Are you Your Own Worst Frenemy?
Twenty years ago when I was newly single, I joined a spiritual group lead by Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements. I had spent my entire life blocked by anger and fear, and I knew it was time to make some major changes if I ever wanted to be the kind of person I wanted to be, fall in love, and find someone to spend the rest of my life with.
While I was active in Don Miguel’s group I was just starting to date again, and I made it a point to practice The Four Agreements (1. Be Impeccable With Your Word, 2. Don’t Take Anything Personally, 3. Don’t Make Assumptions, 4. Always Do Your Best) on every date. I also added a bonus one for myself: Enter Each Date With a Beginner’s mind. I practiced letting go of all my judgments and preconceptions about dating and relationships, opened myself up to new possibilities, and learned to give people the benefit of the doubt.
Slowly but surely, my entire perspective shifted, along with my dating. It was like I was seeing the world with a whole new set of eyes. I stopped being so defensive and shut off when I met someone new and started to see each date as an opportunity to open my heart and become more loving and accepting of others and myself. Eventually, I met the love of my life—my husband, Benjamin Shield.
The Frenemy is Your Enemy
Now, as a dating and relationship coach, I encourage my clients to practice The Four Agreements and date with a beginner’s mind. As their coach, one of my main objectives is to help my clients see the ways they’re blocking love and help them take the necessary steps to break through their walls. More often than not, it’s The Frenemy that gets in the way. In my forthcoming book, Naked Dating®, I talk a lot about The Frenemy. The Frenemy is my nickname for that critical, fearful inner voice that keeps you from taking risks and going for what you really want in a relationship. Everyone has a Frenemy and, left unchecked, it will wreak havoc on your dating.
Case in point: Six months ago, I was in a coaching session with my client, Sylvia, whose Frenemy was in full swing. A guy she had been emailing on Match and hadn’t heard from in a few weeks popped up out of the blue. “Hey,” he wrote. “What happened to you?” implying that she had been the one to drop the ball.
“Did you email him back???” I asked her.
“No way!” Sylvia declared, looking at me like I was out of my mind. “I wrote him last. He’s got a lot of nerve making it seem like I was the one who stopped communicating.”
“I agree that his approach wasn’t the best,” I replied, “but have you ever considered that he was just trying to get the ball rolling again? Maybe you should give him the benefit of the doubt. Just write him and say something playful like, ‘Actually, you never answered my last email and I was wondering what happened to you! So, where do we go from here? I’ll give you a little hint: if you ask me for my number, I just might give it to you ☺’”
“Yeah, I don’t know,” she insisted. “Why should I make it easy for him? I want a guy who’s excited about me and pursues me.”
Sylvia was missing the point. This guy had reached out to her. Maybe he didn’t use the best approach, but he made an effort. She was the one who wasn’t open; she wasn’t open to him and she wasn’t open to my feedback. She had a lot of walls up, walls that no man in his right mind was going to work to get through, especially if he hadn’t even met her yet. As long as her Frenemy was calling the shots and she was being defensive and closed off, no one would pursue her. I tried everything I could to convince her to write him back, even just for practice, but she wouldn’t budge.
I hear women say all the time that they want a man to chase them, but then their Frenemies will make the man jump through too many hoops to get their attention. If he makes one misstep—it can be something as simple as dropping the thread of communication for a couple of days or failing to ask them a question about themselves in an email exchange—these women will write him off, claiming it didn’t seem like he was interested.
Interestingly enough, the day after my session with Sylvia, I coached another client, Maya, around the same issue. Maya had also been emailing with a guy who’d stopped writing and then resurfaced a few weeks later. Even though they’d only exchanged a handful of emails, Maya was worried she might have said something to turn him off. By the time we met, Maya was feeling rejected and her Frenemy had put up a wall to protect her. Like Sylvia, she felt that if a man was excited and wanted to pursue her, he wouldn’t have let the communication drop.
Maya’s Frenemy had convinced her that she shouldn’t respond to the email, so she was shocked to hear what I had to say. Before she made any rash decisions, I encouraged her to write him a playful email asking where he’d disappeared to. After all, what did she have to lose?
Maya hesitated, but in the end, she agreed to take my advice. “I really hear what you’re saying,” she told me. “You’re telling me to keep an open mind and give people the benefit of the doubt. I also hear you saying I need to be more playful and ease up on men, and you’re right. I can be so hard on them. I guess I’m just afraid of getting hurt again, so I push them away before they can reject me. Even if this isn’t the perfect guy for me, I really do need to practice opening up and asking for what I want.”
That evening I got an email from Maya saying that she had not only written to the man we’d talked about, but she’d also sent a playful email to another man who she had stopped writing. Both wrote her back immediately and an hour later she had not one, but two dates lined up for the weekend. It’s been a few weeks now and she’s already been out with the first guy five times. Imagine what Maya would have missed out on if she had followed her initial knee jerk reaction and written him off for not making a move?
Fear of being exposed
So, back to Sylvia. Want to know what happened with her? When she first started coaching with me, she had told me about her many years of deep self-exploration and how hard she’d worked to get to a place where she liked herself. After our session, she wrote me a long, detailed email reminding me about all the self-help work she’d already done. Then she went on to defend her reasons for not emailing the guy back. It was clear to me that there was more at play: she didn’t want to go out and date because dating is risky. What if she got her heart broken and found out that, for all her introspection, she still doesn’t have it all figured out?
At this point, there was nothing left for me to say. She had come to me for coaching because some part of her knew she was getting in her own way. I could see that her sense of self wasn’t really as solid as she wanted to believe. She was terrified of rejection, and rather than risk getting hurt, her Frenemy had put up an even bigger wall.
In Zen Buddhism, there’s a quote that goes along with the concept of beginner’s mind, and it kept running through my head as I read her email: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Sylvia’s Frenemy was the consummate expert and it wasn’t going to budge… at least not on my watch.
Are you a Sylvia or a Maya?
When you find yourself getting reactive and your Frenemy is telling you to cut off communication with a person you’ve been talking to online, see if you can let go a little, stop making assumptions, and look at the situation with a beginner’s mind. There’s nothing to be lost by giving someone the benefit of the doubt. If you want things to change, you are going to have to stop listening to your Frenemy, take some risks, and be willing to give more people a chance. Ask yourself: do you want to date like Sylvia or like Maya? I promise you, Maya is getting a lot more dates, she’s having a lot more fun, and she’s going to meet someone… or, maybe she already has!
Are you having trouble opening up and giving people a chance? Book a free consultation with me and see how I can help you take down your walls and start dating with a beginner’s mind!