“What are you tolerating in your relationship?” is a very powerful coaching question and one I invite you to ask yourself. I’d like to share an experience I’ve just had which I hope will be helpful to you. I met a man through online dating last October and we immediately felt a connection. It was very powerful and I described it as feeling like my “iron filings” were strongly attracted to his powerful magnet. We spent a couple of hours together and I reveled in the sense of awe, wonder and mutual recognition we shared. We both love Rumi, and spirituality is important to both of us. I kept marveling that I met a man like this on a free dating site! Who knew? What a blessing! (or so I thought at the time!)
As the following week went on, I had a text or two, and looked forward to getting together with him on the weekend, but he was too busy. I won’t go into all the details of this relationship which consisted mainly romantic of texts and vague promises. I won’t talk about the times I was disappointed when I asked for help and he didn’t come through. And I won’t go over the number of times I’d send texts that were simply ignored. I tracked all of this but what kept me going was that when were together it was wonderful. We both thoroughly enjoyed it but, sadly, these times were few and far between because he works 7 days a week.
Why did I stay? I’m a dating coach! Couldn’t I see the red flags within the first week? He was clearly not a good match for me but I was hooked. Now that it’s over I can see those hooks and I’m sharing my story with the hope that this will help you unhook if you’re in a dysfunctional relationship.
Hook#1: We believe what we want to believe even if it goes against our direct experience. I believed that someday we would have lots of quality time together reading Rumi, being deeply present and living The 40 Rules of Love (a wonderful novel by Elif Safak about the love between Rumi and Shams). My actual experience over 7 months was that we saw each other for about 2 hours every 2 or 3 weeks – yet I kept believing things would change. Wishful thinking!
Hook #2: My limiting belief was that this man is the ONLY man around who appreciates Rumi like I do and who really “gets” me. Every time I thought about leaving, my scarcity thinking would be triggered and I told myself that I may not find another spiritual man like this… even though I spent so much time sad, disappointed and feeling unheard. Once I worked through that limiting belief and embraced that there ARE other men out there, I was able to loosen the hook.
Hook #3: Chemistry! I learned a lot about the insidious nature of chemistry from this experience! It’s funny because I tell my middle-aged clients that chemistry isn’t so much about lust now, (not like in our 20’s and 30’s) but that’s just not true! The other thing about chemistry is that it gives you the sense that you have more in common with the other person than you actually do… and those hormones can actually make you think you’re soul mates! Unrecognized chemistry is devious dangerous and it can really mess with your wise judgment! It’s helpful to rely on your friends’ feedback about your partner so you get a reality check. When your brain is in a hormonal fog, this is next to impossible.
Hook #4: Margaret Paul (Inner Bonding) talks about our wounded self can get fiercely bonded to unavailable people because this is so familiar from our family of origin. That wounded part really believes it is possible to turn someone who’s unavailable into being available…. but, sadly, that can’t happen and it just means more pain for that part. There are many ways that someone can be unavailable to you: still married to someone else, unable or unwilling to open up to you; too busy to see you. I needed to comfort that inner wounded part of me so I could gently dash her hopes. The truth is that he would never become available. It was essential before I could move on.
Hook#5: Trying to make it all better by reframing it as spiritual boot camp. I wrote page after page in my journal. I read spiritual books. I did self-awareness and personal growth exercises. I tried to make his bad behavior OK. I blamed my pain on my monkey mind. I blamed my ego for being attached to wanting things a certain way (like being treated with courtesy and respect!) While I think it’s valuable to see things from different perspectives, there was really no way to see his neglectful behavior as acceptable. Treating others with consideration, courtesy, respect, compassion and care is non-negotiable in my view! This is what I’m holding out for: to be treated with love and respect. It’s basic!
I always encourage my clients to see the blessings in these sorts of experiences, and to see the lessons. When I recognized all that I had been tolerating, I knew that I had to take a stand and honor myself – and leave the relationship.
I deserve more and so do you.