It’s happening again: you find yourself staring at your phone, waiting for a text back from someone you thought you had a particularly good date with. “But the night went so well!” you tell a friend, perplexed by the abrupt end to the previously steady flow of communication. As the negative thoughts begin to flood your mind, you start to make a mental list all the things you might have done wrong: a joke that fell flat, that shirt you were unsure about, a kiss that was good for you…but was it good for him?
No matter how hard you try to reassure yourself, you can’t stop wondering, “What’s wrong with me?” If you were in my coaching office having a session, here’s what I would say: “There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re just your own worst Frenemy.”
“My own worst, what?” you’d exclaim, rolling your eyes for effect.
I would explain it like this: your Frenemy is the voice in your head that feeds you all of those nagging questions. At first, it might sound like a well-meaning friend helping you figure out what you did wrong, But if you listen closely, you will realize that it is really your own self-doubt taking the wheel. If you aren’t careful, your inner Frenemy can totally steer you away from the road to true love.
So, how can you get back in the driver’s seat and stop those negative thoughts from distorting your perception? One tool that has worked for my clients and myself is the Five Clarifying Questions, a simple process that I developed while I was dating to stop my Frenemy from spiraling out of control. Here’s what you do: Define the issue first. Then ask yourself the following questions. Let’s take a deeper look at how each question can help you through the lens of an example issue: I get lots of first dates but I can’t seem to get a second date.
- How is this experience making me feel? Some situations will cause us to have an emotional reaction. When we’re dating, it stirs up a lot of emotion. In the case of our example, the honest feelings there might sound something like: “I feel stuck, frustrated, sad, angry, disappointed, and unlovable.”
- Why am I feeling this way? This question is about really trying to dig deeper and connect with the reason inside yourself that you’re upset. It isn’t about judging or blaming the other person. Here, you should write down your thoughts and feelings about what’s causing you to feel this pain. For example, instead of saying “I feel this way because guys are jerks and never talk to me after the first date,” we would instead try to look inward and say something like: “Because I really am trying. I am putting myself out there, doing the best I can and it doesn’t feel fair. Sometimes it feels like everyone is in a relationship but me. I don’t understand why dating is so hard for me.”
- What is true about what I’m feeling? Some of what you are feeling is justified. In order to see the truth and stop listening to the lies your frenemy is feeding you, you have to separate what is genuinely true from all of your fear and negativity. Here are some examples of truthful statements in our scenario:
- I am trying.
- I am doing the best I can.
- Dating genuinely feels hard to me.
- What am I telling myself that is causing me to feel badly?
This is where you can let that nagging Frenemy have it! List all the negative thoughts you’re having that are holding you back. They might sound like:
- This isn’t fair.
- Everyone is in a relationship but me
- I will never find someone.
- I’m boring, so no one wants to see me again.
- I take everything too seriously.
- I’m too needy.
- What is the truth about each of these negative statements?
Now you’ll need to be honest with yourself about where this negativity is coming from and turn it into constructive truth. You might find that you’ve found some pills that are hard to swallow. Maybe you’re not playful enough or you’re too quick to judge. Maybe you aren’t a good listener or you’re not very compassionate. Whatever the case, if you’ve found something that you can improve upon, then you’re doing it right! You should be proud of yourself. Knowing yourself and your weaknesses will help you get better about what’s holding you back instead of simply making yourself feel better. The truth about our above statements, and probably many of your own, might go something like this:
- My experience isn’t fair or unfair; it just is.
- Everyone isn’t in a relationship. There are lots of other single people.
- If I keep opening my heart and getting emotionally naked, I can meet someone.
- I can learn to become a more interesting conversationalist if I choose to do so.
- I have a tendency to take things seriously, but when I feel comfortable, I can also be very playful.
- Just because I have needs, it doesn’t make me needy.
The good and bad news is that the dating process will bring up anything you’re doing to prevent yourself from attracting the right partner. It isn’t an easy process, but it is worthwhile. The rewards far exceed the difficulties you might experience along the way. With this five step process, you will be able to kick your Frenemy to the curb and practice learning from your dates and disappointments. And the more you practice, the easier it gets!