Intimacy and Autonomy

I was preparing for a presentation recently on “self care in relationships.”  I came across a wonderful quote by John Welwood  in a book called “Love and Relationships: Inspirations for Meditation and Spiritual Growth” by Eileen Campbell.

One of the biggest challenges in relationships is the push/pull dynamic of intimacy vs. autonomy.  We want to be close to someone… yet we fear losing ourselves.  We pull away to establish more autonomy and then we long for the closeness.  This is what John Welwood says:

At the core of our existence, we all experience the basic ache of feeling separate.  We long to be united with someone or something outside of ourselves, so that we do not have to feel this ache so sharply.  So when we finally find someone we feel close to, it may seem like a kind of salvation – no longer must we wander this lonely world all by ourselves.  Yet in satisfying our urge to merge, it is all too easy to become submerged in a relationship, waking up one day to realize that we have lost something essential – ourself!

Relationships always involve this kind of fluctuation between bonding with another and maintaining our integrity as individuals, yielding to our partner and asserting ourselves, reaching out and going deep within.

How do we achieve this delicate balance?  How do we not lose ourselves in relationship?  This is a huge issue and one that is ideal to work on with a coach, a therapist or a counsellor.  All too often we repeat old patterns completely unaware of them until we are deeply mired in unhealthy behaviour.   Having someone with perspective can help us see when we are either losing ourselves or withdrawing too much.

To me, a healthy relationship is about having self-awareness and being able to communicate clearly what is going on with your partner.  This is how true intimacy is created – intimacy that thrives on healthy autonomy, not on losing yourself.

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Feeling the dating fear, honouring the feelings, being curious … and doing it anyway!

I’m passionate about my vision, my mission, my calling – to help people to date more consciously and to have more loving relationships with others and themselves.  I’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes.  I’ve been keeping journals since I was 16 years old so I have all the ups and downs of my love life documented (and have made a mutual agreement with a close friend to burn our journals upon our passing!).  I’ve taken lots of courses, read lots of books, done lots of blogging, helped close friends… but playing it safe and being invisible really wasn’t serving anybody.  It wasn’t getting my message out into the world and it wasn’t stretching me.  I was happily in my comfort zone, but quite stuck.

Public speaking is a strategy for getting out there: so that people could get great information and get a sense of who I am and where I come from but, frankly, the thought of standing up in front of a group was terrifying for me.  I had lots of “but what if’s???” and I imagined feeling so exposed!  Yikes!  I felt the fear.  I honoured the fear.  I started getting curious about the fear.  What’s the worst thing that could happen?  How old was that part of me that was so scared of getting up in front of people?  Is it really true that people would be there to judge me – or were they there to learn?

I joined Toastmasters so I could get some experience in front of a group.  I could feel my heart pounding before giving even a short toast (about 1 minute!)  but I survived!  In preparing for my first public presentation  last month I had sleepless nights punctuated by feelings of dread and overwhelm.

Interestingly, after I’d prepared my talk and all the handouts (and some small prizes) I wasn’t nervous!  Interestingly, after all the dread I had about how badly it might go… I actually enjoyed it!  I’m looking forward to the next one!  I focus on how I can connect with my audience and how I can be of service.  I took the risk and got in touch with a gift I hadn’t realized that I had!

How does this story apply to you and dating?  For many people, dating is very nerve-wracking.  Feel the dating fear.  Where do you notice it in your body?  If you are observing safe dating practices like meeting in public, what’s the worst thing that could happen?  If you’ve allotted 20-30 minutes for a coffee date it’s not forever and you can always end things sooner if your date is rude or unpleasant.  How old is the part of you that is dreading the date?  Maybe feeling like a 5 or 6 year old on the first day of school?  You’re an adult now and you have a lot more resources and coping mechanisms than you did back then.

You can stay home and be invisible – but how are you going to share your gifts with a beloved partner if you never get out and meet people?   Yes, it can feel risky to put yourself out like that, but you never know what magic can happen when you take that first step!

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Don't want to be another divorce statistic?

I was speaking to one of the participants in a recent workshop.  He told he that he’s not going to get married again (3rd time) because he doesn’t want to be yet another divorce statistic.  He thought the answer was not to get married.  Well, that’s one strategy… but another far healthier one, in my opinion, is to do the work needed to be able to co-create a lasting relationship!

What are the biggest issues I see with singles?  For women, lack of self-esteem is a big one.  Another is not really knowing themselves.  Many have been married for a decade or more and have focused all their energy on their husband’s or their kids’ needs.  Who are they, themselves?

The biggest issue with single men is a lack of confidence in knowing how to ask for a date and how to carry on a conversation.  I see some low self-esteem issues but they seem more challenged by the mechanics of dating itself.  How can you tell if a woman is interested in you?  How can you ask her out without seeming creepy?

The great thing about working with a relationship expert is that you will have these issues, and more, addressed so you actually CAN have a healthy relationship.  I have a Relationship Readiness Quiz for singles with ten questions to assess your readiness today for dating.  For example, you might be very happy with your career, but do you actually have the time to put into dating?  If your career is all-consuming you won’t have the time or the energy to put into meeting people and getting to know them.  I think it’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking we are ready to date when we aren’t.  If you’d like to take the test, send me an email and I’ll send one to you.  I’d be happy to do a follow-up phone call to discuss your results.

In summary, you can bypass being another divorce statistic – not by avoiding marriage but by becoming more conscious in your dating!  This is what I can help you with,  so please reach out and contact me!

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Is it OK to Lie on My Online Dating Profile – just a little bit?

Lie on My Online Dating Profile?

This morning I saw a new online profile of a man who is separated and, therefore, legally still married.   He chose to say he was single on his profile.  His little white lie could be a big deal for a lot of women who want a man who is truly available, not who still has a wife!

I imagine he thought that since they split up two years ago he “feels” single so that’s more relevant than telling the truth.  I disagree.  Since relationships are based on honesty and trust, why would you advertise yourself as being single when you aren’t?  Similarly, why would you say that you’re a non-smoker when you are? (but only when you bum them from friends – you don’t buy them!).  Why would you post a photo of when you were 20 years younger (“well, I “feel” 2o years younger!) and why would you lie about your occupation: that you are a businessman when, actually, you are on welfare?

I know that we are in the business of marketing ourselves when we create an online profile.  However, you WILL be found out and do you really want to present yourself to the world from a place of dishonesty?  I suggest that you don’t.  If you’re separated, get that divorce so you really are ready to date.  If you’re a smoker and you think that being honest about that will decrease the number of people that are interested in you, you are probably right, but maybe you’ll find a fellow smoker and you’ll be a match!  Have the courage to post a current photo.  Yes, ladies, we know that men are visual and you may not appeal to everyone, but your beloved will be attracted to you for who you are.  And if your financial affairs aren’t in order, do what you can to be more stable before you consider yourself to be available for dating and a relationship!  If you’re retired and on a limited income, fine, but don’t pretend that you have lots of disposable income for exotic travel and expensive gifts.

Is it OK to lie on your online profile?  You might say yes because “everyone else does”.  I invite you to live from a place of integrity and to be willing to be honest right from the beginning.  This is the only foundation from which a lasting, healthy relationship can be built.

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The Importance of Being Prepared Before Dating

I meet many singles who just want to get out there and date and forget the importance of being prepared before dat.  “How do I meet people for dating?” is their primary question.  What I’d like to see as being the primary question is “What do I need to do to be prepared to date?”

I came up with an analogy recently.  What if you and someone you had just met decided that you wanted to start a garden together.  Each of you had done a little gardening in the past but with mixed results.  You figure there’s nothing to it: just put some seeds in the soil and in time you have a nice garden!

You may discover that your seeds don’t actually thrive.  You needed to prepare the soil first, but you didn’t know that.  You’ve planted sun-loving crops in shady areas.  You didn’t know that.  You just assumed that the other person would take responsibility for watering… but you didn’t discuss it.  Your plants aren’t doing so well.  And it turns out that your partner can’t stand zucchini but you planted lots of it because everyone else does.

This is what I see in a lot of relationships these days.  People dive right in figuring that no preparation is required and if their partner is “the One” then it should all be easy.  Many people want the crops without the work, and it doesn’t work that way (unless you buy your produce at the store and I haven’t figured out how that works with long-term relationships!)

The divorce rates are sobering and the percentages of marriages that end in divorce gets higher with second and third marriages.  People who don’t get prepared by being clear on who they are and what they want, who don’t recognize their patterns, who don’t learn how to communicate effectively and how to resolve conflict… they don’t have much hope for a healthy, lasting, loving relationship, in my opinion.

What can you do to increase your chances of lasting love?  Do the inner work!  Get the help you need!

I offer programs that help you to discover who you are and to get ready for dating… before you ask “How can I meet people for dating?”  I want you to be successful, and I can help you.

Let’s talk!  Here’s how you can contact me: http://lovecoachlynn.com/contact/

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Is Your Date a "keeper"?

It’s important to be clear on what you are looking for when dating and what you will not accept. Obviously, rude behaviour, chronic lateness, a lack of interest in you, commitments and promises that aren’t kept… these are obvious red flags.

Something else to watch for, which may be less obvious at first, is what we call “top dog, bottom dog.” Have you ever had the experience where you feel diminished by someone else? Do you find yourself not speaking up or finding that the other person takes up so much space that you struggle to be seen or heard? Or have you ever dated someone who defers to you regularly? Do you walk all over him? Maybe you are very successful in many areas of your life and you start, rather unkindly, to see him as a “loser.”

Neither of these situations bodes well for a future together. In my own life I’ve experienced being both top dog and bottom dog with different men I’ve dated. When I feel like the top dog it’s hard for me to respect my date. When I’m bottom dog I lose myself and, frankly, it just takes too much energy to carve out a space for myself.

Ideally, you and your date will be more evenly matched. In some areas you will excel and in other areas he will, but in a more balanced way. If one of you is overwhelmingly top or bottom dog, your likelihood of success is low.

As you get to know someone, keep this concept of top dog/bottom dog in mind and if you find that you aren’t a good match, move on!

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Expressing Appreciation

What role does appreciation play in your life?  Sometimes life can be very challenging and we can feel so stretched that we forget to take the time to appreciate our blessings and our gifts.

If this is a new practice to you, you can start with appreciating yourself.  Which qualities to you admire in yourself?  Are you courageous?  Kind?  Generous?  Do you stick with commitments even when they’re hard?  Do you appreciate your body for getting you around?  Your sense of taste, your ability to smell beautiful fragrances?

How often do you express appreciation to others?  I remember Marshall Rosenberg (Nonviolent Communication) saying that if a student tells him that he’s a “great teacher” it really doesn’t mean that much to him because it’s not very specific.  However, if a student were to tell him that Nonviolent Communication has allowed him or her to engage in more authentic relationships with more honesty – that would be much more meaningful.  How can you specifically tell people that you appreciate them?  I recently told an old friend how much I enjoy his company because I feel like I can truly be myself.  A friend who works in a store shared with me that a customer called her manager recently to commend her for providing such excellent service.  It made her day!

You have a choice.  You can go through life with a glass half empty or you can choose to see your glass as half full.  One of the most powerful ways for me to live with an open heart is to look for ways to appreciate myself and celebrate them, and to be aware of my appreciation for others and to express it to them.  This is a gift that benefits both people!  Give it a try!

 

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Opening to Love

What does it mean to “open to love” and how is this different from how most people live their lives?

I think it would be safe to say that most of us have felt hurt, disappointment and perhaps even betrayal around love.  Our families may not have given us the love we craved.  We may have experienced painful breakups.  As a result, some people view love with fear and suspicion.  We may go through life with our hearts carefully guarded, waiting for one person to earn our trust so we can give him the key.  Although this strategy may work for some, I believe that living in this way limits the flow of love and results in isolation and unhappiness.

How would things be different if you saw love not as a feeling but as an action?  As a choice?  Gary Chapman in his book called “Love as a Way of Life” gives us seven qualities of loving people: forgiveness, tolerance, generosity, kindness, humility, courtesy and patience.  To be able to be truly loving toward others, we must be loving toward ourselves.  How do we need to forgive ourselves?  How can we be more patient and tolerant toward our imperfections?  When we hear the inner critic can we stop the voice and be kinder?

I invite you to take the risk of opening to love today and treating all you meet with love whether it’s a family member or a clerk in your local store – and especially yourself!

One of my favourite poems by Hafiz, a 14th Century Persian poet concerns a rose:

HOW DID THE ROSE?

How

did the rose

ever open its heart

and give to the world all of its beauty?

It felt the encouragement of light against its being,

otherwise we all remain too

frightened.*

Becoming a more loving person with a open heart isn’t going to happen overnight, of course.  However, every great journey starts with a single step.  What step could you take today to become a more loving and open-hearted person?

* from “Love Poems from God” by Daniel Ladinsky page 161

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Staying Sane in the Dating Game Part 2

Last week I shared with you one key strategy to navigate this minefield of dating.  I suggested being curious and engaged in the early stages, but to be sure that you don’t invest too much.  In this way you can minimize disappointment and heartache.

This week I’d like to share another strategy which is about your mindset – and to be aware of some of the self-sabotaging stories we tell ourselves.

Do you hear yourself saying:

  • there are no good ones left
  • all the good ones are either married or gay
  • I can’t afford to be choosy
  • time is running out so I’ll take whatever comes along

Can you see how you are coming from a place of scarcity with this thinking?  How do you feel in your body when you say these phrases out loud?  And what sort of person are you likely to attract?

How would things be different if you truly believed:

  • I am beautiful inside and out
  • I’m confident that my soulmate is out there and we will meet when we both are ready
  • there are lots of potential partners out there
  • I’m so clear in my value that I’m unwilling to settle
  • I am the chooser!

Again, say these phrases out loud and notice how you feel.  Grounded?  Powerful?

We may try hard to “make things happen” but what I’ve learned is the most effective strategy is to continue to work on my own growth and evolution, and to do my part, but to understand that Divine timing is a big part of life.  That means to have faith and trust that you WILL continue to be given all that you need.

I invite you over the next few weeks to notice what’s going on in your head.  Are you coming from a place of negativity, scarcity and non-possibility or are you feeling confident and excited that your soulmate is on his way to you now?  You may want to write out some affirmations to lock in this new way of thinking… and also keep in mind that you may need to do some work on yourself to really be ready for the kind of relationship you want.

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Staying Sane in the Dating Game Part 1

I’m sure we all have our share of weird and bizarre dating stories!  I just had a very odd experience of thinking I was getting to know a guy mainly through texting (his choice) only to find that there were many red flags and I ended it after only about three weeks.  I thought he seemed promising.  I was feeling quite optimistic… but I am so clear on my value that I’m simply not willing to settle.  How did I weather this without feeling devastated?  How can I be so clear that something isn’t working that I can choose to end something that seemed to have great potential?

For those entering the dating world with open hearts, optimism and trust this can be a difficult world.  It can take a toll on your self-esteem.  How do you date in good faith but with your eyes open?

Today I’m going to offer you one of the most effective strategies I’ve used.  I just put this into words when I was debriefing with a friend about the confusion and disappointment I felt recently.  I think the secret is to proceed with curiosity and engagement… but not to invest too much too quickly.  What I mean by that is to proceed with awareness and actually look for red flags while also being aware of somebody’s good points and how I feel with him.  Secondly, I choose to be engaged and to give it my best shot, but to recognize that in the early stages hormones cloud our judgment.  Thirdly, I am cautious about the investment I make until I have a better sense that this something that is worth putting time and energy into.  There was a time that I would jump with both feet and tell myself that it was “meant to be”.  Now, a little older and wiser I hold back and assess.  There is no advantage to rushing through dating.  It takes time to get to know someone and to check in with yourself about how things are going.

These strategies allow me to have the mindset of being “the chooser” and to be confident that if this man isn’t relationship material, there are plenty more in the sea.  Because I’m not desperate I can afford to take my time and wait for someone who truly is my match.

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