There’s a point in every dating scenario when we know it’s over. Either they aren’t moving toward partnership, or we recognize they’re not the one for us. It doesn’t have to be tragic or sad. We don’t need to play the victim just because society sold us this “story.”
We can see this experience as a natural occurrence of two people who aren’t on the same page, or we can allow it to destroy our self-respect. For reasons we may or may not understand at the time, this isn’t our true partner. Someone better lies ahead. We’re being rerouted to our future destination.
I had a client who was seeing a man she liked. They’d been dating one month when he began back peddling. She wanted more, he wanted less. Frustrated, she could feel what was happening. Despite her efforts to connect on a more meaningful level, he was definitely going South. What to do?
She felt disempowered and held captive by his decision to stall. She knew her worth and didn’t want to sit idly by watching him retreat, pretending nothing was happening. Friends advised her to call and press the question, “So, what’s going on here?” Being neither needy nor insecure, that advice didn’t register as an option. She had to make a move that was authentic and positive for all.
I suggested a proactive move on her part that would both reconnect her to her power and leave him intact. Revenge is for amateurs and normally backfires on the one who seeks to minimize the errant partner.
I asked her what she had gained from knowing him. What specifically had he given to her, and her life, that she would have never had unless she’d been with him? She told me that she’d experienced the ability to be open and honest in her communication with a man, for the first time in her dating life. In that answer, she uncovered her “action step.”
I told her to call him and speak in “monologue” form — a one-way conversation relating this truth, from the heart. She was skeptical. My advice seemed to defy all she’d learned in the world of ego preservation. But she trusted me enough to try it.
I knew what would happen next, but didn’t tell her. The point was to have her realize the power of being proactive. In being the first one to “tell it like it was,” she empowered herself. She made that call. Speaking her truth with confidence and warmth, she thanked him for his contribution to her life. It was a form of saying: “I know you’re back-peddling. I see it. But I need you to know something about my experience of being with you before you go. I gained from it, and from you.”
My client was able to do this because she was “done.” She’d tried everything, yet still needed to do something else. Taking the reigns and speaking up was born in this relationship, so it was especially needed now. She didn’t care any longer what he thought of her. With no ego left to preserve (the most powerful of all realizations and positions possible) and no need to worry about his reaction, she left her beautiful voicemail message. I also knew what his next move would be, but again I didn’t tell her. That information would have colored her tone and energy in the call.
She needed to tell her truth, without going for a “goal.”
Men have highly sophisticated antennae regarding maneuvers and the inherent instinct to sniff out underlying motives. She didn’t have a motive. She had no game, and no agenda. Her call wasn’t a strategic move, nor was it a tactic to create a “push/pull” response. Her call was simply a statement of fact.
He called back immediately. Moved by the sincerity of her message and its manner of communication, he asked her on a spectacular date.
The need to control an undesirable situation by pushing or pulling a partner into compliance is the root of all torment. All we can do is improve ourselves. We can’t coerce others or make them want us. But we can show up in a way that allows us to shine, no matter what the outcome.
When do we fold, and when do we hold? We hold when there’s still hope. We fold in the moment we see there’s no hope. When a partner’s back peddling, a proactive position can be a profoundly powerful option. When we speak our truth in that moment, it doesn’t have to be the un-empowered ranting of a bruised ego. It doesn’t have to be a wounded battering. It can be a liberating truth as we realize all this is indeed, for our gain. It can be the thankful truth that allows us to move forward to a new position, or leave with our goodies in hand.