Let Go: The key to being blissful

Let Go: The key to being blissful

Freedom Goals

I sat down today to write this blog post and thought: am I repeating myself? For your sake, I hope that I’m not yet I feel like I am.

I keep encouraging singles to first embrace themselves and their lives before getting out there to find a partner with whom to create a great relationship. Yet I know so many people who are still stuck. Still overly obsessed with finding partnership and running around in circles, chasing their own tails, trying to achieve their dreams but just not getting anywhere.

Yes it’s true that our desire to love and be loved is a powerful – and neccessary – goal. But I’ve seen so many people to fall into a hopeful wishful obsessive trap where they yearn for a partner so fervently that everything else falls to the wayside.

I’ve seen a lot of emotional suffering and pain arise from this attachment to this desire, yearning, and goal. I see so many singles cling to the myth that relationships are the cause of happiness, as in: “I’ll be happy when I have a romantic partner.”

Too many singles think happiness is contingent upon external circumstances and situations, rather than upon their own inner attitude toward themselves, or toward life in general.

letting go leaves fallingThey become attached to outcomes.

When I was in high school, I used to fall into this trap a lot. I remember hoping and praying that the universe would bring me a special, uber-person who would see me as the divine creature that I am. I will never forget that burning feeling in my heart as I longed for a relationship that would “complete me”.

And what did all that praying get me? Desperation and mania and countless relationship mistakes.

Again – don’t get me wrong. Wanting to love and be loved is one of the greatest things we can do and experience.

The trouble comes when we get driven about our dreams and goals – grasping after them, insisting that they continue, craving and clinging, taking it personally when there’s a hitch, or getting pushy.

The art is to pursue our goals and dreams with enthusiasm, discipline, and skill without getting all hot and bothered about them – and to enjoy life’s pleasures without getting attached to them.

The truth about over-attachment to our desires

Attachment to outcomes or to a goal is based on fear and insecurity. As mentioned previously, you begin to believe that you need something outside of yourself to make you happy. It’s easy to think, “I’ll feel good when I have more money in the bank, lose 15 pounds, find my soul mate, pay off my bills, etc.”.

This obsessive attachment reflects our mind’s struggle in response to challenge – in this case, the challenge is being single and looking.

Yet none of us want to struggle. Most of us want an easier time of being single and an easier time of dating.

Ironically, letting go, particularly regarding outcomes, is key to being peaceful. You set your intentions and take whatever action is needed, and then relinquish your attachment to the outcome. When we get so caught up in our yearnings, such as the idea that we must be in a partnership to be happy, we can’t see the trap we’re setting.

I recently read a poem by the 5th Century Tao poet Chaing Tsu that summarizes the Catch-22 we often set for ourselves:

The Need to Win

When an archer shoots for nothing he has all his skill.
When he shoots for a brass buckle he is already nervous.
When he shoots for a prize of gold
He goes blind, or sees two targets.
His skill has not changed, but the prize divides him.
He cares.
He thinks more of winning than of shooting,
And the need to win drains him of power.

So think about it – the more attached we become to the outcome (finding a perfect partner), the more we over-react emotionally and the more we hinder ourselves. In fact, using this poem as an example, we hinder ourselves in two ways:

Emotionality: If the archer needs to win, the prospect of failure is threatening and produces an emotional reaction – nervousness – which undermines the steady hand required of the task.

Distraction: The archer will perform best when his attention is focused on shooting to the complete exclusion of everything else. To the extent the archer thinks of winning rather than shooting, the prize divides him and the need to win drains him of power.

Benefits of non-attachment

When you understand the true meaning of non-attachment:

  • Expectations no longer rule your life.
  • Emotions arise, but you have perspective.
  • You have a clarity of mind so you’re able to see through to the truth of things.
  • The problems of this world evoke compassion rather than anger.
  • You don’t chase after happiness. You just enjoy it when it’s present, and release it when it dissolves.
  • You’re able to allow life to unfold without needing to control everything.
  • You don’t stop loving. You love even more.
  • Your heart only grows bigger and bigger and bigger, when you see all the unnecessary suffering in this world.

The Let-go How-to:

OK I love this image but letting balloons drift into our atmosphere is not great for our environment... I know, Buzz Kill.

OK I love this image but letting balloons drift into our atmosphere is not great for our environment… I know, Buzz Kill.

So here are some tips on how to let go of attachments while pursuing your goal of finding a partner:

Hold lightly.  The best principle I’ve found for navigating the tension between wanting a goal to manifest and being peaceful is to be intentional, but hold it lightly.

In other words, have a goal, but don’t be so bound by it that you miss out on the opportunity to learn. Take a stand, and be open to surprises and new learning.

If you practice this basic principle over and over again, you eventually develop an instinct for how to assess risk and navigate uncertainty. If you move without clarity about your intentions, or if you hold on to those intentions too tightly, you will likely fail. If you hold onto your intentions too tightly, you miss out on the learning.

Practice letting things be. That doesn’t mean you can’t actively work to create a different tomorrow. It just means you make peace with the moment as it is, without worrying that something’s wrong with you or your life. Learn to operate from a place of acceptance.

Question your attachment. If you’re attached to a specific outcome—a dream job, the perfect relationship—you may be indulging an illusion about some day when everything will be lined up for happiness. No moment will ever be worthier of your joy than now because that’s all there ever is.

Notice. One of my favorite psychologists, Dr. Rick Hanson, talks about being aware of wanting inside your mind. Try to notice the ways in which desiring feels subtly tense or uncomfortable. Notice the emotional pain of not getting what you want, including disappointment, frustration, discouragement-perhaps even hopelessness or despair. Notice the discrepancy between the rewards you expected to get from a want, and what it actually feels like to fulfill it. Similarly, notice that the anticipated pain from the things you want to avoid – especially things that would really be good for you to go after – is usually worse than the discomfort you actually feel.

In the end, the key to being an empowered single, whose experiences are blissful and easy breezy, is to set sail and chart a course of action yet still allow the tides to carry you along.

Ask the Coach: Going dutch when money is tight

Ask the Coach: Going dutch when money is tight

Ask the Coach Finances

Coach Linda,

I’ve been dating this guy for a short while – about 6 months. We’re both in our late thirties, never married. Every time we go out, he wants to split the bill 50-50 – whether it’s for a weekend at a hotel, a Yankees game, or dinner – whatever. I thought this was okay when we first started dating, but now that we’re dating exclusively, it seems like too much. He likes to go out a lot, and it’s stretching me beyond my financial limits. I mean, I’m employed but I have other financial obligations right now. Whenever I bring up the money topic, I get this impression that he gets angry. Naturally, that keeps me from saying more.

Except for the money, I love dating this guy. We have a great time and we get along really well. What should I do? What’s the money protocol when it comes to dating nowadays? ~ Anna


money love scalesAnna, I totally understand your interest in honoring your financial boundaries. It’s smart of you to recognize this now and not try to “keep up appearances”.

For the record, I’m not too much into “protocol.” My view is that cultural norms do more to harm rather than help relationships. I also don’t believe in dispensing advice so here we’ll focus on helping you work something out that feels good and fair to both of you, while keeping an eye on the process as well as the solution.

Before we address money, we need to address the fact that you think he gets angry. This is a huge red flag and if we ignore it, we’re just burying our heads in the sand.

Let’s first determine if he truly gets angry … or if you jump to the conclusion that he gets angry. Do you have any proof that he feels angry when you bring up money? What did he actually say or do to make you come to this conclusion?

It’s important to get to the truth of the situation because many times, people misinterpret as a result of their own filters that are clouded with past experiences. For example – I recently had to call my vet to ask a few questions about spring shots that were administered for my horse. The receptionist immediately went on the defensive, interpreted my questions as an attack and told the vet that I was upset. Until that moment, I was not in fact upset. The point of that story is that because she weathered angry owners in the past (or perhaps she is hair-trigger sensitive), she immediately associated a questioning owner as a hostile owner. When we leap to conclusions like this, we shut the door to fruitful conversations and create polarity. (See my blog post on the hostile kiss cam incident to understand this concept a bit more.)

One the otherhand, if you have verifiable proof that he gets angry, what’s underneath his agitation? To understand his emotional reaction, you may need to ask clarifying questions and avoid accusing him of anything. I’ll write a blog post on conflict resolution soon to help you. If you find you can’t have a rational conversation with him – if he becomes too emotional on the topic – you may have to re-evaluate the relationship. If you can’t talk things through with him now, while the relationship is still young, things will not get better on their own. And remember: Every moment you spend on a poor relationship choice prevents you from finding a relationship that works!

Then on the flipside: If he doesn’t actually get angry, then maybe what you’re experiencing is your own discomfort in asking for what you need. Think about what buttons are being pushed within you and what’s really causing you to feel unsafe. There may be something for you to develop in yourself so that you can be confident around discussing things that don’t work for you, without holding back due to fear of rejection or retribution. A good life coach (like me!) can work with you to identify and break through the limiting beliefs that are making you wary and timid of honest and open communication.

OK – so now for the money part of your question.

You seem to be fine with paying 50/50 as opposed to thinking that the man should always pay. It speaks a lot about how you want to be an equal partner in any relationship, where you’re taking responsibility and contributing in kind.

If this is not the case, and you truly resent your partner’s insistence on going dutch, you may have to examine your values and your needs (i.e. you need to be taken care of) and then have a conversation with your partner to determine his needs (i.e., having an equal partnership).

It’ll be important for you to know how to handle this kind of conversation without making him feel like he’s wrong. You might discuss your (and his) past experiences; he may have felt like a prior girlfriend took advantage of him, and once you understand that, you may find common ground.

This is a conversation worth having no matter what, since it’ll be important for you both to be on the same page if you want this relationship to last. The bottom line is to understand what’s important to both of you around money and spending.

So now, let’s say that you are truly OK with paying 50/50 and your finances truly are strained.

It is really important to be open and honest with your guy, and let him simply know you can’t afford all of the expensive dates. Before you open the door to this conversation, tell him that you love dating him and why. Tell him you are uncomfortable about discussing this topic but you see the need to resolve it and to grow more confident in your partnership with him. Ask for his support and understanding.

You now have some options.

You can offer to continue paying 50/50, except let him know the frequency needs to be cut back.  Then he can decide whether he wants to put a little more money out on the dates you can’t afford and pay for you.

Another option is for each of you to split the date cost proportionate to your income. For instance if you make 2/3 of his salary, you contribute slightly less than half toward the date costs. If he doesn’t want to pay any extra, consider whether or not you will be okay with this for the rest of your life if you get serious with him. This means you will always have a very calculated financial future with him.

Another option is to start exploring inexpensive date ideas. I just blogged about this topic HERE.

You can also open up the discussion to finding win-win solutions that are outside the box (and thereby you can possibly increase the closeness you feel in your relationship).

The bottom line is that the future success of your relationship relies on your ability to communicate with him. To have a fulfilling, long-term relationship, you have to be honest with your expectations and feelings and your partner should be open to listen and understand. And vice versa. A true partnership and healthy relationship requires a willingness to meet in the middle. Compromising your goals now, much less your financial well being, will lead you further into an unhappy relationship and dismal future.

Above all, don’t sell yourself short. Money is a big issue, and if you don’t work out something now, then there is no point in continuing with this relationship.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you need more support in unraveling your limiting beliefs around asking for what you need.