Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

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Making The Best Of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is upon us. And depending on our situation, it can make us quite miserable.

Perhaps we’re abroad and far away from our loved ones, perhaps we’ve got access to love but not of the romantic kind, or maybe we do have a partner, but we’re so at odds with each other now that celebrating our love feels ludicrous. 

No worries. Even though Valentine’s Day might remind us we don’t have the best love lives, we shouldn’t let that ruin our mood. 

After all, kindness is for everyone. So let’s not use this holiday to worry about what we don’t have, let’s treat it as an excuse to give love to anyone we want. Whether that’s our partner, our secret crush, our mom or dad, our friends, our colleagues, our pet, or even ourselves.

And if we want to truly honour love, we should stay away from what’s expected. 

Buying someone flowers and chocolates is fulfilling an obligation, not spreading warmth. Tenderness is about showing gratitude. And expressing that we have a unique understanding and appreciation of who someone is. 

Typical Valentine’s Day gifts hold no meaning besides being symbols of investment. If we care about the person we’re celebrating, we ought to properly show our thanks by being extra thoughtful.

We could write a note that shows just how much we see and understand our special person. We could gift a book that we’ll read together to strengthen our bond. We could create and honour a new ritual, such as joining a salsa class every week, to give a new dimension to our relationship. We could let go of our grudges, fears, and disappointments so we can grow closer.  We could ask our Valentine in what ways we’ve been letting them down so we can be more kind. 

And most importantly, we could do well to understand that one day in February isn’t going to change everything. But it can be the start of a better relationship, if we let it.

Let’s surprise the people we care about by being more affectionate and attentive than normal. And let’s try to keep that up as best we can on the day after Valentine’s, the day after that, and the day after that.

Being kind and more playful is a gift for all.

P.S. For all the single people, a bitter sweet comfort: half the people in relationships aren’t as happy as they let on. And many of them won’t even be together to celebrate next year’s Valentine. It’s better to be alone by yourself than to be alone with someone who’s not right for you.

Why Being A Nobody Is A Good Thing

We start our lives believing in a particularly harmful idea: that we are extraordinarily important people. Our parents might cheer and applaud as we sit up straight for a moment or blow our first spit bubble. 

We can summon big people at any time of day just by screeching and crying. And large people whom we’ve never seen before will visit our home and shower us with gifts and affection for seemingly no reason at all.

This affection gets even stranger as we grow a little bit bigger. Wrinkly, white-haired people who aren’t even related to us will stare at us with candy smiles and call us precious. And restaurant staff will offer us sweets and pastries without being asked.

We truly must be remarkable people. Why else would we be treated like royalty?

But then we grow taller still and find out that strangers are no longer that interested in us. Gone are the days when everyone greeted us with big grins and offered us free treats. 

Strangers have become largely indifferent to us.

We typically don’t truly feel our insignificance until we become young adults. Such as when we walk the streets of a foreign city where nobody knows us, or when it’s late at night and we stare up at the starry night sky and sense our smallness in the vastness of the universe.

No one will come to our aid when we burst into tears now. In fact, nobody might even notice.

For many, this is a grim realisation that we quickly shrug off. We don’t like to feel invisible or meaningless in the grand scheme of things. It typically plunges our mood into darkness. 

But knowing we’re of no concern to most people should be a relief. It means we don’t need to worry so much about the opinions of others. 

We don’t need to worry about forgetting someone’s name right after meeting them, having our voice crack during a presentation, or walking out of a movie screening to use the restroom during a quiet moment. Nor should we dwell on something dumb we said during our last work meeting.

No one cares enough to remember.

And we know that’s true because we don’t spend much time replaying memories where strangers made a fool of themselves. The majority of our thinking is spent on ourselves and our loved ones.  

When a stranger on the bus might be worried if we can see their pit stains, we’re lost in thought about what to make for dinner or how to make it through the week without going bananas.

It’s not that we’re mean. It’s just that it takes so much effort to take care of ourselves, that we don’t have the mental bandwidth to register the BO of a passenger on the bus. 

So if we’re going to feel sad about being a meaningless background character, we should also be happy that whatever we do, we’ll generally be left alone. 

This should encourage us to try new things and have a richer life. It’s a blessing that nobody gives a rat’s ass about us. So let’s use our anonymity for good.

Chemistry Shouldn’t Be The Foundation Of Your Relationship

Our society has a cheap idea of love. We tend to think it’s the rush of excitement we feel when we get a new message from our crush, the butterflies in our stomach right before a date with our special person, or the shivers down our spine when our beloved runs their hands over our body.

Although certainly pleasant, these feelings describe a shallow view of love. They are the orgasms of romance. And we fixate on them because these waves of emotion make us feel good.

But unlike any other emotional high, we place romantic feelings at the top of our priority list. Often even making it the very purpose of our lives. 

But it’s simply a burst of bliss. Not something we want to spend most of our time chasing or building a relationship around.

And yet we do it all the time, thinking it’s a wonderful idea that’ll give us fulfilment. 

Whereas in actuality, it’s not much different than a drunk looking to extend their buzz by knocking back another bottle. 

Romantic euphoria is a fleeting emotional state. And it’s unwise to try and make it a constant fixture. Every relationship should, of course, have moments of rapturous delight. But it’s not as important as many of us believe it to be.

Someone’s ability to sweep us off our feet with their wit, charm and good looks plays a relatively small part in the grand scheme of a relationship. Yes, it’s enough to motivate us to be loving when we’re in the grips of passion.

But what happens when we’re no longer swept up in romantic fervor?

Relying on our romantic impulses to guide us through difficult or even boring, everyday times is a terrible strategy. Our lack of rapture will almost certainly push our relationship to the brink.

Instead of counting on our natural devotion to do the loving for us, we should grow our capacity for kindness and compassion and choose to love intentionally. 

If we understood love properly, we wouldn’t confuse it with admiration or addiction, but with our ability to wonder what’s going on with our partner, no matter how angry, annoying, or misguided they might be behaving.

Loving people know that warmth and affection aren’t rewards for chemistry, but that they’re catalysts for creating compatibility. 

So if we’re seeking a life-long companion, we should reject the person who’s looking to fall in love with an amazing person. And search for the person who’s ready to understand and team up with a kind-hearted but imperfect goofball. 

That’s what real love is about, in all its imperfect glory.

What To Do If Your Ex Reaches Out

Unless we decided to remain friends, a break up typically ends with cutting off all contact. So when an ex breaks the silence without an explanation it can be confusing what to do.

But it shouldn’t confuse us at all.

Even when their message says they miss us, love us, or even desire to be with us more than any other person in the world. 

Why?

Because none of that information solves the problems that broke us up. No good relationship falls apart due to a lack of passion. It almost always collapses thanks to a lack of love: an inability or refusal to care, communicate, understand, and resolve conflicts. 

Unless they express a clear desire to change in the ways we need them to, our ex-partner’s sadness or longing is of absolutely no concern to us. And even then their attention shouldn’t climb to the top of our priority list. After all, change is hard.

So if our ex reaches out without being ready to deliver what we want, we shouldn’t care. We should be looking for growth, not ambiguous words designed to sow doubt or stroke our ego.

And even then we shouldn’t hold our breath.

We should simply go on as usual, knowing that our relationship didn’t fail but gave us what it could and has almost certainly been completed.

Dealing With Nostalgia: Why Your Decision To Move On Was Right

After experiencing enough misery, we parted ways with our ex. And even though we’re now seeing other people, or might even be in a fresh, wonderful relationship, we occasionally find ourselves wistfully daydreaming about our former partner.

We revisit old memories of when we felt connected and happy with our previous lover and it makes us sad. Perhaps even a little weepy. 

Doubt creeps in and we wonder if we made the right choice. After all, if we had so many good times, isn’t it possible ending things was a mistake?

Perhaps our connection withered not due to incompatibility, but to negligence or a lack of appreciation for what we had.

Might that be a more true retelling of what happened?

No. That’s a terribly foolish narrative to believe in.

When looking back to our prior relationship—months, or even years later—it’s natural to home in on the good times and ignore the bad times. That’s called nostalgia. And it’s a terrible judge of whether or not breaking up was the right move. 

The noodle in our noggin simply prefers pleasure to discomfort. 

That’s why we have to trust the feelings that we had when we were in the middle of the relationship. That’s when we were most alert to all the actions and events that slowly convinced us to walk away.

Such as their talent to turn every disagreement into a discussion, their knack for omitting important truths, or their tendency to look for hidden meanings instead of taking our words at face value. 

Our nostalgia conveniently leaves the troublesome out. If things were only as good as our brain suggests, then we would have never broken up in the first place. 

So occasionally longing for an ex isn’t a sign we should fix a broken relationship. It simply means we’re a little lonely or confused about our lives and need some comfort. 

Which we might get from daydreaming about our ex. But that doesn’t mean we’ll also find relief or happiness by making our dreams a reality.

Our relationship ended for a reason. And if we have forgotten why, we need to have faith in our former self’s wisdom to end the relationship.

While we might be pining, we’re not missing out. Because if our ex couldn’t give us what we wanted then, they almost certainly can’t give it to us now.

How To Revive Love When It Goes Cold

Our society is absolutely mad about romantic love. It often comes very fast and bypasses all reason. We may barely know them, but once we experience that special feeling and know we’re in love, we don’t take it as a coincidence.

No. It’s too miraculous for that. Instead, we trust that all our hardships and unhappy days are over. 

We’ve found the One.

That’s why it’s all the more confusing when we go cold. Although we started off full of affection and excitement, our feelings toward our special person have somehow faded.

All the daily phone calls we once made to our beloved about nothing in particular, because we never felt so connected and understood by someone before? Thrown to the wayside.

Now we text to ask who’s cooking dinner. We call to say not to forget to buy milk at the supermarket. And we check our phones while they’re sharing about their day.

We just don’t really care that much anymore.

Why?

It’s not the explanation that we find so generously spread across the internet. Where kind but ultimately uninformed people claim it’s similar to why we don’t care if our expensive smartphone gets another scratch or why we kick our once favorite shoes far into the closet, in other words, familiarity.

An answer that’s closer to the truth than being well acquainted with something is more dark and yet hopeful.

The coldness we harbour towards our partner often comes from bitterness. Hurt and scared feelings we haven’t adequately expressed or even noticed.

We’re not bored, but numb, confused, and irritable.

And that’s strangely easier to fix than boredom. We just have to make a commitment to pay close attention to our feelings and share when we’re upset. Without pretending we’re more nice or less jealous than we really are.

It’s fair to feel hurt when they aren’t concerned enough about the weird mark on our neck, when they don’t pay enough attention to our story, or when they stay in front of the TV instead of joining us in bed for a cuddle.

Naturally, we don’t want to call out each hiccup. We need some level of tolerance to let the smaller infractions go, or else we run the risk of driving our partner completely mad. 

And we mustn’t forget that humans are pretty messy creatures. We’re all twisted and bent, with extremely dark corners. So we have to be responsible. We can’t saddle up our companion with all our burdens.

So when should we speak up? When our partner blindsides us or when they systematically bruise us.

Three strikes demand a conversation. No matter how small the misdeeds might seem individually. 

But we mustn’t point fingers. It’s not about assessing blame. Because whether it’s their mistake or our sensitivity, the problem will persist if it’s not addressed. Sure, it’s convenient when we’re not the ones who have to adjust our behaviour. But if we’re a good teammate, we’ll be supporting them to bring about the change anyway.

The goal is to create a space to safely discuss matters of the heart, no matter how ridiculous or childish they might seem, and agree on what happened. Then we can negotiate on what we want to see in the future.

Otherwise, we’ll get bruised by the same thing 1,000 times over and slowly bury the love for our partner with our hurt.

We don’t go off our partner because we grow familiar and bored with them, but because we’re so furious with our sweetheart that we can no longer feel our love for them.

They Ghost You Over Text But Like Your Online Content

The modern era of dating is pretty wild. We can lose direct contact with someone exciting we’ve been seeing romantically, no phonecalls or text messages, but get attention from the same person through our social media.

And that’s incredibly confusing.

Why does a person ignore our texts and voice notes, but like our Facebook posts or watch our Instagram stories? What motivates them to stop dating us in real life but continue to show interest online?

Does it mean they still like us? Do we still have a potential future together? Is there perhaps something outside of their control that’s keeping them from seeing us now and they’re trying their hardest to show we shouldn’t give up on them?

Stop.

When we like someone, we have a beautifully naive ability to weave our admirer’s behaviour into a love story. 

Is it just a few flame emojis on one of our Instagram photos? Or actually a 21st-century love ballad?

The moment we buy into this narrative, we invest in the narrative.

Like a siren, we’re now driven to create enchanting content to lure our paramour closer in hopes of winning them over. And it might. But more likely, they’ll respond to our bewitching content in the same way as before. 

Another thumbs up.

So what should we do when our crush shows no sign of wanting to be with us, but remains in our lives through interacting with our online content?

We stop imbueing their social media interactions with meaning. It’s the lowest form of attention we can get from someone. And if we take a moment to look at how we like other people’s content, we’d immediately understand.

Although it might not be everyone’s favourite way, many of us have hit an online like-button while sitting on a porcelain throne with our underwear resting on our ankles.

Do we really want to see such low effort activity as evidence someone has feelings for us?

Just because we want it to be true, doesn’t make it so. 

And let’s not forget that such fastidious analysis deeply hurts our love lives. When we’re hung up on someone’s morsels of attention, we won’t notice anyone else kind and fun who crosses our path because we’re too fixated on our screens looking for someone to heart our content.

It’s, of course, exciting to see that our carefully made photos and videos can entice our flame. But if it never moves offline, why should we care?

If we reward such a low form of interest with generosity, it tells the other person that we’re fine being treated so casually. And if we’re after something more deep and meaningful, that’s not going to be getting us the results we want.

Instead of focusing on what might compel someone to follow our social media posts, we want to completely shift our attention to people who are putting in effort to get to know us. 

So why might someone who’s shared laughs with us over text and in person reach out to our social media platforms instead of us?

Because they don’t like us enough. So let’s not put our time and energy into people who don’t want to return the favour.

Breaking the Cycle of Anger and Blame in Partnerships

“I’m unhappy and it’s all their fault.” 

When our partner wounds us, we feel angry, upset, and misunderstood. The bigger the hurt, the more we see ourselves as a victim. And the greater the odds we’ll lose our relationship.

Because rather than being a good teammate and supporting our companion, we’re too busy wallowing in our own pity or self-righteousness. 

To keep our relationship from falling apart, we can’t allow ourselves to become a martyr. Instead, we need to take responsibility for the problems that we helped create.

And that starts with changing the story behind our pain.

We’re not just innocent bystanders who intentionally get picked on by our partners. We’re both imperfect, adult people who’ve been shaped by a world that consistently harms and disappoints everyone.

Yes, our partners bruised us a little. And yes, they could probably be a bit better at taking care of our feelings. But would we really be feeling so wronged and righteously angry at our special person if we were more content with our lives and aware of our own flaws?

When our spirits are low and our egos big, it’s natural to go apeshit when our partner lets us down.

Anger feels so much better than being vulnerable. Asking for kindness often feels too difficult when we’re exposed and weak. We’d rather empower ourselves by screaming and yelling. It gives us a sense of strength that conveniently pushes the hurt away.

Little do we understand, however, that anger also pushes away the people we love the most.

Expressing anything other than fury will already be better for our relationships. Not just because it gives our mate less reason to lash back at us, but because it’ll be closer to the truth.

We’re not really angry that our partner hurt us. We’re afraid that we might be with the wrong person or that we’re not even worthy of love at all.

Giving them even a glance at the truth will already improve our relationships. It’ll motivate our beloved to be more helpful, patient, and caring. Anger only inspires them to reply in kind.

So try your best to share what underlies your rage and how much you need them.

It’ll make reconciliation much more likely. 

And please remember, occasional door-slamming and name-calling is normal in even the most healthy relationships. Sharing the mad, barbaric parts of ourselves is a weirdly romantic gesture that we only reserve for our most intimate friend.

So when we catch ourselves blaming our partner for everything, we should ask ourselves: 

“Are they making our lives more miserable than to be expected? Or is it about the same as every other couple in the world?”

When To Let Go: Ending Unhealthy Relationships

Having the confidence to walk away from someone who mistreats us is wonderful. It breaks the cycle and opens us up to healthier experiences. But how do we know if breaking contact is the right move?

After all, people are rarely villains. These nefarious characters only exist in books and movies. 

Real human beings, however, are a puzzling mix of both wicked and virtuous traits.

The person who recently upset us is almost certainly as many-sided. And if they’ve also once made us feel cared for and loved, their hideous deeds are all the more vexing.

But it doesn’t have to be.

If we step away from our pain and try to look through their eyes, we might find a very simple reason for their wrongdoings.

Most people who behave horribly act out because they’re hurt or afraid themselves. Strong individuals have no need to wreak havoc. But someone who’s struggling to keep their head over water doesn’t know any better than to violently flail about.

So if someone’s transgressions are all we can see, then we need to step back and catch sight of their situation and strengths.

If we do, we might just find out they’re terrific people going through difficult times.

That perspective doesn’t justify their misdeeds, but our compassion does make it easier for our wrongdoer to own their mistakes and make it up to us.

Without a chance to make amends, there can’t be repair. And there lies the crux of the entire thing.

We can stand confidently behind our choice to sever contact if we’ve given the other person plenty of opportunities to set everything straight, and they’ve come up short, time and time again.

A single incident is never enough to break a relationship by itself. A strong bond only breaks when both parties don’t have the patience, humility and tenderness to understand each other’s needs and make things right. 

The Best Way To Attract A Mate

Everyone wants to be desired. Yet we tend to be turned off by people who like us too much too quickly, even if they’re amazing.

That’s why so many of us it play it cool when we like someone. We don’t want to disgust our crush by being too interested.

So we feign indifference. 

We hold back our compliments, slow down the speed of our text messages, and pretend not to be particularly excited about seeing them again.

To get them to care about us, we figure we have to fake not caring about them.

But that’s a terrible dating strategy.

Not only does playing charades cost us a lot of time, but our disinterest may actually break down the connection we’ve tried so hard to build up. 

Perhaps even worse is when we successfully bait our beloved into chasing us. Their attention might feel like a success at first. But it’s a hollow victory.

Because as we’d later find out, it wasn’t us who they were running after. They were simply in hot pursuit of the validation that we were dangling in front of them. And once we gave that away, we lost their interest too. 

In other words, playing hard to get creates excitement around the chase, not us. 

So what’s the better way of winning someone over? 

Showing interest and excitement without suggesting that we’re obsessed with them. After all, it’s the obsessive, needy side of us that turns our paramour off. It suggests we need help and that they’re our only relief.

To effectively seduce someone, we have to strike a good balance between independence and attachment.

How do you best do that? By having boundaries.

An emotionally mature and independent person feels comfortable building bonds with others because they can take care of themselves. They both know how to express what they want from us and how to walk away when we don’t deliver.

Since they only stay interested for as long as we treat them right, expressing desire is easy for them.

That mixture of honesty and autonomy is incredibly attractive. Not only do they have a genuine capacity for closeness, but they’re also a strong individual who can thrive on their own. 

And that’s what makes a great partner.

When attracting a mate, it’s perfectly fine to suggest we want to get closer to them, as long as we also show we’re ready to do something else that better fits our needs.

A Good Start To The New Year

It’s a new year and that means creating and following through on our resolutions. We all know, however, that setting new habits is difficult. And that failing to meet our goals makes us bitter and upset.

The very opposite of why we promised to better ourselves in the first place.

So rather than believing this is the year that we’ll finally quit smoking, get in shape, and live life to the fullest, it might be wiser to curb our enthusiasm and keep our expectations low.

It prepares us for the worst. Protects us against disappointment. And gives us enough distance from our incompetence to laugh at ourselves.

This doesn’t mean to give up on our ambitions and accept how hopeless we are. It simply means that we won’t take our New Year’s resolutions so seriously, so that we can fill the gap between what is and what could be with laughter instead of tears.

Life already gives us plenty of reasons to be unhappy. Why add another one to the pile? 

It’s easier to be content when we treat our resolutions as nice-to-haves instead of must-haves.

Hate In The Age Of Hashtags: Surviving Animosity

Finding out someone hates us can be pretty alarming. It threatens our sense of belonging, makes us question our worth, and leads to rumination if we don’t understand where the hatred comes from.

In the pre-internet era, making enemies happened infrequently enough that we didn’t need a guide to deal with our feelings of rejection. Plus, we often did something to deserve it. So their resentment also served as an opportunity to learn and grow. 

But today, we can affect so many people that upsetting even a fraction can create an army of livid foes, even if we didn’t have it coming. 

And without guidance, we’ll take the ire of our modern haters as an emergency. Even if it’s completely unwarranted and they pose no threat to us. 

Now we’re scrambling to look for a way to redeem ourselves and avoid damnation. But there’s nothing to understand or fix. And there’s no real danger.

We’re afraid of disgruntled people who have no power over us only because we put them in charge of evaluating our right to exist. A sweet, but naïve gesture. Although others can teach us a great deal, many strangers have no interest in giving us constructive feedback.

And that’s precisely what we need to look out for.

When we’re the target of another person’s judgment, we need to identify if they’re trying to educate or eradicate us.

In other words, does their message seem more kind or cruel?

Anyone who seeks to hurt us should instantly be recognised as a broken individual who currently has nothing to teach us. They’re simply miserable and looking for company. And we have no reason to take their comments and actions to heart, nor is it wise for us to change their minds.

Everyone’s allowed their own narrative. So if we’re the villain of someone else’s story, our best option is to make peace with it. 

Only the person who’s careful with our feelings and articulate about our wrongdoings should be the focus of our concern. They might have shared something we need to hear. And if our aim is to become better people, we want to do our best to listen to them.

Stop worrying about the mindless haters and start listening to the mindful critics.

Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach