A client once came to see me to talk about how stuck she was feeling when it came to dating and relationships. Everything else in her life was going really well for her, but this area was totally stressing her out! She was feeling really stuck and overwhelmed every time she thought of it and had no clue how to get passed it and move forward.
“I love my work. I am more social than I have ever been. I am happy and getting out there and going to more social events that I enjoy going to…but this whole dating thing is just not for me. I don’t even know if I even want to get married. Maybe I don’t. I don’t know!”
“Okay,” I said. “So what is your goal for our session today?” (A typical question I ask each of my clients at the start of our session.)
“I want to figure that out. I want to figure out whether or not this whole dating, relationship, marriage thing is for me or not.”
Great. This led us into exploring what relationships mean for her, in general, and what she does or does not like about ‘dating.’
What came out of our discussion and exploration was very interesting. My client discovered that, in fact, it wasn’t a relationship or marriage she was against. It was what the words ‘marriage’, ‘dating’, and ‘relationships’ represented for her. When she thought of these words, she also connected certain personal beliefs with those words and these beliefs about what those words meant is what was actually holding her back from pursuing dating or getting into an intimate relationship. For example, ‘dating’ to her meant that you had to put on an act and not be real, or it meant that you had to do certain conventional dating type things. She was not interested in any of these things and therefore thought to herself: ‘If this is what dating is, I hate it and it is not for me. And if I don’t date then I will not get into a relationship. So, a serious relationship or marriage must not be in my future.”
The way she was interpreting dating (which was largely based on how other people she knows do it or have done it) made her come to the conclusion that dating was just not for her. When I, initially asked her to rate on scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most) how successful she felt that she could be at dating or a relationship, she stated that she was at a 1 or 2, at best, based on how she was interpreting what it means to ‘date’ or be in a ‘relationship.’
I pointed out to her that she was utilizing, what I call, ‘an outside-in’ approach, which is why she was feeling stuck in this area of her life. In other words, she was focusing on how others approached or defined ‘dating and relationships’ and then asked herself whether or not she fit into that ‘mold.’ I suggested that she utilize, what I call, ‘an inside-out’ approach, instead.
Utilizing the ‘inside-out’ approach I asked my client to create her own definitions for ‘dating’ ‘relationships’ and ‘marriage.’ This led her to come up with her own names and interpretations for dating and relationships and do away with the titles ‘dating’, ‘marriage’ or ‘relationships’ altogether.
When doing this, my client instantly felt more comfortable, at ease, and even energized when thinking about and sharing her definitions and vision for ‘marriage’ and ‘relationships.’ When I asked her to rate on a scale of 1-10 how successful she felt she could be at ‘getting to know someone better’ (an example of what she replaced the title ‘dating’ with) she responded 8 or 9. That was pretty amazing. She walked away feeling confident, capable and happy in this area of her life, just as she was feeling in other important areas of her life.
With the simple, yet powerful, approach of coming up with her own definitions and interpretations, she freed herself, got herself unstuck and got the answers she was looking for. Did she want to get to know someone better and build a relationship with the right partner one day? Absolutely. But the only way she saw herself getting to that point successfully was by doing it her way.
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