Single and Struggling? Time for Some Hard Truths
If you make the same mistakes over and over in love...
If you keep attracting and dating the wrong people...
If you look at happy couples and wonder what they know that you don’t...
It’s time to think about the one common denominator in all of these issues.
I’ve been there. For years, I was stuck in a negative holding pattern and it took some work to realize that I was the problem all along: I kept pursuing unavailable men. That was a tough pill to swallow but I accepted it, looked inward and got to work. Only then did my love life logjam give way to make space for the healthy relationship I’m in right now.
That’s why I talked to Edel Walsh, founder of the Vancouver-based counseling facility Love Done Well where she specializes in relationship therapy.
There was so much good stuff in my chat with Edel that I’ve decided to publish the interview in two parts. The first will give you a good overview of:
why you need singles therapy
why dating gurus and gimmicks won’t fix your problems
what’s really going on when you fight with your honey
What single people should learn from 12 Step groups
Edel tells me she’s had a knack for understanding relationships and communication since she was a child watching the adults around her mis-communicate. As an actor and director, she began coaching other actors and realized she was actually coaching them on their emotional blocks. Fascinated by this, she pursued counseling where she started working on transpersonal counseling which asks, “ Who are you in the world?”
Edel: I realized, Oh my God, people don’t even know who they are and they’re looking for partners. So here’s the thing. If I don’t know who I am, and I don’t know what my values are, if I don’t know my boundaries, if I don’t even know when someone is crossing a boundary, I am NEVER going to know how to have a healthy, happy relationship with another person.
Edel: The reason relationships are so hard is because everyone on this planet has carried trauma of some kind. And for that reason, we are all basically trauma survivors. So if you send a trauma survivor out into the dating world, they will automatically find someone who will trigger that trauma for them in relationships.
And if it is triggered in a way that is a re-enactment of that same trauma, it is going to be so painful and so damaging for their spirit - and for their partner who is unwittingly triggering them - that they are now causing current relationship trauma on top of the old trauma and it just goes on and on and on.
A lot of people don’t want to hear this. They say, “Oh I just want to find the right girl or the right guy. I just want good sex or a guy with a good job or money, and a house and i just want to have babies.”
Go ahead! You will either do the work now or you will do the work later. But you will do the work one way or another. You have only two choices.
Diana: Like, how much scar tissue do you want to accumulate before you do the work?
Diana: This is why I chose to talk to you, a certified counselor. I see too many so-called dating gurus and gimmicks which don’t work
Edel: Some people are looking for the gimmicks and gurus and that might be something that gets them to a particular spot into the dating world and then they’ll say, No I keep picking the wrong guys,” and then they’ll go get a therapist.
The trauma that people are carrying is so painful and to keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Is a form of insanity and we know this. So when people come to me and say, My last partner was abusive, I’ll say who abused you when you were a child. And we just go straight through it. And the connections are made immediately. And I say to them, Let’s heal this trauma and then let’s talk about the kind of partner you really would like to attract.
Whatever stage you are at in your life, you will attract someone at exactly the same level. Someone who has healed their trauma will date somebody who has trauma and will know right away that they’re not a partner for them. They’ll just know by the co-dependent behaviors, by the fawning behaviors, by the adoring behaviors, by the lack of authenticity, they’ll just know. And it’s not attractive for them.
And so in the end, you are who you sleep with, really.
If you’re in an abusive relationship, get away and then get professional help to look at what drew you to this situation. It’s always the familiarity of the brain with that dynamic from childhood.
Diana: It’s really scary to acknowledge YOU. ARE. THE PROBLEM. That it’s not everything out there. It’s you. And you need to make some changes.
Edel: What we are talking about is lack of connection to oneself, lack of self awareness. A universal problem which is projection. Projection means there is some sort of intra-personal conflict within myself that I am unaware of. And so I project it out into my relationships. We don’t even know we are projecting. All we see is what the other person is doing. Therefore they’re wrong and we’re right. So we think the problem begins with the other person. But projection by definition means it’s in me and I don’t know it.
So instead of trying to reach outside of my bubble and meddle with the other person - control, fix, change them - what if I ask, If this is happening out there, how am I playing a part? What is my fault, my role, my mistake in this? How am I creating this for myself?
When we take ownership of EVERYTHING that happens to us, with us, in us and around us - not the other person’s actions or behavior - but the feelings that come up in us and we say, This must be a struggle that is inside of me that I am unaware of, I realize I must bring this back to myself and get some clarity.
Edel suggests we take a page from 12 Step Groups, in particular Step 4: "You make a searching and fearless written inventory of your life"
Edel: This is a step that requires people in recovery to - no matter what the other person did, said - to look at where they were wrong. Where you were out of line, selfish, self-centered, self-seeking. Where you were fearful, dishonest. And these people actually learn how to be accountable.
This is accountability. It’s, Where was I mistaken?
So much to take away from this first part of our interview with Edel Walsh. Did you have any lightbulb moments? Did you recognize yourself in our discussion?
This is the advice I wish I’d had before spending so many years chasing the wrong men and coping with the inevitable heartbreak. If it helps you, let me know! And if you know someone who could benefit from reading this, pass it on. Sharing is caring especially when it comes to love.
In the next part of our interview, we’ll discuss why it’s so destructive to tell yourself things like, “There are no good men/women out there,” and “Men can’t handle a strong woman,” and you’ll see the simple stick figure drawing that has created major breakthroughs for her single clients.