Struggling to find a compatible partner who’s ready to commit and make your relationship a priority?
You feel like you keep attracting guys who aren’t a good fit. Either they don’t know what they want, have way too much baggage, or don’t want to commit.
I totally feel you. I’ve been there, too.
And I know how difficult it is, which is why I work with women just like you who want to improve their dating life or relationship.
I coach women who are frustrated with dating and meeting men who aren’t ready to commit. I help them spot red flags before they get hurt, confidently know when to stay or go, and attract an incredible relationship with a partner who’s ready to make them a priority.
But I didn’t always know how to navigate complicated relationships or know how to really take a stand for my needs.
As a child I was painfully shy and insecure, constantly comparing myself to other girls, worried that wasn’t cool enough, pretty enough, smart enough.
I grew up in a family where I heard my parents argue frequently…yelling matches where doors would be slammed and insults hurled.
When my mom would get fed up, she would pack up me and my sister up in the car and drive to Grandma’s (my mom’s mom) for a few days.
A few days later, flowers and an apology note would show up at my Grandma’s house for my mom, and we’d pile back into the car and go home. This happened a few times.
When my mom would turn to my paternal grandmother for help (who lived with us for as long as I could remember), my sister and I would hear her whisper to my mother that “it’s a wife’s duty to keep the family together.”
In the Philippines, a predominantly (and very devout) Catholic country, divorce is not legal.
Even though my parents had been living in the United States for decades and were US citizens by now, culturally divorce was not an option. The social cost was too high.
The matriarchs told my mom, within earshot of me and my sister, that you stayed together no matter what.
And so in my mind and heart, and for many years after, this is was my notion of love.
That love meant you stayed together no matter what, even if it hurt. And love meant you kept trying, you kept it together, even if your needs weren’t getting met. Even if you were unhappy. Even if it was painful.
Thus Was Most of My Dating Life
When I was in my twenties, I fell in love with a guy at work.
We ended up dating for four years before he broke up with me after I had found out he had been sleeping with his roommate.
I was crushed and blindsided at the time.
But in retrospect, I can’t believe I had stayed in that relationship for so long.
I remember he would get so angry at me for eating food with garlic because he hated the smell. “Why do you DO THIS to me??” he’d yell at me in the car.
Or when we’d argue, he’d lock me out of the apartment. And I’d be outside feeling desperate and alone.
Or in bed, when he felt like he couldn’t “satisfy” me, he’d look at me with disgust and say “What’s WRONG with you?”
The sad thing was, I actually thought something was wrong with me.
That maybe I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, or hot enough. That maybe I had some kind of dysfunction that I didn’t know about.
And so I went to a psychologist—one who had specialized in women’s sexuality—to try and figure it out.
It was then when I realized that there wasn’t anything wrong with me.
The truth was: I was in an emotionally abusive relationship.
No wonder I couldn’t see that there wasn’t anything wrong with me.
After years of abuse in a relationship, not only did I lose my confidence…I completely lost my self-esteem and self-worth.
After years of hearing him tell me “What’s wrong with you??” I began to believe that something was actually wrong with me.
But I stayed in it for so long because for me, love meant you stuck it out…even when it was painful, even when it hurt, even when you were at your wits’ end.
Otherwise, you were failing the relationship.
Or so I thought.
When he dumped me, it was clear there was no reconciling. So I had no choice but to move on.
I remember being so devastated at that time…that I didn’t want to live.
I knew that it wasn’t healthy to have those kinds of thoughts. But I did have those kinds of thoughts. I had very low self-esteem.
And that experience of feeling so profoundly rejected and being in so much pain made me question my whole notion of love.
My Idea of Love Was Totally Shaken
I started to wonder, this can’t be it.
Love isn’t supposed to be so painful. Is it?
For four years I was so focused on and devoted to the relationship I was in, my life revolved around him and our relationship, that I didn’t know what to do with myself when I wasn’t in a relationship.
When he broke up with me, I felt lost, empty and clamoring for the next relationship. I needed so badly to be in love and feel wanted again.
Despite doing well in my career, having an active social life with rich friendships, and being involved in deeply meaningful community work, inside there was a big void.
In retrospect, I could see where it showed up in all the important areas of my life. But where it showed up the most was in my personal relationships.
I needed to be needed, which was why I fell for guys who needed rescuing. I could be their hero. I could solve their problems. I could be their missing piece.
It gave me meaning and purpose. It boosted my self esteem. It made me feel wanted and needed.
And so, as a result of needing to be in a relationship with someone who needed me, I went from relationship to relationship with hardly a breath in between.
But when I wasn’t needed or when I didn’t feel I could meet all their needs, I took it very personally, I felt deeply, deeply inadequate.
If I wasn’t enough for them, I didn’t feel like I was enough at all.
The core of my identity and sense of self-worth was so wrapped up in being in a relationship and being needed that when I wasn’t in a relationship and when I didn’t feel needed, I felt like a nobody.
I didn’t know who I was when I wasn’t in a relationship.
I Did It Again. But This Time, the Outcome Was Different.
Shortly after my breakup, I got involved with someone who wasn’t quite ready for a serious relationship himself.
At the time, I didn’t mind. I had just gone through a bad break up. Part of me just wanted to have fun. No strings.
But I didn’t keep my emotions in check. And I didn’t know how to balance my heart with my head. Soon, I found myself falling hard for a separated man with two young children.
When the relationship was getting more serious, and as a single, never-married woman who didn’t have kids of her own, I faced relationship challenges that I didn’t know how to address.
How should I be with his kids?
What do I say when I meet his ex?
What about when I meet his extended family?
Am I really ready to commit to this relationship and becoming a stepmom?
What would it mean for me and my life?
Also, he was unlike anyone I had dated before. Being with him felt different.
He was kind and respectful consistently. He listened to me. He had regard for my feelings. He told me he loved me.
I had never felt so loved. (Even by my own parents, who I know love me, but are not, by nature, very demonstrative verbally or physically at all).
It felt WEIRD.
It felt so weird that I didn’t his trust his love for me at all.
He wasn’t needy and didn’t have a bunch of emotional problems.
And so it didn’t feel “real” to me. Tumultuous, codependent relationships are all I knew and experienced. It’s what I thought love was.
Eventually, his love won me over. I came to trust him and surrender to it because I realized it felt better to me than the turbulent relationships I was so used to.
There was no drama. No roller coaster. Love felt good. Love felt easy.
I was so used to volatile, painful relationships that that’s all I knew.
And so when I experienced something different, it was totally uncomfortable for me.
But I realized that I had a right to be happy. That love didn’t have to hurt. That I didn’t have to put up with drama.
And now I wouldn’t have it any other way!
But Tough Questions Still Weighed on My Mind
The questions and concerns about what exactly I was getting into still remained.
We couldn’t really have a normal relationship until the divorce was final. But I was tired of waiting.
And even after everyone had signed on the dotted line, I wondered whether I was really ready to be a stepmom and whether I could really handle all his baggage. I knew his kids and his ex were always going to be in the picture.
I also wondered…Is this what I really want?
Before we got more deeply involved, I knew I had to get really clear on what mattered to me and what I was getting into.
I started to read relationship self-help books and articles online.
The dating and relationship advice that I tried to find online wasn’t very helpful–for my situation anyway.
There were very few resources out there that spoke to the specific experiences or challenges that I was going through as a woman dating a divorced dad.
I wanted to talk with my peers, but my friends couldn’t relate; they were all dating never-married guys with no kids or had hard-lined opinions about dating a divorcee.
Many articles on the internet make broad generalizations about why you should or shouldn’t date a divorced man.
But, as you’ve probably experienced, there are lots of gray areas.
Letting Love In and Going for My Dreams
Even though I didn’t have all the answers, I knew one thing: loving him and being with him felt so right, so safe, so secure. I knew I wanted to be loved this way.
After his divorce was finalized, we moved in together and a year after that, we got engaged. We were married a year later in 2011.
A couple of years after our wedding, I started to think again about what it was like trying to find relationship advice and resources online, and how hard a time I had trying to figure out whether he was right for me.
I wanted to put my story out there and offer thorough, researched-based articles that I felt would be helpful for the woman just like me — single, never married, hadn’t had kids of my own — who was struggling for answers when I was dating.
Plus, I had been freelance writing at the time for magazines and was really getting tired of pitching stories and waiting to be picked up. I was itching to have my own platform and publish what I wanted.
So, I wrote ten relationship articles and put it up on a blog I created, and largely ignored it for a few months…
Until I started getting emails from women thanking me for the articles and emphatically asking me for advice.
I had no formal training in coaching, counseling or relationship help at the time, only my personal experience, so I offered what advice I could based on my personal experience.
But I got more and more emails asking for advice. Traffic to my blog grew fast, and I was getting new readers every day.
I saw a real opportunity to help more women…and turn my personal experience into a new career.
It was then that I got trained as a relationship coach for singles and stepfamilies by the leading relationship experts in the country, and soon I began helping women around the world improve their dating and relationships.
When I started, I worked with women who were in a relationship with a divorced or divorcing man or dating a single dad.
I wanted to create a resource where women who are dating divorced man could find support when they needed it and learn valuable tools for relationship success.
But now I work with women at all stages of dating who find themselves struggling to figure out whether a guy is truly right for them.
Whether they’re dating a divorcee or dating a guy who’s never been married, I help women get the clarity to make the right decision so they can have a life that they love with the love of their life.
And today I have readers and clients from all over the world.
I know from experience that having a happy, fulfilling partnership is possible. That having a happy life with the love of your life is absolutely within your reach, and that you deserve to be happy and to be loved the way that you want to.
But where do you begin when you’re feeling kind of lost and looking for answers?
Oftentimes, reading a book or article can leave us with even more questions than before we started reading the book!
Plus, it isn’t the same as sharing your challenges to a listening ear and getting personalized guidance and support on overcoming challenges or making important relationship decisions when you feel stuck.
Here are some ways you can get started:
- Get my free guide on The 10 Biggest Dating Mistakes That Are Keeping You Single and How to Overcome Them. You’ll also get valuable articles from me about how to successfully navigate all the stages of dating and overcome dating challenges
- Book a Relationship Clarity session where we’ll discuss what you can do right now to overcome your biggest relationship challenges
- Send a question to Ask Melissa! and I may answer your question on an upcoming blog post