S1 EP61 – Dating: Red Flags, Promising Signs, and Helpful Tips: The Inner Bonding Podcast

Episode Summary

How long into a relationship does it take you to discover that this person is not right for you? Have your past relationships left you relationship-phobic due to fears of losing yourself or getting rejected? Have you had sex with someone you thought was partner material, only to have the relationship disappear right after having sex? Dating provides many opportunities to learn and grow.

Transcript

Dating: Red Flags, Promising Signs, and Helpful Tips

How long into a relationship does it take you to discover that this person is not right for you? Have your past relationships left you relationship-phobic due to fears of losing yourself or getting rejected? Have you had sex with someone you thought was partner material, only to have the relationship disappear right after having sex? Dating provides many opportunities to learn and grow.

My client Celine was just starting to date again after a difficult breakup. She was feeling anxious because she didn’t want to go through another unhappy relationship, but she didn’t trust herself to make good choices. She sought my help in learning how to discern a promising relationshipfrom one that is bound to fail.

In Celine’s last relationship, she had been pulled in by Gary’s ardent pursuit of her. She had wanted to go slower but didn’t listen to herself. Instead, she gave herself up to Gary’s attention and compliments.

“Celine,” I told her, “my experience with men who come on strong right away is that they are often controlling and needy. Is that what happened with Gary?”

“Yes,” she said. He seemed so loving and open at the beginning, but once we were in a committed relationship, he started to pull on me for time and attention. He became critical and angry and petulant when I didn’t give him what he wanted. How could I have known all this at the beginning? What should I look for now that I’m dating again?”

Celine had gone on one date with a man named Mark. After this first date, Mark emailed her, saying that he wanted to spend a lot of time with her and go on a trip with her.

“Shades of Gary,” she said. “This is a red flag, right?”

Celine and I explored some of the red flags as well as some of the signs of a promising relationship.

So here are some of the red flags that you might want to be aware of if you are dating…

  • The person Comes on strong at the beginning of the relationship.
  • Becomes angry, critical or withdrawn if you say no.
  • Becomes logical and tries to talk you out of your feelings or your experience. Tries to make you feel that you are wrong for your feelings or your position.
  • Talks on and on about himself or herself and doesn’t ask you much about you or is uninterested when you do talk about yourself.
  • An older man or woman who has never been married and has been in a series of broken relationships.
  • Numerous broken marriages.
  • Has an abusive background and has not had therapy.
  • Has abandoned his or her children.
  • Not open to learning from relationship conflict.
  • Participates in addictions that are unacceptable to you – smoking, drinking, drugs, addictive eating, gambling, TV, and so on.
  • Financially irresponsible.
  • Not truthful.
  • Has few friends.
  • Judgmental of self and others. Talks about self and others in disparaging ways.
  • Is possessive and jealous. Gets upset when you do your own thing.
  • Totally different views from yours regarding religion or spirituality.
  • Few interests and hobbies.

Celine and I discussed the fact that, as I’ve often said, you get what you see.

“It’s not that people can’t change,” I told her, “but you can’t change them. If he is not okay with you the way he is right now, then don’t pursue the relationship. If you are an on-time person and he is always late, don’t expect this to change. If it’s not okay, then don’t pursue the relationship. Same thing with weight, alcohol, drugs, being neat or messy, being a free spender or being frugal. These issues can become huge problems in relationships because people expect them to change and get very upset when they don’t.”

Then we explored some of the signs of a promising relationship to look for:

  • Shows respect for your feelings and needs, even when they are different from his or her feelings and needs.
  • Is able to be empathic and compassionate.
  • Is interested in what you have to say and in learning about you.
  • Is accepting of themself and others – non-judgmental.
  • Is open to exploring conflict and differences of opinion.
  • Does what they say they will do.
  • Cares about being responsible for children from a broken marriage – has not abandoned his or her children.
  • Takes responsibility for his or her own feelings, health and well being. Does not make you responsible for their feelings.
  • Is financially responsible. Does not expect you to take care of them financially.If divorced, takes responsibility for their part of the difficulties.
  • A person who was in a loving relationship and lost their mate to death. People who have been in loving relationships generally know how to have loving relationships.
  • Has friends that you like.
  • Talks about others in caring and supportive ways.
  • Has interests and hobbies that are fulfilling to him or her.
  • Similar religious or spiritual path to yours.
  • Is supportive of you doing what brings you joy. Feels joy for your joy and pain for your pain.
  • Can laugh at mistakes. Has a good sense of humor.
  • Has balance between work and play. Knows how to work hard and how to have fun.

Before you can find the “right” person, you need to become the right person. Doing your own Inner Bonding work so that you can fit the descriptions above for a promising relationship is the first step in finding a loving relationship.

Dating can be very challenging for many people.

My client Franklin asked:

“I’m 68 years old. I was married for 27 years and now divorced 15 years. I have fallen in love with a woman after only three months of dating, but she is disengaging by being incommunicado. I am mystified since things were going so well then suddenly she is not available. What should I do?”

What I said to Franklin is that, as hard as it is, there is nothing you can do about her disengaging from you. You need to be very compassionate toward your own heartbreak. Generally, people do this when they get scared of intimacy. There are two major reasons they get scared:

 

  1. The first reason is that they have a fear of engulfment – a fear of losing themselves – so when the relationship gets closer, they run away. This has nothing to do with you.
  2. The second reason is that falling in love after only three months may indicate some neediness on your part. You might have made her responsible for your sense of worth, happiness and safety. She might have felt pulled on by you to caretake you. If this is the case, then she might be disengaging rather than deal with this.

In either case, the fact that she is not communicating may indicate that she is unwilling to hang in through difficulties and learn from them. This is important information about her. As hard as it is to let go, you need to accept that you cannot create a relationship with someone who doesn’t communicate and who instead runs away.

Daniella wrote this in our community, Inner Bonding Village:

“I’ve had several occasions in a row where I’ve been in the early stages of dating someone or communicating online with a view to arranging a date and things have gone the same way. Each time the guys have seemed nice, open and interested in me. They’ve paid me compliments and seemed genuine. Then the communication tails off. The text messages become less frequent and then stop. I don’t chase or become needy when this happens. A few times I’ve waited a while, then sent a message asking if they’ve lost interest and saying it’s ok if they have, but I’d just like to know. They’ve responded sounding all interested again, but then it tails off again! I’m already doing work on myself and my own feelings around relationships, but I’m just wondering what your take is on why I’m currently attracting this behavior in men. Thanks.

What I said to her is she needs to accept that in the dating world, this is very common, and it’s best to not take it personally. Take it as information about the person and move on. Daniella is not necessarily attracting this – it’s just that there are many people like this.

One of the members of IBVillage gave this helpful response:

“I, too, have been doing the online dating thing and thank God I have Inner Bonding while doing this and I also can relate to what you are saying.  I actually become very leery of someone who comes on very strong with compliments, as they don’t feel genuine – and how could they be? The biggest thing to keep in mind is to not take any of this personally and just have some fun with it. The minute there is an attachment is when the wounded self kicks in and that’s what makes it feel awful. If someone does not keep up communication, that is a huge message in itself and that really is about them and not you, and I’m sure that’s not the type of person you would be looking for anyway. Have fun and don’t take it too seriously.”

There is much to learn in dating. If you can learn to not take others’ rejection personally, that’s a huge learning! If you can learn that you are helpless over others’ choices, and that their choices are information about them, that’s another huge learning! Learning about whether or not you are making others responsible for your sense of worth, and learning to take responsibility for your own feelings is the biggest learning of all!

Aidan decided to consult with me because he wanted to get married and have a family. A handsome man in his mid-30s, it was certainly not obvious at first glance why he could not find a partner.

However, it didn’t take me long to understand why relationships were not working for Aidan.

Being with Aidan felt like being alone.

He was so not present as to practically be invisible.

“Aidan,” I asked, “What are you feeling right now?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“Aidan, please move your focus out of your head and focus inside your body. Breathe into your body. Notice any sensations in your body.”

Aidan breathed. A few moments later he told me that he felt nervous.

“Aidan, imagine that the nervousness is a child inside you – your feeling self. I’d like you to notice what you are telling this child that is causing him to feel nervous.”

“I’m telling him that he has to say the right thing so that you will like me.”

“So when you tell yourself that you have to perform right in order to get my approval, you end up feeling nervous. What are you telling yourself about why it is so important to get my approval?”

 

“I guess I’m telling myself that if you like me and approve of me, I’m okay.”

“Aidan, I’d like you to imagine that your inner child – your feeling self – is an actual child. Imagine that you have a little boy who is just like you were as a child. How would this little boy feel if you kept telling him that others had to like him for him to be okay? How would he feel if you kept handing him away to someone else for acceptance and approval?”

“I think he would feel rejected and abandoned by me. I think he would not feel very good about himself if I kept rejecting him.”

“Yes, and that is exactly what is happening on the inner level. You are handing away your inner child for others to define as okay. But the very act of handing him away is causing low self-worth. And how attractive do you think a woman finds you when you are approaching her from this neediness – this need for her to approve of you for you to feel okay?”

“Well, obviously, women don’t find this attractive. But I didn’t know I was doing this, and I don’t know what to do about it.”

“The first thing you need to do is learn and practice Inner Bonding, starting with Step 1 – practicing moving your focus out of your head and into your body – into your feelings. Your inner child feels valued by you when you pay attention to him, which means paying attention to your feelings. Your anxious, nervous, fearful feelings are letting you know that you are abandoning yourself and telling yourself that you have to perform right to be okay. Your happy and peaceful feelings are telling you that you are connecting with yourself and taking care of yourself. When you keep your focus in your mind rather than your body, you don’t know when you are abandoning yourself.”

Aidan started to practice Inner Bonding – noticing his feelings and noticing what he was telling himself that was causing his anxiety. The more he noticed and shifted his thinking about himself, the better he started to feel. Within a few months of practicing Inner Bonding – defining himself and taking care of himself, instead of handing himself over to others to define, Aidan found himself dating two women that he liked. The last time I spoke with him, he was in an exclusive relationship with one of the women, apparently much to the dismay of the other woman!

Some people who had at least one failed relationship may have fears of a New Relationship.

Katie had not been in a relationship in ten years, and she was scared. In her last relationship, she had lost herself completely and then felt devastated when her boyfriend of three years left her for another woman.

After working on herself emotionally and spiritually for a few years, Katie, now 48, felt she was ready for a new relationship. So she joined an online dating service and promptly met Sean, who seemed too good to be true. Warm, compassionate, intelligent, and also on a personal and spiritual growth path, Sean, 55, was an available man! Now Katie’s fears that she would not meet someone turned to fears of being in a relationship again.

Katie had learned how to take loving care of herself when she was alone or with friends, but doing this with a man was another matter. She had never actually taken care of herself in any of her relationships, and she was very worried that she would let herself down again.

Katie wanted some guidelines regarding loving actions she could take for herself as she started to explore the relationship with Sean, and now I’ll share these with you.

 

  1. Stay focused inside your own body, noticing and taking responsibility for your own feelings rather than just being tuned into the other person’s feelings – Step 1 of Inner Bonding. Stay conscious of NOT taking responsibility for the other person’s feelings of worth or security, and NOT making the other person responsible for your feelings of worth or security.
  2. Make a solid decision before getting together with the other person that you are willing to lose the other person rather than lose yourself. Make a conscious decision to NOT make the other person’s wants, needs and feelings more important than your own.
  3. Stay clear on your own truth, NOT letting the other person talk you in or out of what feels good and right for you.
  4. Be willing to take full responsibility for behaving in a way that makes you feel worthy, safe and powerful. Be willing to be who you really are rather than trying to impress. Make a conscious decision that being in integrity with who you really are, is more important than getting the other person’s approval.
  5. Do NOT disregard the big or small things that you find difficult, intolerable or unacceptable. If something is unacceptable or intolerable to you early in the relationship, the chances are that it is not going to get better. Do NOT convince yourself that, because there are so many good things about this person, you can overlook the problems or get the other person to change. This never works!

The most important thing to remember as you move into exploring a new relationship is:Let love be your guide, not fear. This means that you need to be open to learning about what is most loving to you – what is really in your highest good – rather than trying to have control over not being rejected or controlled by the other person. 

6. Keep asking your inner wisdom, “What is the loving action toward myself right now? What is in my highest good right now?” which is step 4 of Inner Bonding.

If you keep asking this question, you will find your way through exploring a new relationship without losing yourself and without getting hurt by the other person.

Another issue for many people is about when to have sex in a new relationship.

Joanie, 52, had been dating Ken, 56, for a few months when they went away together for a weekend. Until that time, Joanie had chosen not to have sex with Ken. While she knew that she and Ken were not in love with each other, she felt that they really enjoyed each other’s company. They had a lot in common, and Ken was the most interesting man that Joanie had met in a long time. She decided to sleep with him because she felt that they had a good chance of developing the relationship.

However, after that weekend, Ken informed her that he needed some space from the relationship. Joanie was shocked and dismayed. While she knew that the sex had not been passionate, she thought there was enough in the relationship to keep seeing each other. She could not understand why Ken had so abruptly pulled away. When she questioned Ken about it, he just said that he knew she was not the right one for him. 

Joanie contacted me for a session to try to understand what had happened.

“Have you seen this happen before?” she asked me.

“Oh yes, many many times,” I answered.

“Why did it happen? We were doing so well together.”

“Joanie, the problem is having sex before having developed a deep level of caring between you.”

“Why is this such a problem?” she asked.

“If sex is really great at the beginning of a relationship, then it is compelling enough for people to hang in and perhaps develop deep caring. But if the sex is mediocre, there is not enough juice to sustain the relationship without the deep level of caring. If you have been together long enough for love, caring and emotional intimacy to have developed, then the relationship can progress toward good sex even if the sex isn’t so great at the beginning. And, there is a MUCH better chance for great sex when it is an expression of love than when it is more casual. ” 

“But I was willing to keep developing the relationship even though the sex wasn’t great. Why wasn’t he?” she asked.

“You and Ken are different. Obviously, for him, the sex is very important. If he had been deeply connected with you, he might have hung in there. But for him, mediocre sex combined with not having that deep emotional connection means to him that you are not the right woman for him. This is not an uncommon situation, which is why I encourage the people I work with to not have sex until you are certain of the love, caring, and commitment to the relationship.”

“Oh, I wish I had known that. Are you saying that if we had not had sex for a much longer time, that the caring might have been deep enough to sustain us through challenging sex?”

“Either that would have happened, or the deep caring and connection would never have developed, and you would not have put yourself in the position of having sex only to lose the relationship.”

“Yes, and I would not be feeling nearly as badly if I had not had sex. Once I have sex I get really attached to a man. I can see that I need to be far more careful about putting myself in that position. I thought I was doing great waiting a few months, but I can see it is not so much a matter of time but a matter of the depth of caring and connection. I knew that we didn’t have that level of caring, but I thought that enough time has elapsed that it was okay to have sex. Now I see that the caring is the issue. I’m not going to do that again!”

Dating is always challenging, so I hope this information about dating will be helpful to you.

Whether or not you are in a relationship, you might want to take my 30-Day course, Wildly, Deeply, Joyously In Love. 

And if it’s hard for you to take loving care of yourself in a relationship, be sure to take my 30-Day Love Yourself course, which you can do on your own or live with my help. The live course starts June 30, and you can find out about it at innerbonding.com – scroll down to Recent Offerings.

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