Today a friend sent me a hilarious video of what 2020 looks like if they were your ex boyfriend. It brought a dose of humor and validation to how difficult this year has been for all of us. My clients have been caught in cycles of frustration and pain with their spouses only to realize that their arguments are not really about scheduling family zoom sessions — it is about the disappointment, grief, and over all heartbreak that we missed a year of our lives.
Early in the pandemic, I started recommending that my clients pause on dating and work on themselves. Naturally we all thought that this would be a three month break. Some of them did some inner work and returned to online dating over the summer. Others felt the panic of the loneliness set in and used online dating as a distraction. Still others used this time for spirituality and healing and focused on supporting Black Lives Matter. The net result for many people has, however, been the same. Our hearts are either hurting from our personal lives and/or from witnessing the destruction of the community that was built earlier this year. Many younger clients even feel scared about their futures and safety.
When there is so much emotion in the context of a vast amount of people awakening to not only their personal heartbreak but the the heartbreak of the world, conventional dating advice becomes obsolete. There is no more room for pick up artist antics. There is no more room for trying to “play the player.” There is no room for wallowing in the pain of someone’s avoidance when we are all feeling overwhelmed. We are already exhausted by narcissists and malevolent personalities that we don’t have time to do anything other than cut them out of our lives. Learning what to do when someone ghosts you no longer seems important.
We are entering the age of relational spirituality. A concept that embodies a more mindful/intuitive approach to dating and highlights our need to surrender to forces beyond our control. Everyone we meet is for a reason and serves a higher purpose. It is the wisdom of the divine feminine and she is waking us up from our Tinder games to highlight the need to make relationships matter most. We just walked through an apocalypse and it doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. Our relationships may be all we have to help us move forward in this spectacular time of transition and what a heart wrenching, forced lesson we have all had to learn.
The Role of a Healing Journey
Couple all of this with the fact that many of us are on healing journeys and have zero clue what is happening. We are sitting in our anxiety and despair feeling lonely and bored with the latest round of video dating introductions. Interesting, it is only in these lower moments that we begin to see Her wisdom even more. We are being forced to admit that we all have trauma. At least half of us have relational based trauma that accounts for our insecurity in this lifetime and the rest of us probably experienced it in a past lifetime. Yet, what I have learned from working in the attachment based, relationship science world for over 15 years is that the antidote to relational trauma is experiencing a healthy relationship. Relationships heal. Joy heals. More fear does not.
Conventional dating advice does harm and damage to people who value relationships the most. As we enter a time when we need more empathy, collaboration, and support we need to walk away from the very behaviors that cause pain in others (even if they started it). We can all learn to communicate better and face our fear of rejection. It simply takes a commitment to our personal development and a step away from our ego long enough to see that dating is not just about getting our needs met, it is about respecting each other’s personal journeys AND finding our own internal balance between masculine and feminine energies (we all have them but most of us are out of balance. It has nothing to do with gender identity).
Empaths often have the most trouble in this arena. Our compassionate nature and drive to nurture has definitely put us into some unsavory dating experiences. Yet, it is also those experiences that begin to teach us balance and the need to assert our boundaries. Without these challenges, we can live in a unbalanced place that is not conducive for the true growth of intimacy. Intimacy needs authenticity as much as rainbows and unicorns to thrive. It needs the sorrow as much as the joy because it is only from these experiences that we can commit to finding a balanced, healthy approach to connecting with others.
As we all begin to make our New Year’s goals, I like many of you, will be hoping for a re-boot in the love department. May we all begin to look inward at our own behaviors and make 2021 the year we stop projecting our suffering and fear onto others so that we can find the people that resonate with us the most.
Why We Should Care About the Type of Dating Advice?
Relationships are absolutely central to our psychological development. Right from the start, adolescent girls spend hours talking about relationships and giving emotionally centered advice to each other. As teens age, however, our culture has minimized the importance of all kinds of relationships and the circles that we have as teens and young adults begins to disappear as career goals take center stage. For the past few decades, this has mean a reliance on internet sources, magazines and “experts” to give us the support to make sense of our personal lives.
Much of this “advice,” however, comes from a place that rigidly sticks to cultural gender norms. We seem stuck here and continuously perpetuating advice that is neither scientific in nature nor soothing to the soul. We are simply reiterating tips and tricks we learned when we were younger and seem to think that some of it works. This is no longer helpful.
GEN Z has a desire to fix this problem. They are more conscious at a younger age, believe in collaboration, and value authentic relationships. They are more likely to believe in communication and the importance of emotions. As such, they are giving rise to our gender neutral world where each of us will be required to learn about our own internal mix of feminine and masculine energies and choose for ourselves how we would like to operate in the world. Our biggest challenge in the future will be in supporting GEN Z to make sure they have the room to walk their own life path without the interference of cultural institutions stuck in an old, toxic way of thinking. It will be this generation that says that they are simply over conventional dating advice and will walk away from anything they perceive as not helpful for making the world a more loving place.
I’ve already seen it in my practice. Authenticity matters and the biggest block is in helping my clients become who they truly are meant to be. Empaths have to learn to assert their needs and face adversity in powerful ways rather than sink back into complaining that people are narcissists or are mean. They likely are but this mentality, that someone else is more powerful than our love and compassion, is at the root for all the unhealthy dating and relationship advice that circulates the internet. It is not that empaths are too nice, it is simply that they have not learned to balance their masculine energy enough to take a powerful stand for what they believe in — often being bulldozed by emotionally centered people who also do not know how powerful they are. If we all reclaimed our personal power, imagine what an amazing world we would live in.
“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” — Brené Brown, PhD
Dr. Jennifer B. Rhodes is a licensed psychologist, relationship expert and the forthcoming author of Toxic Insecurity: Our Search for Authentic Love.She specializes in working with highly sensitive teens and young adults who are exploring ways to manage their anxiety, empathic skills, and relational trauma stemming from romantic breakups or difficulties in the parent-child relationship through the use of intuitive guidance, yoga, tango and transpersonal psychology. You can follow her on Instagram @jenniferbrhodes .
Previously published on medium
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