needs work; and 
  • Our willingness to put in that work towards the future we are desiring

Make sure that you and your partner have the same desires and expectations for the future. Evaluate and reflect if a compromise on healthy relationship expectations is needed. 

Attunement: The Heart of a Relationship

Attunement is the process of being present with our partner. Attunement is the goal; it is the entire heart of every relationship. It involves engaging in emotional responsiveness and vulnerability. 

If you feel disconnected, think about how you can find your way back to each other and if both of you are willing to take part in that process. It's critical to have that responsiveness, reciprocity, and respect in a relationship.

“You won't have attunement in a distressed relationship, but you can intentionally create it if both people are engaged in that process.”, says Brittany.

Resources

Brittany has shared invaluable advice on dealing with a distressed relationship and differentiating it from an unhealthy one. What did you connect and relate with the most? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment down 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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Unhealthy Relationships

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

Music Credits: The Black Pine, “The Morning After She Left”

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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.

That is The Black Pine with a song The Morning After She Left. When I listened to that song, I think about someone who has belatedly realized that maybe they made some mistakes in a relationship that it is now too late to repair. And that kind of regret is what can happen when people, over time, realize that the relationship that they've been in, or the series of relationships that they've been in, have not always been the healthiest or best for them. I think sometimes their partners feel that regret more than they do. 

What we see our clients here at Growing Self describe is this feeling often of newfound liberation, when they decide to stop engaging in relationships that are not good for them, and begin, instead, prioritizing their own health and happiness and well-being. And it's such a joy to be part of. 

It's an important topic, and one that I wanted to talk about on today's show because we see a ton of people here at Growing Self. A lot of relational work, we do couples counseling, relationship coaching, but we also help a lot of individual clients who are trying to get clear about their relationships and about themselves. Sometimes they're coming for help fixing a relationship, maybe with a partner who doesn't want to come to couples counseling. So they feel like they have to do it on their own. But sometimes it's from people who aren't quite sure if they're in a relationship, that they should spend a lot of time and energy on fixing. Somebody who's been in a relationship, that for five years, they're not married. It's kind of a mixed bag relationship. There are things that they're not really happy with, and the relationship is stalled. It's not moving forward, and they're coming to us for help around. “How hard should I try to make it work with this person?” And when do I just say, “You know what? I need to let this go, and move on, and find a better situation for myself?” That is a tough situation to be in, but one that I think is worth exploring and so that's what we're doing today on this episode of the podcast is talking about what a healthy relationship is, what a healthy foundation looks like. What is a sign that there's growth and opportunity possible, and what is a sign that there might not be growth and opportunity possible? 

To help me with those, I have invited my dear colleague. My colleague, Brittany Stewart, is a marriage and family therapist on our team here at Growing Self. She has a lot of experience working with people around this issue, both individuals and couples. Thank you, Brittany, so much for being here with me today.

Brittany Stewart: Oh, of course. Thank you so much for having me, Lisa. I'm really looking forward to having this conversation with you.

Dr. Lisa: Oh. Well, me too. It's one—I mean, I see you in our consultation groups and in our meetings. This is a topic that is clearly just such a passion for you. And that I see and I've always admired about you because it's not just enough for you to help people, like improve their relationships. You're always sort of listening to “How healthy is this relationship?” “Is this relationship good for both people in the relationship?” because those things really matter a lot. Sometimes, even if we can teach people how to communicate and do the skills, if there's not a healthy relationship structure underneath,  we need to have that on our radar. 

To jump into this topic, I mean, can you just talk a little bit about what are some of the things that you first notice or listen for? If you're working with—and we could take it one at a time but like a couple or an individual that might make you think, “Is this really a good situation fundamentally?” And we're not talking about capital A abuse. That is a different animal. But just like that sort of what's going on here?

Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship

Brittany: Yeah, that's a great question. I think the first thing that I'm always looking at is, “What is someone's experience of themselves and their partner in a relationship?” Like, what is the overall quality? Do they feel good about themselves in the relationship? Do they feel like the relationship benefits them, and serves them, and functions while in their life? Do they give their partner the benefit of the doubt? Right? 

When I start to hear that partners believe that their partner is ill-intentioned, or malicious, or doesn't have their best interests at heart, I can really hear that there's just been a lot of erosion in the relationship. That really affects how we see ourselves too. If we're not trusting our partner to be—to have our best intentions at heart, or to really hold us in their hearts in a positive and meaningful way, then that completely impacts how we see ourselves and how we function in the world.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well, how we see ourselves—let's talk a little bit more about that. I heard you say that when someone believes that their partner is almost out to get them, or is hostile towards them, or is doing things maliciously, how does that begin to change the way someone feels about themselves?

Brittany: I think that can change a few different things about how we might see ourselves. Right? One might be that we start to believe that we're less worthy of experiencing love, and connection, and belonging. Even though, my hope is always that people know that's just inherent, and that doesn't change even with the status of our relationships or the quality of them. But it does impact that belief around ourselves. 

I think the other way it shows up is we might start to experience more anger, or we might start to be more hostile ourselves, or defensive, or aggressive. I think that it kind of forces us to take a look at how we're showing up in the world, and then feel really difficult, and murky to show up with those kinds of behaviors and emotions, and not know what to do with them.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, yeah. Oh, my goodness. The shame of regret that comes when somebody in an unhealthy relationship begins to—themselves show signs of that, like anger, or hostility, or shows up in weird ways. And then they think, “Oh my God, what am I doing? I'm not being a good partner. I'm not being a good mom,” or whatever it is that they internalize that. 

But then I've also heard you say, at the same time, they can be internalizing these messages from their partner that—I mean, I think what we both hear a lot is, “If you were better and if I loved you more, then I wouldn't treat you this way.” But it plays into that self-doubt, that “I'm not good enough,” that “The reason my partner is saying these things to me or not giving me the love that I need is because I'm not quite good enough. And if I were better, they would be behaving differently. They would be better to me, if I worked on myself.” Is that the trick that people get sucked into?

Brittany: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I think I see that a lot, especially, I mean, I would say I see it with people of all genders. Right? That they have this belief over time, whether it's through failed relationships, or chronic on again-off again, or just a long term relationship that has a lot of wounds in it that have never been healed. They really internalize this thought of like, “I have done something that makes me inherently unlovable or unworthy of having this healthy relationship or, have this healing.” And it's really difficult to sit in that. And my hope, again, is always that people know that's not true.

Dr. Lisa: Well, I'm glad that we're talking about this, though, because I think that what we're just putting our finger on right here is the—almost like subconscious core belief of people who come—will come in for help with their relationships is like, “Can this be fixed? Should I work on that?” Sometimes I think the place where we need to go to is what they're telling themselves about the relationship. If for example, they believe that their partner could be much different with a different person who was better than them, and if they just worked on themselves and became the person that their partner wants, then they could be loved. To talk about how, what if that isn't actually what is happening? What if this is how the person you're partnered with would show up, whether or not they were with a different person or a better version of you? That can be a big step sometimes, because I think that people really believe that they're the problem. 

First of all, let's just say for everybody within the sound of our voice, this is a process. There is not anything that Brittany or I am going to say. There is no piece of advice or wisdom that is going to help you jump over that mountain. But Brittany, when you're working with a client who is stuck in that place, where they've gotten tricked into believing bad things about themselves, where do you even begin? If somebody's listening to this right now who probably needs to do some of that work, where would they start?

Unhealthy Relationships

Brittany: Yeah. Well, I think that's a complicated question because I would approach it differently, right, if I'm just working with one person or been working with a couple. But I think the first step for any change is always just being really aware of what stories were even telling ourselves. And I love Brené Brown’s work. In her Netflix series, or in her Netflix special, when she says “The story I'm telling myself is…” Right. And so I always encourage clients to identify, “What is that story that we're telling ourselves?”

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. 

Brittany: And just to name it, and so if I'm sitting with an individual, can they just get really clear on what is that story they're telling themselves? Or if I'm working with a couple, can they just share with each other in a really disarming way? Like, “This is the story in my head.” Right? It may not be true, but it feels very real. And can they just get it out there and name it so that we can work with it? Then of course, it's really identifying like, “Can we challenge that?” “Is there really evidence that this… that the story you're telling yourself is true?” “Is it based in any sort of fact or reality, or is it just some emotion that's coming up, and we're trying to make sense of it, and the story is the best way that we're doing that?”

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Yeah. I get it. Just kind of cracking into that narrative and bringing it out into the open, and then just sort of looking at it together. Yeah.

Brittany: Yeah, and then I think, if I'm working with a couple, what can be really powerful about this, right, is we often don't share the story that's in our head in a disarming way. Usually, we're sharing it in a blaming way with our partner. We can tell so much about the health of a relationship and the ability of our partner to really be in it with us when we share that story just based on their response. Right? 

So if we share this awful story or this painful story we're telling ourselves, and our partner is able to move toward us and comfort us, and say, “Oh, my gosh. That's the story in your head? Let me help you with that. Right. That's not how I see it. That's not what I'm feeling.” That can be really powerful. Right? To help offer that reassurance. Or if there is that lack of comfort and responsiveness. And maybe that story gets reinforced, then that's a—I would say—that's a sign. Right? Or something else to look at deeper. Maybe that story is based in some truth about the relationship. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa: No, that's a great way of looking at this. So on that note too, so you—like all of the marriage counselors on the team here at Growing Self—practice evidence-based forms of couples counseling, and one of the things that the approaches that you've really focused on is one called emotionally-focused couples therapy that takes a closer look at the attachment needs of two people in a relationship. What we know from research into emotionally-focused therapy is that when people are in distressed relationships, it impacts—and because relationships are a system—I mean, people impact each other. Right? But what we see is that both people are impacted in such a way that they both stop—how do I say this?—being the best version of themselves. I mean, being in a distressed relationship creates reactions in each person that can be hurtful, and can sort of support that negative cycle.

I think it's important to talk about that because we expect that in a distressed relationship. Just because that's happening doesn't necessarily mean that it is a fundamentally unhealthy relationship. It's just that we need to do that work of healing. So let's just even start there. I mean, when you're working with a couple who has not been in a great place for a year or three—I mean, for a lot of couples, it takes a while to show up in our office. But what would you expect to see that would be normal?

Brittany: Oh, yeah. So usually, right? EFT, or emotionally-focused couples therapy talks about—we get into this dance with our partner, and every one of us has a dance in our relationship. It's totally normal, and it's part of being in an attachment relationship. So what I might see that is really normal, I would say the most common thing I see is what we call like the pursuer-distancer or the pursuer-withdrawer. This looks like when partners are in distress, and one partner might like protest, as Sue Johnson calls it.And they might start to demand, or criticize, or try to get any sort of engagement from their partner. Right? They're just seeking some sort of reassurance or comfort, but it comes out in a way that might be kind of critical or…

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Angry.

Brittany: …and distressing to their partner. When that happens, their partner then gets overwhelmed, and kind of withdraws, or shuts down. It kind of reinforces the cycle over and over again. The more one person shuts down, the bigger one person gets. The more the other partner shuts down, and so on, and so forth. I would say that's the most common thing I see and it's really, really normal or common. I guess, I would say, it's really, really common. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. 

Brittany: There's a lot we can do with that, because really what we know underneath, right?  When there's basic safety there, right? This isn't an abusive relationship. Again, this is a healthy relationship overall, is that we normalize that distress, and we try to identify what's really happening underneath that. Right? There's usually some core attachment need for comfort, or safety, or connection, or anything like that. Just really vulnerable attachment need that isn't being met, and we're just scared to ask for it in that way. 

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, yeah. I'm so glad that you said all that. I think it's important to put that out there because I think that's part of what can get confusing for people who are like, “Is this a bad relationship? Is this an unhealthy relationship?” Because if you're in a distressed relationship with someone who is engaging with you in a way that makes you sort of feel like withdrawing, and avoiding conversations. The perception from that position is that you're living with somebody who's critical, and judgmental, and never quite happy with you, and always complaining about something, and who wants you to be something that you're not. I mean, that is the inner experience. Right? On the other side of it, the person is experiencing their partner's being withdrawn or avoided. “They never talk to me. They shut me out. They ignore me.” It doesn't matter. They just don't like…

Brittany: They don't care. 

Dr. Lisa: They’re emotionally checked out. They don't care. Right. When somebody comes into our office and is like, “This is what's happening at home. They don't care, they're checked out, they'd make me feel like watching ESPN is more important than our marriage.” That's how it feels. We also need to talk about the fact that this is normal in a distressed relationship, and that this—because this is happening doesn't mean that you're in a bad relationship necessarily. But it does require a path of healing, where you can start in a safe place talking about the things that are important. Kind of get reconnected. And I also just want to say, again, that is not a like, “Do these two easy things, and it'll be all better.” This is a process that requires…

Brittany: Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa: …probably months of, “How do we find this?” So there's setting everybody's expectations. Okay, so there's that. That is normal and expected distressed relationship. How would you say that is different from somebody who is in a relationship, that may feel in some ways similarly, but is actually not a healthy relationship? Do you think that there are sort of like markers that we can look at, or think about that would indicate what is this? Or does it really require that assessment process? Do you have to start doing the work to try to fix it, and then see what happens? How do you begin to sort that out?

Brittany: Yeah. I mean, sometimes, I think that we assess very early on so it can kind of become apparent very quickly. If there is just this common distress happening, and we can work with that. Or if it's actually that there's something unhealthy, or problematic, or unsafe happening in the relationship. I think general markers. right? Like the thing I'm always looking for is, “Is there like basic responsiveness?” “Can somebody take accountability and responsibility for their actions in the relationship?” “Can they identify their part and the distress?” And if not, right? I think, again, it's common to experience where we get caught in blaming each other. But usually, we're able to eventually step back and say, “Oh, I can see that I do have a part in this.” If we're just really inherent, or really set on blaming our partner and absolving ourselves of any part of the distress, I think that that's problematic. 

Then looking for things like, is there a desire to control or to have power over our partner? Is there—are there elements of shaming, and just really deep criticism present in the relationship? Is there manipulation happening? Is there—is one partner trying to isolate their partner? Are they threatening their partner? Is there verbal abuse happening? Those are some markers that I think are indicative of there being a bigger problem in a relationship, beyond just common distress. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, I get that. Just to say out loud, what you're also talking about are markers that we would associate with domestic violence, or intimate partner violence like the power, and control, the isolation, manipulation. Just to say very, very clearly, it is never appropriate for an ethical couples counselor to attempt any kind of couples counseling in the presence of actual domestic violence or intimate partner violence. It is just a no-go situation. We would not do that because it's not safe ever. That's not what we're talking about here. 

In those situations Brittany, if somebody was listening to this and being like, “Oh, no. It's actually violent.” Just for the record, what should they do?

Brittany: Oh, absolutely. I would always recommend they both go seek individual therapy, right? Is there something that can be done to help both partners, or at least a safety plan, or do something that really will establish safety for both partners, especially the victims.

Dr. Lisa: There's a wonderful national resource, it's called thehotline.org. Day and night, you can call or chat with one of their representatives, who can help you either on the spot if it's an emergency or also provide you access to all kinds of resources through community mental health agencies, like safe houses, that kind of thing. So if you're really in trouble, go thehotline.org. Brittany's recommendation is to get involved in individual therapy, ideally with someone who has that background to help you get safe. So that is not what we're talking about. 

But Brittany, so what we're talking about is sort of the—if there's a spectrum of basic safety in a relationship, and it's starting to get to this link, I don't know, sort of area. As a couples counselor, if you've determined that it's okay to continue working with a couple, it's not that bad that you are going to pull the plug… what are some of the things that you would want to be talking about with that couple? The things that you're seeing the patterns? Again, it's not a process. It's not information all necessarily. It's a process. But where would you hope to take that process and what would you expect to come from it?

Brittany: Yeah. I always start by helping couples what we call like mapping their dance. Right? So they're each identifying what moves are they both making in the dance? Are they doing different dances with each other? How are they showing up? And will actually map it out and say, “This is what I'm doing.” And part of the things that they're becoming more aware of—are some of the things they're becoming more aware of—are what's happening in their body. Right? Because we know that emotion shows up in our bodies first. 

So usually, even if it's subconscious, or even if we're not really aware of it, there's probably some somatic sensation happening in our body that were triggered by, that's telling us that distress is happening, or there's a loss of connection happening. It kind of sets the stance in motion. So I'm asking each partner to identify, “What's happening in your body?” “Can you just check in and notice what's happening?” “What emotions are coming up for you?” Can they name, right? Are they experiencing anger? Are they having… experiencing sadness? Is there judgment happening? What are they thinking right now? What emotions are coming up? 

Then I ask them to name a story they're telling themselves, and this includes the story about themselves, about their partners, about their relationship. Right? So these might be the like, “I'm not worthy. They don't love me. Our relationship is broken.” Whatever story they're telling themselves, and they name it, and then identify what do they do with that. Right? 

Because usually those three things: the emotions, and the sensations in our body, and the stories we're telling ourselves become too much. And so then we kind of.. we react. How we all handle that distress is going to be different. That's when we might protest, and become critical, or it might become too much, and we might completely shut down and say, “I'm going to go ahead and move into self preservation and shut down.” So it's really important that the couples just become really intimate with what is their dance? Can they map it? Can they tell each other about it? Can they do this together—most importantly, versus… it's me versus you. It's—this is our dance, and we're going to talk about it, and figure it out together. And so the first step is really just naming it, getting really familiar with this. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. So that's what you—what sounds like the place where you would always star. And I think what I'm hearing is that with a couple where there was growth possible, they would be able to engage in that, and be self-reflective, and talk about, “Yeah. This is how I feel. And when you do this, I do that.” And kind of that awareness. How would you contrast that with a couple, maybe that you started working with where you started to think, “Yeah, I don't know if how much growth is possible here.” How would it be different?

Brittany: Yeah. I mean, I always try to give it a little bit of time, right? Because this attachment work can be really deep. And sometimes it's harder for people, depending on experiences they've already had in their life. If they never have experienced a secure attachment, it might take them a little bit of time. We might have to map it over and over and over again, and give them kind of homework to “go and just see what you notice.” If they can't really identify, so that's one thing that might come up.

Building Relationships

Dr. Lisa: Thank you for saying that. Yeah. Because that's really important. Because just if that—if it's not easy to do at first, doesn't mean that it's a horrible relationship that needs to end. It means that there is a therapeutic component involved. And that's why we're here is to help people grow, and go through that transformational process.

Brittany: Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa: And so at the beginning, it's normal that it's not easy to do that. Okay. Thank you. Yeah. 

Brittany: Oh, yeah. Yeah, this is—it takes vulnerability. This process is really vulnerable. And we have to ease into that. But if beyond that, right? If we're not ever able to kind of establish that safety to feel vulnerable, and to do this work, then there might come a point, right? Where I might suggest that someone does some individual work around some emotional intelligence, or if they maybe have some attachment stuff to heal from their childhoods, or past relationships, or whatever it might be that's coming up for them. 

I do—I hope as always, that couples can do this work together because I really do believe that we heal best, and trust that relationships with others. And sometimes we need some individual work just to support us, and identifying what's happening for us, before we share it with our partner, or therapists in the couple setting.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, to work on yourself. If the wounds run so deep, that you're really not able to show up in a healthy way in your relationship, that's a sign that you need to work on yourself a little bit. I would imagine that for someone who will be very unlikely to be able to have a healthy relationship, they would reject that idea, and they would not want to do individual work. So that would be a sign. I would think that it's probably not going to work out, at least in a healthy way for you. 

Brittany: Yeah, right. Absolutely. I think that at that point, it's up to everyone to decide, “Is this something that I'm willing to kind of wade out, and hope that my partner changed their mind?” Or yeah, changes their mind? Or, “Do I really have to kind of accept that they're not in a place to do this growth work right now?”

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Completely.

Brittany: “Maybe that's not going to serve either of us or this relationship?”

Is My Relationship Healthy?

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well, this is really clarifying because I think a lot of people that are stuck in this conundrum, are in a place where they're trying to figure out, “Is this relationship healthy?” “Can this relationship be saved?” “How much do I want to invest in this relationship?” before having had the opportunity to do the kind of work that you're talking about Brittany?” So they're attempting to make these major life decisions without having the information that they need because after four months of working with Brittany, and there's no movement, and Brittany is recommending that your partner go to individual therapy, and they're refusing— that is good information upon which you could make a life decision. But before you've done that, it's like you don't even know what's possible or not and that is what feels so paralyzing.

Brittany: Yeah, yeah. I think, something that I see with—even people in the dating-coaching world, right? Who are seeking relationships, and also individuals, and people in relationships, is they're just hoping that they can read the mind of whoever they're dating, or their partner, and just know what's going to be possible, or if it's going to be a functional, healthy relationship. Really, I think that responsiveness is just so important. We have to be able to express what we're needing, what we're wanting, what our core needs are, and see how someone responds to that. Which really does require that vulnerability and baseline safety to do that. But how does somebody respond to us, right? When we say that we really want this type of relationship, we want a secure attachment, we want to be able to express emotions, how does somebody respond to that? And if it's—they're pushing back on it, or that's not what they believe in a relationship, then maybe that partner is not suited for us. Or are they interested in doing that, and they want to do that work, and are we willing to allow space for that growth to happen?

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, yeah. Well—and that's, that's a wonderful way, and certainly for people who are maybe single and in that dating coaching realm, because we often work with a lot of individual clients who are interested in creating healthy relationships. I think what I have certainly experienced are, oftentimes, people who have become aware that their last several relationships haven't really been great for them. So they come to us for help with, “Okay, what do I need to do differently this time to connect from the get go with somebody who will be a better fit for me? How am I showing up in relationships?” So that's an important area of growth work. 

What I'm hearing you say is that one of the keys to that is, as you're developing a new relationship with someone, just to be really observant. “How is this person responding to me over and over and over again?” And from that, begin to figure out, “Okay, can they respond to me?” But it's so hard, though, because at the same time, if your core narrative is, “But if I were more lovable, they would be nicer to me,” or whatever it was. And if they're saying, “Well, if you were just not X, Y, Z, then I wouldn't be so snappy with you.” It can be so hard as an individual to figure this out and sort it out. It’s complicated.

Brittany: Complicated. Yeah. It really is. Which is why I think responsiveness also includes like, “This is hard for me. I don't know what to do with this. But I want to be in this with you.” 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Right.

Brittany: “I want us to figure it out together.” It's okay not to have the answers. It's okay to mess up and make mistakes and not get it right. We're all not going to get it right sometimes in our relationships. But where's that motivation to work on things, and to grow, and to stay in it together?

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. And yeah, so you're saying that in a healthy relationship, you should be hearing some version of that from a partner who has the capacity to be responsive to you? 

Brittany: Yeah. 

Dr. Lisa: Could grow with you? 

Brittany: Yeah. 

Being Present in Relationships

Dr. Lisa: Okay. So now one last aspect of this I want to run past you. I think another trap that people can fall into, particularly women, although I see this happen with men too. When they've been in a relationship, and maybe for the last couple of years, it's a long distance relationship. Or maybe they've been dating, but they're not living together and one person is, “I really—I want to live with you. I don't want to be long distance anymore. I want to get married.” In their mind, there is the sometimes subconscious core belief that goes, “Because if we weren't long distance, this experience would be different. Or when we get married, this experience will be different than it is right now.” 

That is what they're sort of holding—so they're really pushing for this future thing. But that—what they may be missing is like warning signs of an unhealthy relationship that they have interpreted, as well, “When we get married, this won't happen anymore.” Have you noticed that? And could you speak to that?

Brittany: Yeah. I mean, I think I noticed that in both unhealthy relationships and also just relationships that might be healthy but are having some distress. 

Dr. Lisa: Okay. 

Brittany: I think it's just part of our culture that it's really hard for us to be present and focus on what's happening now. Right? And so we, of course, we create this idea in our head that the future will be better, and there's like that hope which is positive, and the future might be better. The only thing that changes with time is what we do with it. So it's really important that we focus on what does the relationship feel like now? What's serving us? What isn't serving us? What needs work, and are we willing to put in that work so that we can have that ideal future we're thinking of?

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. 

Brittany: Or we're thinking, it won’t be present in the future, or this dynamic will be different in the future. What are we both going to do now…

Dr. Lisa: Right.

Brittany: …to help that be a reality? Or is there something actually happening now that is really unhealthy, and i just need to be really aware of it, and name it?

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Brittany: And maybe walk away from something that isn't serving me anymore.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. To differentiate, “Will it actually be better once we're married or whatever?” Or “Is this the way this—is this actually the relationship?” And Brittany, what you're saying again is there needs to be effort on both sides to—okay, “How do you imagine it would be once we are married or whatever, and how close to that can we get before this?” Because that's kind of the sign that it would actually be different once you are married, or once you were living in the same town, or whatever, in terms of the emotional responsiveness and the empathy. Is that it?

Brittany: Absolutely. Do you both have the same expectations? Right?

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. 

Brittany: What I am—and this is part of like naming that story again—is what I'm naming, “Is that true for you as well?” Right? Or “Do we have the same expectations, the same hope for our future?” “Are we both hoping that this dynamic is different in the future?” Or “Is this maybe uncomfortable, or painful, or difficult for me, and to you it feels fine?” 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Brittany: If so, that's a conversation that we need to talk about and see. Are there some—is there a compromise that needs to happen? Is there something that actually does need to be addressed and healed? Or is this something that's going to cause a really big rupture, and maybe the relationship is not going to work long-term?

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. What a great point because if this feels intolerable to me and it's perfectly fine for you—how close—how can we close that gap at all? If the answer is no, or there's not willingness on one side to have it be different, that's important information that is worth listening to.

Brittany: Yeah. Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa: Wow. What a great conversation about such an important topic. I know we need to wrap things up here in a second. But do you have anything else to add on that question around healthy relationships versus unhealthy relationships, and how to tell the difference?

Brittany: Yeah. I think, really, what it comes down to—I tell every couple of this that I work with, “My hope is that you can walk away with what we call attunement, and know how to practice attunement.” Attunement is really just like a process of being present with our partners. It's where we engage in that emotional response—responsiveness, where we can turn to our partner, we feel like we can be vulnerable. Even if something is difficult, or painful, or uncomfortable, we really trust that our partner is going to be in it with us. 

So I encourage partners, “If you're feeling disconnected, or you're feeling like you're not in attunement, that's okay. But how can you find your way back to each other and do you both take part in that process?” I think it's just so, so critical to have that responsiveness and reciprocity in relationships.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. I love that, especially with the idea that you were talking about earlier, That in a distressed relationship you won't have that attunement because of that pursue-withdraw cycle. Yet it is something that can be intentionally created if both people are engaged in that process. so that that's the goal, though, is that attunement. That's really the fundamental heart of every relationship is that emotional connection, emotional intimacy, feeling of emotional safety. That’s the goal, and that's what is present in healthy relationships and what feels you know fundamentally not possible, even with work in relationships that aren't healthy. Is that a good way to summarize it?

Brittany: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa: Well, Brittany,  thank you again so much for your time and meeting with me today. This was wonderful. Thank you.

Brittany: Oh, of course. Thanks so much for having me, Lisa.

Dr. Lisa: You can learn more about Brittany and her work as a marriage counselor, a couples therapist, an online relationship coach at growingself.com. While you're there, you can also take our free, “How Healthy Is Your Relationship?” online quiz. You can take it yourself, you can share it with your partner, and then you can compare results. It's an easy kind of lowkey way to get a snapshot of your relationship with its opportunities for growth, as well as its strength. So you can check all that out and more at growingself.com and I will be back in touch next week with another episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast.


Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn “rough-patches” into “growth moments” can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

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.

Keeping the Romance Alive

Keeping the Romance Alive

Rekindle Romance in Long-term Relationships

In long-term relationships, keeping the romance alive isn’t always an easy task. Everyday life can get in the way of doing small romantic gestures for our partner that we enjoyed at the beginning of the relationship. 

This relationship dynamic can hinder romance and connection. The good news though? It doesn’t have to be this way. Long-term relationship dynamics open opportunities to rediscover each other, rekindle your connection, and keep your romance alive. 

As an online marriage counselor and relationship coach, I want to share with you some of the same tips I share with my couples clients who too are struggle keeping the romance alive. This way you can get started on rekindling romance in your relationship today! 

9 Ways to Practice Keeping the Romance Alive in Long-term Relationships

Communicate Your Needs and Listen to Your Partner

It’s true that communication is one of the most important factors to any relationship when it comes to keeping the romance alive, it’s also one of the most difficult things for couples to do effectively. This is especially true if your relationship is going through something completely new – new challenges, new hurdles, new arguments, new annoyances! 

Communicating effectively takes practice and it is important that during times when we worry about so much, we also pay attention to our needs and communicate these with our partner. 

Acknowledge your frustrations, tell them what would help you feel more at ease, more loved, more connected. When your partner shares their needs, make sure you put your phone down and pay attention. This will help your partner feel heard, understood, and will also help you get on the same page with them and come up with solutions together. 

[For more on building better communication with your partner, check out this three part communciation podcast series: Solve The Biggest Problem In Your Relationship: Communication]

Dress Up for Yourself and Your Partner

It’s not uncommon or unexpected to get comfortable in your relationship. Some personal habits you might have upheld in the early dating stages of your relationship may not feel as important now – and that’s okay! However, for my couples that are struggling to rekindle their romance flame, I recommend that they try dressing up once or twice a week, even if you’re just having dinner at home. 

Do your hair, put on makeup, perfume, cologne, or whatever it is that makes you feel nice. Do this for yourself (as when you look great you feel better) and do this for your partner so they can see you as your most confident and attractive self as well. 

[If you are struggling with self-worth and low self-esteem, you're not alone. With everything this world throws at us, it's not a surprise that we struggle so often to realize how truly valuable and wonderful we are. If these factors are hindering you from keeping the romance alive, I encourage you to read this reminder: You Are Worthy of Love and Respect and know that you deserve love and respect! For more on building self-esteem and confidence, check out: How to Increase Self Confidence (Part 1)]

Compliment Each Other Regularly

Genuine compliments can make us feel so special. Make sure you practice gratitude and appreciation of each other every day. Focusing on qualities that you love and appreciate in one another primes your brain to notice the positives and not only the negative or frustrating things in each other. 

If you can, create an “appreciation jar,” where you each write a compliment or appreciation about your partner every day. 

[Have you heard of micro-dates? These are fantastic ways to connect with your partner regularly throughout your day, read more about micro-dates here: The Micro-Date Revolution]

Turn Off The Screens (Activity Ideas Below)

Make sure you have screen-free time. This includes TV, computers, tablets and phones. Try an activity (ideas below) during this, and focus on each other. 

It may feel a little awkward at first, but the more time you spend away from the screen and together in interactive and engaging activities, the easier and more enjoyable it will become. You’ll get to where you both look forward to those screen-free activities together. 

[Stuck on social and feeling down? Read more about Social Media and Happiness: How to Make Them Co-Exist]

Plan Your Routines Together

Plan out some daily routines, chores, activities and who is doing what. Having a plan, even when you feel you don’t need one because you are just at home, can be very helpful in avoiding building frustrations. 

Your routine can include planning out the necessary chores, creating a menu for the week, and identifying the activities you’d like to do and when you will do them. 

It’s important to have a plan when you want to accomplish something, and your relationship is no different. If you set yourself (and your relationship) up for success, you’re both more likely to follow through with your commitments.

Build A Team Environment 

WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER. Doing some of the activities outlined below, such as starting and completing a challenge together, can be an easy and stress-free way to create a sense of team spirit. 

Building a team environment in your relationship will help you feel more connected and ready to tackle the challenges that you are facing (whether they be internal or external to your relationship).

Create Space for “Me Time” 

This may sound like a contradiction to my point before, but it is a lot easier to participate in the ‘team,’ when we feel like we can be our own selves as well. 

Try and take some time apart each day. If you’re not able to leave the home, spend some time in different rooms of your house. This may even be just taking a long bath with some relaxing music while your partner is in the living room reading a book. 

By creating space for “me time” you’re actually encouraging a healthy self-care routine with yourself and for your partner. 

[Here’s more on self-care and independence in a relationship: How to Not Lose Yourself in a Relationship and How to Develop Your Self-Identity and Experience Personal Growth in a Committed Relationship]

Continue Making An Effort (And Seek Help When Needed)

Complacency is the enemy of romance. Once we stop making an effort for each other, it is inevitable that romance and the spark you once had will fade. Effort doesn’t have to be difficult. As long as you try to do right by your partner, and implement some of the strategies outlined here, your partner will definitely appreciate all that you are trying to do.

If you find that you’re struggling to make an effort, reach out for support. Whether that’s discussing it with your partner, asking for friendly advice from a friend or family member, or reaching out to a therapist or coach – there’s help out there for you when you need it (and we all do from time to time).

[Want to learn more about couples counseling? Find out if Online Marriage Counseling, Online Couples Counseling, or an International Relationship Coach is right for you.]

Make Time For Intimacy 

Physical affection and sexuality can be difficult in times of stress. Try to ensure that it doesn’t take the backseat completely. In long-term relationships, we can get busy with “life” and forget to connect with our partner on a more intimate level, which is a major factor in keeping the romance alive.

“In most long-term relationships, sooner or later there will be a time when the sexual dynamic is not as ambient as it once was. Even in a happy and otherwise fulfilling relationship, sexuality can take a hit due to several reasons, including stress, major life events, hormonal changes, physiological concerns, etc.. 

However, when things in the bedroom become a little more dull, repetitive or almost absent, there are quite a few ways to ‘spice things up.’” 

Quote From: HOW TO KEEP STRESS FROM TANKING YOUR SEX LIFE

Keeping the Romance Alive: Activities to Try

Try something new together – Novelty is a great way to build romance and connection. Any of the ideas below would work, but coming up with something together can be a fun activity as well. 

Play games – Board games, card games, or brain teasers try out a few and see what the two of you enjoy the most. You can even make a game night out of it and invite some friends over. 

Double Dates – There are fun new ways to have double dates these days. Whether you’re meeting up in person or over virtual video – you can meet up for outdoor activities, dinner, or even host a virtual cooking or game night!

Exercise together – You can set this as a challenge and encourage each other to follow through with completing the challenge. For example, complete 100 squats every day. Break it up to 50 in the morning and 50 in the evening or break it up even more to 25 at one time. You can also exchange it to sit ups or push ups, or any activity that doesn’t require much space or equipment. 

This is an especially good activity for those looking to build intimacy in your relationship. Taking care of yourself physically can lead to a healthier sex life!

Have a picnic – Outdoor and indoor picnics are both great ways to connect with your partner. Lay down a blanket at your favorite outdoor area or venue, or in the living room, put on some music, and bring out some picnic foods you can find at home. This could be cheese and crackers, cold meats, olives, dips, fruits, drinks, chocolates, or anything you can source and have some fun with. 

Not wanting to put the work into building a picnic? Search for a charcuterie business near you that will provide the picnic (and maybe even set up and clean up!) so that you can spend the time focusing on each other and not on what side dish you’d like to bring!

Try a food sensory activity – You could do this during the picnic, or at a different time. Place small and easily manageable pieces of different food items in your partner's mouth while they are blindfolded, and they have to guess what the food item is. This could even be a good activity for building intimacy together!

Cook something together – If neither of you are good cooks, here is the opportunity to learn how to create some nice meals. If one of you is usually responsible for cooking, the other should give it a go with your assistance. Find some recipes together that you’d like to try and complete the whole process together, from prep to eating your lovely meal.  

Walk down memory lane – Look at old pictures of the two of you. Remember those times, the fun memories, and what you liked about each other back then. Maybe even spend a moment on appreciating how far you’ve come since then, and all that you have accomplished together. 

Eye gazing activity – Sounds simplistic and silly, but this is a powerful activity that stimulates the bonding hormones in your brains and helps with feeling connected. It can feel like the world’s problems melt away and it is just you two that matter. 

While sitting, face each other, make sure you are touching in some way (holding hands) and try looking into each other’s eyes for 5 minutes, without speaking or looking away. Once the giggling subsides, you’ll start really appreciating the connection this activity is creating. 

Meditate together – There are a number of free meditation apps and channels on YouTube that will guide you through how and what to do. It is such a nice way to relax and connect at the same time. 

Try spending a small amount of time together at first and building up as you feel comfortable. Even just 10 minutes together can spark a renewed spirit among your relationship.

Bedtime routine – Go to bed each day with the intention of letting the day’s stressors and irritations behind. Say a few kind words to each other and go to bed with a kiss and a cuddle when you have the chance.  

If you find that your relationship is struggling and it seems difficult to rekindle the romance, online marriage counselling can be helpful in identifying where things started shifting and how to get back into a happier place.  

Wishing you the best,
Dori

What to Do When You Are Married and Have a Crush on Someone Else

What to Do When You Are Married and Have a Crush on Someone Else

What to Do When You Are Married and Have a Crush on Someone Else

Married With a Crush?

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Married With a Crush? What To Do (and Not Do)

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

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What To Do When You're Married With a Crush On Someone Else…

So, you are married but you have a crush on someone else. Hey, it happens. Married people, even happily married people, are also human and as such, are vulnerable to developing crushes on attractive others. A crush, aka, “Romantic Infatuation” can happen with anyone who you spend time with and who has attractive or, interestingly, anxiety-producing qualities. 

What does is mean if you are married and have a crush on someone else?

Having a crush on someone else when you're married doesn't mean that you're a bad person. It also is not a reflection of your marriage. Believe it or not, having a crush may not mean anything at all. In fact, people in happy, healthy, committed relationships can still develop fluttery feelings for attractive others. Crush-y feelings don't need to mean anything about your marriage or your spouse, or about the person you have a crush on.

Feelings just happen sometimes.

We have crushes because we're living, feeling human beings who are designed to fall in love. Particularly in long-term relationships where the zing of early-stage romantic love has faded into a steady, warm attachment, the part of us that longs for exciting, romantic love may be tickled awake by the presence of an interesting new other.

However, smart, self-aware people in good, committed relationships need to not follow those feelings but rather handle them maturely and with wisdom. 

The Smart Way to Handle Having a Crush When You're Married

While developing a crush is not unusual, it is extremely important to be very self-aware about what is happening and redirect your energy back into your primary relationship as quickly as possible. (If you want to stay married, anyway.)

Developing an infatuation can actually be a positive thing for a relationship, particularly if you are self-aware enough to realize that your feelings for someone else might be informing you about what you'd like to be different about your primary relationship. 

Then you can build on the existing strengths of your relationship to add “crush ingredients” back in, like spending time together, novelty, emotional intimacy, flirtation and fun. Your relationship will be the stronger for it.

When Crushes Cross the Line

Crushes, when not handled well, can also be an on-ramp to an affair. Consider that very few people intend to start an affair. Most affairs begin with people having fluttery, crush-y feelings for someone who is not their spouse… convincing themselves of all the reasons why it's okay… (We're just friends! But my husband never talks to me like this!) … and then leaning into the feelings of excitement and attraction rather than intentionally extinguishing them. Those feelings, those rationalizations, are the siren song that lures your marriage onto the rocks of ruin.

Developing a crush or romantic feelings for another can be extremely dangerous for the stability of your family and your relationship. While it's not unusual to develop a mild crush when you're married, if unchecked, your innocent-seeing crush could bloom into an emotional or even sexual affair. 

While everyone can have a crush bloom, it's very important to know how to handle yourself and your relationship when crushes happen in order to protect yourself, your relationship, and your integrity.

Protect Your Marriage From an Affair

Here at Growing Self, we are strong believers in the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That is never more so than with relationships. It's much easier to educate yourself and learn how to handle common situations successfully, and in such a way that they strengthen your relationship rather than harm it.

Knowing how to handle yourself if you start to develop a crush on someone when you're married to another is one of the most important ways of protecting your relationship from an affair. Even though couples can and do recover from infidelity, infidelity is terribly traumatic and difficult to repair. Affairs destroy marriages and destroy lives, and at the end of the day tend to result in disappointing relationships with the affair partner.

Take it from a marriage counselor (and, ahem, author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to an Ex Love”) who's seen the destruction that affairs create: Don't do it. The key? Catching those normal, crush-y feelings early and learning how to use them to re-energize your marriage, while simultaneously learning how to extinguish the crush.

Listen To This Episode to Learn What To Do (And Not Do) When You Are Married And Have a Crush

Today on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I'm talking all about how to handle yourself and your relationship when you have a crush on someone else. We'll be discussing:

  • The mechanics of a crush; how and why crushes develop
  • The difference between a crush and a platonic friendship
  • Why happy, committed married people can have crushes on others
  • How crushes can turn into something more serious
  • How to use self-awareness, integrity, and honesty to protect your marriage
  • How to use your crush experience in order to add energy and intimacy into your relationship
  • Warning signs that your crush is developing into something else
  • Why extramarital affairs are always a bad idea, and rarely end well
  • How to stop having a crush on someone else
  • How to avoid embarrassment and professional ruin if you have a crush on a coworker
  • How to protect your relationship and stay true to your values even when you're having feelings for another.

All this and more on today's episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

xoxo,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. If it's not you you're worried about, but rather that your partner may have a crush on someone else, here are some other resources for you: Signs of an Emotional Affair, and How to Get Your Needs Met in a Relationship. Play them in the car and see what your partner thinks… LMB

P.P.S. Another very low-key way to begin a productive conversation about how you're both feeling in your relationship is to take our free online “How Healthy is Your Relationship Quiz” together and discuss the results. Having these types of emotionally intimate conversations with your partner can jump start the process of growing back together again, if you're open to it!

 

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

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.

Finding the Right Person

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

Music Credits: Vivian Girls, “Tell The World”

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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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