Relationship Writing Samples
Jody was an attractive 33 year old woman who came to me stating that everyone around her (including herself) could not understand why she couldn’t take the next step with her fiancé to get married.
Jody revealed to me that her parents had a difficult relationship while she was growing up. Her parents were often yelling when they were together and her father seemed to “come and go” a lot. Although she craved a close relationship with him, she often felt as if he was very unavailable and emotionally distant. She often felt anxious when he wasn’t available and sometimes found food to be quite comforting.
As Jody began to date in her early teens, she noticed that she would be extremely anxious around boys and always felt as if the conversations were “forced”. She had a difficult time believing that someone liked her, even if it was clear with his actions that he did. Jody had several brief relationships in her teen years and didn’t really date too much in college. She explained that she found it easier to just “hook up” with guys rather than “get all serious”.
After college Jody found a good job working as an Advertising Assistant and quickly moved up to the role of an Advertising Executive. She found her job creative and rewarding and was often complimented for her diligent attention to detail and her hard work. After work, Jody would often go to a yoga class or go out with friends.
Jody had tried online dating, but seemed to continue to run into the same patterns of dating men for a short period of time and then breaking it off. She felt as if something in the guy was not “right” or that she felt suspicious of the guys she dated. Although in some cases, she had reason to feel suspicion, often she would just get a sense that she needed to end the relationship. On one occasion she met a man who seemed to fit everything she was looking for. She began dating him for several months, her longest relationship ever. After they had been dating for a year, her boyfriend began to talk about getting married. Jody was very excited about the idea of getting married and she began to make plans in her mind as he shopped for the ring.
Almost immediately after they were engaged Jody began experiences symptoms of anxiety that she could not ignore. Her nights were filled with sleeplessness or nightmares and she would often wake in a cold sweat. She was having difficulty eating and often could not sit still to finish her work. She explained to her fiancé what was going on and asked if they could put the wedding on hold. Although frustrated, he understood that she needed time and agreed.
When Jody came in she stated that felt as if her mind was always somewhere else. After hearing about her history, I encouraged her to talk more about her relationship with her father in her early years. Although quite resistant at first, Jody found that as she talked about him, she could see that her fiancé had very similar personality traits as her father. Thus, even on an unconscious level she was begin trigged back to the past; a time when her relationships and attachement were uncertain.
As Jody began to connect these pieces she began to differentiate between her reaction to her fiancé now and her reaction to her father in the past. Her emotions (specifically her anxiety) felt the same, but yet these were two completely different situations during two completely different periods of her life. She was actually quite excited to see this, because she felt as if she had experienced this all her life with guys but had never put 2+2 together in that way. After several months, Jody’s anxiety abated and she felt confident about her decision to get married. She can actually now look at the similarities between her father and her now husband and appreciate them simply for the qualities that they possess.
We begin our journey of romantic relationships as children. Freud would say that we “fall in love” with our opposite sex parent. While this is not a romantic love, it is a form of love and attachment as a child can understand and process. Attachment theorists state that the attachment between and child and their parents will set the stage for future relationships (e.g. friendship, romance). They feel that early experiences in the attachment relationships affect the individual’s ability to form affectional bonds, as well as the quality of those bonds.
We take our experiences of our early relationships with us, whether we like it or not. It can be in the forefront of your mind or could lie deep in your unconscious hardly ever seeing the light of day. Regardless of where it lies in our mind, it can (and will) affect your emotions and your decision making when it comes to men. Sometimes we unconsciously choose a man because of something we are attracted to, but
It is often difficult to differentiate which emotions are being triggered by something from the past or the present. Which is why going back and re-visiting those old relationships (and the emotions that surround them) can be an integral part in being able to find a good relationship or move forward in one that you are already in.
Reality Check #1
Take some time to reflect on your own childhood influences and experiences in your life. Write down aspects of what you observed that you would like to follow (repeat) and aspects that you do not.
Sophie is 32 years old. I have been seeing her for a year and half. She initially came to me because she felt she was not getting as much out of life as she wanted. While her career had taken off and she even successfully broke through the proverbial “glass ceiling” and was now part of upper management at a mid-size talent agency, there was still one area of her life that was unresolved. The all-too-common “The One Who is Emotionally Unavailable”
As with many clients I see in this situation, I started by asking Sophie about her recent relationships. After a session or two, we were able to zero in on her two most recent relationships. Both started out very exciting (but very rocky) and in the end left her feeling as if she had done something wrong to “deserve” such emotionally challenging and draining situations.
For Sophie, it was the “bad boy” she was attracted to. The type of guy her parents (and even friends) would never approve of. They differed on many key “relationship metrics,” such as views on politics, religion, work and family. However, in the bedroom it was what she described as “magic.” There was a strong feeling within her that because of this incredible physical chemistry, the philosophical differences between them didn’t matter. At first glance, the individuals she dated appeared somewhat random. However, after several sessions it became clear that this was a pattern that had begun as a teenager; going after someone who was not fully available.
Sophie shared with me that her parents had an extremely volatile relationship and that they divorced when she was just 8 years old. Although she was able to see her father from time to time, there was a significant lack of consistency and trust. Sophie felt devastated by the loss of contact and emotional connection from her dad shortly after the divorce. Although she never had any evidence to support this feeling, she expressed that at times she felt that she was to blame for her parents fighting and divorce. She began to recognize how these feelings played into her early dating life as a teenager. Sophie remembered that she would always pick a guy who either had a girlfriend or was somehow emotionally unavailable. She recognized that the reason that she did was because on a deep level of mind, she felt as if she had to “win over” the guy and that she did not expect a relationship to come easily. She remembers that she did not (and still didn’t) feel worthy of having the love of a man. She also felt that once she “got the guy” that in time they were going to leave anyway. Thus, as a teenager she always had one foot out the door. It was easy to see how these behaviors carried over into her choices in dating as an adult. Over and over again, she would reach out for a man who was the opposite of what she really wanted, in part to protect herself from a real relationship filled with deep emotions and vulnerability.
Why did she do this? Why do so many women do this? Smart, sophisticated women who continue time and time again to target men who are so far off the radar from what they actually want as life partners. What is so attractive about these “forbidden fruit” partners? As I explained earlier we learn our and model our actions and behaviors generally after what we have seen and experienced. As we evolve out of childhood and into adolescence we begin to observe, learn and experience how others behave and interact in relationships. Thus, this is where what we know from our childhood begins to come into play and is applied the early forming of dating and romantic relationships. Many forms of early learning comes in Junior High School, but the crux of our learning comes as we enter high school; the years when relationships and romance take on a heightened level.
Like geometry, physics or English, dating tends to be a class unto itself during our teenage years. What we learn in social circles and outside of class is just as life-affirming as the lessons from text books (sometimes even more so). However, unlike structured learning like history class, dating is a social engagement and sadly, a pitfall so many women fall into is that their dating behavior never changes once they leave high school. The mindset often struggles to grow and evolve. Thus, the lessons we learn and the way we are “trained” to date by our social circle in high school (and from what we have observed of our caretakers in our childhood) often becomes viewed as the end-all and be-all of Dating 101.
As we grow and acquire new formal lessons, earn new degrees and begin careers, we often receive on-the-job training from our employers. Conversely, with dating a common trap is getting stuck in the mindset that you have had all the “training” you needed (in high school) and there is no need to learn more. This is simply not true. The mindset and needs of a teenager are vastly different from an adult. Moreover, the goal (or end result) is quite different from what you desire as a teenager. Therefore, if you have different end results (e.g., causal dating vs. serious relationship/marriage), why would you use the same strategies to get to that end result? Thinking you are done with your dating education after you graduate high school is a mistake that keeps many women from finding a long-term, healthy, functional relationship.
Clients often ask me why the attitudes and behaviors we learn as a teen can affect our dating life well into adulthood. They often feel that the past is the past and that they have moved on. Or, they feel that somehow they can repress their teenage experiences and simply move forward, even bulldozing over some deeply suppressed feelings and emotions.
Of course it does! How could it not? What you experience as an adolescent does, in fact, have a direct (and/or indirect) affect on your future relationships. I mean let’s face it, unless you were abducted by aliens and they wiped out your memory, it’s pretty safe to say that what you have learned in the past, you take with you and use it in the future (whether it’s positive or negative). If we are arguing that we don’t do that, that we are able to walk into our adult dating and relationships with a “blank slate,” wouldn’t that be like saying that the time you fell off the jungle gym and broke your arm never happened?
Of course it did! You remember the experience, you remember the pain, you remember the cast on your arm for four weeks. You even get a glimpse of the pain now when it is going to rain and your arm tends to get really stiff! You can’t see the broken bone anymore as it has healed, but you can still feel the remnants of it. Memories, experiences and feelings are the same. Many think that because you can’t see the memories, feelings and experiences from the past that they don’t affect you now. They feel that they have successfully compartmentalized (buried in different areas of their mind) the past and that they are in fact able to enter an adult relationship without bringing any type of baggage with them. Think again!
REALITY CHECK #2
Have you ever dated someone who wasn’t fully available to you. Were they married, in another relationship or emotionally unavailable. If you did it once then ask your self this, would you do it again. If so, WHY?
Recently I worked with a 38 year old woman named Jaime who couldn’t understand why she had such a hard time meeting someone. She often stated that there were “no good ones left” or “all the good ones are taken.” She would often flirt with other people’s husbands or go after the guy who already had a girlfriend. She shared that when she was a teenager, she would always be the one to steal the guy away from his existing girlfriend, but that once that “chase” was over, she would lose interest in the man. When I probed further, she admitted that she knew that her mother had an affair with another man while still being married to her father. Her parents separated shortly after her father found out about the affair and she only saw him 2-3 times a year as he moved to another state. She felt devastated by her parents divorce and in particular her father moving. However, when this started she was only 5 years old and as an adult she couldn’t imagine that feelings from that time were affecting her current choices and decisions. After all, she barely remembered those early years. When I explained to her how these experiences can affect her choices on an unconscious level, she was quite intrigued. We explored her skepticism about men in general and gained a comprehensive understanding of why she began to make the negative choices she did as teenager and into her adulthood. Together, we were able to sort out how her past was affecting her decision-making and worked to make new conscious choices that were a better fit for her today.
There is a lot to be said about “the chase” and there are many reasons why woman engage in it. In Jaime’s case, we were able to figure out that a part of her felt as if she didn’t deserve a man. The feelings came partially from feeling abandoned by her father, but also from the feelings of sadness, disappointment and anger she felt toward her mother for having the affair in the first place.
The chase is an illusion as well as a defense. The illusion is that you have a “project” and if you just try hard enough you will be able to win the love of this man. The defense is that the chase keeps you from begin in a real relationship in the here and now. The defense keeps part of your mind in a fantasy (e.g. thinking about what could be rather than what is). Thus, in “the chase” you never quite know what is going to happen next and there is never any sense of security. Many women often miss very important red flags because they are so busy with the chase. Sadly, in the end, most women get so caught up with the chase that most of the time they don’t really know the man that they are chasing because they are so caught up in the action rather than the relationship.
REALITY CHECK #3
Was there a time in your life that you were caught up in a chase with a particular guy? What was it like? If you “got him” then was he really what you expected and did you still want them? List out 2 lessons that you learned from being in a “chase” relationship.
Kelly was 28 years old when she first called me for a consultation. Kelly described herself to be completely infatuated and obsessed with men who were considered to be “bad boys.” She often dated guys who didn’t have income earning jobs or careers, partied a little too much, and just couldn’t seem to settle down. More often than not, they were very good looking and liked to live on the edge. More often than not, they were dating other women at the same time. Generally, they were into extreme sports, thrill seeking behavior and would often travel on a moment’s notice. She stated that although this was not the type of guy she wanted to settle down with, she could not help her intense fascination with them. Additionally, she stated these were just the people who seemed to be “attracted to her” ever since she was a teenager; completely relinquishing any responsibility she had in choosing a potential partner. Kelly disclosed to me that as a child she had several incidents where she was touched inappropriately by a family member.
She admitted that after these incidents she began to feel poorly about herself and her body. Kelly discussed how most of the time she felt like she didn’t deserve a good man and that she should just takes whatever. We began by getting to the root of her early trauma and addressing her issues of self-esteem and insecurity. Kelly was able to recognize that she had an intense fear of being in a real relationship with real intimacy. Together Kelly and I were able to make sense of the trauma she had endured as a child and gain a more adult perspective on how she felt about herself. As this progressed, Kelly recognized more and more the qualities she desired, but more importantly the qualities she recognized that she was deserving of.
Many women carry this desire into adulthood and become frustrated when they still cannot land the “bad boy.” They often have this idea that someone who is unavailable or challenging is far more desirable than someone who is available (this often stems from early self-esteem issues and feelings of insecurity). The primary reason this person appears more desirable is because you cannot have them, and by not having them, it is preventing YOU from even being in the game and becoming vulnerable.
In other words, it is common that when a women consistently goes for the bad boy that they themselves are the ones who feel sad and extremely vulnerable deep down inside. However, they are not ready to face it and have not ever tapped into that pain or block in their dating pathway. On a conscious level, they feel that they are emotionally ready for a healthy relationship, but their actions (going for the bad boy) speak a very different message. On an unconscious level, they are not emotionally ready to be available to another and/or they feel that they don’t deserve someone who is ready to be emotionally available to them. It may on the surface appear to be the opposite, because the woman will seem so determined to “reel him in.” However, don’t be fooled! Chasing or dating the bad boy is NOT about the emotional connection but rather about the escape from connection.
Dating the bad boy allows you to re-focus your energy to the outside. You are so busy with his bad boy antics that you don’t have the time or of emotional energy to begin to look at if there is real compatibility there. This is an emotionally exhausting ride and is far more suited for the teenager who has the time to go round in circles at a break-neck pace. Here are some of the “self talk” that many women tell themselves about bad boys.
-I will not be the one to suddenly help him see the light of day.
-I will be the one to change him, make him grow up and settle down.
-He loves me so much that he will change his impulsive antics.
-I will change what I think is his “fear of commitment.”
Sadly, 9 times out of 10, these are false messages that you are telling yourself. Most likely what will happen is that you will be on an uncomfortable emotional roller coaster ride until it is YOU who decides to get off that dizzying experience and get into something real!
Here is a final word on bad boys. No one is going to give you a prize for reigning in the bad boy. There are no gold stars and no lottery earnings. You will not gain true respect from others, because even though they may superficially admire your tenacity in pursuing and catching someone who is “unavailable,” you are the one that has to live with him and his emotional unavailability day-in and day-out. Trust me, it’s far from glamorous when the chase is over and you are living day-to-day with someone who is consistently emotionally unavailable. The “prize” or feeling of “winning” falls to the wayside very quickly and usually leaves you with nothing but despair and regret.
Reality Check #4
Make a list of all of the bad boys you have dated. See if you can step back and from a birds eye view look realistically about the pros and cons of the relationship.
Lindsey, a fraternal twin, is a shy 34 year old female who came to me because she is constantly dating men who are completely wrong for her. Her longest relationship lasted only 8 months. Lindsey was a full time nurse who took her job and profession very seriously. However, it was difficult for Lindsey to identify with anything other than her profession. Lindsey reported that she came from parents who were married for the last 40 years. She stated that they have had their issues, but they have always been able to work through it. She discussed her early history stating that she had always looked to her sister or her friends for guidance and direction. She admitted that she often felt insecure around her sister because everyone referred to her as “the prettier one”. Although Lindsey believed that she was attractive as well, the constant commentary took a serious toll on her self esteem. She never quite felt as if she had her own identity and often felt that she was always a step behind her sister, who seemed to have it all figured out. Even throughout her late teens she continued to feel very insecure and anxious about the whole dating process.
Lindsey seemed to duplicate the choices that her sister and her friends would make. She would see one of her friends dating a bad boy and decide she should try as well. She dated all types of men; musicians, labor workers, men in the business world, however, she was never really sure if it was what she wanted. I worked with Lindsey to help her to connect the dots of her choices. I was able to help her to recognize that many times she would idealize a man and feel that if he was right for someone else then he must be right for her, rather than actually looking at compatibility and what she wanted in a man. We were able to work together to help her to carve out a solid, stable identify for herself; one in which she is the leader rather than a follower.
Picture yourself in the shoe department on a sale day. We have all been there. Everyone is scrambling for the best deal on the most fabulous shoes. You look over and you spot a beautiful woman trying on a stunning shoe. A Manolo Blahnik that Carrie Bradshaw would have done just about anything to own. The shoe is perfect for the woman trying it on, but all wrong for you. The heels are very high and the material has pink sparkles all over it. Somehow, on this other woman, they look exciting, edgy and just what the doctor ordered to get you out of your seemingly stagnant, boring wardrobe. The salesperson tells you that this other woman has and is going to purchase the last pair. Now you want them even more. You go through a lot of work and a lot of hassle, but are final able to order them and have them delivered directly to your house. You feel a great sense of accomplishment; as if you have won a prize. You feel that these shoes will change your life (or at least your wardrobe). However, once you buy them, you wear them once or twice and they are extremely uncomfortable and they really don’t fit your style. It is difficult to give them up, though, because you remember how happy that other woman looked wearing them. In fantasy, they looked and felt really good on you. In reality, you realize that you have actually not stayed true to yourself and did not have to go after something just because it appeared to be bright, shiny and appealing from across the room and because someone else looked happy in them.
How does this relate to men? I have women who come in every day with this type of story. It generally goes something like this. They begin dating someone who is completely wrong for them (often due to a set-up or one of their friends is dating a similar type of guy). They “try on” these guys for awhile and the excitement is quite intense so that for a moment (similar to the shoes) they think that this is “the one” they have been looking for, even though the “fit” is not quite right. After awhile, though, they realize that their choice was an “impulse purchase” and that the longevity of the relationship is similar to the height of the heel; you simply can’t function and are not happy while wearing them.
Reality Check #5
Check in with yourself to see if the choices you make in men are the choices you really desire or are you following someone else’s desire because it’s easier than recognizing your own?
I was seeing Jessica for six months. During that time she had been seeing a married man on and off. She admitted that since she was a teenager she always seemed to want “the one that’s taken.” Jessica’s parents divorced when she was 10 years old and her mother began dating again right away. She recalled that her mother and her aunt (her mother’s sister who was single) were always in competition with one another for a man’s attention. She remembers listening to them bicker with regard to who was going to “get the guy.” She remembered that her mom and aunt always talked about how if another woman had gotten a man to “walk down the aisle” then that was the type of man that you wanted because they were already open to the idea of marriage. They would discuss how getting a man away from another woman was an accomplishment of sorts and that if another woman had married him there must be something really great about him. We discussed how these early messages became her mantra for dating and how it fueled her attraction to married men. The problem was she never really got what she wanted out of the relationship and often ended up wasting a lot of time waiting for her married man to have time for her. Together we were able to identify who these early messages were fueling her choices today and that by altering her view of what a healthy relationship is. We were able to break down how her early observance of her mother and her aunt left her with anxiety about always having to “win”. Jessica was able to understand how she had been going for the guy that is unavailable, because it made her feel important and special if she could “get him”. On some level she was still seeking her mother and her aunt’s approval for her choices.
Together we were able to work on breaking her thought pattern away from what she grew up with and allowing her own thoughts and desires to be heard and recognized.
Many women come in to see me stating that they have found “Mr. Right,” however, there is only one problem. He is married. Now, I am not saying that it never happens where someone is unhappy in a marriage and they end up leaving their spouse to pursue a new relationship. There are times when a man is separated from his wife and ends up meeting the woman of his dreams. However, I am speaking about something different. I am speaking about the woman who displays clear patterns and who often feels as if her Mr. Right is already taken and only seems to be attracted to the ones who are already spoken for Let me let you in on a Reality Check here: 9.5 times out of ten, if he is married, you need to MOVE ON! No matter how much he flirts with you, no matter how many times he takes you out to lunch, no matter how many times he says “if I had only met you first,” no matter how many gifts he buys for you, no matter how mind-blowing the sex is, no matter how sweet he seems, no matter how unhappy he says he is in his marriage, HE IS TAKEN! Oh, and guess what? More often than not, once a cheater always a cheater. A married man who is cheating generally has the attention span of a fly and will more than likely, in the end, cheat on you!
Don’t imagine that your situation with this married man is so different and that he has fallen so deeply in love with you that he will never cheat on you the way he did his wife. Remember, he walked down the aisle with her first. These head games might seem fun and challenging when you are a teenager, but are futile when you are looking for a serious long-term relationship. Having an affair with a married man and expecting the end result to turn out in your favor is literally like climbing on a spinning wheel (the type you would see in a hamster’s cage) and expecting that journey to take you somewhere. Instead, you often end up going round and round in circles only to become dizzy, disoriented, lonely and heartbroken.
Reality Check #6
Who were your early influences with regard to dating and what type of messages did you receive from them?