Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Trusting Your Gut While Dating

Photo credit: earl53 from

For a variety of reasons, we often fail to listen to our guts, intuition, or what have you. Sometimes, it's giving in to the competing circus of voices in our heads. Other times, it's the allure of the person in front of us. Adding a few or more drinks to the equation is another common method of blurring out awareness. And let's face it, most of us live in a society that doesn't value deep listening, and truly following our hearts.

So, we end up making mistakes. Sometimes repeatedly. And when it comes to dating, those repeated mistakes can drain your energy, make you jaded, and press you into a corner, desiring to give up or settle for being with someone you really shouldn't be with.

That's why paying attention from the beginning is so important.

I eventually trained myself to listen and pay attention closely - both to myself and whomever I am on a date with. If something felt off or sounded off, I would really cue in on that to see what's going on. Sometimes, it ended up being me reading a situation falsely, and sometimes it was a recognition that something was actually off. Regardless of what any given gut level feeling was, it wasn't enough anymore if someone had similar interests to me, a similar approach to life, or if there was some kind of "chemistry" there. The connection needed to pass the gut level test before I'd move into more seriousness about it. And I've been all the more happier since. Not only did I finally find an amazing partner, but also before that, I learned to trust my gut enough to end a few short term relationships that I would have stuck with (and suffered in) much longer in the past.

This bare attention can take some practice before you're able to do it well while during a date. However, even if you never get to the point where you're flowing between noting your reactions and engaging in conversation or activity with a date, you can still benefit from the practice. After the date, you can sit down and watch the various reactions that come up. Just watching them, not taking a side or trying to rationalize or apply a fixed meaning to them. Give it 10-15 minutes, just allowing yourself to have thoughts and feelings about the date come and go, and then note or write down anyone overall themes.

In the past, I would frequently override signs that indicated coming discord or simply a bad match because of one or more of those qualities. I'd notice dysfunctional behavior, but think "oh, but she loves to do the same things as me." Or I'd see that she was responding erratically to my calls or e-mails to get together again, and I'd rationalize that she was busy, or that things were just "moving slowly."

Why did I do this? Well, you know, endless rounds of dating get old. I hadn't learned how to be alone and actually enjoy it yet. And I also really liked some of the women who displayed red flags, and truly hoped that my gut was wrong.

Hope itself is a trouble spot. It's a story about a "better future" that frequently is built on a house of cards. Politicians often play on the hopes of the people they end up supposedly representing. Marketers play on the hopes of the populace as well, saying that whatever product they are selling will cure all our ills and make us happy. And while there are also a small percentage of people who deliberately play on others' hopes in the dating world, more often than not, we let our own hope stories play each of us. The person we are dating might spark the story to surface again, but he or she is simply today's version of the leading role, the current star of the love narrative we can't seem to shake.

Dating and building a relationship are hard enough as it is. Why add in a failure to trust your gut responses? Your thoughts?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dealing with Favor Seeking People from Your Past

Photo credit: click from

I haven't been terribly good at keeping up this blog over the past several months. My attention has been mostly elsewhere, but I also haven't had too much to say recently. Not out of lack of interest. In fact, I did a great workshop last month with a visiting teacher at my Zen center that gave me a lot to chew on when it comes to relationships. So, instead of pounding out sloppy, ill conceived posts, I'm sitting on it.

For those of you who have enjoyed my comments over at Evan Marc Katz's blog over the past few years, it looks like that is finished. I can't say for certain, but it seems like he's blocked me. I have tried to leave a handful of comments there in recent weeks, but they simply vanish. This started before his website overhaul, and right after I left a fairly negative comment about a post I felt was condescending to single folks, or anyone struggling in dating. It was one of those "married people are much happier" posts that, in my view, offer next to nothing in the way of support for anyone who isn't happily married.

Anyway, it's totally possible that there's something else going on. However, the fact that this not being able to post thing started after I left that comment makes me think he decided he'd had it with my comments. Regardless, it's not a terribly big deal to me. There are plenty of other places I can comment if I choose to. Plus, it gives me more time to offer up my own writing here - or elsewhere.

Speaking of other relationship bloggers, I really liked this post by Natalie over at Baggage Reclaim about dealing with people who disappear from your life, and then reappear suddenly wanting something. This issues goes far beyond romantic relationships, and definitely taps into any unresolved guilt or people pleasing tendencies you might have.

Awhile back, I had a former colleague asking out of the blue for help ending a project I had already given several years to. The organization her and I and others had started had slowly gone into the ground, and she decided that she needed to step in and direct the final close out efforts. Which was totally fine and good of her to do. However, when she came to me asking for my help, I declined. Multiple times. In large part because I was in the middle of leading a major project for my Zen center community's board, but also because I felt like I had given enough to the other organization. As I noticed a bit of guilt arising over saying no the first time, I realized that if I chose to help out it would only be to release that guilt and "look good" in the eyes of my former colleagues. It had nothing to do with genuinely wanting to offer my energy to the work at hand.

For me, in these kinds of situations, it's become important ask "What's motivating this desire to do something?" And if it seems to me that the motivation is guilt or "looking good" or some other form of people pleasing, then I do my best to say no. Which isn't always easy, but has become easier over time.