In today's society, pseudo relationships or what we like to call “situationships” are literally the driving force behind why we fear intimacy and genuine connection. Situationships are relationships that create a semblance of a connection, but it’s really a bond rooted in fear, anxiety, and insecurity.
The reason situationships usually rarely ever turn into healthy committed relationships is because the foundation of the connection is built on quicksand. Anything built on relationship insecurity and unresolved wounding leads to emotional unavailability–and emotional unavailability is actually the thing that drives situationships to run a muck in today's dating climate and go unchecked.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a situationship, it’s one of the most painful relationships to be in because it’s not a REAL relationship. These relationships are never clearly defined, and you do not have any clarity about where things are going. Communication is frequent, it feels like a relationship, but it’s not actually a relationship-it’s just a state of confusion with another person.
Situationships can be dangerous because you start to lose yourself in what feels like a connection, but really it’s just a reenactment of attachment wounding with another person. You find yourself disowning your standards and complying with what the other person wants to maintain, which feels like a connection.
These types of relationships are the hardest to walk away from because, deep down, they are not relationships, they are addictions that feed on our deepest wounds. They make us question our entire sense of self and reinforce the idea that we have to prove and alter ourselves for love.
Healing from these types of relationships requires you to turn within and explore what made you a match for this type of connection to begin with. The only way that we can heal from situationships is to heal our relationship with ourselves.
If you are contemplating walking away from a situationship or if you just recently walked away from one, here are some tips to get you started on your healing process so you can attract more meaningful relationships with people who are a reflection of your heart rather than your wounds.
Refrain From Abandoning Yourself for Connection
As social beings who long for a sense of connection and belonging, we tend to adopt OTHER people's standards to avoid the discomfort we feel in standing on our own. We fear the thought of ever having to stand alone in relationships, especially if the other person's values and standards do not align with our own.
But when you’re clear and confident about what you desire, you won’t wait months and years for someone to make up their mind about you.
Emotionally available people don’t stick around waiting for other people to become available. They accept people for who they are and move accordingly. Knowing that you want a relationship and sticking around waiting for someone to make up their mind about you is unloving to yourself. The first step in your healing is becoming more confident and honest about what you desire so you can attract individuals who want the same thing.
Explore Your Connection to One-Sided Relationships With a Licensed Professional
I don’t think anyone really desires to be in a one-sided relationship. Still, sometimes when we have unresolved childhood wounding around abandonment, rejection, and feelings of unworthiness, we tend to recreate those same relationship dynamics in our adult relationships.
In a recent tweet, I wrote:
When we don’t feel good about ourselves, we will seek constant reassurance from people who trigger our insecurities around not feeling “good enough”— Imani.intouch (@imaniintouch) April 22, 2023
We want these people to love us because deep down we think:
“If I can just get the unavailable person to feel good about me-it will finally make up for my own lack of self love and what I didn’t receive from my caregivers”— Imani.intouch (@imaniintouch) April 22, 2023
Our relationships are a reflection of what we believe is possible for us. Suppose all we ever experienced in our lives is one-sided relationships. In that case, we will tend to gravitate towards those types of relationships in adulthood because we subconsciously know our role in those relationships.
Deep down, it looks a little something like this:
“Growing up, I learned that relationships tend to be unloving, chaotic, and confusing. In order to maintain a connection with others and ensure my survival, I usually have to appease people and disown my standards/boundaries to keep the peace and gain their approval. Even though this person I’m in a situationship with reminds me of a familiar dynamic, I'll override the anxiety I’m feeling in the relationship and call it love because all I’ve known love to be is chaotic, one-sided and dysfunctional. Therefore, this anxiety that I’m feeling with this person must be love.”
Those words are my own experience with love and where I used to be when I navigated love from a hurt place versus a healed place as I see it now. It could be helpful to sort out your childhood and relational experiences with a licensed professional so they can help you get to the root of why you may be relating to an insecure place in your relationships.
Take the Medicine From the Experience and Hold Yourself Accountable
Low-quality experiences are meant to be transmuted into wisdom. Look at experiences like these as opportunities for growth by answering the following questions:
- What did you learn about yourself from this experience?
- What parts of yourself did you deny, hide or disown to be with this person?
- How can you ensure that you will not do that again when you’re building new connections with people moving forward?
- How can you alchemize this heartbreak into wisdom?
Acknowledge That You Actually Are Going Through Symptoms of a Breakup
Just because you may have convinced yourself that a label doesn’t “mean anything,” it does not mean your feelings were not real. Relationships are not light switches, and we pay the price when we treat them as such. Your feelings are not a toy, and you should not let anyone treat them as such, including yourself.
Allow yourself to grieve what you had with this person until you can get to a place of acceptance around what happened in the connection and why it ended the way it did.
Closure is not something we seek in another person, closure is something we give ourselves.
Get Your Life Together
Go outside, get in touch with friends you may have disconnected from, and get in touch with your support system. Right now, you need to be around high-quality relationships that pour into you and fill you up.
Never stop dating yourself, even if you get into a relationship with someone else in the future. You are always supposed to create a life for yourself outside of being in a relationship with someone else. That’s how you maintain a strong sense of self, so why not work on strengthening that muscle in the here and now?
Understand That Other People’s Choices Have Nothing To Do With Your Innate Value
Someone not choosing you or not wanting to be in a relationship with you does NOT mean you weren't "good enough" for them. "Enoughness" is a stronghold that has had many people in a chokehold for decades.
If you poured me a glass of water, I could say, "That's enough," and the glass could be half full.
If I poured you a glass of water, you could say, "That's enough," and the glass could be filled all the way to the top.
Enoughness is all about perception!
People only value what they perceive themselves to need. If someone does not perceive themselves to want a relationship with you for whatever reason, it is because they do not perceive themselves to need what you have to offer, and why even be with someone who does not want or cannot handle ALL of you?
Release yourself from the shackles of not being "good enough" in someone else's eyes. You are not them, and you have no idea what their values are.
Remember, sometimes the person NOT choosing you is the blessing.
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Relationships reflect our inner world and what we believe is possible for us. As we navigate our lives, relationships serve as invitations to do inner work with others. When we are unaware of what is happening internally, it can be a recipe for disaster. You are no longer authentic.
Sooner than later, you may feel drained, depleted, and resentful due to unmet needs and boundary violations. When your needs aren’t met, you will serve someone else's standards while neglecting your own. This is why it is so vital that we take inventory of our relationships and assess if they are relationships that honor our needs, our boundaries, and our truth.
Here Is Why You Should Consider Spring Cleaning Your Relationships:
You allow yourself to build more intimacy in your relationships.
Intimacy is the heart of a healthy relationship. When we understand our partners, we build intimacy with them. Vulnerability is a conduit for emotional intimacy in safe relationships. Our relationships thrive when we feel emotionally connected and supported by our loved ones.
Nevertheless, a healthy relationship does not mean a perfect relationship, and sometimes we need to assess and address what's working in our relationships and what may need some fine-tuning. When we are open to learning, growing, and developing deeper bonds with our loved ones, we invite them to preserve our relationship through open dialogue centered around honesty, love, respect, and safety.
You are choosing yourself and are being honest with yourself.
When you consider spring cleaning your relationships, you offer yourself a token of love. You are communicating that YOU matter, and your feelings, energy, and the overall health of your relationships matter.
Spring cleaning your relationships allows you to be there for yourself. When we choose ourselves, we advocate for ourselves. For so many of us, we are starting to realize that we have every right to advocate for ourselves even if the environment we grew up in did not support our emotional or physical well-being.
Now that we can advocate for ourselves as adults, we get to choose our relationships, not from a place of obligation or fear but from a place of reciprocity, love, and respect.
It can help you to get clear on things you may have suppressed.
Suppression happens when we actively push uncomfortable thoughts and feelings out of our minds. When something painful happens, and we are left with no resolve, we can suppress how we truly feel as an act of self-preservation for the relationship.
Nevertheless, with honesty also comes vulnerability with yourself. Maybe you have been unhappy in certain relationships for a while, but it was too painful to address, or maybe you have been suppressing how you feel because that is what is expected of you in your relationships. Although concealing your feelings may protect you from experiencing them, keep in mind that the body stores all of our emotions. There can be serious long-term side effects of emotional suppression, such as physical ailments linked to autoimmune disease.
Our mind, body, and heart are all interconnected, so assessing your relationships through spring cleaning not only improves your overall wellness but can also prevent anxiety, depression, and other chronic illnesses.
You can reflect on how you’re showing up in your relationships.
This one is my favorite! Spring cleaning your relationships gives you an opportunity to see yourself more clearly. If you are going through an imaginary checklist of what everyone in your life is doing wrong, you may be a part of the problem. Spring cleaning your relationships is not about what everyone else is doing wrong; it’s about accountability. Take this time to reflect on how you show up in your relationships. Are you kind and respectful to your loved ones? Do you honor their boundaries? What can you do to improve? How can you become a better listener? A better communicator?
Use this time to put a flashlight on your heart and take inventory of the places you love people from. Relationships are co-created, meaning both people play a role in the dynamic. Assess your role in your relationships and be the change you want to see.
Setting boundaries will reveal the health of your relationships.
Nedra Tawwab, the author of Setting Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself, defines boundaries as a "verbal or an action that you communicate to someone to feel safe, secure, and supported in a relationship." As we are spring cleaning our relationships, it’s imperative that we check in with our boundaries.
As humans, we are forever evolving, growing, and changing. As we grow, the boundaries that worked for us ten years ago may no longer serve us today. This is why it is important that we communicate our boundaries as they change. People cannot read our minds, and it is unfair to expect them to, no matter how much you think they should just “know” you.
All relationships need boundaries because people need to know how we want to be treated. In healthy relationships, boundaries are honored, and differences are respected. In unhealthy relationships, boundaries are constantly violated and not taken seriously. When you learn to set healthy boundaries and you start communicating them through your season of spring cleaning, allow your boundaries to reveal the health of your relationships. This may come with a sigh of relief, or this may come with immense grief, but I once heard someone say, “Struggling with the truth is much better than being comforted by a lie.”
Let your relationships reveal themselves to you so you can form healthier bonds, repair broken bonds, or release connections that no longer serve you.
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Perfection is a coping mechanism we use when we are unable to give ourselves approval. It’s an inner battle for acceptance and validation from others. What’s ironic about perfection is no matter how much or how hard we try to do things “perfectly,” it never feels “good enough.” There is always some part of us that feels we need to do more and more because we are trying to fulfill this imaginary threshold of enoughness in order to be enough. But perfection is not real because it’s impossible to be perfect.
Many people on the path of healing and self-awareness subconsciously believe that there is this level of perfection they need to attain in order to date. They believe that it is only when they attain this level of perfection that they will be worthy of love. This belief comes from society, culture, and institutions. For example, in school, you are programmed to achieve a passing grade in order to get to the next level (to graduate, etc). If you do not pass your classes, you fail and you will not move forward to the next grade.
This can be extremely overwhelming for a child, especially if they are struggling in certain subjects or they may have a learning disability. Nevertheless, when things feel threatening we find ways to cope by being whoever it is we need to be to get social approval. You spend the majority of your formative years trying to get things right rather than getting them wrong, striving to pass rather than failing, and this is the very energy we take into our healing and our dating experiences.
We are still striving to achieve something, to reach something we believe is bigger than ourselves rather than simply allowing ourselves to be human and find people who accept us for us.
In this article, I will share four ways to work through the need to be "perfect" in order to start dating.
1.You are not being authentic when you are trying to be “perfect.”
As Black women, culture and society have conditioned us to work really hard to achieve things. Take the Super Bowl, for instance. Rihanna performed for the first time after a seven-year hiatus, and she shocked viewers when it was revealed that she was pregnant during her performance. Carrying a baby and performing in front of thousands, there were people still criticizing her performance because they felt she didn’t “do enough.” She showed up in her authenticity and it still wasn’t “enough." But it was more than enough for her fans, her loved ones, and most importantly herself.
When we are striving for a certain level of perfection in relationships, we become a slave to other people's standards. We become energetically tethered to their beliefs, their perception, and what we think they want from us in order to be loveable. If you didn’t learn anything from Rihanna’s halftime performance: It is absolutely impossible tomeet everyone's expectations.
Viewing our interpersonal relationships through the lens of perfection makes us more focused on performing rather than actually being. Rather than trying to meet everyone else’s expectations, it’s important to learn how to embrace who you are and create a level of intimacy with yourself. Intimacy means clearly seeing someone for who they are and meeting them where they are with love, compassion, and acceptance. When you are striving for perfection, you are actually inauthentic which is a barrier to intimacy and a clear sign of emotional unavailability.
2.Look at the parts of yourself you’re not accepting.
The belief that we must be perfect in our relationships in order to connect may be directly related to a fear of intimacy that carries the core belief that certain aspects of us are unloveable. This belief can stem from negative childhood imprinting and relational trauma. When we are told that certain aspects of ourselves are unloveable, we learn to disown those parts of ourselves and we cope by becoming whoever we need to be in order to function. For example, as a child, if you were often criticized or shamed for your sensitivity, you may cope by suppressing that part of yourself and taking on a mask of avoidance or a nonchalant attitude to ensure your survival growing up.
Inner child work can be helpful in unpacking the parts of yourself you may be suppressing. The longer you suppress these parts of yourself, the more they will keep showing up in your relationships. You may find yourself having strong reactions or judging others who exhibit characteristics you’ve suppressed. Learn to see your own humanity and start that process by embracing all of your insecurities because those are the places where you need the most love.
3.Embrace vulnerability rather than avoid it.
Striving for perfection in relationships can point to the fact that we have core needs that are not being met. Trying to be perfect can come from a lack of physical/emotional safety, lack of validation, approval, trust, and understanding in relationships. But when we are being vulnerable, we let people in and give them an opportunity to hold space for us.
In relationships, we have to give people the opportunity to hold space for us because it can go either one or two ways. They are either going to honor our needs and hold space for us, or they are going to show us with their actions that they do not have the capacity to honor our needs or hold space for us the way we need them to.
The issue comes in when we avoid vulnerability because we are so afraid of what that answer will be. But regardless of wherever the pendulum swings, what are you going to do with that answer? Are you going to stick around and wait for the person to meet your core values/needs/standards or do you have the courage to walk away and go get your needs met elsewhere?
Sometimes striving to be perfect is a reflection of an abandonment wound and an inability to walk away from relationships that do not serve you. Instead of waiting for people to disappoint you, focus on what you will do if they ever do disappoint you.
4.Show empathy and compassion for yourself and others.
It’s easy to judge someone, but it takes strength to really understand the deeper truth behind someone's behavior. Whatever we judge in someone else is a reflection of what we’ve disowned within ourselves. Take some time to learn what real empathy and compassion are and start by offering those things to yourself.
How do you speak to yourself when you make a mistake? How do you speak to others when they make a mistake? Start to pay attention to how hard you may be on yourself and others. Where can you extend more empathy and compassion in your relationships without overriding your boundaries?
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I saw a tweet the other day that said, “The dating pool has piss in it.” This message came from a woman talking about an unfavorable courting experience she recently had online. Now, I’ve seen this phrase numerous times online and I’ve also heard multiple people say it when discussing their frustrations with dating in this day and age. The amount of times I've heard this line of thinking has me thinking that there may be some truth to this phrase. According to Olivia, an author/blogger on the website, The Right Kind of Black Girl, folks are tired. And I can see why.
In a recent post, she shared her thoughts on whether or not there's really pee in the dating pool, stating:
“Men are tired of being used as EBT cards. Women are tired of being asked what they bring to a table with no legs. I’m personally tired of the inability to hold a conversation and plan a date.”
If you ask me, she has a point! When it comes to dating, people are tired of being treated as objects rather than human beings. We have so many expectations around what men and women “should” be doing when they are dating because so many of us are afraid of someone seeing our insecurities, but when we set up all of these rules and expectations for dating, we rob people of the authenticity they need to express to cultivate relationships with people who are in alignment with their values.
Whether you want to admit it or not, we all have some red flags about us because we are human. The dating pool may have 'piss' in it but it’s all about your perception and what you’re calling in. Your perception of your dating experiences will come from the lens you are viewing them through.
Are you viewing your dating life through a lens of abundance and wholeness or through a lens of lack and insecurity? What are you learning from these experiences? How are you showing up differently in the types of people you are choosing? I believe now more than ever, people are becoming more aware and unapologetic about what they want out of their dating experiences and setting the standard to achieve those things.
As we continue to navigate through the “pissy pool” of dating (your words, not mine), the following are some dating trends to expect to see in 2023.
Emotional Availability Only
We are starting to see more women stand in their power of getting their emotional needs met in relationships. For many years, toxic masculinity has encouraged men to strictly be providers and achieve social/career status but now that women are more educated and financially independent, women no longer desperately need men for day-to-day survival (taking care of the bills, etc). Now more than ever, women are expecting more depth and emotional maturity in their relationships. This requires men to show up in areas they have been conditioned to disconnect from, which has lasting impacts on their emotional intelligence, emotional awareness, and emotional regulation skills.
Many women are no longer tolerating toxic masculinity or avoiding vulnerability. Many men have been getting more in tune with their vulnerabilities and having more conversations around mental/emotional health and dismantling misogynistic ideas/beliefs. Trust me, they are out there. The question is…are you checking for them?
Are you putting yourself in spaces with people who resonate with those ideas/values? Or are you listening to people with a microphone and a podcast spewing hate and their own insecurities onto other people? Put yourself in spaces with people who are like-minded and don’t entertain anything less than that.
Inner Work = Less Time for B.S.
During the pandemic, people all over the world were ushered into doing some inner work. The pandemic took everyone out of the security of autopilot and showed people how they really felt about themselves and their lives. Whether it was the loss of a loved one or the ending of a relationship, many people experienced loss and grief during the pandemic that completely altered their reality and forced them to confront things they may have been avoiding. Many people realized that life is too short and in order to stop having the same dating experiences, it’s going to require a different version of themselves.
For the past three years, people have become more interested in doing their inner work through therapy and various other forms of self-help. People have been reflecting on close relationships in their lives and most importantly their relationship with themselves. With doing inner work comes an awareness of not only your own insecurities, but you also start to become more confident about what it is that you are seeking and what your expectations are for yourself.
Now people are more in tune with their needs and their boundaries so this means fewer people seeking situationships/trauma bonds (unconsciously) and more people wanting healthy connections.
Side-Stepping Comfort Zones
Now with more people working remotely, people are becoming more interested in expanding their dating options. People who are dating are becoming more interested in the idea of long-distance relationships or even long-distance dating experiences because they have more time on their hands to explore and spend time with potential partners. Thanks to the new age of social media and a more flexible work life, finding someone in a different city or state has become more accessible without the hassle of work responsibilities.
In 2023, you can also expect to see people dating outside of their “type” as more people are learning that maybe their “type” isn’t actually their type and it’s simply just an initial attraction/pull towards someone due to familiar dynamics/characteristics in childhood. With this awareness, people are becoming more open to dating different people and giving themselves opportunities to have different experiences.
Self-Care Over Everything
This dating trend is like a part two for a couple of the previous dating trends mentioned. With more people starting their own businesses, working from home, etc., people are more interested in actually living a life that is fulfilling rather than simply surviving. In 2023, people are yearning for more of a work/life balance with self-care being a priority.
Also with self-care being prioritized, more people are willing to walk away from relationships that do not serve them or aid in their lives in positive ways. Have we become super rigid with this? Maybe to a certain extent, but in the case of abusive relationships, for good reason.
I think so many of us have lived through and witnessed the negative impact that staying in unhealthy relationships dynamics can cause and because we do not want to repeat those same experiences, we are quick to say no to physical/mental/emotional abuse and manipulation, making phrases like "choose yourself" a reality.
More Talk, Less Shame
With the rise of various social media outlets, people are becoming more vocal about various topics that were once taboo. People are more open to talking about sex and finances without carrying shame or guilt around it. People are starting to see that these topics are unavoidable and essential to have a healthy relationship.
We are also starting to see a rise in more research-based dating advice as people are becoming more open about talking about relational trauma, trauma bonds, attachment styles, childhood trauma, and how they have a lasting impact on their dating experiences.
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I’ll never forget a quote I heard one time from motivational speaker, Tony Gaskins. He said, “Communication in a relationship is like oxygen. You need it in order for the relationship to survive.” I’d even take it a step further and add that “effective communication” is needed for a relationship to survive and thrive. You see, it’s important that we communicate our needs, our values, and our boundaries in our relationships. However, if we are not conscious of how we communicate with our partners, we can unintentionally hurt them simply by not knowing any better.
Oftentimes a lack of effective healthy communication skills comes from what was modeled to us as children. Was the environment you grew up in very volatile and hostile? Were your caregivers able to communicate in healthy ways or was there constant yelling, screaming/name calling to get certain points across? How did your caregivers respond to your needs? Was communication very passive in your household or very aggressive? Did you watch your caregivers communicate with each other in ways that were effective or did they ignore each other?
These are all important questions to reflect on because whatever we see and feel in childhood is more than likely to be replicated into adulthood because our nervous system has been trained to connect in this way. Even if communication was dysfunctional, oftentimes it’s difficult to “do better” when it’s the only template we can operate from because it’s the only thing that we know.
As human beings, we all want to be seen and heard in our relationships but we may have difficulty communicating how we feel if we are using violent phrases to elicit a caring response from our partners. At the moment, we may think our partner will finally be able to understand us, but it actually does the opposite of what we want because it pushes our partner away, creating more tension and feelings of resentment in the relationship.
The following is a list of ten phrases you should avoid if you want a thriving relationship:
1.“You always…”/“You never…”
When we speak to our partners in absolutes we are usually extremely frustrated, angry, and overwhelmed by what is happening in the relationship. When we are overwhelmed in this way, we tend to put emphasis on what our partner is/isn't doing, which focuses more on the behavior rather than the collaboration to find the solution. When we use absolutes such as “you always” or “you never,” we are speaking in extremes. In these moments, it is important that we ground ourselves with the facts. Is it true that your partner is always ignoring you or do you often feel unheard in the relationship? Is it true that your partner never listens to you? Does feeling heard by your partner help you feel more connected and considered in the relationship?
These are all requests for connection, we just have to refrain from using absolutes to get our point across. Using absolutes may point towards parts of you that may be resentful. It does not plant the seeds for resolution and effective communication in the relationship, it just plants seeds of hurt, pain, and defensiveness.
Moving forward, try to focus on what is working for you in the relationship, and what you do like/love about your partner. Start showing gratitude for the little things that you may sometimes overlook and outwardly praise your partner to show appreciation and reaffirm the behavior.
2. “Get over it.”Get Over It Hamptons GIF by discovery+Giphy
When your partner expresses a concern and you respond with, “Oh well, get over it,” it’s extremely dismissive and very harmful to the health of the relationship. Think about it: Have you ever been hurt by someone you confided in and they told you that you shouldn’t be feeling the way you feel? I’m sure this has happened to so many of us and it is one of the most hurtful and invalidating responses to our emotional experiences.
When your partner is expressing something that is hurting them, it’s important that you do not dismiss their feelings even if you disagree with them. We must learn to put our ego to the side when this happens. If we do not put our ego to the side and create a safe space for our partner to share with us, we push ourselves further and further away from creating emotional intimacy with our partners.
3. “You’re just like my _____.”
No one likes to be compared to someone else especially someone you’re most likely not too fond of. When you say things such as “You’re just like my last boyfriend” or “You’re just like my dad,” you are passing a moralistic judgment on your partner based on your past experiences rather than seeing them for who they are. Yes, our partners may have certain characteristics that remind us of a familiar relationship dynamic but that does not mean that they are “just like” that person. Your partner is a human being with their own authentic expression. When you compare them to someone you have a conflicted relationship with, you are rejecting your partner by shaming them. This in turn will create more resentment in the relationship, creating more of a wedge between the both of you.
4. “Oh no, here we go again.”/”What did I do this time?”GIF by VH1Giphy
This was actually one that I had to work on in my relationship and my therapist actually called me out on it in a couples therapy session. (The therapist calling out the therapist, I love it LOL.) Saying things like, “Oh no, here we go again" or “What did I do wrong this time around?" to your partner when they are expressing a concern to you is highly dismissive and invalidating. What you are doing is showing that your frustration with your partner's concerns triumphs over their feelings. This may not be your intention but this type of response may cause your partner to shut down and avoid the conversation altogether, which does nothing to solve the issue at hand, it just adds more fuel to the fire.
5. “You’re so stupid.”
John Gottman, couples therapist and CEO and founder of the Gottman Institute, researched and studied what he called The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in relationships. Each horseman describes the four communication styles that destroy relationships, also known as relationship killers. In his studies, Gottman noticed that couples who handled their conflict conversation with contempt ended up divorcing. He concluded that contempt was the biggest destroyer and predictor of divorce and separation out of the Four Horsemen.
Contempt is when we talk down to our partners by being mean to them, insulting them, calling them names, etc. Attacking someone's sense of who they are is unloving, yet so many of us do it not because we do not love our partners, but because we were spoken to in those same ways. It becomes a cycle where we belittle our partners in the same way because we have not learned the tools to regulate our emotions.
Phrases like “You’re so stupid,” or ”You're an idiot” are harmful to the connection; if it happens for long enough, it also erodes safety in the relationship.
6. “I’m sorry, but…”sorry not sorry GIFGiphy
I don't know who needs to hear this but, “I’m sorry, but...” negates the “I’m sorry.” When you apologize, the word 'but' then counters the apology. Especially when it is usually followed by criticism or an excuse because you are most likely in a state of defense. In couples counseling, I always tell my couples to hold themselves accountable with compassion and understanding. Accountability does not mean punishment, it is simply a way to take into account what was done and acknowledge the harm that was caused by it.
When you can show compassion for the times that you may unintentionally hurt someone because you were hurting, it comes naturally to show kindness to others.
7. “I don’t care.”
This one is pretty self-explanatory. When we say things like "I don’t care," we are dismissing our partner's feelings. When we communicate this way, we are giving off the impression that our partner's feelings do not matter, which can trigger feelings of abandonment/rejection. This can create a barrier to connection because not only does your partner get the message that their feelings don’t matter but they also receive the message that they don’t matter.
Just like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, we are social beings. We need to be heard, seen, and deeply felt in order to survive. If we think we do not matter in our relationships, it destroys our sense of belonging.
8. “Well, at least I’ve never…”season 4 netflix GIF by Gilmore Girls Giphy
When we say, “Well, at least I’ve never...,” we are deflecting in order to avoid having to take accountability. According to MindBodyGreen, “Deflection is a defense mechanism that involves redirecting focus, blame, or criticism from oneself onto another person, in an attempt to preserve one's self-image.”
I would also like to add that often this is done to relieve our own anxiety around how we are perceived. However, it is not healthy to deflect because if we are constantly looking for something or someone outside of ourselves to “blame,” we are not taking accountability for our choices and how they impact our relationships. This behavior can drive our partner away because at its core it’s manipulation.
9. “You need to relax.”
“You need to relax” is another way of telling your partner they shouldn't feel what they are feeling. Granted, how we respond to certain situations may not always match the situation. For example, if your partner tells you 'no' and you burst into anger and rage, being told to relax might be warranted in a way that isn't in most other cases. (Keep in mind that we tend to view situations through the lens of our unhealed wounds. Depending on what is triggering us at the moment will determine the lens we see it through which will then influence our reaction to the trigger.)
Nevertheless, telling your partner “you need to relax” is not going to automatically make them relax. It actually does the opposite by making them even more upset because they feel invalidated, dismissed, and unheard. Remember, it's important to respect how your partner feels even if you don’t agree.
10. "I told you so."Im Right Told You So GIF by CBCGiphy
When you say, “I told you so” to your partner, you are adding insult to injury. It’s like having an open wound and picking at it to make it worse. Your partner probably already knows they made a mistake. It is unloving to make them feel even worse by reiterating you were “right.” Instead of focusing on how you were “right,” show compassion for how your partner feels and use the situation as a learning lesson to move forward in a way that feels empowering to the relationship.
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No one is ever 110% ready for a relationship. Let that marinate because I know it may sound strange, but really think about it. No one is ever really 110% ready for anything. You kind of just make a choice to move forward and take any feelings of fear or anxiety with you instead of allowing them to cripple you. Although no one is ever 110% ready for anything, I think it’s important to still have an idea of what to expect from ourselves to make sure we are walking into new relationships with healthy intentions.
In order to assist with this, I curated a list of questions to ask yourself to assess your “readiness” to date. If you find yourself getting stumped over any of these questions, don’t beat yourself up! No one is perfect and we all have things we can improve on. What is most important is that you have an open heart and an open mind as you read through these questions to explore what comes up for you with compassion and curiosity and whether you believe these questions are essential to you and your journey as you move toward dating and cultivating healthy relationships.
1.Am I really ready to date or am I just trying to escape the feeling of loneliness?
Everyone gets lonely sometimes. We have all experienced the feeling of loneliness but loneliness is not an invitation to form a connection with just anyone. Oftentimes the feeling of loneliness has a lot to do with our perception: we feel there is something missing, we feel empty, and we feel there is not enough.
Loneliness is not an indication to use someone as a bandaid to avoid our own discomfort with being with ourselves. It’s actually an invitation to turn within and retrieve the parts of ourselves that we may have lost in other people or have completely disowned within ourselves. Take a look at your current life. What’s no longer serving you? What needs to change in your environment? What needs to change within you?
When we are dating people out of a place of loneliness, we are attempting to get our needs met from a place of desperation. When you try to get your needs met through desperation, you end up becoming a vibrational match to the very thing you don't want
2.Have I identified my core values?
Your core values define the essence of who you are. In the article, “Why It's So Important for Couples to Talk About Their Values” by Kristin Fuller M.D., she states: “Core values in a relationship are the guiding beliefs that direct your words and actions. Knowing your core values will help you know when another individual's core values do not align with yours. If you are not aware of your core values, it will be difficult to find a partner with whom you are truly compatible.”
Often, we get into relationships without taking the time to truly understand our core values because society has conditioned us to disconnect from our values in order to maintain a connection with someone else. Look at examples such as the media and entertainment; it’s reinforced in subtle ways to disown yourself in order to receive love. Unfortunately, this can quickly become an issue for so many of us because when we are disconnected from our values, we are disconnected from our authenticity–which is not only a basic need but a driving force in our level of satisfaction in our relationships and with ourselves.
Identifying your core values will save you time and heartache. Moreover, identifying what is important to you in not only your relationships but in your life will help you define a strong sense of self so you can walk into new relationships without rejecting the essence of who you are to maintain connection. Healthy relationships do not require you to do that, it actually creates space for both. Your authenticity and the relationship.
3.Have I built my confidence in those values/needs?
This question ties into the last question. It is not enough for us to identify our values/needs, it's also important for us to understand that a lot of our needs and values are tied to what we did not receive as children. If you didn’t receive it as a child, how could you truly know what it looks and feels like in a relationship with someone else? It’s imperative that you build your confidence in getting those needs met by learning how to give them to yourself. When you work on loving yourself in this way, you become a living example of the qualities you would like to see in someone else.
If you want someone who is honest, when was the last time you were honest with yourself? If you want someone who is consistent, when was the last time you followed through on a promise you made to yourself? Once you start to identify your needs and your values, as well as build your confidence in really understanding what they mean by giving them to yourself, you will begin to believe that it is possible for you to receive them. You will believe that there is someone out there who can meet your needs because you’re a living example of everything you’re seeking.
When you pour into yourself in this way, you will be able to confidently recognize these characteristics in someone else without having to guess if they are the right fit for you or spending years and years in the relationship begging them to change. When you learn this, you automatically increase your level of discernment when choosing a partner.
4.Am I actively being the type of person I am looking for?
Oftentimes people are asking for things in relationships they have yet to cultivate within themselves. It is counterproductive for us to set the intention that we want a healthy relationship but our lives are a contradiction to the very thing we say we want. It is not enough to just set the intention that you want a healthy relationship, you have to live a life that flows in the direction of what you’re saying you want.
When you say you want a healthy relationship, shift your focus from what’s happening externally and focus on turning inwards. Start by looking at some of the other areas in your life. When was the last time you put your mind to something and followed through with it? Have you carved out some time to pour into yourself or are you constantly living in survival mode? Healthy relationships are all about creating a space for liberation and safety; survival mode is literally the opposite of that. Healthy relationships start with you.
They start with you preparing the soil and planting the seeds for a healthy relationship to grow. If the seeds you are planting are rooted in the soil of survival mode, you will continue to get the opposite of what you think you are planting. We cannot throw new soil on top of old soil and magically receive the harvest we are seeking. When you take the time to reevaluate every area of your life (your career, academics, friendships, parenting, time management, etc.), you will start to see the places that are not in alignment with what you’re saying you want.
These are the places that need your attention so what you are calling in can flow to you naturally. So, what needs to change within you to make a vibrational match to the very thing you are seeking?
5.Am I able to communicate my desires honestly?
It makes sense why many of us don’t communicate our desires in relationships. As humans, if we are wired for connection, if we communicate what we want and it isn’t in alignment with the other person, we may face rejection. Rejection is the opposite of what we are wired for. Although we all struggle with the fear of rejection, it’s more so about how we manage it.
Everyone is not going to accept us or meet our desires just because we want them to. We are not for everyone and everyone is not for us. This is not a “bad” thing, it’s actually a good thing because we protect ourselves from being connected to people who are simply not for us.
Being honest about your desires will create space for the RIGHT people to come into your life, who not only recognize your desires but find joy in meeting, honoring, and respecting them.
6.Have I identified past traumas/triggers that may have an impact on my dating experience?
Our childhood trauma can have a huge impact on how we show up in our relationships. When our trauma is left unresolved and unintegrated, it can show up in our reality in ways that harm our relationships. No one ever gets into a relationship “fully healed," but what’s most important is that you recognize your triggers and actively do the work to make healthier choices to respond to them. It could be helpful to work with a licensed professional in identifying what your specific triggers are in your relationships and learning how to manage them in a way that is cohesive to a healthy connection.
7.What are my core beliefs around relationships? Am I holding onto any limiting beliefs that may be keeping me from connecting authentically?
Limiting beliefs are negative core beliefs that have been ingrained in our subconscious from our past lived experiences (childhood, past relationships, etc.) Negative core beliefs such as “All men cheat” or “All women are gold diggers” are not conducive to a healthy relationship. When we are holding onto limiting beliefs around relationships, it does exactly what it says: it limits us.
When we carry negative core beliefs based on our experiences, we do not take the time to consider that our perception is very limited as human beings. The reality is, we are unable to experience all perspectives of life. Instead, we are only able to create one perspective, and that comes from our lived experiences. When we start to carry this black-and-white thinking (a defense mechanism to keep ourselves safe) into our dating experiences, we do not open ourselves up to getting to know people and seeing the complexities of what it means to be a human being.
Human beings are not “all good” or “all bad.” Everyone is a mix of both due to their own life circumstances, their own autonomy, and free will. In your dating experiences, it could be helpful to challenge any limiting beliefs you have that may be holding you back from connecting and experiencing true intimacy.
8.Am I willing to accept others for who they are without trying to change them or alter myself to be with them?
A relationship is when two or more individuals create an emotional bond through intimacy. Think about the phrase intimacy as "into-me-you-see." When you’re building a connection with someone, you are taking the time to see them clearly for who they are: their strengths, their weaknesses, their hopes, their dreams, and their insecurities. But when you’re dating and spend the entire relationship trying to get them to be someone they are not, you are not accepting them for who they are, which is the quickest way to get everything you don't want.
In order to build true intimacy, it is imperative that we understand that everyone has different needs and values, even people we find attractive. Instead of taking it personally, we have to understand that in healthy relationships, it is not our job to change our partners to manage our own discomfort around who they really are or alter ourselves to be loved by them. If you find yourself trying to alter them or yourself, it could be possible that maybe the relationship is not a right fit for you, and that is okay.
9.If I do not see a future with a potential partner, am I willing to be honest with them about the incompatibility?
When dating, sometimes we know that we are not compatible with someone off the bat, but we may have a difficult time being honest with them and telling them how we really feel because we may be afraid of hurting their feelings or facing some kind of resistance from them. What’s important to remember is that it is unloving to be dishonest with people we care about. When we are being dishonest about where we are, we are not giving ourselves or the other person a fair shot in finding what can be a true match for them, a better fit.
Trying to control someone's perception of you or avoiding their resistance to your boundaries can be manipulative, even if you aren’t doing it intentionally. It’s important that we take the time to be honest with ourselves and normalize being honest with others in our dating experiences.
10.If a potential partner does not see a future with me, am I willing to honor their feelings?
This question connects with the last one. If a potential partner does not see a future with you, are you able to honor their feelings and their free will? Do you write them off as a “bad person” or accept the incompatibility? Do you honor their boundaries or do you chase them and beg them to be with you?
These are all important to consider when dating because as much as we want people to respect our boundaries, we have to take the time to respect theirs as well. Oftentimes we have a difficult time respecting someone's boundaries because we view boundaries as rejection by internalizing it to mean something negative about ourselves.
When you learn to not take things personally and see them through the lens of just a difference in values, you have entered into a place of security within yourself, which may indicate that you are ready to date.
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