What is Conscious Dating?
Last week, we shared with you three tips to takeaway from what is known as the Attraction Method, or “The Game” in modern dating. Which of the three stood out at you most?
Building attraction in a relationship was always the biggest challenge for me because I like to take things very slow and let things grow naturally. I had this backwards in my mind: making myself available to someone early on in dating is an attraction killer and not something that builds an authentic connection that lasts!
I’ve come to understand that when I am single and not pursuing a relationship, I feel very grounded and aligned in my personal life, mission, and the vision I have for my life which includes time freedom as a top value. However, throw another person into the mix and I find myself being more flexible on my boundaries and standards to welcome them into my world.
As a result, I’ve spent the last few months diving deeper into my own “stuff” and welcome others to join me on that journey through the podcast over the past two years! Wow. Two years of hosting a podcast about authentic dating and I just now feel like I have a grip on what that means.
That being said, let’s check in with our favorite couple, Mark and Jane, to see how things are going after their work trips to San Francisco and Chicago when Mark didn’t reach out to Jane to say goodnight. As it turns out, they connected over the phone the next day and were able to speak about the feelings that came up for Jane when her anxious attachment style was activated. Do you remember how Jane’s anxious attachment style was activated when Mark traveled to San Francisco and failed to check in one night?
Since returning from their work trips, they have consistently seen each other in person around work, friends, and family time. Mark and Jane are truly enjoying one another and they are feeling closer and closer as they spend more time together in the first three months.
Even though they communicated well about the isolated incident when traveling, Jane’s overthinking mind travels back to that night occasionally and it reactivates her feelings of anxiousness around her new relationship. She has shared that she trusts Mark but thinks this may be “too good to be true”. Jane has shared that she is about 90% confident he’s the right fit for her long term but has a gut feeling that she needs to make sure he is for real.
Can you relate?
What Jane feels coming up for her is an intense urge ask Mark but is afraid of asking him directly. She has come up with a plan to test him the next time she sees him. Jane has no idea where this desire to test him comes from, it feels very subconscious, yet necessary. She really feels as if it’s the right thing to do to calm her anxiousness.
She has spent hours this week ruminating on just the right words to say to find out where Mark stands in their relationship before she goes “all-in”. This behavior is typical of an anxiously attached person and can often look like avoidant attachment because they begin to pull back and reside within themselves.
Meanwhile, Mark is focused on work, going about his day to day routine, and eagerly anticipating their date this Friday night.
Can you feel the ticking time bomb ready to explode in their relationship? Have you felt this unconscious desire to test your partner early on to see if they are for real?
Fast forward to Friday night when Mark is about to get blindsided by the first big test from Jane!
Mark picks Jane up at her home and takes her to his favorite speakeasy restaurant near downtown Williams and Graham. They spend the car ride catching up on their weeks because it had been unusually busy for Mark as he was bringing new partners into his business.
Over the course of dinner, Mark senses that Jane was mostly sticking to small talk and avoiding eye contact, causing him to become more aware of her mood. He has come to understand that when Jane acts this way, she has something on her mind but hates to be pushed to reveal what it is. So he decides to wait until she’s ready…. tick, tock.
Finally, Jane can’t hide it anymore and explodes from that unconscious place that held here self-doubt and surprising even herself, she blurts out, “I feel as if you’re pulling away from me and I can’t understand why I feel so disconnected from you, Mark.”
Mark had sensed that there was something on Jane’s mind but this was the last thing he would have expected to hear over dinner at a fairly busy restaurant! Jane wasn’t loud, just shorter than usual. What would you do if your partner approached you in this way?
In this moment, Mark has a lot of choices in how he can respond to Jane’s opinion. Let’s focus on two common scenarios!
First, Mark has the option to react immediately to show how angry he is that Jane would accuse him of something so ridiculous. As Dr. Robert Glover described in his book, No More Mr. Nice Guy, men who grew up in conflict avoidant households tend to do four things when they react to their partner’s emotions and statements.
DEER is an acronym that can be broken down into “Defend, Explain, Excuse, Rationalize.” And this is where the ticking time bomb lies. In the unconscious manipulation of the Nice Guy.
If Mark had a tendency to lean toward Nice Guy behavior, he may defend Jane’s comment by saying how busy work was this week which would give an inaccurate explanation for why Jane would be feeling the distance. Have you heard this knee jerk reaction from a partner recently or in the past?
If Mark were to choose this reaction out of fear of losing her or needing Jane’s approval, it would definitely lead to her not feeling heard or understood; we wrote about this in our blog post How to Make Your Partner Feel Heard. However, Mark has done some serious work acknowledging his shortcomings in previous relationships and he is committed to not repeating his patterns.
So Mark makes a different choice. He makes a better choice from a conscious place.
Let’s start over with Jane’s comment, “I feel as if you’re pulling away from me and I can’t understand why I feel so disconnected from you, Mark.”
Mark chooses to pause and ask himself, “Is there a genuine truth to what she is saying to me right now?” and he tunes into his gut instincts. His intuition and knowledge of Jane’s patterns and emotions leads him to believe there is more to this comment than what is said on the surface. He chuckles to himself as he imagines a viral video called, It’s not about the nail. Take a moment to watch it below.
Pretty clever way to sum up what is going on here between Mark and Jane, don’t you think?
Mark takes a moment to pause, considers where Jane is coming from, and decides there isn’t a genuine truth to her choice of words. But he knows that from her perspective, her feelings are valid and need to be acknowledged.
So Mark chooses to say, “That must be really hard for you right now and I understand how you must be feeling.” Mark acknowledges Jane and her opinion, doesn’t negate them at all, but also realizes that he doesn’t have to agree with her every time there is conflict.
What Mark is able to do is create a space for Jane to step into, as if he built a frame for a painting, and she can create the artwork. He also knows that patience and calmness goes a long way to showing her empathy.
What Mark chooses to do next is very important. He responds by saying, “Tell me more about how that feels to you.”
What he is not doing is using words that put Jane on the defensive, such as “but”, “you always”, or “wrong”. Mark is coming from a conscious place of compassion for his partner’s feelings without supplicating or making an excuse for his behavior. Mark’s career is very important to him but not more important than his relationship with Jane and he wants to ensure that she FEELS the safety and security, so he stands up for himself without negating her feelings.
Ultimately, Mark chose to consciously look inward to discover whether there was truth behind her words or if there was a hidden meaning. If there was any anger there, his was a clean anger that is healthy when conflict arises in a relationship.
What this does for the relationship between Mark and Jane is that it allows him to uncover the true meaning behind her words, he can take the lead in their relationship, all while remaining in his masculine energy and as well as she is in her feminine. How do you think Mark handled Jane’s test?
Do you have questions about how that works in your relationship? Let us know by email and we will be sure to answer that on an upcoming episode of the podcast, which you can find by subscribing here now.
I hope you got as much out of this expansion on a serious topic in modern dating as I have! If you’d like to learn more about authentic dating in a swipe right culture, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or YouTube now!
Do you have a more pressing question for Dave Glaser, Enneagram relationship coach? Connect with him via his online calendar for a free 30 minute get-to-know you call! Just click here now to schedule.
Tags: advice, authentic, believe be real be bold, boyfriend, compassion, conscious dating, consciously dating, date, dating, dave glaser, david daeda, defensive, denver, dr robert glover, girlfriend, honest, how to feel heard in a relationship, husband, love, my partner, no more mr nice guy, podcast, shit tests, subconscious, truth, unconscious, what women want when they test men, wife