As we begin a new year, I wanted to send you a note of love, hope and encouragement for the path that you’re on right now in your dating life.
Whether you’re single, dating or in a relationship…whether it’s blissful, complicated or both, you probably have a lot of hopes — and expectations — for how you want your life and relationships to play out this year.
Maybe you’re hoping that he finalizes his divorce, or makes those vacation plans that you’ve been talking about together, or that he finally commits so that you can be together, grow together, and just have a normal healthy relationship…without all the drama and emotional ups and downs.
One of the most challenging issues that many of my clients and blog readers struggle with in dating is feeling like they’re on an emotional roller coaster.
They feel anxious, out of control and at the mercy of what’s happening in the relationship.
Can you relate?
You feel wonderful and sky high one moment, and then you’re panicked and worried the next.
Maybe he didn’t return your text as quickly as he usually does. Or the tone in his voice was different and you sensed something was off. Or he just seemed a bit distant and preoccupied; his usual energy wasn’t there.
You start to feel anxious…wondering what he meant by “that.”
Until the next time you see each other or the next time he calls or the next time he replies to your text.
And then his attention fills you with reassurance that he’s still there, still interested in you and that you haven’t lost him.
I can certainly relate.
Years ago I had met a guy at work. He was charming, handsome, witty…but also a workaholic, emotionally withdrawn…AND separated.
At the time, that was easy to overlook. There was an instant connection. I was strongly attracted to him. When we were together or made plans, I was overjoyed. When we weren’t together, or when I felt him pull away, I felt absolutely crushed.
It was difficult to concentrate or enjoy anything else because, while on the outside I went through the motions of my day, on the inside I was anxious and scared. I worried about what he was thinking and feeling.
There was even a time when I traveled out of the country for a few weeks and I struggled to enjoy my trip because all I could think about was him and whether he’d still be there when I got back (we had fought before I had left).
We were together for four years before I realized that he was never going to commit.
But it was four years on an emotional roller coaster. Four years of ups and downs where I’d feel overjoyed or downright wrecked.
When I didn’t feel connected to him, when I didn’t feel he was “there,” I was NOT OK.
And I just wanted to feel OK. I wanted that reassurance. I wanted to feel safe and secure.
Even though I am happily married today (to a different guy), I fully admit that managing the emotional peaks and valleys is a constant practice for some instances in my life and relationships, even today.
Which is why I really wanted to talk about this, especially at this time of year when we tend to look ahead, make plans and create a lot of expectations.
Because it’s actually having expectations — having an attachment to a certain outcome — that keeps us on the emotional roller coaster and sets us up for disappointment in our relationships.
How do you know when you’re attached to something? I like the way that Deepak Chopra puts it:
“The object of attachment can be anything: a great job, nice house, a satisfying relationship. It can be a prized possession or liking the way you look in the mirror. None of these things are attachments unless they pass one test: Are you afraid to lose them? Whatever you cannot lose without fear and distress, that thing is stuck to you. You identify with it. You are attached.” (Ask Deepak, oprah.com)
So you can see how the roller coaster works.
When you’re attached, you’re riding between the thrill of having something and the threat of losing it.
And the frequent ups and downs leave you anxious and vulnerable.
So how do we get off the roller coaster?
It begins with letting go. Letting go of outcomes.
Which means letting go of expectations and practicing detachment.
I realize it’s much easier said than done. And as I mentioned, for me, it’s a constant practice.
But once you fully understand what letting go really means, how it empowers you, how it opens up possibilities — how it’s an act of grace toward yourself and opens you to a much deeper sense of fulfillment — letting go becomes MUCH easier.
But first, it’s important to clarify what letting go of expectations and practicing detachment is NOT.
Because I admit that I balked when I first learned about letting go of expectations.
It was confusing to me, especially as someone who is very goal-oriented and makes a living helping others achieve their goals.
“Having expectations of ourselves and others is a healthy thing, no?”
But that’s where we create confusion.
Letting go of expectations or, more accurately, practicing detachment from outcomes is:
- Not a state of indifference.
- Not about tolerating bad behavior, and
- Doesn’t mean you don’t strive or don’t have any goals.
We need a vision and goals in order to grow into our full potential. And to feel is to be human. It’s ok to have emotions and to feel them! Denying your feelings and tolerating disrespect is unhealthy in any circumstance.
So detachment and letting go is not about denying your feelings or being indifferent to the outcomes in your life or indifferent to how you are treated or avoiding setting goals.
It’s actually the very opposite of that.
It’s about having a much deeper awareness of your human experience, but from a place of being centered and a place of profound openness — not attachment.
Being attached to an outcome will always make you feel anxious because you can’t control outcomes.
The only things that you can control are your own actions.
When you’re attached to an outcome, you feel at the mercy of your circumstances and in constant fear of loss.
What we ultimately fear is what the loss or potential loss means for or about us.
And that’s the core of the anxiety and insecurity.
A deeply seeded fear that you will not be OK if he pulls away or rejects you. Or that you will not be OK if he doesn’t text back, doesn’t make plans, or doesn’t commit.
Because then the rejection confirms your fears. That maybe he’s not really interested in you. Or maybe you won’t ever find this kind of connection again. Maybe you’re not enough for him. Maybe you’re just not enough.
This is how the fear of loss can leave us desperately clinging, at least within our hearts and minds, to the outcome of a dating experience.
When we are attached, we put our sense of security and well-being in the hands of this external circumstance — the outcome of this dating experience — which is ultimately out of our control.
But if we take a deeper look: how true is it that you will not be ok if things don’t go as you had hoped? And says who?
Who has the authority to determine that you’re not ok?
And who has the power to determine that you ARE ok?
As we look forward to the new year, I want to offer hope, encouragement and tell you with love and profound conviction that you have this power within you, and you have had it all along.
To get off the emotional roller coaster, to find your sense of center, you only have to do one thing: deeply connect with your true self.
The real you.
The YOU who is witness to the fear and anxiety — but is not the fear and anxiety itself.
So I invite you to try these practices that you can start doing right away.
These practices can help you avoid the emotional roller coaster that dating can be and support you in staying centered and empowered.
(And the operative word is practice; it’s not about doing this perfectly…because perfection is an expectation, too!)
Nurture an attitude of POSSIBILITY rather than expectation.
Rather than being in the energy of expectation and being attached to an outcome (which promotes fear and anxiety), shift to being in the energy of possibility.
Instead of holding on to an outcome and saying to yourself “this must happen,” or “I expect this to happen,” you can instead tell yourself “I want this to happen, but I know I’m not in control of outcomes, but I’m open to what’s possible.”
Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to agree with or like the outcome that comes to be, but being detached from the outcome means you consciously make space in your heart for the unexpected.
Make space for the unexpected.
When you’re centered and detached from outcomes, you’re deeply aware that you can never see (nor can you control) the whole picture, and so you have made room in your heart and consciousness for the unexpected.
If you’re not open to the unexpected, or if you don’t have room in your heart for possibilities…even for possibilities that you might dread, it’s especially upsetting when those expectations don’t come true — hence the roller coaster effect!
When you make space for the unexpected, and when the unexpected comes, it upsets nothing and you still maintain your center.
Re-attribute your sense of happiness and well-being.
When you practice letting go of attachment to outcomes, you reclaim your ownership and responsibility for your well-being and happiness.
When you practice letting go of attachment to outcomes, you’re not clinging to the notion that “if [expectation/outcome] happens, I will be happy, or if [expectation/outcome] doesn’t happen, I will be unhappy.”
Your sense of well-being is no longer dependent on an outcome, but rather, your well-being is within your control and your happiness becomes something you have the power to cultivate from within.
Reconnect with your wholeness.
When we’re attached to an outcome, we can fear loss so profoundly that we don’t feel like we’ll be OK if our fears came to be.
The anxiety can undermine our ability to be present and joyful in our life and relationships.
But what are we afraid of losing? And what does it really mean for us if we don’t have the love the attention from the man that we want?
Are we any less worthy of being loved? Are we any less lovable?
I love how Deepak explains the importance of reconnecting with your true self to let go of fear and attachment:
“When any part of your life has an undercurrent of fear—even the prospect of fear—it isn’t being enjoyed to the fullest. Imagine that you are standing on the beach in Hawaii soaking up a breathtaking sunset. Feel how that feels, how free and unattached you are. Now imagine if someone says, “The sun is going to blow up in five minutes,” or “That’s the last sunset you will ever see” or even, “You have a mortgage on the sun, and the bank is foreclosing tomorrow.”
Adding the element of anxiety decreases your joy by adding the element of “I.” It’s because “I” may never see another sunset that “I” stay attached to it. So detachment doesn’t mean letting go in the way people usually think. You don’t say: “It’s only money. Who cares?” Because deep down, everybody cares when it’s “my” money. What this demonstrates is that attachment is always about the ego, not about the thing you are attached to. Your fear is for yourself, ultimately and truthfully.”
Therefore, to stop being attached and really enjoy your whole life as if you were enjoying a spectacular sunset, you only have to do one thing: Eliminate “I” from the equation. Find your true self, which lies deeper than your ego, and something wonderful happens. You realize that no one can ever rob you of yourself. You are safe. There is nothing to lose that cannot be replaced and nothing to gain that adds to who you are.” (Ask Deepak, oprah.com)
When you have awareness of your true self, you have the power to step off the emotional roller coaster.
You have a deep knowing that you are safe. You are secure. You don’t have to strive. You don’t have to fight for it. You don’t have to prove yourself.
There is nothing missing and nothing to fix. You are whole and complete. And inherently worthy of love. You are inherently worthy.
You have a deep knowing that by simply being who you are, you’re already worthy.
You are already worthy.
You are already worthy.
You are already worthy.
The truth is you are already worthy of love.