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January 1, 2015

Interview With Amanda McPherson

1. Some of my subscribers haven’t dated for a long time and feel out of touch and lost. They feel stressed out and anxious at the prospect of going out on a date. They also don’t feel confident and have body image issues as they compare themselves with the other women. Can you share your advice on what women can do to overcome this problem?

Dating can be fun but it also can bring up a lot of insecurities— especially if it’s been awhile since you’ve been in the dating scene. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re struggling with a little bit of self-doubt; this simply means you’re human! But, while it’s certainly okay to be human, it’s not healthy if our insecurities keep us stuck and afraid when it comes to romance. Whether you are a seasoned dater or just dipping your toes in the water, these reminders will help you navigate the dating scene with authenticity, confidence and heart.

Focus on him– Listen up gals, it’s truly not about the dress you wear or the size of your thighs—it’s a about the feeling he has in your company and the feeling he has when he thinks about you. Sure, you want to look your best and it’s okay to put some effort into how you look. But, the number one thing you can do to stand out from the “competition” is to show genuine curiosity and interest in him. When we’re nervous and anxious about our performance on a date, sometimes we forget to focus on the other person. So, turn that energy you are using obsessing about your hair, your dress and those last five pounds you had intended to lose and turn that energy towards him when you are on a date. What makes you memorable is how you leave a person feeling after they have been with you. You will stand out if you make him feel listened to and special.

Adopt an abundance mentality– There are two different ways to go through the dating process (and life in general for that matter) — a scarcity mentality or an abundance mentality. Beware of the scarcity mentality. This mentality tells you there aren’t enough good guys left, that only the model look-alikes get dates… that you are destined to be alone. Wow, sounds like a really fun gal to date, right?! You may not realize it, but a confident, secure man can smell a scarcity mentality from miles away. Do your best to adopt a mentality of abundance. This doesn’t mean you won’t still long for a relationship, but it allows you to approach the search for the right person with hope and excitement. Celebrate love! Be happy for your friends when they meet someone special. Believe your match is out there! An abundance mentality is incredibly attractive.

Don’t settle-I totally understand that it can be tough out there. The search for the right person is not for the faint of heart. Dating can be filled with disappointments, awkward moments and sometimes even heartbreak. But don’t be tempted to settle for less than you deserve. Dating someone who doesn’t make you feel special, or dating someone you can’t get excited about is emotionally and psychologically draining. When you are settling, you feel less hopeful, less energized, less attractive… the list goes on. Settling for less than you deserve feels worse than being single. Save your precious time and energy for the person who lights you up like a Christmas tree.

2. Great advice. You mentioned, “Save your precious time and energy for the person who lights you up like a Christmas tree.” Are you referring to chemistry or something much deeper? One of the complaints we hear from our subscribers is attracting the wrong kinds of men over and over again. They are drawn to these emotionally unavailable men and attribute their attraction to intense chemistry.

However these women don’t feel the same level of attraction with good, decent men that treat them with respect and make them feel safe and comfortable. Can you share your thoughts on chemistry- how important is it for a relationship to succeed long term and can chemistry grow over time? Is it worth persisting with a man with whom a woman feels comfortable but doesn’t quite share the chemistry?

I must go on record that I am a believer, and lover, of chemistry. I think it is important to feel that special spark with the person you choose as a romantic partner. But, it’s only one component of a relationship and “chemistry” should not be confused with anxiety and fear-produced butterflies that come with dating an emotionally unsafe person. Being on an emotional roller coaster is NOT healthy chemistry. Yes, it may elicit chemical responses in your body (dopamine and adrenaline) but this is not sustainable for a long-term relationship. The “spark” must be backed up by character, comfort and connection.

If you have a pattern of dating men who are not trustworthy, kind and emotionally healthy, it’s time to take a good hard look at yourself. Maybe you never learned what healthy love looks like due to your upbringing or maybe you don’t truly believe that you are worthy of real, intimate love. Many of us are actually terrified of true intimacy (I know I struggled with it). In a strange way in can feel safer to date men who keep you guessing and are always a little out of reach. But, these relationships simply don’t last and they won’t meet your needs long-term. You owe it to yourself to explore your own barriers to real intimacy. Healthy people choose healthy partners. Make sure you have your emotional health in order and the rest will follow.

3. Some of our subscribers hesitate to share their honest feelings especially as they are getting to know a man and want to grow the relationship. This hesitation comes from the fear that they may come across as someone too emotional and needy and feel that it may push the man away. So they don’t raise the issues and avoid tough conversations because they want to be the “cool” girl. Here are some examples: she goes out on a date and he says he will call her but he doesn’t. She is disappointed when he doesn’t and doesn’t discuss this when she hears back from him. Other examples are not calling ahead of time when he is running late or not making plans for a date etc.

What advice do you have for women who have issues that they want to discuss with their man but have troubles expressing them because of the fear of coming across as a nag or needy or demanding?

I read a great quote the other day that speaks to this issue:

“Dating is about finding out who you are and who others are. If you show up in a masquerade outfit, neither is going to happen.” ~ Henry Cloud

I understand the fear around stating your needs in a new relationship. It’s important to strike a balance. If you’re the type to jump on the first blunder a man makes, you may need to let down your guard a little. When you are getting to know someone it’s okay to give him the benefit of the doubt a little bit. On the flip side, if you never voice your concerns, you are not presenting the real you which doesn’t help either of you know if you are a fit.

It’s important that you watch for patterns of behavior that reveal a man’s character. Being late once—could just be a fluke. Being chronically late—could signal lack of manners and respect for your time. If you decide that you want to address an issue with a man you are dating, it is important that you do so in a way that is honest and clear, but not attacking. How many of us have blown up at a guy and then felt so badly about how we handled it that our initial complaint gets lost in the battle and we end up feeling “crazy”?

Stating your needs and concerns is not needy, controlling or “crazy”. However, using passive-aggressive behavior, blaming and shaming only makes us look bad and—ironically—totally negates whatever legitimate complaint we had in the first place. It can be very difficult, but learning to have uncomfortable conversations in an honest, authentic way is one of the major skills you must practice to have the kind of relationship you want.

4. Another common problem we hear from our subscribers is the fear of being alone and never finding the right man. This is especially common as women enter into their thirties. They see their friends getting married and even having kids, they are asked by friends and family when they are going to get married and they feel the pressure of a ticking biological clock. In the process, they approach their relationships from a place of fear. worry and anxiety.

Instead of enjoying their dates and conversing with men, they tend to interrogate them so that they can stop wasting their time and weed off the wrong men. They tend to fall too hard and too fast in love when they find a man they like but often that scares men away.

What advice do you have for women who approach relationships from a place of worry and how can they shift from a clingy, desperate vibe to an empowered, joyful zone?

First, let me say that I think it’s unrealistic to get to a place where you “don’t care” if you’re single if you truly want to be in a relationship. It’s more than okay to be honest with yourself about your heart’s desire to be with someone. The hard part is holding the both the desire of wanting someone in your life and a sense of comfort about being single at the same time. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s possible for both to co-exist.

Remember that you don’t just want someone in your life—you want the right one in your life. And, as cliché as it sounds, you have to be the right one to have the kind of relationship you want. I think some women fear that if they loosen their grip on their search for romance, they will somehow miss out on finding Mr. Right. But, ironically, the tighter we cling to our search the more it can feel hopeless and out of reach.

It may not be what women want to hear, but the single most important thing a woman can do to help her chances of finding a great relationship is creating a life that is meaningful, happy and fulfilling. When you are truly content with your life it shows. It shows up in your body language, your words and your overall energy. You won’t have to try to be open, fun and less afraid. You will truly feel that way! Ahhhh. Doesn’t that sound freeing?

There are few guarantees in world of love and relationships. Trying to control it is a futile task. The only thing you can control is how you present yourself to the world. A scarcity mentality is literally scary to people while an abundance mentality is exciting and comfortable. If you feel like you are approaching dating with fear and anxiety, it is probably time to shift your focus. It sounds counter-intuitive to pull back on dating when a partner is what you are craving so badly, but it’s what you need to do. Take some time to feed your heart and spirit.

5. Some of our subscribers have the tendency to ignore and overlook the red flags especially when they really like a man. In the process, they create an idealized version of the man and overestimate the feelings he has for them. For women who have a history of fantasizing and idealizing a partner, what can they do to evaluate the man and their relationship for what it is truly worth rather than what they ideally like it to be?

I talk to so many women who are dating the man’s potential, not the man that currently exists. It can be confusing when someone has many qualities we like, but also falls short in some ways. I encourage women to evaluate any relationship according to what is happening now. Are you feeling prioritized? Are your emotional needs being met? Do his words and his actions match up? Do you feel like you can trust him and that he is emotionally safe?

If you are waiting and hoping for some of these core traits to change, you will find yourself feeling crazy and frustrated. Evaluate based on the present— it’s the most accurate indicator of what the future will bring.

6. Some experts recommend women wait till they get to know the man they are dating and not have sex until you both are committed to exclusivity. Some experts believe you should go with the flow and be spontaneous and not have any rules regarding when you want to sleep with a man. Can you share your thoughts on the right time to have sex?

My bottom line stance on when a woman should have sex is this: a woman should only be having sex when it feels totally and completely congruent with her value system. If you are a woman who really feels most comfortable waiting to have sex until you have a certain level of emotional connection or commitment, you shouldn’t have sex before you are ready. Not because of any “rule” per se, but because you aren’t going to feel at peace about it. If you don’t require that kind of connection and commitment and can enjoy having sex casually without regret, go for it. Just like every other area of dating, the most important thing you can do is to present your authentic self in the relationship.

7. Some of our subscribers feel stuck in their love lives because of their past emotional baggage. This affects them in a number of ways- they either tend to compare the next man they are dating with their ex or they have trust issues because they have been cheated on before or they just cannot seem to forget their ex and move on in life. What are some practical ways that can help women release their past emotional baggage so that they can start attracting healthy love into their lives?

As one of my dear friends likes to say, “we all have baggage, we just need to make sure it fits in the overhead compartment.” I know it’s much easier said than done, but it’s important that you begin to see your past as lessons learned and experiences that have shaped you into the woman you are today. If you’re a living, breathing human being who has experienced any kind of relationship, you have undoubtedly been hurt, frustrated or abandoned at some point along the way. No one is immune to these experiences. However, if we let these negative experiences define us it becomes unmanageable baggage- there’s no chance of it fitting in the overhead compartment.

For example, if you have internalized the cheating behavior of an ex to mean “I’m not good enough” or “I’ll never find someone who will be completely committed to me” — you must work on this distorted belief. You are harming yourself with this distorted belief and no partner will be able to permeate that wall.

If you are still pining over your ex and comparing him to every man you date, this could also be a problem. On one hand, it is okay to let past experiences inform what you are looking for in a partner. Perhaps you had an ex who made you feel emotionally safe. It is understandable that you would want to find this quality in another partner. However, we sometimes have a tendency to revise history with a more positive slant. There is a reason this person is an ex. Maybe you had communication problems, perhaps you weren’t attracted enough or- as painful as it might be to face it- maybe he didn’t want to commit to you. Remember that you are looking for the right fit for you.

If you’re feeling bogged down and stuck under the weight of your baggage, some of these practices might help:

– Meditate on learning to accept and be free from past hurt

– Examine the “why” underneath your past romantic disappointments

– Write a letter to your ex. Pour out every thought and emotion that comes to mind (you don’t necessarily need to send it, the process itself is therapeutic)

– Seek out counseling

8. One question we get asked quite often from our subscribers especially from women in their late 30s and above is if there are enough eligible men looking for a serious long term relationship. There seems to be this belief that men around their age group are more interested in younger women. What advice do you have for women who have a deep rooted skepticism that they can’t find love because of their age and are almost at the point of giving up?

I’m not going to sugarcoat things, ladies. I’m no statistician but, yes, I’m sure the numbers would show less single men after their mid-30s and beyond. We have no control over the statistics. But (and I probably sound like a broken record) we DO have control over how we choose to present ourselves and approach the world of dating. Will approaching the search for a partner with a skeptical, negative mindset help you in any way? Absolutely not. If you’re single and looking for love, I know it can be tough out there. But, you have a choice over whether or not you allow it to make you tough. If you’ve got to be “out there” anyway, why not approach it in a way that is going to be more attractive, more authentic, more fun and more hopeful? Negativity and skepticism may give you a false sense of control and protection against being hurt, but these things are simply additional obstacles to finding love. And the last thing you want is more obstacles, right? Remember, you only need one!

9. Our subscribers also run into a situation where things are going great and just when they think the relationship has great potential or feel he is the one, the man starts developing cold feet. He pull away, doesn’t respond to phone calls or text messages and in some cases disappears for a while. What advice do you have for women who deal with men that suddenly pull away and act inconsistent?

Consistency in a partner’s behavior is very important. Inconsistent and incongruent behavior from our partners understandably causes us to feel less safe and secure in a relationship. If you are getting signs of “cold feet” behavior, I would calmly address it with your partner. Let them know how it makes you feel and ask for honest feedback about how they are feeling about the relationship, making a commitment etc. If the inconsistent behavior continues to happen, I don’t think it’s possible to have a long-term, meaningful, truly intimate relationship with that person. You will continue to feel on-guard and insecure— and that’s not the kind of relationship you deserve.

10. What are your top 3 relationship tips that you would offer women who are single and looking for a long term committed relationship?

1. Don’t neglect your most important relationship—the one with yourself. Create a life that is meaningful and fulfilling.

2. Approach dating with a sense of hopefulness and positivity.

3. Figure out what you really value in a partner and don’t waste time trying to change anyone. This may cause you to be single more than you’re used to, but it will keep you from feeling so exhausted and frustrated about dating. Plus, it leaves you open to create and enjoy that full life that you should be living!

About Amanda McPherson

Amanda McPherson

Amanda has a passion for empowering women to follow their dreams and to love themselves just as they are. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor- Intern under the Supervision of Kat Elrod LPC-S in Austin, Texas. She shares her thoughts and expertise about women’s issues through her blog, Girl Get Your Roots Done! and her writing has been featured in several online publications. To know more about Amanda, visit her website www.counselingwithamanda.com and www.girlgetyourrootsdone.com.




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