Very often my single clients say they keep falling for the wrong type of person. ‘Wrong type’ is categorised as those who don’t treat them well or those who don’t reciprocate their feelings. The common sense approach to addressing this problem is to change what we can control – ourselves. Forced isolation during covid-19 pandemic has made more people sit with themselves, and introspect. I’ve had quite a few clients who have reached out to me to address such issues.
Among them, is 36-year-old N, who wants to break his pattern of falling for women who don’t reciprocate his feelings. N uses a multi-pronged approach to find a partner: he’s active on matrimony sites; he’s on dating apps; and he’s open to introductions made by friends and family. A researcher by profession, his insight is that the biggest reason women get turned off is creepy behaviour by men. Based on this he goes through great lengths to not ‘creep’ the women out. This manifests in him insisting that the women pick the venue to meet and not messaging them anything ‘flirty’. He believes this method helps the women establish a sense of comfort with him. Eight years have gone by and he has been friend zoned by most of these ladies. He spends so much of his energy and time trying to not be a ‘creep’, that his true self is never revealed. His rehearsed approach also kills spontaneity, which is one of the key prerequisites to kindle romance.
After two amicable divorces, 41-year-old P is keen to find a stable relationship. She says she has no dearth of attracting the right men. The trouble she has is in keeping the relationship going. She’s a vice-president in a technology company and P, by her own admission, notices a dramatic change in her behaviour when she is in a relationship. She clings to her man at get-togethers. If he doesn't call her back in two hours she obsessively tries to call and message him, mostly fearful that she did something wrong and that he is now ignoring her. Even the smallest of arguments make her feel an impending doom of the relationship ending. Till recently she felt that the five men she has been in relationships with, really did not appreciate the depth of her love for them. She has only just realised that her behaviour is that of someone who is extremely insecure.
Another client, 29-year-old G has never been in a relationship. She moved from Mumbai to London for work just before the pandemic. Isolating in a new country was obviously hard.
Dating apps seemed like a good option to connect with people. But every time someone wanted to chat over video, she declined. When the lockdown lifted, she refused to meet people in person. This led to people bouncing off from chatting with her and she had to keep finding new people to interact with. Lonely and fatigued with this situation, she came to me. What we unearthed together was mind-boggling. It was one thing that she was body conscious – many of us are. But it turns out that G’s self-esteem is at an all-time low. The way she eats, her baby voice, and even her smile, she hates it all. She has been on a few dates in the past and says she can see the disappointment in the eyes of the men the moment they see that she is a big girl. She goes on to declare that the kind of men she likes will never like her back. G is seeking my help to figure out what kind of men she should approach. Men who will reciprocate her feelings.
It’s heartening to know that N, P, and G have an awareness that something needs to change with their approach. This is the first and most important step. Seeking external help of a counsellor or a coach to break behavioural patterns is the next step. N and I deconstruct each date he goes on. We’ve come up with a list of tips he reads before every date. We go through the entire date and I help him consider different ways of reactions and effective communication so that he can achieve his goal of finding a partner.
Even though P has been through counselling after her second divorce, she wants to consider a more actionable approach that will help her get over her insecurities. Together, we have developed a few basic guidelines that she is comfortable following, like not reacting to a situation immediately by distracting herself with either going to the toilet or the kitchen to drink water. This helps her calm down and think rationally. We continue to work on the real-life experiences she has with her current boyfriend.
In the first session G and I had, I asked her to make a list of things she likes about herself and another list of things she does not like about herself. She had 3 items on the “like list” and 14 items in the “don’t like” list. She is simultaneously working with a counsellor as her self-worth issues are very deep rooted. It took her 3 months of work, before she went out on her first in-person date post coaching and counseling. The dial for her is moving slowly, but surely.
Every relationship is unique and is driven by emotions, influences, and our own past experiences with relationships.
It takes an immense amount of courage for anyone to admit that they might be doing something wrong. But what’s even harder, is fixing what is wrong – through self-observation and a conscious move away from destructive habits of the past. All this, while being patient in seeing the results of the changes you are making can be nerve-wracking and requires faith. Solace lies in the fact that one is not alone. We all must make this journey in relationships. In most cases, the right path will lead you to what you set out to achieve.
This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org