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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Last month, Michelle Obama sent the internet into a frenzy by opening up about her marriage to Barack Obama. During her conversation with NPR's "Life Kit" podcast, she shared her thoughts on the glamorization of dating and its impact on the reality of marriage, how partnerships are rarely 50/50, and when it comes to the ebbs and flows of commitment "young people quit too soon." She later clarified her thoughts in an Instagram post:
"As an adult, I’ve lived in a number of places, but as far as I’m concerned, I’ve only ever had one real home. My home is my family. My home is Barack. But here’s the thing—our marriage has never been perfectly 50-50. One of us is always needing more or giving more. We have to be willing to listen to each other, honestly and without defensiveness. Only then can we evolve together. Over the years, a lot of young people have asked me about marriage. And my response usually goes something like this: You have to prepare yourself for long stretches of discord and discomfort. You have to learn how to make real compromises in the way you’ve lived as an individual. Glamorizing a relationship while you’re dating will lead you straight to difficulty once you’re married. You can’t paper over problems when you’re living with someone day in and day out.”
Her caption continued, “So you’ve got to ask yourself: What are you trying to get out of this relationship? Have you truly thought it through? Do you want a wedding or do you want a lifelong partnership? Those are two very different things. Together, you are answering the question: Who are we and who do we want to be?”
I completely respect everything she mentioned above because that is her experience of what it takes to sustain a long-term, successful marriage and that is what has worked for her. While I believe that what she mentioned is true, I think it’s important that we also get into the nuances between trying to make a relationship work with someone who is equally committed to the relationship as you are versus trying to make a relationship work with someone who has reached an expiration date in your life.
Not every relationship is meant to last long-term and that doesn’t have to be a “bad” thing. Some people come into our reality to show us who we are so we can learn and grow and some people come into our lives to spend a lifetime with us. As you are dating, it’s important to discern the difference.
To help you do that, I have compiled a list of eight signs that it might be time to break up with someone. Check it out and share your thoughts below in the comments.
1.When you spend the entire relationship trying to alter yourself or the other person to "make it work."
Our values connect us to our hearts. When we are not in tune with our values, we will alter ourselves just to be in a relationship with someone else. Now this most likely did not just start “out of nowhere." This is a learned behavior that kept us safe in our environment. As children, we are very dependent on our caregivers to be in “attunement” with us. Attunement means to be in harmony with us; to respond to our needs, and to mirror to us what we’re seeking and what we’re giving out.
If your caregiver was unable to attune to you, you most likely had to alter yourself in some way to get your needs met. For example, if mom was always consumed with work and came home in a “bad” mood, maybe you had to alter your good mood to cope with the unsafety that came with her “bad” mood. Another example, let's say maybe if you wanted to be an artist but your family of origin communicated to you with their actions or an overall lack of response, that your dreams and your interest were not “good enough” to receive love from them. As children, we don’t just “get over” that. We internalize this as a rejection of the essence of who you are, the rejection of your authenticity.
We then learn that we must be someone else outside of ourselves to receive love, approval, and validation. We develop this core belief that love has to be earned and you have to work really really hard for people to accept you, and not only do you alter yourself, but you will then try to alter other people who do not fit into your standards because that’s what you learned to do in order to connect. In your mind, that’s loving.
But the truth is you never have to alter yourself or anyone for love, you don’t have to disown your boundaries, or say and do things for others that create this internal conflict with you and your values. When we alter ourselves for love, we are in our most inauthentic expression, which attracts people who are attracted to our most inauthentic expression. Even if we’re unconsciously in our most authentic expression for the sake of survival, the tragedy is that we become a match to the very thing we say we don't want, which leads to more heartache and pain.
I made a post on Instagram a few weeks ago that said, “When you are performing for love, you attract people who are looking for nothing more than to be entertained.” If you cannot be yourself around your partner without feeling shamed, chastised, unworthy, or unloveable, it may be time to reconsider if this relationship is the right fit for you.
If your partner cannot be themselves around you without you trying to change them, it may be time to reconsider if this relationship is the right fit for you.
2.When there is emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse present.
In relationships, we all have standards and boundaries in regard to how we would like to be treated. Standards and boundaries are not meant to push people out, but they are clear guidelines we communicate to others about how we would like to be treated and what helps us to feel safe in our relationships. Abuse of any sort is unsafe for your mind, body, and nervous system. If you find yourself hiding what’s really happening in your relationship from your friends and loved ones, you could be in an abusive relationship.
There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, although there can be so many reasons to leave. If you or anyone you know is struggling to leave a physically abusive relationship, call 800-799-7233 or text START to 88788 for support.
I’m hoping in the future, we will have more resources out there for anyone dealing with emotional and psychological abuse. In the meantime, it could be helpful to speak with a professional for your safety as well as receive some resources to leave the relationship.
3.When there is an overall lack of accountability from your partner.Starz Professor GIF by Power Book II: GhostGiphy
One of the things I’ve learned being a couples therapist is that if you and your partner are in conflict, it’s you and them against the problem, not you and them versus each other. When you get into conflict with your partner and they seem to deflect, withdraw, ignore you, or shut down when you’re explaining something to them that is hurting you, it may be time to reconsider the relationship and reconsider your options.
Most relationships fail when we make the other person out to be the “bad guy” rather than understanding that everyone is complex, and depending on what triggers us, we have different reasons for why we respond the way we do, oftentimes for protection and survival. Externalizing conflict in the relationship will help you to build intimacy through empathy, patience, compassion, and understanding but BOTH partners have to be open and willing to identify the childhood wounds that cause them to put up the defense.
When a couple fails to identify the childhood wounding that causes barriers to connection and when one-half of the couple blames their partner for their triggers, there is no room for accountability. If you or your partner has a difficult time holding themselves accountable, it’s helpful to assess how this defense mechanism will have negative effects on the relationship moving forward.
4.When your values and the mission for your life do not align.
Your values define the essence of who you are. When you start to compromise your values just to be in a relationship with someone, you are choosing them over choosing yourself, which leads to nothing but insecurity and resentment. Healthy relationships are not about putting one person's needs over the other, it’s about finding ways to honor BOTH people. The truth is, you should have never been put in a position to do that but so many of us learned to do this in childhood in order to maintain a connection with our caregivers, which we take with us into adulthood and reenact that same wounding in our romantic relationships.
When we don’t choose ourselves, we disown and reject who we are, which further damages our self-trust and confidence. When you are unclear on what your values are, you will fall slave to someone else’s standards (remember, not everyone's standards/values are for us, so you don’t want to go unconscious and give your power away for the sake of maintaining a connection with someone).
There is nothing “wrong” with people having different values, but it is our responsibility to consciously and intentionally put ourselves in relationships with people who align with our core values and find joy in meeting our needs. When we are in a relationship with someone whose purpose for their life is not in alignment with ours, we are holding ourselves and the other person back from something that could be a better fit for us and the other person.
It’s helpful to address any attachment wounding that may show up here, as well as any grief. As I mentioned before, this does not make you or the other person a “bad” person, you just have different values and that’s okay.
5.When the relationship is one-sided or their behavior is inconsistent and unpredictable.Giphy
Our relationships need to be consistent and predictable in order for them to feel good. Consistency and predictability offer a sense of safety and security in the relationship. When you are in a one-sided relationship, not only do you feel insecure but you are also drained physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You also can enter into this state of hypervigilance because the relationship is so unpredictable; you’re constantly looking over your shoulder waiting for something terrible to happen because you never know what you’re going to get from this person.
If you’re in a one-sided relationship, you may also find yourself getting excited when the other person is finally able to offer you the bare minimum. You start getting excited over basic things that a relationship actually needs in order to survive because you’ve spent the entire relationship starving waiting for breadcrumbs to fill you up.
If you resonate with this, this could be a prime indication that you are in a one-sided relationship. One-sided relationships tend to leave us feeling overwhelmed, stressed, resentful and drained. If you feel you are pouring more into the relationship than your partner and you’ve surpassed having multiple conversations about what your needs are and what makes you unhappy, it may be time to reconsider the relationship.
6.When you’re constantly creating a fantasy around the relationship, or you're only interested in their “potential.”
In relationships, it is not enough to believe in who you want a person to be, you have to believe in who they are in the present moment and who they want to be overall. When we are only interested in someone's potential, we are creating a barrier to true intimacy and connection with them. To love someone is to accept them for who they are and assess if that version of themselves that they’re presenting in the present moment is in alignment with you.
When we put all of our hopes in someone's potential, we are believing in something that does not exist. Loving someone is about meeting them where they are. If you are unable to accept the essence of who they are in the present moment, it may be time to reevaluate the relationship.
7.When you only feel seen, loved, and desired when you’re having sex.
Oftentimes when we are not getting our emotional needs met in a relationship, we begin to put other forms of connection on a pedestal. When our needs are not getting met, we become desperate to be seen, loved, and desired, even if that connection is only temporary. If you are being deprived of love, consistency, respect, support, etc., your needs are not getting met in your relationship. Sex is the fastest way to achieve what feels like a “connection” to another person. This is why when people start to feel distant or disconnected from their partners in relationships, they may try to connect through sex first. It’s the fastest and easiest way to feel…something.
When we are operating from an “I guess I’ll just take what I can get” mentality when it comes to relationships, we are communicating that we are willing to do any and everything to avoid losing connection, even if the connection is not good for us (a deep fear of abandonment). With this mentality, we also disown our boundaries and our standards, which is crucial when it comes to communicating how we would like to be treated in order for someone to have access to us.
This may stem from childhood where maybe you had a caregiver who was very inconsistent. Maybe sometimes they were able to show up for you and other times they were caught up in their own problems. As a child, this becomes very confusing. Nevertheless, this becomes the pattern that plays out in your romantic relationship.
So in having sex with this person, although it may feel like it, it’s not really about the person or the sex. It’s about the high that you get finally feeling loved, wanted, and seen in the act of having sex. You're attached to the feeling the person gives you, not necessarily the person (especially if the relationship is unhealthy).
If you find yourself using sex as a coping mechanism to distract yourself from reality and soothe feelings of abandonment/rejection/loneliness or unworthiness in your relationship, it may be time to reconsider and really think about if this is a relationship dynamic that is sustainable for you.
8.When the only reason you’re still together is because of “history” or because you do not want to disappoint yourself or other people.
People stay in relationships for a plethora of reasons. Some stay for the sake of comfort and some stay for the sake of not disappointing their loved ones (family, friends, and children). But love does not require you to tether yourself to someone who is not for you. When we are staying in a relationship for the sake of other people, especially for our children, we communicate to them that relationships are about sticking it out regardless of how you feel and regardless of how you are being treated. You are teaching them to disown themselves (especially if the relationship, is less about irreconcilable differences and more so about abuse).
This is unhealthy because what we are communicating is that our feelings and our needs don’t matter and we are willing to disown ourselves in an attempt to control someone else's perception of us and the outcome of our relationship to soothe our own anxiety.
It could be helpful to work with a professional when it comes to any shame or guilt you feel around leaving a relationship that no longer serves you. When we live our lives to avoid disappointing other people, not only are we showing up inauthentically but it eats away at our self-trust and self-confidence. It creates a barrier to intimacy because we are unwilling to open ourselves up to receive support.
If you find yourself having a difficult time leaving a relationship because you’re afraid of what other people will think/say/feel, it could be helpful to do some work around how you’re perceived and core beliefs around a relationship not working out.
If you believe that the ending of a relationship means you failed, you may have a fear of failure or maybe some inner work to do around reframing why a relationship ending even means that you or the other person “failed.” If you were able to walk away from the relationship and integrate the lesson from it, how exactly did you fail?
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Sometimes in relationships, things can get…well, boring. Sometimes you just need a little healthy spontaneity to continue to get to know your partner on a more intimate level, especially if you have been in a committed relationship for some time now and things are starting to feel really comfortable, if you know what I mean. As humans, we are always evolving and changing. The person you are with today is not the same person you met when you first started dating.
They have their own autonomy, their own dreams, their own goals, their own insecurities, and their own fears. Because we are ever-evolving, it’s important for us to take the time to continue to get to know our partners so we communicate to them that we are curious about their lives and we care enough about watering the relationship so it can continue to grow and be fulfilling for both parties involved.
If you’ve been feeling stuck in a rut with your conversations with your partner as of late, carve out some time this week, and set up a date night with no distractions (for my folks who are busy, even a small date night over dinner could be helpful). And take date night up a notch by asking each other the questions below to deepen your level of intimacy in the relationship.
As you ask the following questions, remember to stay curious about your partner's responses. Instead of judging or criticizing them for what they are feeling, notice what comes up for you in their responses and address it with patience, empathy, and compassion so you both can have an open dialogue about those feelings.
1.What is your honest opinion about me?
In relationships, sometimes we tend to put so much emphasis on “telling our partners about themselves,” pointing out all the things we don’t like about our partner, and telling them where they need to improve in order for us to feel better, especially during conflict. But when you’re comfortable with your partner, or maybe you’re even going through a rough time in your relationship, it’s important for us to focus on what we do like about our partners.
As humans we are wired for connection, we need connection not only to survive but thrive in our lives. In order to receive authentic connection in our relationships, we need to be loved and affirmed for who we are without our partner putting pressure on us to change the essence of who we are. Therefore, in order to have a healthy connection, we need to be affirmed for who we are in order to feel good about the relationship.
This question is great because it’s not just focusing on what you don’t like about your partner; it's all about honoring and respecting our differences without communicating to the other person that they are unlovable because of their difference. I love this question for healthy relationships because it reminds you of whyyou chose to be in a relationship with your partner. It also shows you that you can still love someone, even if you both have some differences or even if they do small things that might annoy you. As long as it’s not detrimental to the relationship, that’s what true love is all about.
2.What has your childhood taught you about love and relationships?
Our earliest relationships set the template for how we will connect/disconnect in our adult relationships. As children, we are dependent on our caregivers to help us not only navigate life but also show us what safe relationships look and feel like. If we didn’t have a template of what a healthy relationship looks like, it comes with a lot of shame and insecurity. And ultimately this may have an effect on our romantic relationships going forward.
It is imperative for us to become curious about what our partner learned in childhood, not to judge them but to better understand them. Depending on what your partner saw in childhood, it could potentially have an impact on your relationship. It’s helpful to ask this question so you can better understand your partner. Remember to enter into this conversation without judgment and remember to stay curious if you need more clarification on anything that comes up.
3.What are you afraid to show others that they probably need to know in order to connect with you on a deeper level?
This is my favorite question because it leads to deeper levels of emotional intimacy and vulnerability. Our authenticity is the essence of who we are. If we are afraid to show people or even our partners all of the parts of ourselves, we’re not giving them an opportunity to love us for who we really are because we may struggle to love, honor, and respect who we truly are.
I love this question because it taps into the most intimate part of a person's being, heart, and soul.
4.When you look at me, what parts of yourself do you see in me?
Intimacy is into me you see. In other words, our partners should show up as a mirror of everything we see in ourselves (healthy traits and characteristics). This question helps to deepen emotional intimacy by seeing your partner beyond their physical form and seeing them from the perspective of the soul. This is what we would call a soulmate. Someone who reminds us of so much of ourselves but also someone who teaches us so much about ourselves.
5.What does our love remind you of?
This is a great question as it prompts your partner to think about some of the things that your relationship reminds them of. Your partner may surprise you with their answers but what’s most important is to lead with curiosity and respect your partner's autonomy with their experience of their relationship with you. Perception is reality.
6.Tell me about the first time you felt it was safe for you to be vulnerable with me.
This is another one of my favorites. In relationships, so many of us remember that moment when we felt safe enough to let our guard down with someone and unfortunately they mishandled our hearts. But, to be in a relationship with someone you can let your guard down with, and they communicate with you through their actions that your vulnerability is safe with them? That's a feeling that is unmatched.
This question prompts you to think about the very first time you felt safe with your partner to do something that so many of us are afraid to do for pretty valid reasons. I love this question because it can really help you to stay in the present moment of how much emotional safety means to each of you.
7.Do you believe love is freely given or does it have to be earned?
This question is really good when you want to dig deeper into your partner's beliefs and values. Some people believe that love is unconditional, it is freely given regardless of the circumstances. Some people believe that love is conditional and that the act of loving someone has to be earned. This question can help you learn more about your partner's beliefs when it comes to love and commitment.
If you both have different beliefs around love, lean into why your partner feels this way with compassion and curiosity. What experiences in their lives have shaped their view on this? How can you both come to a place of common ground around love specifically for your relationship? What are the limits and boundaries when it comes to love for each of you? It’s definitely something worth exploring to deepen emotional intimacy.
8.How can I continue to support you in this relationship?
Oftentimes when I’m working with couples in therapy, one or both partners will come in expressing their grievances around their relationship, specifically towards the other person. Sometimes we can become so consumed with getting our needs met that we don’t take the time to think about what probably needs to happen in our relationship in order for both parties to feel more supported.
No one likes to feel like they are the “problem.” This leads to defensiveness, emotional withdrawal, and resentment because the relationship is no longer a safe space, it’s a warzone. Safe spaces are not always going to make us “feel good," but they compassionately hold us accountable so we can see ourselves a little more clearly.
Asking your partner how you can support them shows that you are thinking and considering their needs as well as yours.
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“When you heal, you go from wanting to be chosen to doing the choosing.” This quote came to mind one day while journaling. It had been almost two years of doing the work to heal my inner child wounds. For almost a decade, I spent most of my teenage and young adult years unconsciously looking for someone to rescue me. Someone who would show up for me “full-time” the same way I wanted my caregivers to show up for me full-time.
Yes, I love my parents, and yes, my parents did the best they could with what they had but they weren’t always able to attune to my needs in the way that I needed them to consistently. It was not until I found myself in a cycle of trauma bonds and a pattern of unhealthy relationships that I realized that I was seeking to be chosen.
After experiencing one of the worst heartbreaks of my life, I realized that it couldn’t just be everyone else. There had to be something in me that was making me a match for these experiences. After working with a therapist and doing some inner child work, I realized that I had spent so much time in these unhealthy relationships because I was looking for someone to choose me.
By them choosing me, I was hoping their validation would finally make me feel good about myself. But I realized time and time again after every failed relationship, the reason why I wasn’t being “chosen” had nothing to do with me not being “good enough." It was because I wasn’t choosing myself.
I kept getting into relationships constantly abandoning myself, giving other men the loyalty that I needed to give myself. I would disown my boundaries and shapeshift into whoever they needed me to be to receive love from them.
If they wanted a girl who didn’t “nag” or “complain,” I made sure that I kept my feelings to myself. If they wanted a girl who would turn into their mother, I would make sure that I spent the majority of the relationship fixing and rescuing them from their problems so I didn’t have to deal with my own.
I realized that I had to come face to face with my inner child wounds and grieve what I never received from my parents. It wasn’t until I was able to allow myself to feel that discomfort that I put myself in a position of power to finally give myself the things my wounded inner child was looking for in other people.
Evolving beyond the point of wanting to be chosen to doing the choosing does not happen overnight, but with inner work healing is possible. And how do you know you've entered your healing era? Here are 7 signs that you are shifting from that mindset and a pathway to healing:
1.You have identified your needs and built your confidence in getting those needs met:
When I’m working with my clients 1:1, I constantly remind them that the key to your healing is not only identifying your needs but building your confidence in getting those needs met by giving them to yourself. If you are not aware of your needs, you will become a slave to someone else's standards. And you see where that may lead you, right? When you work on giving your needs to yourself, you're building your confidence in them by being a living example of the standards you would like to see in others.
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 build your confidence in them, you will start to see that it is possible and you’ll know that it’s possible because you’re a living testimony of it. When you pour into yourself in this way, you will be able to confidently recognize these characteristics in someone else without having to guess. It increases your level of discernment when you’re choosing a partner.
2.You honor your boundaries by standing firm in them:
Boundaries define who we are. They are where we end and another person begins. Boundaries are not barriers to connecting but are simply healthy limits to ensure that we can maintain a healthy sense of self in a relationship with another person. So many people get into relationships trying to melt into another person, disowning their boundaries and standards just to say they have a connection with someone. Nevertheless, a healthy connection has a healthy separation between two people.
Rather than enmeshing with each other, two people in a healthy relationship honor and respect each other's differences in order to preserve the relationship, not push each other away. When you are in a relationship and you do not honor your boundaries, you are not allowing people to see you clearly and experience true intimacy with you. This is why so many of us may find ourselves in unhealthy relationships because the longer you disown your boundaries, the more you hinder the right people from showing up in your life.
3.Your mindset is shifting during the dating process:
When you meet someone new, you are no longer trying to figure out if this person likes you. You’re no longer altering your appearance to please them or ruminating on if this person sees a future with you. When you make this mindset shift, you take your power back. You shift your focus from altering yourself to be “liked” to actually giving yourself and other people the opportunity to see you for who you truly are.
You are also giving yourself an opportunity to see the other person clearly for who they are. You’re paying attention to what qualities they have that may be compatible with you. You’re spending less time ruminating and altering yourself and more time assessing if you like them, rather than focusing on if they like you or trying to change them.
4.You’re more confident in who you are:
When you’re healing, you are embracing who you are authentically. Instead of wearing a mask and performing for love, you’ve taken the time to truly get to know yourself and be unapologetic about it.
5.You are actively healing your inner child wounds:
When you’re healing, you take the time to heal any inner child wounds that may be sabotaging your relationships. Not having boundaries, not accepting people for who they are, and disowning your values become a thing of the past. Although our inner child may have used these coping strategies to ensure our survival in childhood, it’s realizing that your survival is no longer dependent on your parents and it is your responsibility to find healthier ways of connecting. You start to challenge what you’ve always considered “normal” and start to assess if the unhealthy patterns and behaviors you fall into empowering you to get the type of relationship you want.
6.You’re more in tune with your values:
Our values define what is important to us at each stage of our lives. Think about when you were younger, you may have valued things such as playing with friends, creating a hobby for yourself, and going to school. As you get older, your values change as you change. Now as an adult, you may value working long hours in your career or you may value spending more time with family. When we are in tune with our own values, we give ourselves an opportunity to find people who share similar values as us, rather than trying to change or alter people into valuing the things that we value.
Ten times out of ten, our values cannot be compromised. Our values guide our decisions and lead us in the direction of the type of life we want to live. When we are in tune with what is important to us, we can confidently let go of people who may not value the things we value.
7.You offer yourself more grace and compassion:
Healing is hard work. You are discovering all of these parts of yourself that you were completely unaware of. As you are healing, you learn to give yourself more grace and compassion. You understand that you are not always going to get it right and instead of chastising or punishing yourself; you are able to compassionately hold yourself accountable and work towards making a different choice in the future.
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