Authentic Dating: 5 Ways to Build Trust

Written by Stacy Ingraham, MSEd., LPCC-S
Individual & Couples Gestalt Therapist

When most people create a list of “must haves” in a relationship partner, “trustworthy” is typically at the top. Important to note is that earning trust and trusting someone takes time. Here are a few ways trust is built in a relationship.

    1. If you want to start a relationship out on the right foot, be honest and open from the start. Building trust begins the moment you introduce yourself – online and in person.
    2. Put your heart out there, little by little. Each time we share with another person, we give them the opportunity to care about, support, and know us. Of course, this comes with the risk of getting hurt or being rejected. By testing how the other person responds or reacts to our vulnerabilities, we can learn whether they can be trusted with deeper, more intimate parts of ourselves. For more on vulnerability, check out Brené Brown’s TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability.
    3. Working through tough moments together. Lean into conflict. Do not avoid it! The purpose of conflict in relationships is to protect the closeness. While bringing up something difficult can be uncomfortable and anxiety provoking, it’s another opportunity to build trust. Sharing concerns is another way of communicating “I care enough about me, you, and our relationship to try to reconnect and strengthen our bond, instead of build resentment, feel irritated, and vent to other people about you.”
    4. When you apologize, mean it and work toward change.
    5. Stay true to your word. When you say you’re going to do something, follow through. If you say you’re going to pick him up at 6:00, arrive by 6:00. If you say you’re going to pick up milk on the way home, pick up the milk. If something changes, communicate this with your person as soon as possible. Trust erodes when we say we’ll do something, and we lack follow-through.

If you find that you struggle with any of these ideas, a therapist can help if you are open and honest. If you care about your relationship and a foundation of trust was not built or has been shaken, seek guidance from a qualified couple’s therapist.

How often do you cross the line between caring and taking too much responsibility?

Caring and Taking Responsibility: How Often Do You Cross the Line?

By Stacy Ingraham, MSEd., LPCC-S

Do you have an innate desire to help others be happy and fix their pain? Are you a nurturer and enjoy taking care of others? When you see a loved one struggling, do you work harder than they do to find a solution? If you answered yes to any of the above, you may have a tendency to cross the line between caring and taking responsibility.

Intellectually, most of us know that taking away someone’s struggle is not only impossible, it’s not what they want or need. We all need to struggle if we want to grow. If you’re unsure whether you tend to cross the line, the following breakdown between caring and taking responsibility may help.

Caring for another involves the following:

  1. Listening with genuine care, respect, and an attempt to try to understand what a person is experiencing. If you want to learn how to be a better listener, check out the article, “What Great Listeners Actually Do” by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman.
  2. Offering assistance while setting limits to how much you’re able and willing to do.
  3. Asking someone if they want advice or feedback before giving it.
  4. Remembering that you are separate from the other person. Their feelings and behaviors may not have anything to do with you.

Crossing the line into taking responsibility involves the following:

  1. Helping by completing a task that takes away a person’s opportunity to struggle and therefore, grow. For instance, doing your son’s homework assignment because solving math problems is difficult and gives him anxiety.
  2. Planning or organizing someone else’s life in an attempt to make a day or an event go as smoothly as possible for others. This can involve questioning someone persistently, or asking “are you sure?” multiple times when he/she has stated their decision.
  3. Taking on another person’s emotional pain by taking the fault when it has nothing to do with you. Or, trying to make someone feel better by talking them out of their pain and then feeling irritated when they distance themselves or do not feel better.

Crossing this line over and over again becomes painful, exhausting, and feeds anxiety and depression. It can lead to loneliness, resentment, and frustration in relationships. A powerful gestalt intervention involves helping individuals enhance their awareness. Therefore, if you tend to cross the line from caring into taking responsibility and want to change, practice noticing each and every time you approach the line.

  1. If you feel resentful toward others when they dismiss your advice or help, you may be crossing the line.
  2. Perhaps you start worrying excessively about others and spiral into “what ifs.” You may say to yourself, “If I don’t do his homework, he’s going to fall behind, get teased, fail math, not get into college….”
  3. Perfectionists can cross the line in an effort to ensure that everyone is happy, having fun, and getting along. Along the same lines, if you need people to like you, notice when you start trying to figure out how you can help make things easier for them.

As your awareness increases, you can decide how to care and set limits so you avoid crossing the line. Remember, we can care deeply about others and help them without taking away their pain, fixing their problems, trying to make their life perfect, and enabling their troubling behaviors.

Thank you to Norman Shub for identifying this important theme.

 

 

Are You Sabotaging your dating life?

Are You Sabotaging Your Dating Life?

By Stacy Ingraham, MSEd., LPCC-S

We date for a variety of reasons, primarily with hope of falling in love with someone who has similar values, interests, goals, and of course, chemistry. And when the topic of dating arises, a variety of feelings are evoked. There are more ways than ever to meet someone, yet so many of us are unsatisfied with and jaded about dating. So why does it have to be so hard?

Since we can’t change others, let’s take an honest look at ourselves. What might you be doing to sabotage your dating life?

-Do you listen to, and trust your gut?

-Are you a good listener? Be honest…do you tend to prepare your response while the other person is talking? Tend to talk about yourself and try to convince him/her that you’re a great catch?

-How are you at asking interesting questions?

-Do you put yourself out there (this can be especially tough for introverts)?

-Do you let the other person do all of the talking?

-Are you so jaded that you nit-pick every little thing that’s wrong, or could be wrong, about the other?

-Do you rush into relationship mode, instead of really take time to get to know someone?

-Do you date the same type of person, over and over again?

-Are you presenting yourself authentically? Or, are you making adjustments to fit into what others want, or you think they want?

How we meet someone becomes irrelevant when we don’t know how to engage people in meaningful ways, listen to our gut and do something about the red and green flags, and have clarity about what we really want. If you are struggling with dating, take some time for self-reflection and consider the following:

-Ask friends you trust for honest feedback.

-Meet with a therapist who will not only listen, but also give you feedback with support and compassion.

-Recommended books: Heart to Heart: Learning to Love, by Norman Shub and How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk, by John Van Epp

Five Ways to Be More Engaging in Conversation and Relationships

5 Ways to Be More Engaging

By Stacy Ingraham, MSEd., LPCC-S

Imagine if you felt heard, important, and respected during most interactions. We do not often leave conversations feeling this way, because many of us aren’t very good at engaging others. When we engage someone, they feel like they matter, are heard, and appreciated. If you care about the person and especially if you want to grow a relationship (personal or professional), learning the skills of engagement is imperative.

  1. Be a really good listener. Listen for details, so that you can ask specific follow-up questions about what they share. If you are preparing a witty response, planning a grocery list, or consumed with worry about what the other person thinks about you, you are not being a good listener.
  2. Be curious. People who are interested, are interesting. A common mistake many of us make is talking too much about ourselves. This can come across as though you are trying to convince that person to like you. Instead, ask open ended questions, so it requires more than a “yes” or “no” response. And if you have been listening, you will be able to ask those follow-up questions.
  3. Is your anxiety getting in the way of being present, or really with someone? If so, you may be putting too much pressure on yourself to be liked and accepted. Take a few deep breaths and trust yourself. A little anxiety is natural and motivating. Too much can be debilitating – consider seeking counseling or coaching if you can relate.
  4. Speak non-verbally. Make eye contact, smile, have an open stance, lean in, nod…. We are always communicating.
  5. Show vulnerability. Giving someone a genuine compliment, accepting a compliment, sharing how you feel about something and asking for help are ways we can be more vulnerable. For instance, if you are enjoying the conversation, tell them. If their smile is warm and friendly, let them know.

These skills do not come naturally to many of us. If you want some help, consider the following:

-Get connected with a skilled coach or therapist whom you trust to provide feedback with support and compassion.

-Seek feedback from friends.

-Get out of your comfort zone and practice. Take small risks in your everyday life by striking up conversation, making eye contact, and noticing when your body language could be more open.

-Watch Amy Cuddy’s “Your Body Language Shapes Who you Are,” and Brenè Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability”

-Read Developing High Self-Esteem and Leadership From the Inside Out by Norman Shub, Gestalt as a Way of Life by Cyndy Sheldon