In this Deeper Dating® Q&A episode, listeners bring their most important questions about love, sex, dating, and relationships to Ken and get his direct personal advice. Today, we’ll talk about what to do when you meet someone wonderful, safe and trustworthy and difficulties and rifts begin to occur in your relationship. Should you go or stay? What do you do when you start doubting your attraction? What do you do when the other person pulls away?
Deeper Dating® Q&A: Expert Advice For All Your Questions About Love, Dating And Sex
Welcome to the Deeper Dating® Q&A, where I answer your most pressing personal questions about love and sex, and intimacy in a way that lets listeners apply these insights to the particulars of their own love life, and leave this episode with new possibilities and revelations. Stay tuned to the Deeper Dating® Podcast.
Hello and welcome to the Deeper Dating® Podcast. I’m Ken Page, and I’m a psychotherapist. I’m the author of Deeper Dating® and the Cofounder of DeeperDating®.com, which is a site where single people can meet in an online environment that’s fun, inspiring, kind and respectful. In this podcast, I share with you the greatest tools that I know to help you find love and keep it flourishing, and heal your life in the process because the skills of dating, are nothing more than the skills of love, which are the greatest skills of all for a meaningful life. If you want to learn more about the Deeper Dating® path to intimacy, just go to DeeperDatingPodcast.com. You can sign up for my mailing list and get free gifts, and learn more about how to use these ideas to transform your own intimacy journey.
Okay, so the first question is from Gabriella, and she gave me permission to use her name. If you could, when you leave me a message or a question, let me know if I can use your name, or if you prefer that I don’t. Either is fine. Gabriella talks about having a relationship anxiety experience as a kind of ongoing issue, and just anxiety in general as an ongoing issue. She experiences this at different points in different ways, but in a very particular way. Early in a relationship, she gets the desire to leave. It starts out with a really similar thought each time, “Do you really like him?” and then finding all these reasons to not like the person and to doubt your liking the person.
The progress and the wonderful thing is that she’s looking to see if this is someone with whom her soul feels safe. This big, important question that I always teach here is the primary central question, “Does my soul feel safe?” All the questions about attraction and everything else are important, but they come second. When you make that your first choice, your spine straightens, your sense of self-love and self dignifying straightens, and people feel it. Your field shifts, and that means your future shifts.
This is really a big one. She described experiencing that from the beginning. It felt safe and it felt natural, and she loved this. It was wonderful, but then there was a period where he pulled away a little bit, and she started to get scared, and then after that, this ongoing process of, “Do I like the person enough? Am I going to hurt him because I don’t like him enough? I don’t know if I like him enough. Do I like him at all? Should I leave? What should I do?” Gabriela is sexually attracted to him, and she’s just kind of torn in a way that she’s been before.
Gabriella, welcome to the wave of distancing. It hits us with available people. Some people, like me, in my past, it hits really hard, and it triggers our anxiety and our fear. In my experience asking people at my workshops and seminars, I would say more than half the people I talk to get this wave, where when someone becomes really available, they somehow become less attractive. The flaws get magnified. The fears come up.
This is what I want to say about that. We are not taught that that is actually a natural process. It doesn’t happen in that way when someone is not available. There’s always the thrill of the hunt and this feeling of, “Can I get this person?” Then when you get them for a little bit, you just feel so intoxicated and gloriously happy, and then they’re available, and then they’re not again, so you never have to face this existential question of, “This person is here,” and then all these things come up.
This is what I want to say about that because Gabriela is asking, “Should I go or should I stay?” I feel like I have an answer for this point. I do, and the answer is, “he seems safe”. He’s sexy. He’s attractive. He likes you. He is decent. He has integrity. You like him or you would not be there. Stay. You don’t have to stay forever, but stay to be present for what comes next. I know that fear. I know that doubt. I know how it eats at your soul, but with so many good things, it’s worth doing the practices you need to do when you get hit by the wave of distancing.
For many of us, the wave is not something we experience once and it goes away. It’s actually an early phase before that deeper, deeper bonding happens. Sometimes it’s an earlier phase that could take a really long time. It is a total phase. It’s rarely just an experience, which is an absolute pain in the butt because it hurts, and it’s annoying and it’s scary.
You wonder, “Am I hurting this person? Am I lying to myself?” Then you feel good feelings again, and then the feelings of doubt come again. It’s a stage that most of us go through that is natural. It’s part of the whole natural process, and the two keys, I’ll say what they are now are, don’t flee and don’t force yourself. Don’t force yourself to be more intimate or connected than you’re ready to be during these times, because if you force yourself, you’re going to need to flee.
You need to allow space in this period so that the ripples of timidity and vulnerability, and awkwardness, and shyness, and fear, and the need to develop a totally new taste in a human being gently, gradually kind of resolve themselves. It’s a taste that you have to develop for this new being who just a tiny while ago was a complete stranger to you. Now, you’re needing to let them into your inner core. It makes sense that you’re going to have ebb and flow, ebb and flow, but we translate it into this kind of thing of, “If I’m not attracted to this person all the time, maybe I’m fooling myself. Maybe I’m cheating myself. Maybe I’m cheating them, and I’m going to hurt them.”
Over time, these things become clearer, as a wonderful mentor of mine would say, “Ken, stay. He’s going to get more beautiful to you in time or he’s not, and either way, you’ll know.” Gabriella, you found someone wonderful. You found someone safe. You found someone sexy. My strong encouragement is to ride this through. You have come really far to get here, and just know that these doubts and these anxieties are going to be part of your experience.
When someone becomes really available, they somehow become less attractive because the flaws get magnified. Click To Tweet
What you need to remember is just don’t force yourself and don’t flee. In time, things just become clearer, which is an amazing thing. The wave hits. It knocks you over. It feels horrible. You want to get out of there. You don’t flee. You allow yourself space and breathing room until that spasm of fear or discomfort passes. When it does, almost always, your affection comes back, and your eyes see more clearly who this person is, and if they’re actually right for you.
Right now, I’d like to ask every listener to think, do you relate to this? How has this happened for you? Maybe, is it happening for you even right now? Have you been given this tool for how to handle this phase of early relationships, or have you not been taught it before? Maybe you figured it out for yourself that this is what you need to do. There are those of us who have figured it out ourselves, but most of us really, really have to learn it in time. It’s something that culturally we’re not taught.
If you were someone who has been attracted to unavailable people in a repeated way, you’re probably going to have that wave pretty bigly, but that’s okay. You can have the wave. Even those of us with the wave who have it really badly, if we don’t flee and we give ourselves space, it passes. It comes back. It passes and it could take a maddeningly long time for it to really just pretty much go, but ultimately it does.
Feelings Of Unsafety
Next, we have another question, and this is from someone who, and I’m seeing this happen as a trend for so many of my listeners, and I’m jumping up and down on this one. I’m overjoyed about it. So many people who are living this question, “Does my soul feel safe with this person?” that are learning to trust their own intuition around the differences between their circuitries of attractions of deprivation and inspiration, and are learning to honor their Core Gifts, something is happening in their dating life again and again.
What’s happening is that people, when they do that work, begin to find themselves meeting people who are kinder, more available, have deeper character, more honoring of who they are, more present and safer. It’s kind of like a magicky thing but it’s not magic. It makes perfect sense when you honor who you are and you only choose people who honor you. You shift yourself. You notice different people. Your field changes, and it’s a beautiful thing that happens.
It’s happening for a lot of listeners and this gives me great joy, and it can happen for you, too, as you learn to honor and treasure your authentic self more, and actually let that be the currency of the realm in your dating life. Instead of all the stuff that we’re taught that we should make into the currency of our realm, it’s leading with who we are.
This person says wonderful things about how these insights have shifted her journey, and she has met someone who is an attraction of inspiration, and he is kind, and he is caring, and he has deep character. He listens, he is available, and he is falling in love with her. This is all glorious and great, but she says that she did this thing a little while back when she was with him, where she asked him how many sex partners he’s had, and the number was really high.
She said, “I don’t feel safe anymore. It’s not that I don’t feel sexually safe. We’ve both been tested and I trust him in the present, but knowing this about him just removed a lot of my feeling of safety. I don’t know what to do about it. Do I judge whether my soul feels safe around stuff that he’s done in the past sexually or who he is as a person, or who we are together at this point?
I love this question that she’s asking because there’s just so much here. I want to start saying a few things about this in a general way. There is a magic that needs to be considered, or just another aspect that needs to be considered that has a quality that can be magical, because you think, “There’s me, there’s this other person, there’s a conflict going on, or questions and difficulties, and I kind of need to figure out where I stand.” We think that way and it’s valid, and our partner does the same, and we interact together, but there is another thing that happens or can happen.
It’s the zone in which two circles meet, and something new gets created. That’s this experience of intimacy transformation that can happen where something completely new and surprising happens around stuck points just like this one, because the work doesn’t just happen in our separate thinking. It happens in the interaction between the two of us, where something completely unique occurs, which is the third aspect, which is not you, not them, but it’s the relationship.
You like him, or you would not be there. So, it's best to stay. Click To Tweet
An image that I think of sometimes with that is, I’ll be trying to figure something out in my head again and again and again. I find a stance that feels right, and it makes sense, and it seems adult, and it seems compassionate, and then I talk to my husband, and there’s this immense softening, and all of a sudden, I see the world differently. I learn more deeply what was going on for me. Now, that doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen. It happens only in the magic of the interaction between us.
If we leave something in our head and try to figure it out in our head, it somehow becomes stagnant. It stays still and it stays alive. There’s a repetitive quality that we develop to our thinking about it like again and again, and it’s really painful, but when we do the act of intimacy, being skin to skin with the other person, if it’s a person who’s safe, which it sounds like this guy really is. If we do that without having answers and still being in the conflict and saying, for example, “I’ve lost a lot of feeling of safety and I feel really sad about that, and I don’t know what to do about it.
Maybe there need to be questions and conversations. In this case, it’s about his past sex life. Maybe it’s about her past sex life and issues that have come up for her too, but there’s a dialogue that happens and there’s going to be a lot of dialogues around this one. You guys are going to have to talk about this again and again, but that’s where the healing comes from. Probably not in your own head, assuming he is a safe person, which it really sounds like he is. It’s okay to bring that helpless feeling of, “I feel bad and I don’t know what to do. This is an us thing. What do we do?
In a good relationship, something completely new forms together. When that happens, you drop down into a deeper level of trust, and you discover something new about yourself. I want to ask listeners, have you ever had that experience that there was something that was troubling you, and bravely you brought it full truth, full transparency to a person who was trustable, and something new emerged that you didn’t expect where you dropped down into a deeper space of trust and connection by what happened between the two of you?
What I would say to this person is you might have to talk about this a lot, so talk about it a lot. You have the right to your feelings of unsafety, but because this guy is so lovely, bring those feelings to the relationship and have the two of you hold them together, but I also just want to say, as someone who grew up in the gay male party scene of New York City, I had huge amounts of sex. I can’t begin to count the number of people that I have had sex with. That was because I was part of a particular zeitgeist, part of a particular time when that was happening for other people and for me for so many reasons.
I think the kind of cultural and evolutionary context of what was going on for this person really matters too, and really makes a difference. I think there are great questions to be discussed here about how sex was part of your journeys, and how sex is part of your journey now because, for me, that was another life. I’m in a monogamous, beautiful, loving relationship at this point. That was a part of my life and it was a part of my life that came from so many different things.
Because this guy seems to be really trustable, it’s worth it to have those conversations again and again, and let the relationship find answers, as opposed to you feeling like you have to know the answer prematurely through that dialogue in your head. Let the magic space between you be the space where the bulk of this is worked out, as long as you trust him.
Rupture And Repair
Next, someone says that they are also having this experience of meeting someone, and it truly felt like an attraction of inspiration with whom their souls feel safe, and the relationship began in a wonderful way, and it remained that way for a period of time, but then they both began to kind of tear at each other, and become critical of each other, and not meet each other’s needs, and hurt each other.
There were just patterns out of that being triggered again and again. She felt like more of this came from him, and ultimately he was not willing to get help and he left. She describes being really sad about this because it felt like an attraction of inspiration. Her question was just kind of, “What to do in a situation where it felt like an attraction of inspiration, and then it failed, it collapsed?”
I just want to say that we don’t know somebody, even someone who seems wonderful, as wonderful as it seems right away, it really does take time to get to know somebody, and that the qualities you were describing were feelings of safety and all those things. I think that they were really true for who he was, but they say intimacy is a process of rupture and repair. Harville Hendrix says this wonderful thing that it reaches a point in your relationship where the things you most need from your partner are the things that are the hardest for your partner to give you. He says, “That’s not the end of love. That’s the beginning of love if both partners are willing to do the work.
If it helps you move on, it's worth doing. Click To Tweet
Clearly, you were both triggering each other. You were both getting triggered. This is what happens. It sounds like he might have been more frightened, and more triggered, more traumatized, and wasn’t willing to have a dialogue. This work can not happen unless the other person is someone who stays. It sounds to me like you’re not finished yet. I just want to say, if you’re not finished, if you have things you want to say, if you have things you want to ask, and if you want to request trying again, as long as this is not someone who’s been abusive and it’s not an abusive relationship, you might have more questions. You might have more impulse to explore and find out.
Now, the chances that are huge, are huge that in doing that, you’re going to end up disappointed again, because he made an existential decision not to stay for the work and you didn’t, but still, if you’re feeling a need to find out more, to ask more, I think it’s okay to try and ask, but then eyes open to the person’s response. If that helps you move on, it’s worth doing.
I just want to say another thing, which is when we have this kind of insight that we’re going to switch to attractions of inspiration, usually it’s kind of like a stepping stone thing. We find someone who’s kind of middle level, and then the next one is closer, and it doesn’t usually go right to the big long-term relationship. There’s a shifting of the field of tectonic plates, a shifting of your taste. It’s kind of more of a gradual process that I’ve seen happen again and again. I want you to take heart because the growth is real. The growth is real that you were able to make these shifts, even though it was probably not with someone who could also sustain that.
I want to ask every listener to take a moment and think about what in this episode hit you the most, or as the Quakers say, “What spoke to your condition?” What in this most spoke to your condition, your questions, your struggle? Is there a piece that you took from this that gave you hope or a sense of clarity, or strength, or direction, or just felt significant, or maybe a next step emerged from you somewhere around something, or even a revisiting of something that happened in the past with wiser eyes?
Whatever it is, I really encourage you to treasure that because you’re here, you’re listening, you’re committed to growth. I really believe it’s the people who are committed to doing the work of intimacy, who are the most precious, important people in the world because all of us are in the process of humbling learning. I know that every day in my intimacy journey, I am humbled by what I have to learn. Thank you all so much for listening, and I look forward to connecting with you in the next episode of the Deeper Dating® Podcast.