This could be you if you've spent all your time and energy looking but nothing is happening.
“Dan, you’re not ready for love,” I chided, only half-jokingly.
“What do you mean? I literally spend all my time on dating apps, going on dates, chatting with girls. It’s on my vision board. I have even been writing affirmations and meditating on it for months now. How much more ready could I be?” he responded, not jokingly at all. Dan had reached out to me because he had been trying to find a stable relationship for about a year. He was attractive, athletic, and financially well-off so he had no problems getting dates with great women but somehow, they never work out. They seem to have a great time, and then inevitably, the women would call it off with some variation of, “You’re great but I don’t think this is going to work out.”
Dan always walked away confused. When he described his last few dates, I understood why right away. Although he certainly had more than enough desire to have a relationship, he certainly had not created space for a relationship in his life. What did I mean by this? Let’s dive a little deeper into Dan’s story.
Block 1 — Emotional
Dan had started looking for love about a year after ending a 10-year relationship with a woman he was engaged to. They had planned on having children and building a life together. Although he had accepted that their relationship was over and would never work out, he still had intense feelings for her, and he still held on tightly to the version of a future they had created together. The picture of a baby he chose for his vision board was one they had found together.
He also began most dates by explaining that he had, “recently broken up” or was “recovering from an extremely rough breakup.” I suggested that it may be more important in a new date to stay focused on staying curious about his date rather than to lead with that point. To be clear, I’m not suggesting you can’t have any baggage before you start dating again. I’m only suggesting that amongst that baggage there is a little space for someone else to exist.
Step 1 — Create emotional space
Get rid of unnecessary reminders — Dan and his ex-fiancé had routines (e.g., going out for brunch at a specific restaurant on Sundays) that he still continued out of habit. In addition, he had not cleared out other simple reminders. He drank his coffee every morning from a mug they painted together, decorated his place with art they created together, and still wore a shirt she gave him regularly. I encouraged him to get rid off (or at least put away) these daily reminders.
Put intentional effort into releasing anger — Notice that I didn’t say succeed at releasing anger, simply work at it. Dan was very angry at his ex-fiancé and it unknowingly kicked in his defense mechanisms when he was getting close to someone else. He would find his anger triggered by small and random things. Though he never expressed it, it prevented him from getting close to people. We went through a few exercises to help him be aware of it. By actively working on it, Dan developed a trust in himself that he didn’t need to push someone away when the feeling arose. Instead, he felt that he had some measure of control over his response, if not now, in the near future.
Release the dreams and plans you made with your ex — Dan wanted desperately to be a father. Him and his ex-fiancé had made up a timeline on when that would happen, where they would live when it happened, and how their family lifestyle would be. Dan could still hold on to wanting to be a father but I suggested he release the “how” and “when” it would happen so he could co-create that with someone new.
Block 2 — Time
It was true that Dan spent all his free time focused on dating. But that did not mean he had a lot of free time to begin with or that he created time for a relationship. He travelled frequently and when he didn’t, his life was full. He often found that he had to plan dates out over a week in advance to squeeze it into his busy schedule of work, training, and social commitments. Dan had one speed and it was, “extremely busy.” It was his coping mechanism to deal with his last breakup and he had not re-adjusted it since.
“If you had a relationship today, would you have time for that person?” I asked.
“Well, no,” but if I met the one, I would make time for her,” replied Dan.
Dan has it a little backwards. The fact of the matter is, you need to make time so that you can get to know someone to even know if there is something worth pursuing. Hollywood did us a disservice by making us believe that relationships are “found.” The reality is that relationships — especially new ones — are “created” and nurtured.
Step 2 — Create Time
Only talk to one or two people at a time — Dan struggled to make more free time but by reducing the number of people he talked to he could increase the amount of time he spent engaging with each person. I reminded Dan that if that doesn’t work out, he could always move on to other people.
Allow space for spontaneity — Leave at least two evenings a week free. What if you went on a first date and wanted a second one but your days were completely booked way in advance? Remember, you date is looking for someone else too and their other suitors may not make them wait for two weeks for a second date. If you are always too busy for them, you are silently communicating, “I don’t have time for a relationship with you.” Once Dan started doing this, he noticed that he was able to date a person for a longer stretch.
Block 3 — Physical Space
When Dan and his girlfriend broke up, he moved out of his apartment and into a small studio. He barely had enough room for his clothes. His small studio was littered with unpacked boxes which made it seem even smaller. He told himself that it was only temporary, but it had now been over 12 months. Without realizing, he was sending the message to his dates that he was in a state of flux. He was transitioning to “something.” Whenever his dates came over, they always assumed he had just moved in. There certainly wasn’t room for them to be part of his environment. He used his space only for sex and never to hang out — which also ended up sending the wrong signals to his dates.
Step 3 — Create the right physical environment
Make space for two — Visualize what a second person would need to feel comfortable in that space — a bed big enough for two, guest items (spare towels, spare pillows, extra sets of kitchenware), and dresser/closet space to keep a few small things, etc.
Create an environment they would want to hang out in — Keep your home clean and organized no matter how small the space. Add things that create a sense of comfort like indoor plants, throw blankets, or art. Your date will naturally stay longer if the space is welcoming.
“We do not attract what we want, but what we are.” — James Lane Allen
Irrespective of what you want, when you don’t create emotional space, time, or physical space — you are subconsciously sending a signal to your partners and the universe that you are not ready to be in a relationship. Though your words may say one thing, your actions reveal to others what is truly happening.
Remember that we should seek to co-create a relationship with someone and not to try and “squeeze” them into our existing lives. The only way we can do that is by removing the blocks that prevent them from entering (and staying) in our lives.
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