Media, and advertising in particular, is designed to make us hunger for more and cause us to feel we never have enough. We need the new styles, the latest phone and tech gadgets, and even nuances like the newest trends in makeup shades, purses, etcetera.
As a Dating and Relationship coach, I believe this ‘deficit mindset’ also contributes to some people staying in relationships too long and/or some people jumping into relationships too quickly. I can remember the pressure I felt in my 20s and 30s, when it seemed like every party or family event I attended, I'd be asked about when I planned to ‘settle down.’ The implication was that my life was somehow incomplete without a partner.
While I personally believe life is better shared, there were many times in my single years that I intentionally took a break from dating to focus on other aspects of my life: a particularly demanding job; a big move to a new apartment; or just to focus on myself and my interests.
But these subtle - and often not-so-subtle - messages can permeate our psyche and even induce depression and low self-esteem. Worse than that, though, is adopting these beliefs can begin to drive our behavior, often without our even being conscious of it.
This is where, I believe, a coach can be extremely helpful. Repeatedly observing great women (and men!) who have so much going for them continue to invest in but receive little in return made me realize it's crucial to get to the core of this issue. Without insight into why a person accepts thoughtless behavior and is willing to overlook repeated disappointments, the cycle is destined to continue - often even once s/he is in a new relationship.
There are countless examples of these ‘telling’ behaviors people exhibit, but to name a few: extending ‘late’ invitations; not following through with promises; ‘Booty calls’ in lieu of an actual date; and not including someone in an event such as the holidays, where if committed, it would be expected to attend as a couple. These are just a few examples, but the kind of slights that people will often make excuses for, especially if they really like the other person.
Another problem with accepting this kind of treatment is that it shifts the power dynamic in the relationship, causing it to be very lopsided. It establishes one in the couple to be the dominant partner, thus ‘calling all the shots.’ One way to think about it is if it was a platonic friend doing these same behaviors, most of us would not put up with it for long. True that at times, people deserve the benefit of the doubt.
However, sporadic oversights are not the issue here, but rather when there's a pattern of thoughtlessness. It should not be difficult to treat ones we care about and are fond of with respect. This should come naturally. If it doesn't, it is surely a sign to pay attention to.
Overlooking warning signs in the beginning of a new relationship and overlooking toxic behaviors to stay in an unhealthy pairing too long both fall into the category of ‘red flags,’ but this is another topic and often begins the pattern, setting the stage for accepting ‘scraps.’
Additionally, your body will often give you clues if you're not listening to your intuition. You may find yourself feeling more anxious than usual. Or you may have an uneasy feeling in your gut. It is imperative that we tune into these messages, rather than disregard them so that we can begin to uncover why we are feeling this way.
Therapy is another way to address these patterns, and has its merits, especially if core wounds from childhood are at the heart of the pattern. However, coaching can often ‘zero in’ on the issues and patterns that are getting in the way of relationships and provide tools to deepen understanding of self as well as improve relations with others. It is often a quicker and sometimes even more effective way to approach challenges in dating and relationships.
So, as we begin a new year, here’s to leaving behind the ‘scraps’ of the past, and allowing yourself to indulge in the entire, delicious meal…Order up!