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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 really liking someone, but still feeling blocked, what to do when you and your partner have different life goals, building a family of creation with friends, how to develop self-love, and much more.
Table of Contents
- The Evolutionary Process Of Self-Honoring
- Understanding Our Inner Restrictions
- Finding And Building Community As A Single Person
- Finding The Balance In A New Relationship
- The Interdependence In Loving The Self And Others
- The Joys Of Experiencing Our Core Gifts
Deeper Dating Q&A: Expert Advice For All Your Questions About Love, Dating And Sex
Welcome to The Deeper Dating Q and A, where I answer your most pressing personal questions about love and sex, and intimacy, in a way that will help you apply these insights to the particulars of your own love life, and hopefully, leave this episode with new insights and revelations about your own journey, so stay tuned to the Deeper Dating Podcast.
Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. I’m so happy to have you join me. I’m Ken Page and I’m a psychotherapist, the author of Deeper Dating, and the Cofounder of DeeperDating.com, a site where single people can meet in an online environment that’s fun, inspiring, kind and respectful. In this podcast, I’m going to be answering your personal questions that you call into me. In this and every episode, I’m going to share 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 the skills of love, and the skills of love are the greatest skills of all.
If you want to learn more about the deeper dating path to real intimacy, just go to DeeperDatingPodcast.com. You can sign up for my mailing list, get free gifts, and learn a lot more about how to use these ideas to transform your own intimacy journey. I also want to say everything I share in this podcast is educational in nature. It is not medical or psychiatric advice or treatment. Finally, if you like what you’re learning here, I would love it if you could subscribe and leave me a review. Just this week, I’ve gotten the most beautiful reviews from people, so thank you so much for that.
The Evolutionary Process Of Self-Honoring
So let’s jump in. Someone, who I’m going to call L, for the first letter of their name, called in and asked me this question. She said that she had to take care of her paraplegic father herself as a child, as well as raise her younger children, and she’s a very caring person, but she does not want to have children, but her boyfriend does have children, and this is a real dilemma for her, and she called in to ask how to handle this situation. I want to use this question to talk about all of those kinds of situations that we enter into where we meet somebody who’s really wonderful, really lovely, but there are things that are difficult. Maybe it’s a physical thing, a part of them that you’re just so not attracted to, or maybe it’s their politics, or maybe it’s that they have children and you don’t want children, or they don’t want children and you do want children. Any of these kinds of things that it’s just kind of so universal this experience.
My broad general comment is this. Love is built to turn us inside out, to help us become the people we are meant to be, but that does not mean losing our authentic truth, and what’s right for us and what isn’t right, and both of those things are true, and both need to be honored. This is a kind of evolutionary journey. I’ve worked with so many people who I have just deeply respected their ability to hold both sides of this. The part that said, “No, this is not right for me,” and the part that said, “I’m falling in love with this person. I’m having these really deep feelings, and I love this person, or I’m growing to love this person, or so much is right that I have never had be right before in a relationship. What do I do?”
I want to say that the people whose kind of process I’ve honored and appreciated, and respected the most are the people who hold both of those truths, and stay in the presence of the relationship until an answer becomes clear, because what’s going to happen is over time, one of those sides will become ascendant. Either the person will become more beautiful, the relationship will become more beautiful, to the point where you say, “I’m going to give up this expectation or this want,” or that expectation or want will become so clear and feel really true that you know it’s not going to work, but love teaches us and trains us, and so often things that we think were not going to be what we want, and I am not talking about character issues because character is everything. Emotional safety is everything. I’m talking about things like them having children or not having children.
What I would say is stay in this, honor both sides, as crazy-making as that is. Talk to people who you love and trust, and just be present in the relationship with both waves. The wave of, “I can’t do this,” and the wave of, “Oh my God, I really like this person.” That beautiful evolutionary process of self-honoring, but where honoring the beauty of the relationship, will ultimately make things clearer for you. It’s a scary and rocky journey, but it’s a journey of truth and it’s an important journey.
Understanding Our Inner Restrictions
Someone else left a message talking about an experience where she has found an attraction of inspiration. She’s been with this guy like five times, and there’s a kindness, a decency. She feels like she could be herself. She’s allowed to be who she is. There’s a feeling of real freedom, deep connection, mutual respect, and she’s celebrating that, and I am celebrating that with you. That is just wonderful, but she says that there’s a feeling of internal pressure that she’s experiencing that is very uncomfortable. She describes it as a sense of inner restriction. She says this guy is attractive, but she’s not insanely wildly crazy attracted to him. He definitely is attractive, but she feels the sense of inner restriction.
She knows that this is probably internal stuff and she’s beginning therapy, three cheers. That is wonderful to explore this more fully. In her journey, she decided to be honest with this guy because she felt this blockage and she wanted to be authentic. She talked about this inner restriction that she was feeling. She told him that she was attracted to him and interested in him, and wanted to continue, but there was this inner restriction sense that was holding her back. He kind of pulled back after that, but they are still seeing each other. She’s concerned that she might have hurt him, that she might have hurt the relationship. Did she do the right thing by mentioning this? Even more, what to do from here on?
The same lessons for deep friendship apply to deep romantic love, which is to look for the people with whom your soul feels safe.CLICK TO TWEETI think that that phrase “an inner sense of restriction” is a very powerful one and says a lot. Maybe some of you who are listening relate to those words, an inner restriction. I think that I just want to honor you for doing what you did because you needed to do that to stay real with him. I’m very curious, too, if as he began to distance himself a little bit, if you started feeling more attracted and interested, because that’s kind of a sign that this might be what I call the wave of distancing, which is what happens when we’re with an available, kind, decent person, and we’re just not used to that. That has affected decades of my life until I learned how to work through that, which I talk about in other podcast episodes. The other piece that I would say is “inner restriction.” What part of your body do you feel the restriction in?
I want to say that the meat and potatoes of beautiful intimacy work is learning to work with our walls. That’s like the greatest thing of all, is to learn the language of our walls, so that we can begin to deconstruct them and protect ourselves in more conscious ways. A question here that I would love you to be able to ask yourself is this, what does that inner restriction say? What are its words if you’re going to put words on it? What part of you is it restricting? What does it need to feel better?
And then some more nitty-gritty questions. When you’re with this guy, what stuff triggers that sense of inner restriction? What stuff happens that doesn’t trigger that feeling that lets you be free from it? This is a super new relationship, and you’re learning whether that sense of inner restriction is an important message of self-protection, or quite likely if it is the wave and it’s just fear, but listen to the words of the inner restriction. Let it tell you what it needs, what it wants and so important, how it wants to be handled, how it wants to be touched, how it wants to be interacted with.
I think the greatest error in our intimacy journey is to just take these places where we just can’t, or where we have walls, or where we’re just frightened and condemn ourselves, instead of saying, “Let me unknot this, let me unravel this, let me explore this,” because it is those exact knots where our deepest gifts lie underneath that we have not yet learned how to protect. Asking those questions is so rich, and if this applies to any of you in any different way in your relationships, and it should apply to a lot of you, coupled or singled. You might even pause the recording and just take a minute and say, “What does my inner restriction say? What is it asking for? How does it need to be treated?” These are like the liberating questions that we are not taught to ask.
Finding And Building Community As A Single Person
The next question is just such a wonderful and important one. It is from Barbara and she is 42, and she was very thankful about the work that I teach. Thank you, Barbara. She talked about wanting to build a kind of community, friendship and family, and connection as a single person. She talked about how hard that has been to do because the people she knows often don’t have time for that level of connection. She said, “You know, I do a lot of different social things, but that feeling of family is not there. That’s a very empty and sad place for me and something that’s really important for me to have. Do you have any ideas or any thoughts about that?” I have a lot of ideas and thoughts about that because it’s something I have lived through a lot.
This is one thing I think. I think that the same lessons for deep friendship are the lessons of deep romantic love, which is to look for the people with whom your soul feels safe. There could be a lot of wonderful people, but you want to look for that feeling of like, “This person is gold. There is goodness here. There is a decency. There is a caring. There is creativity. There is a deep integrity.” You want to put that first and foremost. When you make that your kind of guide, you are more likely to find that kind of person. It is harder to find that kind of person with someone who is married or in a relationship and has kids. It is easier to find that with single people often, or people with more, more time on their hands.
Culturally, we are given an idea of independence that fails us again and again because we are deeply interdependent. It’s a both-end thing.CLICK TO TWEETThat’s a really good and wonderful thing, and so essentially important. What I would say is that it’s not easy, but it is as doable as any other kind of relationship challenge. We learn the skills of getting out there. We notice and think about, “What have our friendships been like? What kind of people have we chosen to follow, to chase, to spend time with? Are these people who’ve deeply met our needs, or historically, are they the people who haven’t?” And then begin to rewire and look for people who are antidotal to what we maybe have done before, people who really can fill our hearts. Those are the lessons that will apply brilliantly in your search for love as well, and is it easy? Is the search for love easy? No. Does it require so much recalibration, so much of reconnecting to our heart, and our wisdom, and our inner sense of discovery, and hitting walls, and finding a way through and trying again?
But what I would say to you is look in the arenas where you can find people who also are looking for that sense of family. There are organizations where you’re more likely to find that. Maybe churches or temples, or spiritual paths, or different groups that you could find. Ongoing groups that support community are wonderful ways. These are just some of the thoughts on this journey, but I just want to say this is doable. You can do this. It is preciously important, and it is profoundly connected to your search for love because it’s the same skills.
Finding The Balance In A New Relationship
There was a longish question from someone who asked to be kept anonymous, but it’s a really interesting one and a really good one. It has two parts. The first part is she said that she lost her mom after a long illness when she was only twelve years old. That has made the ambiguity of early relating and early dating incredibly difficult for her, because she just wants to lock things in, to know that her heart is going to be safe, and that’s not appropriate for early dating, and that causes a lot of tension and stress, and just she doesn’t know how to handle that.
This is the thing that I want to say first. The thing that you don’t want to do in a case like this is to shame yourself and blame yourself, and think you need to act cool. This is a part of your heart and your soul, and your Core Gift that is incredibly profound. She also said she loves the Core Gift work, but this is kind of more the issue that she’s facing at this point. Yes, this part of you is a Core Gift part of you that wants deep connection and safety, so that has to be treasured because here’s what happens. When we have a need that we shame, it turns into neediness, and neediness doesn’t feel good, and it doesn’t act good, and it is unkind to us. So the first thing is to normalize and make room for this ache, this longing, this insecurity, and to be able to talk about it with friends, and to love it and understand it, just to know that this is just part of the stuff that you go through in early relationships.
It’s part of the mine fields that you need to learn to map yourself around in terms of how you handle it, but the way to do that is absolutely not to shame yourself, or to tell yourself that you should be someone different. If you can release the pressure by either letting him know in some ways that it would be nice to have some reassurance, or maybe it’s just like you want to reach out and take his hand, but you don’t do that because you think, “Oh, that’s going to look needy, or he’ll interpret that as that I’m insecure,” so then you don’t reach out to hold his hand, and that is when the need shamed turns into neediness and insecurity, and all of those horrible, horrible feelings. One action is often just being bold, just being bold and expressing not even so much their requests, but the generous spirit of wanting to connect in a playful way.
The more you can express the essence of that without going through that internal judge and jury that makes you question, “Am I being too much?” The better off you will be, and you might need to share with him in different ways over time, like you’ll need to find ways to ask for what you want, or at other times, you’ll need to reach out to friends to do that, but just know that this is part of your journey. This is like a big hill that needs to be climbed that you absolutely can climb, and can and should and need to develop skills. Those skills are around not shaming yourself, turning the need into a generous reaching out, getting support from friends, and just honoring and treasuring this part of you. So those are just some ideas there.
Part two of her questions was about this guy as well, and she said, “He is an attraction of inspiration, just yay to everybody who is doing this work,” and saying, “I’m only going to look for attractions of inspiration, and hence being more likely to find them. I just celebrate that so much,” so yay on that account, and she says, “He also is not that communicative. He has these wonderful, wonderful qualities.” She has a deep sense of kind of trust and a really good sense about him, but he’s not a big sharer. He doesn’t necessarily communicate his feelings. She asks, “I’m a little worried that that is going to end up feeling deprivational to me in the relationship. Does that mean this is not a good relationship, or might it mean that it’s still could be, and we find a way to work around it?”
I would say definitely assume the latter if the character pieces are there, if you’re interested in him, and he’s interested in you. I wrote a piece about my husband and I, and I just said, “I’m the feelings channel, like all feelings all the time,” and then I look at Greg and I’m like, “Could I like get a feeling out of you about this?” It’s very, very hard for him, although he’s wonderful at listening to other people, so conceptually, on paper, I would have wondered if this could be a match. I’m like Mr. Therapist, share feelings, but in fact, I feel deeply and essentially held and seen by him, even in his quietness. Not that it hasn’t been hard at different points for both of us, but I would say absolutely, the big question is, what’s the weather like inside of you when you’re with him? What do you feel inside? And if it’s good, warm, gratifying, generative feelings, that says a lot, and a lot can be worked through and around if that is there.
The Interdependence In Loving The Self And Others
There is a group of gay men in the New York area. They’ve created their own self-study group with deeper dating, and I’ve got two questions from that group, and I’m going to share them both because they’re great questions. The first question was around a passage that was on page 90 of my book, which says, “Popular psychology tells us we can only love others if we love ourselves first,” but the real truth is often the other way around. Until we feel seen and loved in the places we’re most vulnerable, few of us will ever be able to fully love ourselves. What he says is he says, “Speaking for myself, I’ve learned in all of these different spiritual disciplines, not to mention RuPaul, that learning to love myself needs to be an internal process that doesn’t rely on whether or not someone else happens to love me for who I am, and that many spiritual practices say this same thing. Can you reconcile these beliefs or explain your position further?”
What I would say about that is that culturally, we are given an ideal of independence that fails us again and again because we are deeply interdependent. It’s a “both-and” thing. It is not an “either-or” thing, but the experience in the places where we have the hardest time loving ourselves when we have someone who can look at us and instruct us in the gift part of what we’ve been embarrassed by and ashamed of, there is nothing like that, and the task of doing that on our own is often like pulling yourself up by your bootstraps like you stay up for about one second.
It is so true that we need each other to heal. Conceptually beautiful concept, love yourself first, and I am all about learning the skills of loving yourself, and it is an inside job to a really deep degree. That’s so much of what I teach with the Core Gift work, but it’s “both-and.” It is also true that we learn to love ourselves, one, by choosing people who love us in a wonderful way. That’s like maybe the greatest gift of all in our search for love is learning to choose those people. Learning to choose people only with whom our soul feels safe. So the answer here is it is so much more “both-and” than we are taught by popular psychology or many spiritual disciplines, and that’s just my take on this.
The Joys Of Experiencing Our Core Gifts
The next one is around some particular exercises, which are in my book and in my courses, etc. around discovering your Core Gifts, and some of the questions that I ask in that process are, “Recall three times in your life when you felt most deeply inspired, fed, or moved in a relationship with someone,” so this person tells three very, very moving stories that kind of connect to some of the themes that we’ve been talking about in this episode. Three times in his life when he felt very vulnerable, and experienced a lot of pain, a lot of vulnerability, a lot of uncertainty, and was brave enough, first of all, to reach out to someone, even though it was hard and scary, and embarrassing. Wise enough to choose the right people, and blessed enough that he got to have this experience of in each of these cases, really being able to express his grief and his fear, and feel seen and heard, and not diminished in any way, but honored and supported.
In this work of discovering your Core Gifts, we ask a series of questions. In the book and in the course, there are questions that we ask. This was under the category of discovering your Core Gifts through your joys. These were the joys that he described and he asked, “Can you give me any feedback? Are these really joys? Are there Core Gifts here in these experiences?” Here’s what I would say. Absolutely, yes. These are all situations where you were brave enough to get in touch with deep grief, trusting and beautiful enough to share it with someone, and then able to receive healing from that. That’s big stuff. Many people or most people in the world can’t do that. I just think that there’s something here about your ability to drink deeply from authentic communication, that probably has gotten you in trouble because it’s a Core Gift and it’s a very strong capacity, and made you feel misunderstood, but also has felt like a key to understanding what works for you in intimacy, because these are the gifts of someone who can share deeply and really receive the experience of being held, which I am quite certain that you’re able to give to other people as well.
When we look at the things in our relationships that touch us and move us the most, they’re going to be kind of universal, but they’re also going to be kind of really individual, and out of those, we begin to name our Core Gifts, and I think these are beautiful Core Gifts that you’re describing. I have lots more questions I still need to answer. I will do that on the next Q and A episode. I thank you all for listening. Go to DeeperDatingPodcast.com to join my mailing list, and if you do, the free gift that you’ll get is actually the first two chapters of my book in which you will be able to learn how to discover and name your own Core Gifts. It was a joy to be with everybody, and I look forward to the next episode of The Deeper Dating Podcast with you.
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