Six months ago, Good Morning America/Huffington Post's complete make-over contest winner Marissa came to me as a client. I was tasked with helping her to find a relationship. This month I am happy to report (actually elated) that Marissa is seeing someone she feels she might be able to build a future with. It is, however, anybody's guess, including hers, how it will turn out. While I had hoped for this result, what excited me more was that she had opened her heart again to the possibility of love. I knew once she had done this, whether it took six weeks or six years wouldn't matter, she would find true love.
First meeting - Looking at Possibilities
Once we sat down a number of things became clear. Marissa, while highly capable and successful in her career and a great mother (sound familiar?) was less than stellar in the relationship department. She was clearly driven in these areas and equally hard on herself. This had to change. It would take her learning to honor herself and the choices she was making. For all of us, this is an important precursor to attracting a great relationship. Specifically for Marissa, this meant giving up a pattern of being hard on herself.
And then there was her 'story'. We all have one. Hers was that she was just too busy for a relationship. Even though there was truth in that, I also knew for Marissa they were code words for I'm afraid to fall in love. Instead of challenging her and labeling her story an excuse which would have added to her self imposed pressures, I instead chose to fully embrace and honor what Marissa was feeling. Marissa was about to start a new and demanding job that would initially require much of her attention in addition to the duties she had as a single mom. There was no need to push or judge where she was in her process, something I hope any professional you work with will always do for you.
Our next meeting - Cleaning House
Two months into her job, Marissa reported she loved what she was doing and the people she was working with. Still nothing had moved forward on the dating front. There were a few people she had been dating prior to our work together, but they were space fillers. They, she admitted, would never be more than friends. Marissa agreed to let go of these safe relationships so she could take the next step into the pool of possibility and toward opening her heart. While this would appear to be an easy task, it wasn't. There is great comfort in keeping people around who make us feel as if we are working on relationship when in truth they often serve to disguise an even greater truth -- that we are afraid to open our hearts to real love. Letting them go often means exploring past regrets and judgments about old relationships. Until we engage in these necessary steps it's easy to say we are open to love when in truth we simply are not.
Four months later - The Heart Begins to Open
Having adjusted to her new job and cleaning house of past relationships, Marissa was ready, really ready, to explore a relationship. But, there was more house cleaning to do. Marissa opened up about a guy she was kind of stuck on; someone who was less than an ideal candidate. In my 15 plus years of experience, when we get stuck on these type of people it is often a signal that the heart is still less than open. We then use the other person's lack of true availability to disguise our own unwillingness to take the next vulnerable but rewarding steps toward attracting real love. Marissa and I could have spent months, even years, looking at why she was attracted to this man but we didn't. It was clear that as long as she stayed committed to opening her heart, and trusting she was capable of making self-honoring decisions, this type of guy would become less attractive. As predicted he soon faded into the background like a bad addiction making room for a true partnership
Marissa talks to this point. In her words, "if I had to convince someone that they were right for me, they were probably wrong from the start and can you imagine what it would be like two years from now?" I call that sane thinking. It made me think about a woman who so wanted her boyfriend to marry her that she put together a business plan pointing out all the risks and advantages, clearly language he could understand. He finally relented. Needless to say, the relationship produced a beautiful wedding, several homes and a mountain of heartache when he finally left her some years later when as he put it, "I found someone with a fresher portfolio." Ouch.
Month Six - The Relationship
I'm happy Marissa and I have accomplished what we set out to do. I have every confidence that should for some reason this relationship not work out, she is more than capable to deal with that and move on. Our work together is not finished. Relationships as a rule bring up so many wonderful issues and opportunities for growth and I'm sure this one will be no exception. We have decided to continue our work together, this time off camera, as she continues to explore this relationship and perhaps even more importantly, how to keep her heart open regardless of situations and circumstances. I hope you will take courage from her journey and in the fun she is having.
Heide Banks is a nationally recognized relationship expert who works with individuals throughout the country. As an author and expert, she is a frequent guest on national television having appeared on such shows as Oprah, Good Morning America, 20/20, and CBS The Early Show, where is a regular contributor. She can be reached at HeideBanks@aol.com