Your search for lasting love is a hero’s journey and today, I explain why that is and how you can navigate this journey with grace and self-compassion. We can’t force our attractions, but we can educate them, so in this episode, I delve into the three areas of challenge and hope that we face on our hero’s journey. I also talk about the prevalent culture of unkindness in today’s dating scene and explain why so many of us reject healthy love in favor of attractions of deprivation.
Listen in to learn the secret to finding love and the important lesson that we can learn from heartbreak.
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- What is a hero’s journey
- Why is it important to grieve a relationship
- What are some lessons learned from heartbreak
- How to ask for help with your dating life
- Tips for accepting yourself
- What is the secret key to finding love
- Why are we attracted to people who are bad for us
- How to define attractions of deprivation
- Why do people reject healthy love
- Get a copy of Deeper Dating by Ken Page
- Join the Coaching and Mentorship Intensive with Ken Page
- Connect with us on Instagram
Hello and welcome to The Deeper Dating® Podcast. I’m Ken Page. I’m a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book Deeper Dating, and the creator of The Deeper Dating® Intensive, and the host of this podcast. And I’m so glad to have you here.
Today we’re going to talk about why your search for love is a hero’s journey. And in this episode and every episode, I’m going to share with you the greatest tools I know to help you find healthy, sustainable, love, and heal your life in the process, because the skills of dating are the skills of intimacy, which are the greatest life skills of all.
And if you go to deeperdatingpodcast.com, you can get a transcript of this and every episode, you can get free gifts and resources, join my mailing list and hear about my upcoming project and other resources that I think are really valuable. So let’s jump in.Your dating life and your search for love really is a hero's journey. It's not a quick jaunt. Click To Tweet
I want to talk about the three biggest broad-stroke lessons that I have learned in my three and a half decades of work as a psychotherapist and an author exploring the search for love and the intimacy journey, and I want to frame these as a hero’s journey.
And the definition of a hero’s journey is essentially somebody who, for whatever reason is called to a really big adventure and they’re hesitant to take that adventure, and then they go on that adventure. And in the process, they encounter significant obstacles from without and significant obstacles and challenges from within.
Ultimately, they have to go into what’s called the innermost cave to find their answers and they have to battle their foes. And in the general hero’s journey, they find victory and come back transformed beings. And so I’m going to talk about how your search for love is nothing smaller than that.
So I’m going to be talking about three particular huge lessons that we encounter in our hero’s journey, things that in my years of work I have witnessed again and again, and I’ve learned from. I’ve come to see that these are hallmarks of the conscious path to finding love.
And for every one of these three huge lessons, I’m going to talk about them in two ways. I’m going to talk about the hard part, and I’m going to talk about the hope. First, I’ll describe the climb, the challenges we get faced with. And then I’ll talk about the hope, the view we get blessed with when we make the climb, the next level, the transformation that we then get to live in, because the search for love is nothing smaller than that.
And I love this line from Vito Russo, I’ve quoted it many times, and that is the truth will set you free, but first, it’ll make you miserable. And all of these are truths that we have to face, and they’re truths that mostly people don’t give us about what the search for love is actually going to look like. So we leave it ill-prepared, like someone who’s going to go on some giant, giant hike and they have a 12-ounce bottle of water.
I feel like so much of the advice and the coaching that’s out there has these quick, easy, gimmicky answers that don’t address the fact that this is a lifelong wisdom journey around the most important subject in the human curriculum, which is love and how to love.
What is a hero’s journey:
So here’s the first one, and it’s not an easy one. And with all of these three, I am not trying to be a buzzkill. And you’ll see that because I’m filled with hope from the lessons we can gain from extracting the truth from these hard, hard places.
And the first is that your dating life and your search for love really is a hero’s journey, it’s not a quick jaunt. And it’s harder for most of us and more hard winding and more hardscrabble than we ever thought it should be. And that does not mean that we’re failing. It means that we’re experiencing the real path of dating.
What it means is that we haven’t been given a map that honors what a huge, brave, bold, heartbreaking, heart-building, tear-filled, hope-filled, possibility-filled journey that this really is. It’s not a sprint. It’s more like one of these giant marathons that go through deserts and towns and cities and places where there’s no path, and then giant, scary, impersonal eight-lane freeways.
We’re taught that if the search for love is that complicated for us, it means we’re doing something wrong, we’re not doing it right. But the truth is that there is a great and long hero’s journey that most of us have to go on.
Now, I do want to say that there are some people who are almost born with this knowledge that they deserve to be treasured and that that’s the kind of relationship that they want. And they’re only going to look for people who deeply treasure who they are and where that feeling is mutual and where there’s this essential bedrock feeling of safety and goodness and availability.
Some people find that hot and exciting and wonderful and marriable, and it’s what they set their navigation system to look for. And those people find love a lot quicker than the rest of us who have to learn these lessons the hard way. And most of us have to learn these lessons over a longer period of time, the hard way.
And even when we do learn the lessons, it still takes time to find our person. There’s still a journey ahead and we never know, and this is part of the amazingness of it, when it’s going to be quick and easy and magical and when it’s going to be like a slog or a fierce challenge.
But we have to be ready for the fact that that slog is a beautiful and true part of the journey. It’s like taking a hike that you know is going to be a hundred miles long. You’re not expecting it’s going to be quick and easy. You’re expecting the Appalachian Trail.
And another piece of this is, is that it’s not just a long road and a complicated road, but a lot of parts of it are really cold. The world of online dating is cold and it’s shallow and the culture of unkindness that permeates dating. And even apart from that and not to mention bad dating advice that pushes us and doesn’t acknowledge trauma and doesn’t let us realize that authenticity is the only path that in the long run is going to be sustainable, but tells us do this, do that, change this, change that. This horrible, horrible dating advice that’s out there, that’s yet another impediment.
But even apart from all of that, even in the best-intentioned, most conscious dating, the heartbreak that can happen when you fall in love with somebody and they’re not available or they’re not in love with you. All of those sadnesses and difficulties are part of this hero’s journey to find that which research says is the single greatest determinant of your happiness even more than health, and it’s the quality of your spousal relationship.
And what research shows is the most toxic thing of all, which is unremitting loneliness. Short pause, that does not mean that singlehood equals unremitting loneliness, but it does mean that we have to commit to not being deeply lonely by building love in whatever ways feel rightest and truest for us.Most of us are built to be attracted to people who don't love us for who we are. Click To Tweet
Okay, Mr. Buzzkill Ken, so what is the good? What is the hope in all of this? Well, one is that if we accept it, instead of seeing it as some kind of grand flaw in our makeup, we stop beating ourselves up and we embrace a bit more that we are on a sacred journey of learning the lessons of love against what we get taught in typical culture.
And learning the skills that help us tap into the present magic of our authentic, romantic, emotional, and sexual selves, that it’s a learning of the deepest truest intimacy lessons that we are actually committing to when we commit to our search for love.
Well then our hearts are soothed, and our wills are more steeled. There’s a sense of honoring the path and of self-honoring as well. This is a hero’s journey if there ever was one. And that’s something that I have seen because in addition to doing the therapy work that I’ve done and the coaching and the teaching, I’ve done intensives.
I’ve done 16 intensives, which are six months long with small groups of people who are committed to doing the detailed, careful work of this intimacy journey in a very focused and supportive setting. And in that kind of pure environment, I’ve seen so many of the patterns that emerged that I didn’t see as clearly in my decades of work just as a therapist.
And actually, these next two cohorts are completed and I’m beginning to interview for the next one. So if that interests you, if you want to explore that, you could just go to deeperdatingintensive.com to learn more. And that’s my little plug there for something very, very precious and amazing.
But one of the things that I’ve learned in doing these intensives is that our head tells us that this needs to be a quick path and we need to get over things that hurt us quicker, but our heart doesn’t get over things as quickly as our head tells us to get over things.
And this is something I see in this kind of distilled environment that’s almost like a laboratory of people just focusing on their search for love. And I’ve seen people learning these lessons, doing this work, entering into a potential new relationship. Let’s say it’s what I call a stepping-stone relationship as opposed to the lasting relationship.
So it doesn’t end up working even though they were really hopeful because they could see that they’re really changing and they feel like, “Well, okay, so this failed, but I should be able to just march on because this wasn’t the one. And I’m learning really good lessons and I’m growing and I’m committed, so I should just be able to let this go and move on.”
But their hearts are grieving and they have self-doubt and there’s a level of pain. And I think it’s important that we remind ourselves that our hearts can be wounded by the coldness of this journey, by the disappointments of this journey. And it doesn’t mean that the journey’s going to end, but it means that we need to learn to hold our heart with cupped hands, as I call it, in other words, with a sense of treasuring and a sense of space all at once.
And we need to understand that the journey doesn’t move straight ahead, that we have periods where we need to stop and care for ourselves, where we may want to pull back, where we may want to say no more online dating for the present time, where we need to take care of our hurt hearts and our broken hearts. And one of the ways that we do that is by learning the skill of self-compassion, which is one of the hero’s journey skills.
And the other way is by remembering that sometimes the hurt of this journey can feel so bitter that it’s not meant to be held alone, and we need a community, a team, a group of caring people with whom we can hold our heart until it heals and renews and has gained new insights and new lessons and then our heart feels strong enough to march on again.
And that’s something that the intensives have really helped me with because I see these distilled patterns. And that’s one of the big learnings that I’ve had in recent years is that we need to stop and take care of ourselves on this journey because our hearts hurt from some of the things that happen.
So the hope is there that as we learn to hold our hearts in wiser more caring ways, we learn the skills of interdependence, realizing that our grief cannot be held by hands that are judgmental and demanding and holding a whip against us, that our grief and our hurt and our humanity needs to be held with kind hands and held by others as well.
A really wise person I was talking to recently said that to me in a pretty direct way. She said, “Ken, sometimes I feel you treat yourself like a horse, a workhorse that never gets a break. The horse is meant to do a job and you move it on and on to do the job, but you don’t stop and groom it and take care of it and you just keep expecting things of it.” She said, “Be kinder to your horse.” And that was very moving and very true.
And so that’s one wisdom piece that we learn in heartbreak and disappointment, which we all damn well know is part of the dating journey that our – heart needs to be held by wise others as well for us to learn these lessons.
And that’s the same lesson that we learn when we’re in an intimate relationship and we want to push our partner away because our hearts are hurting, maybe because of them or maybe because of the world, but instead we move closer instead of pulling away and we ask for help and we ask for support. And when we learn that lesson, it is one of the grand lessons of the intimacy journey.
So here’s the second lesson. To do this work, we have to confront the parts of ourselves that we thought we had to get rid of and actually learn to treasure them, and that is hard. And this is the stage in the intimacy journey that is known as facing the inmost cave. This is the internal part of the journey that is part of why this is so brave to decide to consciously tackle this work.
Another way to say it is that this more complete path to finding healthy love means that we need to change our self-abandonment patterns. We need to learn not to abandon ourselves. And what is amazing about that is that the first parts of ourselves that we jettison are usually the parts that are the most us, but they’ve gotten us into trouble because they were too big or they were too tender or they were too different.
So we learn in deep ways to suppress or at least airbrush these very alive, intense, essential parts of ourselves. We see them as something we need to get rid of, like a curse instead of a part of ourselves that touches on the transcendent, that’s deeply important, that’s essential to who we are, but like most points of genius, much of the world doesn’t understand.
And kind of like Helen Keller, who was brilliant but separated from the world and needed help growing into a full and rich person who could express what she had to express, even with all her challenges, those parts of ourselves will never be shut away. They need to be heard and honored because here’s the amazing formula at the center of the center of this journey.
That these deepest parts of ourselves, until they’re honored and helped to grow until they’re championed and mentored and learn to recognize their own genius and possibility until that happens, they will lead us again and again to be attracted to people to whom we have to prove our worth, which never works and which is the path to pain, period.
These parts have magic and that’s the good part. They are your beauty. Just like in the animal kingdom, animals need to know and show their particular unique animal splendor, whatever that is to woo a mate, these core gift qualities in you that are so essentially you, so close to the heart of your being, as much as you’ve been told that they’re not right or they’re different or they’re too much or they’re not enough, they are your magic.
And when you learn to show them and you learn and they get more comfortable being seen and expressed and shown and they start believing in themselves that maybe there are parts of the world and romantic partners that want these parts of us, that maybe there are really possible romantic partners out there who will crave these qualities and adore them in us, that’s the miracle. And that’s when we find ourselves and claim ourselves, and that’s the deep inmost cave hero’s journey.
And when that happens, we become more fierce, more discriminating, more loving, and we emit whatever that magic is that we have so much more fully now when we embrace our core gifts. And when we do that and then combine that with the dignity of only choosing people that love those qualities, our search for love transforms and our life transforms because we have rescued the children that we have once abandoned, the children of our heart.
How to define attractions of deprivation:
So just stepping back to have some awe about how this, one of the most important journeys in our lives is actually structured, how amazing that this is the architecture of the wiser search for love and of being human, that the very qualities we think we have to hide are actually the parts we have to reclaim and honor. The qualities we thought would push love away are the qualities that hold our unique brand of mating magic for the right people.
That’s amazing that the universe, that humanity, that our life story is constructed in that shocking hero’s journey kind of way. Edward Hallowell says, and I love to quote this, the child who needs your love is not the one you pictured you should have, but it’s the one standing in front of you right now.
That we have to confront our shadow qualities, the ones we’re afraid to show, and we have to reclaim them and stop abandoning ourselves around them if we are going to find healthy love. It’s almost like the secret key is until we learn to do that, we’re not going to be able to find love. To get that prize, to get that reward, we have to do this deep, deep inmost cave work. That’s kind of awesome.The qualities we thought would push love away are the qualities that hold our unique brand of mating magic. Click To Tweet
And I just want to say too that the key there is again in interdependence because we desperately need people who can teach us the worth of these parts of us, just by the way that they enjoy these qualities in us or treasure them or champion them. We have to have those people, they save our lives.
And even now, if you could just take a minute and think about who are the people who have been able to do this for any of your core gift qualities or animals or places in the world where you could go, where these parts of you felt safe and seen and delighted in.
And back to Edward Hallowell who wrote this exquisite book, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, and who said it so well. He said that apart from the basic necessities, if a child is going to thrive, two particular things have to happen, that we as their parents have to be able to delight in them and they have a felt sense of our delight in who they are and that we teach them the skills of mastery.
And in my opinion, the third one is that they learn to find their tribe, those precious people who get them and appreciate them, period. That’s one of the absolute greatest secrets of happiness in life, period.
So the third challenge, this wild twist in this road is that most of us are built to be attracted to people who don’t love us for who we are. Harville Hendrix captured this really well. He said that the people who attract us so deeply, like the nines and the tens, we feel sick inside with desire, they do so in part because they embody the worst characteristics of our primary caregivers and we have a need to go back to the scene of the crime, to finally get them to love us right, if we can ever let ourselves feel worthy, which is not the best way to actually make ourselves feel worthy.
But it’s deeply embedded in our psychology for most of us. It’s part of the way that our mating instinct is so profoundly connected to our psychology and our personal growth. Those kinds of relationships, which I call attractions of deprivation are like quicksand.
What is the secret key to finding love:
When you feel like you have somebody who could love you, especially if you’re attracted to them and they show signs that they do have feelings for you, and then you can feel that for whatever reason they decide you’re not interesting enough, you’re not important enough, you’re not sexy enough, you’re not special enough, they’re just not that into you, it triggers this intense mechanism of survival which makes us feel like these are the people that could save us. That if they loved us, we would have it all. If they loved us, we’d have love, we’d have happiness and contentment. If they loved us, we’d be sexy, lovable, and desirable, but it’s not happening.
So there’s a deep flaw in us and it touches the deep wounds where we have felt abandoned and not loved enough by the world. And this is our survival, deep down way to fix that. But it’s a path to pain. And there are very few words that can capture how deep that entrenchment can go, how many years we can lose, how many pieces of our lifetime, how many friendships, how many relationships, and how many possibilities for a healthy future we can lose because it’s so hard to let go of these people.
So what do we do with that? And this is where the hope comes in. We can’t force our attractions, but we can educate them. And when we do, we change our magnetic field around romance and love in amazing ways, and this is really true. And to me, this is the closest thing to a miracle that I’ve seen in my decades of work. And I talk about it in almost every podcast episode in a different way because it is the blueprint of this path to finding love.
So these attractions of deprivation, they’re like one of the stickiest, hardest places to get out of. If this dating game was a game board, this would be the spot where you do not want to end up because turn after turn, after turn, you’re going to be stuck in the mud, and you’re not going to be able to leave. It’s a really bad place on this board and that is falling in love with an attraction of deprivation.
And it’s so hard to get out of that because our self-doubt is the linchpin that holds us in there. It’s the linchpin of why we can’t leave because it feels like that person holds the salvation of our feeling worthy and sexy and desirable and having a home in the world. And who can give that up easily? And I think in my work as a coach, there is nothing harder to change and shift than that.
And this is a little bit of a tangent, but it’s a really, really important one. When we’re willing to turn ourselves inside out to face this and to change it, the ways we run from love, because being in an attraction of deprivation and committing to that means you’re running from healthy love.
When we do that, when we’re willing to face and turn ourselves inside out to be able to achieve our goal of finding real love, magic happens. And it’s brutally hard, it is humbling to make this decision, that we’re knocked down to our knees. We’ve recognized that now we need to be a student. We need to be a student of what’s not working, a student of our fear of intimacy, a student of what we need to do to heal ourselves.
And when we do that, when we’re willing to get down on our knees, face this and commit, this terribly hard thing to admit that we’re pushing love away, when we are able to do that, that is where we get this huge bang for our buck in our hero’s journey of searching for love. It’s where we shoot ahead. It’s when we can actually admit that we’re pushing love away by choosing the wrong people or by getting lost in the internet or by swiping mindlessly for hours and hours and hours a week or by drinking too much or being too controlling or too judgmental or allowing too much bad behavior.
When we admit this and commit to turning ourselves inside out, which this journey asks us to do, it’s like we get a power boost in our journey and new doors open up when we do it. When we face the fact that a part of us is actually fighting love and we can actually list and name and understand the choreography and the mechanisms of how we flee love, which is part of this hero’s journey that nobody gets to avoid if they want to keep and find healthy love, and we say, “Oh my God, I have to learn to change this. I have to learn to shift my behaviors,” when we do that, when we’re humbled by that realization, which as I’ve said hurts and is hard, that’s when we can actually get into the deeper mechanisms, the deeper chambers of the wiring of how we look for love and we can make changes in there and create healing.
And this is what I’ve seen in my intensives and in my work with clients, but maybe, particularly for the reasons I described, in the intensives. What we focus on is the importance of facing this and doing that rewiring. Because when we do, when we really do that, we actually find ourselves more attracted to people who are good for us, that seem more available. And we notice them more and they seem hotter and more desirable for us because our deep inner wiring begins to shift. But it’s humbling as hell to have to face that we’re pushing love away, but it’s holy. It is sacred, it is part of our hero’s journey.
And what happens when we do this, the way that we’re organized around love begins to shift. So our patterns of dating and relating now are becoming more organized around self-love and self-treasuring and the miracle of our authenticity and that sense of connection, a kind of visceral living connection to our beauty and our worth. And that’s the reorganization that we want to achieve in our search for love.
So in closing, I just want to reiterate these three different areas of challenge and hope in our hero’s journey. First, that it’s a hero’s journey, that it’s a long and a hard road that takes work where change is not always immediate and fast, and where there is loneliness and pain. But the hope is that we come to see this not as a failure of self, but as an incredible hero’s journey, that we have been brave enough to commit to learning the lessons of love that are in front of us right now.
And the second is that we need to confront the parts of ourselves that we’ve abandoned and learn to claim them and recognize them and cherish them and that when we do that, we radiate whatever that vibe is that is so essentially us. And that vibe is the one that’s going to draw someone who is looking for someone just like you.
And the third is that it’s hard as hell not to be seduced by attractions of deprivation and that all of us need to face that in some ways we are organized around avoiding and pushing away healthy love and that there’s this incredibly humbling process of that, that we change our future for the better in the most profound ways when we commit to that rewiring.
All of this to say, baby, it’s a journey and it’s a hard-scrabble journey and it’s a journey that demands so much growth. But let’s normalize that because that is what this journey is. And it’s a journey that leads to love, the kind of love that we’re really looking for, the kind of love where we can build a beautiful, nourishing home in the world. And when we learn these skills, we gain mastery in that process.
Thank you for listening and I look forward to connecting with you on the next episode of The Deeper Dating® Podcast.