The Power of Paradigm Shifts
Jaunice spent all of her 20s and most of her 30s dating the wrong men, trying fad diets, spending hundreds of dollars on therapy, and failing to keep her New Year’s Resolutions. One Friday evening, alone again, she wept bitter tears as she snuggled in her bed and finished off a pint of chocolate ice cream. She knew the secret to success was out there, but why couldn’t she find it? Then one day, she found it in the least likely place—a sticky note on her coworker’s cubicle.
“Hey, Jared, what is this sticky note all about?” Jaunice queried. “Oh, that’s just to remind me not to get stuck in a toxic loop when I get frustrated with myself,” Jared responded. “I know it seems stupid, but it really works. Everyone tends to get down on themselves when they feel like they fail over and over again. They say mean things to themselves in their head. That creates toxicity and literally stops you from improving. Having alternative phrases to say can help break that toxic loop and open the door for success and happiness. I used to have to look at this sticky note 50 times a day, but now a glance once or twice will help me throughout the day. I’m reprogramming my brain!” he said with a big grin.
Jaunice couldn’t help but smile back at Jared’s enthusiasm. He was right, it did seem really dumb. However, she definitely could relate to having a toxic loop tape in her head. In fact, it was so toxic that it kept her from trying things because the fear of failure was too intense. After a few days of pondering the idea of changing her mindset, she asked Jared if she could copy his sticky note. She put hers up on her mirror so she could review the principles as she got ready. She also took a picture of it on her cell phone so she could review it throughout the day. When she caught herself playing the toxic loop tape in her head, she would pull out her cell phone and look at the picture. She would change the phrasing in her head to match the growth mindset.
Within just a few days, Jaunice noticed that she felt less hopeless. Her anxiety levels dropped and she began to sleep better at night. She was pleasantly surprised at how much happier she felt and this translated into all areas of her life. She couldn’t deny how powerful this simple concept was—understanding that growth takes time but that it was possible for EVERYONE!
How To Spot Red Flags…
20 Signs To Look For
Recovering from a devastating break up is similar to a community recovering from a natural disaster. You do a lot of looking back and analyzing—trying to understand how you missed the signs and how you allowed yourself to be so unprepared for the imminent destruction that was headed your way. You are paralyzed with guilt for being so stupid and gullible. If only I had seen the red flags you yell at yourself! But upon further reflection, you are forced to acknowledge that you did see them. You saw ALL of them, but in the bliss and excitement, the lust and yearning for love your radar detector dims and you dismiss the signs. You are eager to forgive “little” mistakes because you want your partner to forgive you your foibles as well. However, over time the little mistakes begin to form a pattern of behavior and if you aren’t purposeful in how you approach a relationship, one of two things will happen: a catastrophic break up after you have lost your sense of self and any self-esteem you had OR you marry your partner and have a nightmare of a marriage that leads to a toxic divorce that leaves you breathless and quivering without a shred of dignity or self-respect.
Sounds fun, doesn’t it? So, how can you avoid this disaster? You have to be purposeful. You have to make a commitment to step out of the fantasy, momentarily, and record your thoughts and impressions and identify red flags while your relationship develops. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but if you take some time to journal your relationship and track what is happening, you can see a pattern as it develops. Then you can use this information to create boundaries, make decisions, and end relationships if necessary.
The Gottman Institute recommends that you record each time your partner displays a red flag. You can draw them on a blank sheet of paper. Get out your red crayons and color in the boxes. Then, as you date, if your partner displays one of the red flags below, record the date and the details in one of the red flags on your sheet. Over time, you will be able to tell if there is a pattern or if they are just mistakes, which we all make. This is a powerful visual that can help you more clearly see what is happening in your relationship.
Lack of communication skills.
Irresponsible, immature, unpredictable behavior.
Lack of trust.
Your significant family and friends don’t like him/her.
You feel insecure in the relationship.
They have a dark or secretive past.
They have a history of not resolving past relationships.
Abusive behavior of any kind.
They push your physical boundaries.
They tell you you’re perfect all of the time.
The roll their eyes at you.
They call all their exes crazy.
They call you names during arguments.
They have no work ethic.
They are cruel or disrespectful to their parents.
Their attitude or moods shift swiftly.
They guilt trip you for everything.
They make you feel stupid.
The relationships is built on the need to feel needed.
Obviously, some of these are more severe than others, but they are ALL red flags. They ALL lead to toxic relationships. If you have a hard time being objective while you are being swept off your feet at the beginning of a relationship, consider using this visual activity to help you track your partner’s red flags. Use the information from the visual and trust your gut! Once you are sure there is a pattern, end the relationship immediately. April Mae Monterrosa said, “The red flags are usually there, you just have to keep your eyes open wider than your heart.” This strategy is one way to help you do that. Set yourself up for success in love and you will find it!
If you’re like many singles, you’ve been dating for a while. You think you know what you want, so each time you get on a dating site you make sure to select all the correct criteria: gender (male), age (35-50), height (at least 5 feet 5 inches), activity level (moderate to completely active), children (open to having his children), blah, blah, blah. You hit enter and then the program spits out a list of potential soul mates for you to wander through. However, after months and months (and maybe even years) of using this same strategy, you’re still single. What if this strategy of using criteria to limit who you meet online has been wrong all along?
What if this year you try a different strategy? What if instead of focusing on superficial criteria, you leave things completely open? What would happen then? And, stay with me, what if you committed to conversing with and committing to having coffee or ice cream with every single person who reached out to connect with you? Of course, if you felt there was a safety issue you should definitely listen to your gut. However, barring any safety concerns make a commitment to dating outside your box!
Ann Marsh tried just that kind of experiment in 2003. She decided to go on 100 dates in six months. She did her due diligence and vetted the emails as they came in, but she decided to cast off her preconceived ideas of what she was looking for and date outside of her box. Here is an excerpt from her article:
“I got a lot of responses right off the bat. Some were ludicrous, like the 50-something guy in a Hawaiian shirt who offered to fly me to Vegas for the weekend. I deleted far more than I answered. But Week One still found me on dates with 14 men at local coffee shops. In Week Two, I slowed down to seven. I shook hands with a Danish architect and an hour later zoomed across town to meet a swoony soap opera actor. The next day was tea with an airfreight handler, followed that evening by a walk with a real estate lawyer. I dated aerospace engineers, entrepreneurs, doctors, an oceanographer, film animators, a romantic man who lived impecuniously on a boat, and a self-proclaimed gazillionaire who resided atop a mountain.”
So, what did Ann Marsh learn from this experiment? She learned honesty. She learned how important it was to be honest about if she was truly interested in someone after the first date, and she learned to appreciate that same honesty from someone (even if it hurt a little bit). She learned that men who sounded fascinating in their profiles were less than fascinating in person while others who weren’t quite sure how to “advertise” themselves were really amazing. She learned how to set healthy boundaries by having exit lines prepared when it was clear a date should not continue. She learned how to take rejection and roll with it.
She met so many fascinating people she would have never met had she checked too many restrictive boxes on her dating profile. And, would you believe it? She met her soul mate. The man of her dreams who, as chance would have it, would have been weeded out by her selection criteria.
So, if finding your soul mate is a goal for 2019 consider a new strategy this year. Try dating outside your box. You will meet a lot of amazing people. You will learn more about yourself. And, you might just find what you didn’t know you were looking for.
Ann Marsh. “What I Learned From Dating 100 Men.” February 2003 issue of the O magazine.
The day I died was the most devastating day my wife has ever experienced. The pain of my loss took her on a journey that tore her apart and left her gasping for air. Like the mythical phoenix, she emerged a stronger version of herself. She is now more beautiful, compassionate, and resilient.
It is likely that you feel strong pangs of jealousy over me. You might feel like you are in competition with me in many ways, but you are not. You need to remember that just because her love for me will never dim doesn’t mean her capacity to love you is limited. She has an infinite capacity to love you with her whole heart and soul the way she loved me. I can promise you that to be loved by her in that way is heaven. However, you have to allow her to do that by allowing her to continue to love me.
You may wonder how it is possible for her to love me with her whole heart and soul and to still have room to love you with her whole heart and soul. Well, let me tell you how. Remember when you had your first child? You held that sweet baby in your arms. You breathed in his sweet scent as you kissed his soft little forehead. Your heart was filled to overflowing as you stared into his eyes, and you thought: how could I ever love another human being as much as I love this little boy? Fast forward three years later and your daughter is born. You hold that sweet little bundle in your arms. She wraps her tiny little fingers around your thumb and a tear trickles down your cheek. You notice your heart swells with even more love. You know that you do not love your son less now that your daughter has been born. Your heart has grown to love both equally and uniquely.
That is the magic of the capacity of the human heart. It has an infinite capacity to love. So, as you date my wife please remember that she will need to be true to her feelings for me even as she develops a relationship with you. We are not in competition. I was her yesterday. You are her today and tomorrow.
Here are some things that will help her honor me and love you even more.
- Allow her to keep some of my things in a special place. Allow her to take those things out on birthdays, anniversaries, and other special times to honor the place I held in her life.
- Don’t force her to get rid of things I bought for her. Let her decide what to do with the wedding ring, special jewelry, and other items of importance. Remember that just because she holds onto these items doesn’t diminish the importance of the gifts you give her. She will cherish those because of the unique and loving relationship you will have with her.
- Give her space to grieve. Grieving is a process. She may need to be completely alone on the day anniversary of the day I died or the day of my funeral. She may need to celebrate my birthday with the children we had together. Don’t try to erase the memories we shared or the significant role I played in her life. Give her the time to remember me.
- Remember that dating a widow is different than dating someone with an ex-. We had a loving relationship that neither of us decided to end. You are dating the woman of my dreams, the love of my life. We had our good times and we had our bad times too. You do not need to feel like you are competing with a ghost. I cannot come back.
- Always share how you are feeling. Allow her to share how she is feeling. Make sure you make time for each other. Your relationship with her will be different than the relationship I had with her. That is the way it should be.
I know that at times it will be extremely challenging to love my wife. It is hard for anyone who is dating or married to a widow or widower. It comes with its own unique challenges. However, you also get the benefits of a spouse who knows how to love someone, how to build a life together, and how to endure unimaginable pain and come through it a new and stronger human being.
So, please be careful with my wife’s heart. It has already been through so much. She truly is an amazing woman. Any man who has the opportunity to love her is a truly blessed man.
Sarah was a beautiful, vivacious 25-year-old attorney. She had just landed her dream job at a competitive firm in New York. Her family and friends were wildly excited for her. Finally, it seemed that Sarah was reaping the rewards of all of her hard work. Law school had been tremendously hard, and Sarah had struggled getting through it while juggling several dysfunctional relationships with men. Finally, it seemed she could leave the struggle behind.
Although starting this new job meant flying across the country and leaving behind her support system, Sarah didn’t mind. She knew the long hours she would have to put in at the firm meant she would have little time for a social life any way. She said a tearful goodbye to her family and friends, boarded the plane with an optimistic smile, and flew towards her dreams.
Sarah really thrived in New York. McFarland & Sons was a multi-billion dollar law practice that rarely hired anyone straight out of law school. She always arrived an hour before the other attorneys, and she stayed long past the time they all left. She often took work home with her too. To say that she loved her job would be an understatement.
One day, a handsome delivery boy brought in a delivery for Sarah. Her friends back home had sent her flowers. How thoughtful she thought. I wonder if they picked out the hot delivery boy too. She giggled at her own joke. “Are you Sarah Jenkins?” he asked in a deep, baritone voice that sounded like it belonged on Broadway instead of coming out of the mouth of a delivery boy. “Yes, I’m Sarah,” she stammered. “Here’s a delivery for you,” he smiled. “Please sign here.”
Sarah was caught off guard by his handsome face and melodic voice that when she grabbed for the pen she fumbled it, and it flipped out of her hand and hit him in the nose. “Oh no!” Sarah cried out. “I’m so sorry. I’m not usually that clumsy,” she apologized. There was a streak of blue pen on his nose. Sarah was unsure if she should try to wipe it away or if that was too weird. After a long awkward moment, he bent down to pick up the pen and handed it back to Sarah.
“No worries, Sarah. Please sign here, and then I’ll be out of your hair.” Sarah carefully reached for the pen this time, signed her name, and then grabbed the box. “Thank you um …” she paused waiting for him to fill in the answer. “Jeff, my name’s Jeff,” he replied. “Thanks Jeff. I’m sorry. I got pen on your nose. You’ll probably want to wipe that off before you do any more deliveries.” Jeff reached up and rubbed his nose. “Oh boy! I guess I will go take care of that. Thanks for the heads-up. Have a great day, Sarah.” He winked at her and then walked out the door. Sarah couldn’t help but watch him walk away until he was completely out of sight. She noticed butterflies thrashing around inside her stomach. Oh no! This was not happening. She was not going to get involved with any men. She was much too busy, and she was always unlucky in love.
However, life had a different plan for Sarah. The following morning Jeff went back to McFarland & Sons and asked Sarah if she would like to go to dinner. Sarah was hesitant. She had a bad track record with men. Her past relationships had always started off well, but then the Prince Charmings morphed into beasts after a few months’ time.
But, Jeff was so charming and handsome that Sarah could not refuse. During the first few months of their relationship, Jeff was warm, thoughtful, and exciting. She learned that Jeff was an aspiring singer and actor. He was in New York chasing his dream to become a singer and actor. He was working odd jobs to pay the bills, but most of the time he had to crash at his friend’s apartments because he did not make enough to pay his rent. Jeff told Sarah about how hard it was to catch a break in acting and how expensive it was. Sarah enjoyed being with Jeff. She was flattered that someone like him would even be interested in her. She was sympathetic with his struggles, so she paid for all their dates. She knew Jeff felt bad that he could not pay right now, but that would change once he got his first big break. Besides, she had a great job, and she was happy to help.
After a few months, Sarah began to become obsessed with Jeff. She was determined to help him be successful. When she was not at work, she would spend time researching agents for Jeff to interview or looking for auditions for him. She knew Jeff could not afford an agent, so she offered to pay for one. Jeff was grateful, of course, and then he said that if he had an agent he would also need acting lessons, singing, lessons, and a photography shoot. All of these were costly, but Sarah happily gave the money to Jeff. She was invested in him and his future.
As the months passed, Jeff’s behavior began to change. He became moody and entitled. He demanded that Sarah let him move in with her so that he could have a stable roof over his head. He blamed his failing his recent auditions on not having a stable place to live. When she told him she wasn’t sure about living together, he became enraged. He yelled and cursed at her. For the first time, Sarah was frightened of Jeff. She asked him to leave. He kicked the door on the way out and left a hole in it.
The following day Jeff apologized and blamed his poor behavior on his dysfunctional childhood. He spent the next few hours confessing to Sarah that his mother had abused him as a child and that is why he had yelled at her the previous night. Sarah was really touched by this confession. She felt honored that Jeff trusted her enough to confide in her. She vowed to help him heal his emotional wounds and become a successful adult.
But, as the days went by, Jeff’s behavior became more chaotic. The smallest thing would set him off. He would yell and kick the wall. Often he would call Sarah demeaning names. And sometimes he would disappear for days at a time with no explanation. When he returned, Sarah noticed he had lipstick on his collar but never dared ask him about where it came from. Ironically, as the relationship deteriorated and Sarah’s heart felt the mounting pain from Jeff’s actions, the more she felt committed to “saving” him. She knew if she could only love him enough then he would change.
One night after a particularly bad screaming match with Jeff, Sarah locked herself in her room. She called her best friend, Julie, and confided in her about her new relationship. As carefully and lovingly as Julie could, she said, “Sarah, I hate to tell you this, but your old pattern is back. Jeff sounds just like Tim and Steve. Sure, the details are different, but the pattern is the same. You’re trying to rescue another lost puppy and now it’s gone rabid and it’s attacking you.” Sarah sobbed. “Why does this keep happening? You would think I could spot a loser a mile away! I’m a lost cause.”
Are you like Sarah? Do you have a pattern of forming relationships with men where you sacrifice your own needs for safety, love, and comfort for someone else? How would you answer the following questions?
- Are most of your conversations with friends (or family) about him, his problems, his thoughts, and his feelings?
- Do you excuse his moodiness, bad temper, indifference, put-downs as problems because he had a bad childhood, a stressful job, a tough life?
- Do you read self-help books and underline things you think will help him?
- Do you dislike many of his basic characteristics, values, behaviors but put up with them because you think you can change him?
- Does your relationship with him jeopardize your emotional well-being or physical safety?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may be a woman who loves too much. In our culture, women have been conditioned through music that love should be painful. Rarely do love songs become number one hits if they talk about two people who have a mature, balanced, respectful relationship. Songs only become a hit if someone is willing to die for love, sacrifice everything for love, bleed for love, or cut out their heart for love. It is no wonder that around 30% of all women find themselves in relationships that are extremely dysfunctional and that this pattern repeats itself until one of three things happen: (1) she gives up on relationships, (2) love does kill her, or (3) she identifies the pattern and gets help.
Women who love too much have several common characteristics. Do any of these describe you?
- They come from dysfunctional homes where their emotional needs were not met.
- They try to fill their emotional needs vicariously by becoming a caregiver to men who appear needy.
- They are terrified of abandonment.
- They will do anything to save a relationship.
- They will sacrifice anything to help the man they’re with.
- They’re accustomed to a lack of love in a relationship, and so they’re willing to wait, hope, and try harder to please their man.
- They’re willing to take far more than 50% of the responsibility, guilt, and blame in a relationship.
- They have critically low levels of self-esteem.
- They have a desperate need to control their man because they had little security in childhood.
- They are more in touch with the dream of their relationship than with the reality of it.
- They are addicted to men and emotional pain.
- They may be predisposed to chemical/food addictions.
- They have a tendency towards depression.
- They use sex as a tool to manipulate their man.
- They are not attracted to men who are kind, stable, reliable, or who are interested in them. They find them boring.
So, what do you do if you see yourself in any of these descriptions?
First, do not despair. There is something you can do. Make your recovery a priority. You cannot break this pattern on your own. Find a therapist who can help you work through the issues that are keeping you locked in this pattern. Most of the research I’ve read strongly suggests that women see women therapists. If possible, find a female therapist near you and tell her you think you are a woman who loves too much. Second, find a support group. Your therapist can recommend one for you. Third, develop your spiritual side. Set aside some time daily to get in touch with your higher power. Invite him or her into your life. Ask for help and guidance as you tackle this problem. Meditate. Fourth, stop managing and controlling others. This will be a hard one. This has become a skill you have used to “love” others, but it is self-serving. You need to find more genuine ways to connect with people. Fifth, make a commitment to cultivate what needs to be developed in you. Make a list of talents, skills, or abilities that you would like to work on. Set short-term and long-term goals to help you develop yourself in these areas. These will help you fill the void that you have been trying to fill by your dysfunctional relationships with men. Instead of “mothering” needy men, spend time mothering yourself.
Loving too much is just like any other addiction–it is a dysfunctional coping strategy that must be treated with a professional’s help. The good news is women who have loved too much can have healthy, successful relationships in their future! So, take advantage of the help that is available for you and set yourself up for success when you are on datingsafe.com. Love does not have to hurt. In fact, it shouldn’t. Period.
Information for this article was adapted from Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood. I also recommend the book Healing Your Emotional Self by Beverly Engel