Even before COVID, one of the most common experiences I would hear from clients was one of wanting, craving connection. Sometimes the context was romantic partnership, but just as often it was about cultivating more meaningful friendships or intentional community as an adult woman. This sentiment was and is typically followed with how challenging the process can be with full schedules, physical distance and now social distancing.
I hear it. As we change and grow over time, it makes sense that there may be shifting in our social landscapes, and things can often feel sparse before they blossom again. But I’ll offer that the logistical challenges that come with developing new relationships in adulthood may also be a gift or an invitation to take pause and get clear on what types of relationships we actually want in our lives. It’s then that we can move forward intentionally, mindfully.
Interestingly, when I ask folks to envision who they would want to share their time with they often name character traits of others they view as compatible, sometimes even careers those people may have. This isn't a "bad" strategy per se, but it may be limiting. If ever there was a time to rely on intuition and emotional intelligence, this would be it … when we’re seeking our people, yes?
So what if instead of making lists of character traits, we took the time to consider how we’d like to feel in our relationships?
Examples: I want to feel heard, I want to feel received, I want to feel joyful and at ease, I want to feel accepted as my full self.
And what if instead of seeking folks with similar career paths, we again pause to take inventory of our values and seek out others who might share them. Examples: I value self-inquiry, I value humor and goofiness, I value social equity. I value creativity.
It's a different approach than many of us are used to, I know. But by tapping into our emotional needs this way, we are more able to bypass preconceived ideas of who might actually add to our lives and vice versa. We're able to feel our way in to relationships and be curious. Do I feel expansive and giving when I'm spending time with someone? Or do I feel guarded and shutdown? Do I feel energized and resourced? Or do I feel drained from giving with little reciprocity?
There's a lot of information to be had by paying attention in this way. And from a more informed place, we're able to ask important questions of ourselves and make healthier decisions. Is this a relationship I want to pursue? Is there a disconnect and is it something I want to address and work on? Or is this a deal breaker?
As poet, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, live the questions.
I'll wrap up here by noting that if the concept of 'trusting your gut' feels scary or foreign, you're not alone in that. Reasons ranging from relational trauma to cultural conditioning can attribute to a basic mistrust of our feelings and intuition, especially when it comes to relationships. The result can look like numbing out or even explaining away our feelings.
Seeking out support through psychotherapy, coaching and/or group work may feel nourishing and helpful in the process. If you're interested in learning more about how I work with women and girls around this very topic, please feel free to reach out. I'd love to hear from you.
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,