My Personal Story Part II: Finding Your Own Personal Power

woman dancing

The past few blogs have been centered around my own personal journey and story – and how exploring the defining moments of my life established patterns of behavior and emotions I hadn’t even realized.

What I didn’t mention in the previous blog is after I got divorced, I was out in the dating world feeling overwhelmed and afraid of making the same mistakes in my relationships. This led me to embark on my own journey of self-discovery centered around relationships and better understanding my own history.

As many of you know, after my divorce I worked with a relationship coach myself and it set me on a course of finding the hobbies I enjoyed. I found it a bit challenging, because now I was a divorced mother of two children who didn’t have a lot of extra time for “hobbies.” But, what I’ve realized over the years is this:

Life often provides doorways to opportunities we don’t even see at the time, but these events often become instrumental in our life and personal growth.

For example, I began dating a short Jewish man who was twice my age. We met at church, and when he asked if I’d like to go on a date I said “yes,” because he seemed nice and I needed practice in the dating world. After all, I had been out of the “dating game” for quite some time.

It didn’t last very long because of many factors- not just his age! But, he was instrumental in helping me build my self-esteem and feeling better about my life as a divorcee. During our three months of dating, he introduced me to salsa and swing dancing. I found salsa to be challenging, but when he introduced me to swing dancing I fell in love!

Dancing was so refreshing and freeing. Not only was it fun, but it was also great exercise and I didn’t need a partner. As a divorced mother of two children, all my friends were married and I didn’t have any single friends, so I had to rebuild my community. It was a relief to find a hobby that I could do by myself that was just for me. I was then able to go out to clubs where I would know other dancers and it brought an excitement and passion to my life I didn’t even know I needed.

My identity was in being a wife, mother, and psychotherapist and I didn’t have anything that was just for me. Swing dancing opened up a whole new world for me and it helped me learn to be independent and self-reliant. I met people from all walks of life and ages and everyone was there to simply have a good time, meet new people, and dance. It was like a breath of fresh air and I was able to let loose and have fun on my own terms. I didn’t have to consult with anyone about what I wanted to do, I just did it.

I gained confidence in myself again and soon, the glaring, constant feeling that there was something wrong with me subsided and there was no longer the desperation that stemmed from being alone. I was able to redefine what was important to me and learn who I was without someone else. I was able to learn who I am when I’m not taking care of someone else, and therefore began trusting myself again.

Find Your Passion Before You Find Love

I still dated, but it wasn’t in the forefront of my mind. I was more focused on having fun, finding my passion, and meeting new people. I had been out in the dating world for 4 years before I started dating my husband. When I met him, I was more confident in who I was and had begun to understand what I wanted and needed in a relationship.

The key is that I found my passion before I found my love. If I hadn’t first taken the time to explore hobbies and really learn who I was without a relationship, I wouldn’t have been open and ready for one when I met my husband. It’s important to take the time to explore patterns of past behavior and insecurities. We must first understand what is holding us back before we can truly move on and be ready for that healthy relationship when it finally comes.

In my next blog – the third and final part of my personal story series – I’ll explore the story of meeting my husband and the realizations I came to about myself through meeting him. During this journey of telling my story I’ve discovered that all of these defining moments of my life tie together and the same underlying emotions and feelings have been present throughout them all. This realization has been quite powerful and has helped me to better understand myself and grow even more as a person.

My hope is that you too can have these discoveries of your own. If you think you’d benefit from exploring your own story and diving deeper into those defining moments of your own life, check out my relationship coaching program. Feel free to fill out the contact form and I’ll be in touch to schedule a consultation!

My Personal Story Part I: How My Childhood Shaped My Relationship Choices

In my previous blog, I discussed How Defining Your Personal Story Can Lead to Relationship Success. As a quick recap, over the summer I attended a workshop at the Gary Marshall Theatre to learn how to tell my own personal story in order to better address the needs of my clients and help them explore their own stories.

Onstage during the workshop, I had this Aha! moment where I realized what had been holding me back in life and in my relationships were actually two different emotions – and how those emotions were deeply rooted in the two defining moments of my life.

We each have a defining moment in our lives that has impacted who we are and shaped our decisions in ways we don’t even realize. It is not until we dive deeper into those defining moments that we can identify patterns of behavior that are a result of what we’ve been through and can open up opportunities for us.

Opening up and being vulnerable enough to share the rawest – and at times most difficult – moments of your life is not an easy task. It is one that even I struggle with. While they were asking me to tell my own personal story, I found it difficult to really dive in and give details – about my dating journey in particular. It was only when they pushed me and asked me to dig deeper that I realized why I found it so difficult. I was embarrassed about my struggles in who I dated. And that embarrassment wasn’t just because I didn’t want to talk about myself or relay my most personal moments to strangers. What I thought was embarrassment over the dating decisions I’ve made was actually stemming from my childhood. I realized that this embarrassment was tied to the first defining moment of my life – the death of my mother – and my shame and embarrassment surrounding that event.

The Defining Moment of My Childhood

I am the youngest of six kids and I grew up in a big, loud Catholic Italian family. When I was thirteen, my father pulled me aside and out of the blue said, “your mother is dead.” I was living with him at the time, as they’d gotten divorced when I was five, and I was completely blindsided by it. I hadn’t even known she was in the hospital. Looking back on it now, there were a lot of emotions attached to that moment, but the underlying one was this feeling of not being good enough. I felt as though I didn’t matter and I was insignificant. After all, he hadn’t even bothered to tell me she was in the hospital. I was overwhelmed by the feelings of “I don’t matter, nothing matters.”

That was definitely the defining moment of my childhood and shaped me in many ways. That feeling of not being good enough and feeling like I don’t matter stayed with me well into adulthood – 25 years later when I was a divorced single mother. After 13 years of marriage I was out in the dating world again, once again feeling overwhelmed and like I didn’t matter. And I took those underlying feelings with me as I dove back into dating.

Identifying the Underlying Emotions That Were Holding Me Back

I knew that I felt like I didn’t matter often in life and in intimate relationships, but what I didn’t realize was how embarrassed and shamed I was as a child because my mother died at 46 of alcoholism. When I was on stage I had this feeling of embarrassment, but more than that, I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me.

This became even more evident as I dove into my second defining moment – meeting my current husband. In my next blog, I’ll tell that story and explore the emotions associated with meeting him – and what that helped me realize about myself.

It wasn’t until I was talking about my journey diving back into the dating world and telling the story of meeting my husband (and deciding whether or not to date him) that I realized these feelings of embarrassment weren’t just about what people would think if I was dating a “dorky” guy, but actually ran deeper. While talking about the embarrassment tied to my dating and relationship history I realized I was actually embarrassed about my mother’s death and how it would reflect on me.

While I was on stage speaking about my personal story, with those in the workshop pushing me, I realized the reason I had been so afraid to get up there was because my biggest fears are 1). to embarrass myself and 2). for others to feel sorry for me. And these emotions showed up in my struggle over whether to date this “dorky” guy or not.

I share this story to show you that you are not alone. We all have things we have gone through that are holding us back from what we want most in life – to find someone that has our backs no matter what and loves us unconditionally! I have been doing self-discovery work for over 20 years and continue to see how these issues keep unfolding and offering more growth and awareness. It isn’t until we explore these things that can be painful or hard to think about, let alone talk about out loud, that we are able to see how they have been holding us back. By learning to define and talk about your personal story and the moments that have shaped who you are, you will be able to identify what has been keeping you from finding the relationship you want.

That’s why I’m putting together a group for singles who value personal growth and may know their patterns, but still find themselves being stuck. They can’t let go of the feelings that keep them out of the dating world and keep repeating the same patterns over and over again. Does this sound like you? Together we can clear these patterns once and for all to help you free yourself from the walls you’ve been hiding behind.  Keep an eye out for more information on this group – coming in the New Year!

If you’re interested in exploring your personal story and diving deeper into the defining moment of your life, consider my relationship coaching program. I’ll be there every step of the way to help you work through these emotions and identify ways you can overcome these triggers in order to find the healthy, loving relationship you’ve been seeking.

Give me a call at (312) 213-2395 or fill out my contact form, and I’ll be in touch. If I can do it, you can do it. In fact, we can do it together.

How Defining Your Personal Story Can Lead to Relationship Success

Over the course of the past few months, I’ve been on a personal journey to gain a deeper understanding of my clients. In order to do that, I first had to understand my own personal story and how it relates to those I work with. After all, before we can understand others, we first have to understand ourselves.

So, with that purpose in mind, I traveled to Burbank, California for a workshop at the Gary Marshall Theatre. The workshop focused on learning how to speak from the stage in order to tell your own personal story. It wasn’t until I started speaking onstage that I truly realized just how closely my own story mirrors the stories of my clients. This realization has led me to explore a new area of my relationship coaching program that I want to share with all of you.

What Is Your Defining Moment?

 

We often have something that has happened to us in our lives that impacts us in ways we don’t even realize. Each of us has a defining moment that has shaped who we are and how we react to and deal with situations. In order to unlock what is holding us back in life – or in a relationship – we must dig deeper.

During this workshop in Burbank, they asked me to get up on the stage and tell the story of the defining moment of my life. I began telling my own personal story, and it wasn’t until those leading the workshop began asking me questions and pushing me to dig deeper that I had my aha! moment and realized what the larger things were in my life that had been stopping me in my tracks and preventing me from finding what I was truly looking for.

In telling my story I actually told two different stories – first, the story of the defining moment of my childhood and then, the story of meeting my husband, Ben. Each story helped me unlock and uncover different emotions, and it wasn’t until I told both that I realized the root of both defining moments in my life was the same underlying emotion – embarrassment. Once I realized what the emotion was, I truly understood how it had been holding me back.

I took away two main things from this experience:

  • It is not until you step back from your own experiences and feelings and the “baggage” that is blocking you and holding you back that you will see who someone else truly is. When we have our own things going on, that clouds our judgment and how we see others. Until we are able to unlock these things and take a step back we aren’t ready or able to meet the “right” one.
    We hold ourselves back from relationships because we don’t want to be seen. We are embarrassed by our own challenges and the scars that we carry from our defining moments, and more than that, we’re scared. We’re afraid to let someone else see these things and are terrified of what will happen when they do. Because we don’t want to share these stories, we hold ourselves back from relationships.

 

  • We often know what is holding us back, but we only know it at the surface level. I knew that I felt embarrassed while telling my story onstage, but I didn’t realize that embarrassment ran much deeper. We understand these things about ourselves and can see what the issues may be, but we don’t know and understand them at a deep level where we are able to do something about them. That’s where I come in! Together, we can figure out your personal story and uncover the underlying, deeper emotions at play.

 

Once you are able to define and share your story, you’ll discover things you didn’t even realize about yourself. And those realizations will help you along your journey to finding a healthy relationship. If you think you could benefit from figuring out your own personal story, please contact me to set up a relationship coaching consultation call.

In an effort to dig deeper with my clients and move forward with this new aspect of my relationship coaching program, over the next few months my blogs and newsletters will center around personal stories. Keep an eye out for next month’s blog where I’ll share my own personal stories I shared onstage in Burbank. My hope is that by learning about my story and better understanding the realizations I came to and how they’ve helped me, you’ll see how uncovering your story will help you in your own life.

5 Relationship Truths to Keep in Mind This Summer

couple in summer

In my previous blog, I discussed 5 Tips For Finding Love This Summer. As a quick recap, those 5 tips are:

  • You will probably not recognize your soulmate at first.
  • Relationships are not as they appear in romcoms and romantic novels.
  • It takes years to truly get to know someone.
  • A relationship needs love, care, and space.
  • Great relationships are worth the effort.

 

I understand how hard it can be to re-enter the dating world. You desperately want to find that special someone to share your life with but have no idea where to start. Summer seems like the perfect time to find someone, but you’re also reminded of just how lonely you are when you see your friends out on adventures with their partner.

It’s important to keep perspective. While it may seem like everyone around you is in a healthy, happy, and loving relationship, chances are that’s far from the truth. In reality, there are plenty of single people all around us and you’re definitely not alone in your dating struggles. The key to dating this summer – or any time for that matter – is to stay positive, be realistic, manage expectations, and be open to possibilities.

If you’re looking to find love this summer, there are some other things you need to keep in mind.

5 Relationship Truths To Remember:

 

1. In spite of many bad relationships, a great relationship IS possible.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been “unlucky in love.” All that matters is that you take the steps necessary to build a healthy, loving relationship. It’s important to take different steps than the ones you have taken in the past. Being open to the right relationship is key.

2. You don’t have to have the relationship your parents had.

Regardless of the example that was set for you or the worldview of past generations, your life and decisions belong to you. Choose how you will go about your relationships instead of blindly walking through them and trying to emulate the way your mother approached her own relationships. You are your own person and your relationship is yours and yours alone.

3. Being together makes you a better person.

When you find the right person, your relationship will grow deeper through the good times and the difficult times. Going through tough things together will help create a more intimate connection.

4. Find someone who understands your “quirks.”

When you find “the one,” they will accept you completely – despite any weird or strange personality traits or quirks. In fact, they will love you because of those things because they are what make you who you are.

5. You can only have a great relationship when you don’t need one.

We’ve all heard the philosophy that the right relationship comes when you aren’t looking for one. It may sound cliche, but it’s true and worth repeating. You will only find a healthy relationship when you are comfortable being alone and aren’t reliant on a relationship for your happiness.

As you navigate the world of dating, it’s important to keep those 5 things in mind. It can be easy to get frustrated or give up, but as long as you keep perspective and practice patience, you will find the one for you.

If you think you need more help overcoming your own internal barriers so that you can find a happy, healthy relationship, consider my 3-month relationship coaching program. Call me today at 312-213-2395 for a free relationship consultation!

5 Tips For Finding Love This Summer

woman at beach in summer

Summer is upon us! It’s a time for laying out by the pool, barbecues, vacations, and adventure. Typically in the summer months things tend to slow down a bit and we find ourselves with more time on our hands. That’s why the summer is the perfect time to start dating. Whether you love going on dates or dread the dating scene, it’s the time to try something new and start meeting new people.

Having time to ourselves to enjoy the summer months can be both a blessing and a curse. With more free time on our hands, we often tend to notice the feelings and emotions we normally push aside. Feelings of loneliness or discomfort may arise when we realize we haven’t been focusing time or energy towards finding love or unleashing our inner fun and playfulness.

We typically head into the summer feeling one of two ways. One, we are looking at things from the “glass half full” perspective and are excited to start dating and are anticipating at least one or two hot dates. Or two, our glass is “half empty” and we’re sad about not having a special someone and are dreading the summer.

The truth is, you’re most likely a combination of both. Whichever side is more dominant in you, be sure to see both sides of the situation. Embrace the fact that summer is a time for endless possibilities and new beginnings.

Many of my clients believe another summer will come and go and they will stay in the same place – alone and feeling like there is nothing they can do about it. We get stuck in a rut and think there is no way to change our relationship status. So, we go about our summer and things stay the same.

The key to finding love this summer – or any time for that matter – is to manage expectations. Unrealistic expectations will only create more problems. I typically see two very different scenarios when it comes to my clients. On one hand, I have clients who can never seem to find a relationship because the men never measure up to their expectations. They only see the negative qualities and have trouble finding the positive qualities in their dates. On the other hand, I have clients who jump into dating and by the third date are already traveling together and making long-term commitments. The problem with that is that they haven’t taken the time to really get to know the person they are dating. As you can see, there are unrealistic expectations on both ends of the spectrum.

Whether you’re excited to date or are filled with anxiety and dread, it’s important to go into this summer with an open mind and heart. If you’re looking to find “the one,” check out my tips below to help motivate you to date this summer.

Tips for Finding “The One”

 

1. You probably will not recognize your soulmate right away.

When you meet “the one” you will not experience a rush of hormones, butterflies, or the typical fanfare depicted in novels. You will only know him or her by a very gentle tug on the heart. Instead of looking for an instant attraction or “spark,” look for that gentle feeling inside and start by building a friendship without any expectations for something more. If they are really your soulmate, that will become obvious with time.

2.  Relationships rarely, if ever, are as they appear in romantic movies and books.

Real people fall into real love slowly. Instead of a “happily ever after”they live “fully ever after” and have a rich, full, and healthy life together. Things take time, work, and effort. No relationship is as it appears on the big screen, so be sure to take a realistic approach as you are dating and meeting new people.

3.  It takes years to really get to know someone.

As you know, being human means we are complex beings. People have many layers and sides to them and it can take a while – years even – to fully get to know someone. Give yourself time to be sure you are really learning all there is to know about your partner.

4.  A relationship is a living being that needs love, care, and space.

People tend to either ignore or smother in relationships. Neither of these are great conditions for a thriving relationship. Healthy relationships need time, attention, and consistency.

5. Great relationships are completely worth the effort.

There is nothing like being in a supportive and loving relationship. A good, positive relationship is completely worth the effort. When you find the right one, you will be understood on a deep level – and they will love you despite all of your flaws or eccentricities. This is one of the best feelings in the world.

So, now that you have some things to keep in mind as you approach the dating scene this summer, it’s time to start going on dates! If you think you may need some more help and coaching, my 3-month relationship coaching program might be the right fit for you. Contact me today to schedule a free consultation call.

What It Means to Be an Empath

I recently came across an article about empaths that resonated deeply with me and knew I had to share it. Being a therapist and an empath myself, I have worked many years to stay balanced in my work and home life. It has been a daily practice, but reading this article by Bo Forbes, An Empath’s Guide to Staying Balanced, put all the pieces of the puzzle together for me.

I have always known that I was sensitive, and was even “labeled” as ‘Most Sensitive’ in my High School yearbook. I often felt different from others and yet, there are so many gifts that come from being an Empath. For example, I like to think I’m creative, expressive, intuitive, loving, playful, and I feel good in nature and being outdoors.

What this article does is help you see that you are not alone or “weird.” While you may feel misunderstood, you don’t have anything wrong with you. You’re simply an empath. While there are some challenges that come with that, through self-love, self-care, and establishing boundaries, you can have a rich and rewarding life – and relationship.

Empathy vs Empath

The key to understanding what it means to be an empath is to understand what an empath actually is. You know what empathy means, but what is the difference between feeling empathy and being an empath?

Empathy – If you feel empathy, your heart goes out to others. The term empathic means feeling into others’ feelings.

Empath – If you’re an empath, though, you feel the emotions of others deeply and often take the energy of others into your body. As Bo Forbes explains it in her article, “an empath is more tuned in, more empathic, and more sensitive than the average empathic person.”

Being an empath can be a great asset, as you’re tuned in and sensitive, but it can also come at quite the cost – especially in relationships. Empaths are often attracted to unavailable men because it feels safer to them, due to their need for space and time alone. They struggle to balance their own needs with their partner’s needs and often feel guilty that they are asking for too much and their needs won’t be met. They often get overwhelmed, are afraid to be “suffocated,” and don’t know how to express their needs.  

So, how do we bridge this gap in order to have the relationship we want? First, we must take our power back by building trust in ourselves and our gut instincts.

I recently came across an excerpt from a new book called Hunch by Bernadette Jiva that offers great insight into how to trust our own intuition. According to Jiva, the key to making good decisions is to sharpen our intuition. Jiva offers 3 ways to do just that:

  • Unplug: Set aside time to think without distractions. This will allow you to be more observant and open to seeing new solutions.
  • Ask yourself questions: Constantly question why things are the way they are and how you can change or improve them. Then, get comfortable with uncertainty as you move toward finding your intuitive answers. Two important questions to ask yourself are: 
    • What needs do I have that I have been afraid to ask for in a relationship?
    • What would make me feel comfortable in an intimate relationship?
  • Follow the fear: It is always scary to take a leap of faith, but remember you have to risk failure in order to succeed at anything. According to Jiva, “the purpose of fear on the journey of discovery is to signal that we might just be on to something worth working toward.”

 

The good news is, that through self-discovery, reflection, and learning to trust your own intuition, you can have the relationship you want and desire. For tips on how to balance your emotions and your empathic tendencies in order to live “in a state of physical and emotional equilibrium,” be sure to check out Bo Forbes’ article below. 

I Feel Your Pain: An Empath’s Guide to Staying Balanced

If you feel you need help balancing your empathic nature in order to open yourself up to a healthy relationship, my Relationship Coaching Program might just be the perfect fit! Call me at (312) 213-2395 to discuss how you could benefit from relationship coaching.

How To Identify Your Needs In a Relationship

couple at dinner

I was talking with a client recently about dating and old patterns of behavior that no longer work for us.

He has been in the dating scene since his divorce several years ago and has been really working on understanding what he needs in a relationship. He is finding that his needs get clearer once he is in a dating relationship, because it allows him to really look at what makes for a good match – and eventually a long term commitment. He gets to test out what he thinks he wants and discover what really matters to him in the long term.

He is beginning to understand his needs in relationships and how all the pieces of the puzzle need to fit together in order to form a relationship that works for him. What is new to him is the piece of self reflection. It is often difficult to navigate our own insecurities, shortcomings, and admitting when we find ourselves being selfish, silent or “god for bid” needy in a relationship.

To be clear, those qualities that we find hard to acknowledge, let alone admit or voice, are actually not the problem. Because every single human being on the planet can be/has been at times selfish, passive aggressive, and needy in a relationship.

The problem that my client and I have really nailed down in our sessions together is not being able to admit – and come to the table – about the issues we struggle with in a relationship. My client was dating a woman who on paper looked great and for the most part was responsible, successful, and attractive. However, when it came to understanding her triggers and taking ownership of her own behavior, she was not able to see her part of the equation. She blamed, demanded, and could not see her own insecurities.

My client was a bit disappointed and shocked, because she checked off many of the things on his “list” of what he was looking for. Unfortunately, the most essential priorities on his list – his non-negotiables – were not being met. She lacked good communication skills and did not have the ability, or even the desire, to take a look at and work on her own neediness. If we are not willing to at least acknowledge these behaviors, it will often undermine our relationships.

He ended up breaking up with her because of this, and while it took a couple of months to really see and understand things for himself, it taught him a great lesson. There was no blame, she just wasn’t a good match for him. The experience helped him find clarity and identify his own needs, his wants, and what is really important to him. That didn’t become clear until he went through this experience and was able to identify what did not work for him.

So, it wasn’t a failure or mistake, because it was a great opportunity for him to learn his own insecurities in a relationship and know what he absolutely needs in his next relationship.

That is what relationship coaching is all about. Becoming clearer and more confident about yourself and what you need and want in a relationship, and being able to say “no” to something that doesn’t work. This also makes it easier to embrace and own your needs and neediness, so that you can move through them.

What is The Difference Between Needs and Neediness?

So how do we differentiate between “Needs” and “Neediness” in a relationship? Check out the helpful list below.

Needs Are:

  • Normal, valid, and important
  • Present in healthy couples and individuals
  • Necessary to thrive and have a good life
  • Best met by taking responsibility and initiative
  • Most effectively met by clear communication
  • Ability to voice needs clearly tends to attract others

Unmet needs stimulate action, while met needs result in contentment. The ability to voice your needs clearly tends to attract others. Being open and honest about your needs is key to a healthy and successful relationship.

Neediness Is:

  • Driven by emotional issues that are not often conscious
  • Born from desperation
  • Blaming your own issues on others
  • A result of being in a helpless/victim position
  • Never being satisfied and always needing more

Neediness is often a major turn off and can repel others. Having needs in a relationship is normal and healthy, but constantly needing reassurance, always placing blame on your partner, and always needing and wanting more is not.

In my relationship coaching program, I extensively go through how needs are necessary and help us get what we want to have in our life. We are not often taught to have needs, let alone voice our needs, so often times we deny them. This denial leads to us becoming needy. If you partner with me for relationship coaching, we can identify signs of neediness and also explore your needs – and how to ensure they are met in a relationship.

Contact me today, or call me at (312) 213-2395 to learn more about my 3 month relationship coaching program and set up a free 30 minute free strategy session!

 

Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards –Soren Kierkegaard.

Being Your Own BFF Lays Foundation for Relationship Success

It’s not unusual for clients to begin my relationship coaching program in a somewhat fretful state. Having spent years devoted to their careers, they eventually came to see the lack of balance in their lives.

Some name what they feel as an “inner emptiness.” Others describe their lives as being without a lot of personal meaning, beyond what they contribute professionally or philanthropically. Even those with good friendships feel something is missing.

Naturally, because these women are so results-oriented in their careers, they suspect a romantic relationship may be the answer to their personal dissatisfaction. What they come to learn is that finding someone “out there” (or online) is not where the relationship coaching process begins. It starts with the connection with yourself.

Begin the Journey

As a relationship coach (and marriage therapist), I heartily believe that having good relationships with friends and family – and for most of us, being in a successful, long-term romantic one – are super important components of a good life. Yet the true basis of a fulfilling life is the relationship we have with ourselves. Being our own best friend.

Regardless of circumstance, this means giving ourselves the time and attention to figure out what we need and want, optimally before we start looking for a mate. I can say from experience that it is the most rewarding (and at times, admittedly, the hardest) journey of our lives.

We start the trek by taking the attention off the nameless partner we hope will complete us, and bring our focus back to ourselves. Once we’ve gotten to know ourselves better, “warts and all,” as they say, we can build a life that feels enriching and complete, whether we find a partner or remain single.

And for many, that lifelong inner journey does eventually lead to finding the man or woman of our dreams.

Be Curious

One very practical way to befriend ourselves is to participate in activities that bring us joy.

I remember when I was newly divorced and single, it seemed as if all I did was work, take care of my two young children, volunteer at school and go on an occasional date. Given how small my life had become, I was desperate for a relationship. I was convinced a partner would fix what was wrong with my life.

So I started seeing a relationship coach to find “the guy.” Instead, my coach started me on a process to find myself. Defining what I needed and wanted from a future relationship, I came to learn, was a bit further down the line.

In the meantime, I needed a richer and more fun life as a single mom. But I didn’t have a clue what might bring that about. Not long after, I went on a date that turned out to be life-changing. But it wasn’t the guy. Him I dumped. But swing dancing? I was in love!

It was fun and freeing – and it was something I could do by myself. I started going to clubs to dance, took lessons and before you know it, I had made new friends and expanded my world considerably. My life felt balanced – and I felt satisfied and proud for finding a hobby I adored. Most surprising of all? I didn’t feel desperate for a guy anymore. It was from that place of balance and satisfaction that I got clear about the type of partner I was looking for.

Imagine the Possibilities

Some of my clients have been so wrapped up in their careers (or been busy being single moms taking care of their children) they have no idea what activities might be fun for them. If you fall in that camp, ask yourself these questions:

      • What did I like to do as a kid?
      • Have I ever said, “Someday I want to try ____?” If so, what was that thing?
      • What makes me laugh and feel joyful?
      • What do I do that feels enjoyable – even if I think of it as a part of everyday life?

 

Your interests and passions may be buried, but they’re inside you. The good thing about exploring this aspect of yourself is that there’s virtually no way to go wrong. If you don’t have a bona fide passion, try something that sounds interesting to test your hypothesis. If that first choice isn’t satisfying, move on to something else.

Let’s say you’ve always admired your neighbor’s garden. You could take a class at your local botanical garden or sign up for a plot in a community garden. Sure – you might find out you don’t like the idea of getting dirt under your fingernails, but you could just as easily end up with a basket of edibles and a few new friends! Or, if you once liked crafting, stroll through a hobby store and see if any materials catch your eye or evoke a happy memory.

Another super low-cost and low-risk way to explore happiness-producing pastimes is to attend a “Meetup” on a topic of interest in your city. A single Google search for “Meetups in Chicago,” my hometown, produced multiple pages of results on activities from hiking to harmonica hoe-downs!

Remember, the goal here is not to become an expert…you’re simply looking to activate your feelings of pleasure and enjoyment. When you engage in activities that are fun and add value to your life, you’ll feel satisfied, accomplished and connected. That’s happiness.

When you find that, my hunch is the “hole” you now think is the lack of a partner will start to fill with self-regard and, eventually, self-love. The biggest bonus of all is that once you’re personally fulfilled, you’ll probably feel a lot less pressure once you do start dating in earnest. Finding a partner will simply be an added blessing to a life you already love.


Sue DeSanto, LCSW, is a relationship coach with a proven three-month relationship coaching program for helping people gain the clarity and confidence they need to be in a successful relationship. She offers interested singles a no-cost 30-minute strategy session to help them determine if relationship coaching is for them. Call sue today at (312) 213-2395 for your free strategy session!

10 Tips For a Better Online Dating Experience

woman on laptop

In today’s fast-paced world, online dating seems to have become the norm. In fact, according to The Knot, 19% of brides said they met their spouse online.

If you haven’t tried online dating sites such as match.com or eHarmony, you most likely have a friend, cousin, or friend of a friend who has. With online dating comes plenty of horror stories. The world of online dating can be a tough one to navigate and at times it can seem completely hopeless or like a waste of your valuable time. However, online dating CAN work! Just ask Heather and Dan.

I was recently interviewed by Jackie Pilossoph for an article that was featured in the Chicago Tribune. Jackie is the creator of Divorced Girl Smiling – a divorce support website, and is also a freelance columnist. In the article, Jackie tells the story of Heather and Dan, an engaged couple who met on Match.com and are now engaged. The couple offers tips for navigating the world of online dating and shares why it worked so well for them. Check out the article, Tips for Navigating the Crazy World of Online Dating from a Success Story, to learn more about their story.

Jackie also included 5 of my tips for online dating. Find the complete list of tips for a better online dating experience below!


10 ONLINE DATING TIPS

  1. Have a positive and confident attitude. You need to have a curious and open mind toward online dating. If you go into it as a pessimist, you will be left miserable and frustrated. The world is a mirror and it will give negative attitudes right back to you!
  2. Give it time. We need to put time and energy into the things we want – including a relationship. This means putting time and effort into creating your online dating profile.
  3. Tell your story. Your online profile should begin with your passion/interests and then discuss your profession. If you like to rock climb, garden, or dance – talk about it! Remember you are putting together your profile to attract interest. Use a story format and be as creative as possible!
  4. End with a question. Always ask a question at the end of your profile. It could be anything: If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be? or Do you have a bucket list and what’s top on your list? Ending with a question gives a potential suitor something to talk to you about when they reach out for the first time and increases the chance for an engaging first conversation.
  5. Choose the right photo. Whether we like it or not, in the world of online dating, appearance matters. Your picture is the first thing a potential match sees, and therefore is a very important part of your profile. Use two or three good pictures of yourself and make sure one is a full picture of you. Bonus points if your pictures show off your passions and interests!
  6. Attract the right ones. An engaging, thought out profile will help you attract the kind of guys/gals you want to meet. If you put the time into your profile, you’ll most likely go on many dates with people you actually want to spend time getting to know.
  7. Listen to your gut. If he says he can’t meet for a month or months, asks for money, or your spidey senses are activated – move on fast. Trusting your gut is key when it comes to dating. I know, that sounds obvious, but you would be surprised!
  8. Keep the emails to a minimum. I recommend only emailing for one or two weeks before meeting up in person. You never know someone until you meet them! Once you know there is interest, set up a coffee date.
  9. Go on a coffee date.  Remember to keep the date to about one hour. This first date is a “get to know you date.” It’s where you’ll learn if you have things in common, if you feel a connection, and most importantly, if you like them. No long dinners. Repeat after me…We are NOT desperate. We have time! You can always schedule a date for the future once you’ve established a connection.
  10. Keep perspective. Remember that online dating is challenging for both men and women – even though we go about it very differently!

 


Hopefully these tips will help you navigate the wild world of online dating. If you change your perspective and are open to the possibilities, you can have a lot of fun with it!

And, if you’re looking for tips for those first few dates, check out my blog on The 7 Questions to Ask on the First Three Dates.

7 Key Questions to Ask on the First 3 Dates

Here’s a quick test to help you determine if you’re truly ready to go after your goal of having a long-term, successful relationship:

Picture this: You’re on the 3rd date with someone you really like – and who seems to like you. Can you imagine yourself saying something along these lines?
I think it’s pretty clear we like one another – and I think you’re a terrific guy/gal. As we talked about on our last date, we’re both interested in finding someone to be in a long-term relationship with. If we’re going to continue dating, I think it’s a good idea to share with each other what we envision for ourselves to further test our compatibility. Would you be open to talking about that?

Yikes, right?

You’d be surprised. It’s actually not a tough question for people who are both ready to be in a relationship and relatively confident and clear about what they want and need. This type of person understands it could take time to find the right partner. So even when there’s chemistry with someone, they believe it makes sense to ask the difficult questions early on to make sure their relationship values and goals match up.

What might seem like the Mt. Everest of questions is also easy to leapfrog for those whose life goals (i.e., marriage and family) are tied to age. Many like-minded folks in their 30s and 40s have already dated a lot and are ready to make a decision on a partner. And don’t think biological clocks just affect women. Even though men may be capable of fathering a child at age 60 doesn’t mean they want to wait until then to do so.

The “7 key questions in 3 dates” timeline this post proposes isn’t for everyone – nor is it even appropriate for everyone.

If you’re in your early 20s or just want a casual relationship, then taking it slow and letting a relationship evolve organically is to be encouraged. On the other hand, I have a 55-year-old client who hasn’t dated in 8 years. Since she doesn’t want marriage or children, she’s absolutely fine with taking her time so she can uncover what (and who) feels right for her.

In between these two camps, there are many people who truly, (and perhaps desperately) want to be in a relationship yet always seem to get tripped up by common dating pitfalls like fun-but-futureless serial dating or ending up with the wrong type of partner…again.

These people suffer, but I believe there’s a way to end the pain. More about that at the end of the post.

But first, here’s why I believe there are 7 key questions serious daters should ask on the first 3 dates!

I like to compare the first few dates with someone to how we typically size up a buffet line. Think about it. Most of us stroll up and down the table, seeing what looks good before deciding what to commit to our plates. Why? Because if we simply selected the first several items on the table – we could end up missing the really yummy and satisfying entrees further down the line!

That’s how I lay out my 7-questions approach to my relationship-coaching clients. I encourage them to look at dating as a way to get clear about a person’s rightness for you before you’re in too deep. If you take the approach to let things “develop organically,” you could end up spending a lot of time with someone, only to find out they’re not someone you can be with long-term.

Plus, asking the key questions early on can save some heartache. Many people, women in particular, have a hard time letting go of a relationship once there is physical and/or emotional intimacy. So even if you come to know that he or she can’t meet your needs, it can be hard to say goodbye to someone you’ve really connected with.

One final note before the questions themselves:

I’m not proposing that these are the only questions you’ll ask, (or answer) on dates 1, 2 and 3. You’ve gotten to know hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in your lifetime, and that aspect of dating is no different. But if you’re nervous or unsure, a quick trip to the Internet will provide ample first-date conversational tips.

OK. As promised, here are the 7 key questions that will help you move on to the next date – or simply move on.

Date #1
1. What do you do for fun or as hobbies? Do you prefer adventurous or quieter activities?

This icebreaker is perfect for discovering if there are any interests you share, which is an important aspect of healthy relationships. Of course there is nothing wrong with having dis-similar interests, too, as they help people develop their individuality within a relationship. There are no right or wrong answers here; you’re simply looking for a sense of your date’s temperament and personality.

2. What should I know about you that I’d never think to ask about?
3. What do you wish people would stop asking you?

People aren’t generally asked these questions, so they have to think about their answers. You can learn a lot from their verbal – and nonverbal – responses. For example:

Do they get defensive or are they intrigued?
Do they give themselves the time they need to respond?
Do their responses reveal some vulnerability or perhaps a “silly” side?

If there were enough positive signs and good feelings on the first date, you’ll likely find yourself making plans to see one another again.

Date #2

4. How would you describe your family…and your relationship with them?

Every child plays a unique role in a family. This question invites your date to tell you about his or hers, as well as share about the values, ideals, religious and cultural influences that were part of growing up. What you’re looking to see is if your date talks about his family with warmth or annoyance. If the latter, why is that?

5. What’s your relationship / marriage history?

If you want a serious relationship, the second date is not too early to talk a little about your histories.

You’re not asking for every single detail (nor should you share yours). Instead, you’re after an overview of their relationship experiences. Pay attention: Your date may reveal his or her attitude toward exes (positive or negative), as well as if she or he shares the responsibility for a relationship’s or marriage’s end – or puts it all on the partner. The conversation can also be a sneak peak into what they want in future relationships.

6. Are you looking for a monogamous relationship or do you prefer to date a variety of people?

I know it’s only the second date. And Yes, this is a big question. But if you’re serious about wanting a long-term relationship, it’s better to know your date’s intention sooner rather than later. He or she can’t give a wrong answer… but there is only one right answer for you. If it’s “looking for a monogamous relationship” and the chemistry is good, you’re probably going on to a third date.

Date #3

7. When it comes to a long-term relationship, what are your must-haves…as well as your must-not-haves?

Obviously this isn’t the only question or topic for the third date, but it’s the core one. This question presumes you know what your must-haves and must-not-haves are, of course, and are willing to share them honestly.

If you mention you’d like to be married and start a family within a year or so and your date freaks out, it’s a pretty clear sign that it isn’t in the cards for him or her – at least not on your timetable. It can be tough to distinguish someone’s ‘potential commit-ability” from their actual interest in a commitment… but that’s precisely what this question forces you to reckon with.

So there you have my 7 key questions to ask on the first 3 dates.

Before I sign off, I want to make good on my commitment to daters who want a serious relationship, but are no where near being able to ask these very direct questions.

First, let me assure you there is nothing wrong with where you are! Nor does a resistance to asking these questions mean you’re not meant to be in a relationship.

What it may mean is that you have some old belief systems about yourself and your fitness for a successful relationship that you may not even know you hold. In my experience, (personal and professional), these old beliefs need to be examined. Through that process, you will learn some truths about yourself – and the many positive traits you can bring to a relationship.

Some people can do this emotional work alone, but most find it more effective and efficient to work with a therapist or relationship coach. Eventually, doing it helps you become more clear and confident about what you want and need in a successful relationship – and how to go about achieving that goal.

In fact, I did exactly that to get unstuck and find the relationship of _my_ dreams. And now my coaching practice helps people just like you do the same.

If you’re interested in learning more, please take advantage of my free 30-minute phone consultation.

Happy Dating!