Are you Your Own Worst Frenemy?
Six months ago, I was in a coaching session with my client, Sylvia. A guy she had been emailing on Match and hadn’t heard from in a few weeks had popped up out of the blue. “Hey,” he wrote. “What happened to you?”
“Did you email him back???” I asked. I was excited to see someone she’d been communicating with was trying to reconnect with her. Sylvia had been having a hard time getting dates from guys she liked.
“No. I’m not emailing him back,” Sylvia declared, looking at me like I was out of my mind. “I wrote him last and then he stopped communicating with me. He’s got a lot of nerve implying I was the one who dropped the ball.”
“Really?” I replied, “What’s the difference? He reached out. Can’t you just play along? You have a long email history with the guy. It seems like you were into him at some point.”
I went on to suggest that she write him 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 think so,” she insisted. “Why should I make it easy for him? I want a guy who’s excited about me and pursues me.”
My female clients say this all the time; they want men to chase them, but what they really do is make them jump through too many hoops. If a guy 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 the man off, claiming he didn’t seem like he was interested.
Sylvia was missing the point. This guy had reached out to her. Maybe he didn’t use the best approach, but he was trying to get the communication flowing again. When it comes to online dating and two people haven’t even met, it doesn’t matter who wrote the last email. People have busy lives and they get distracted. What’s more, most people are communicating with several different people at the same time and it’s easy to lose track of who you’re writing to. You need to take it all with a grain of salt.
The bottom line is that Sylvia is not dating naked. She’s taking things personally and putting up walls, walls that no man in his right mind is going to work that hard to get through, especially if he hasn’t even met her yet! As long as her Frenemy (read Inner Bitch) is calling the shots and she’s being defensive and closed off, no one will pursue her. I tried everything I could to convince her to write this guy back, even just for practice, but she wouldn’t budge.
Interestingly enough, the day after my session with Sylvia, I coached another client, Maya, on 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 message asking where he’d disappeared to. After all, what did she have to lose?
Maya hesitated, but then she took 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 need to be more playful and ease up on men; 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 guys 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 had first started coaching with me, she told me about all the self-help books she’d read and how hard she’d worked to get to a place where she liked herself. After our session, she wrote me a long, defensive email reminding me about all the work she’d already done on herself and saying that she didn’t feel she needed to change. Then she went on to reiterate why she was right in not emailing back the guy. To me it was clear that she was guarded. She didn’t really want to put herself out there. Dating can be risky: what if she got rejected and found out that she was going to have to do more work on herself before she would be ready to get into a relationship?
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. Unfortunately, she was still terrified of rejection, and rather than risk getting hurt, her Frenemy was putting up an even bigger wall. So, in the end, I could see that her sense of self wasn’t nearly as solid as she wanted to believe.
In Zen Buddhism, there’s a concept called beginner’s mind; it’s the idea that you approach every situation from a place of openness and curiosity, and with a willingness to learn something new. A quote relating to that concept kept running through my head as I read Sylvia’s email: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Sylvia’s inner 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 someone you’ve been talking to online, see if you can let go a little, stop jumping to conclusions, 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!