Last year I got badly burned in relationship. Not just a little boo-boo kinda burn, but what felt like third degree burns all over, inside and out. It was abusive and dysfunctional and I’ve written about it in 2 previous blogs (see them here and here).
So I’m not going to re-hash that here. What I’m now interested in, and what a conversation with the amazing coach Jo Valentina-Sinclair got me thinking about, is:
how do I safeguard myself against a repeat performance? and
how can I make more discerning, self-respecting partner choices in future?
I’m in no way ready for or interested in a new relationship right now. Continued healing and self-mastery are my priority. But if and when I am:
I’m a very open, trusting person by nature. Even my kids think I’m ridiculously honest and gullible. For whatever reason, I missed out on the cynical gene and tend to take people’s words literally. I guess, because in my own communication, I’m both naturally and spiritually (it’s a precept of my yoga practice) devoted to truth.
And words are my "thang": they’re my second love language and l just love hanging out in the word zone.
I speak and share my truth plainly. I get confused when others aren’t as clear in their communication (saying one thing, but clearly thinking/feeling another). I cannot tell a lie. And I’ve always assumed people are honest like me.
In every-day life, this can be hilarious, as I fall for the same old wind-ups time and again. But in this most recent experience, I encountered such extreme deceit (by way of some classic narcissistic behaviours), with such painful consequences, that I’m left wondering how to protect myself.
And even though this was the crème de la crème of betrayals, if truth be told, I’ve had a few other experiences in the past, where suitors have most sincerely and credibly declared their love, commitment and longing for conscious union with me, only to behave in total contradiction to those promises or simply bugger off a few months down the line.
Now, just for the record: this is not the sum total of my experience – I’ve also had several meaningful longer term relationships and many beautiful, conscious encounters with awesome men, who own their shit and speak their truth congruently from start to finish. They’re still my friends and I love them to bits. So I’m not here to initiate some man-bashing diatribe.
But I’m having to admit that – shock, horror - men I chose to date, didn't always speak the truth to me (even if they thought they were) and I wasn't able to detect it.
So I’m here to explore – as honestly as I can – this pattern of “trust – love – betrayal” in myself for the benefit of all.
And, by the way, I totally get that every relationship I’ve ever had – good or bad - has been a soul choice, that has, ultimately, grown me into a wiser, truer, more loving and empowered person. So this isn't a poor-me story. I'm happy and very grateful.
And I know that life and love can’t be controlled. That there are karmic ties and patterns that come to be cleared. I’m even of the mind, that there are dark energies and entities that can insinuate themselves into our hearts and minds via sex and psychic vulnerability.
But to speak from the level of the personality for now, to be quite honest, if I ever do go into another relationship, I don’t think I could handle any more grand-scale trauma of the kind I’ve just experienced. And it’s made me very wary.
So how do I preserve my inherently innocent and trusting nature, whilst taking this mother of a wake-up call very seriously?
The coach I was speaking with started out by asking me what kinds of questions I’d ask a prospective lover in future, to ensure he wasn’t going to morph into yet another Jekyll and Hyde.
Which was a good place to start.
Only I asked my ex loads of questions during our courtship. We even did “the 36 questions that lead to love” together and shared vulnerably about our childhood and relationship wounding. There was nothing, at this point, I felt I couldn’t be, ask or tell.
He listened, held space and shared. Openly. Heartfully. Sincerely. Patiently. No warning signs there.
This, after all, is the skill of the narcissist: to lure you in with a perfect display of soul-mate-hood.
The only thing that set off a small alert in my inner being was the blaming and bad-mouthing of his ex that occasionally crept in. It’s a rule of mine not to blame, but take responsibility. So when I witness another doing this, I feel compromised and unsettled. (See also my blog: "Are you dating a blamer?" )
To put it simply, if a suitor can’t frame the ending of his/her last relationship in terms of how they created their experience and what gifts they’ve taken from it (rather than framing it as entirely the fault of the other), then don’t expect a good outcome for yourself!
So perhaps noticing how and why I over-rode this inner alert – and maybe others – would be more fruitful?
This alert was just a flicker, rather than a station red. But what pushed it to the recesses of my consciousness was the seductive context (a dream-come-true love-fest in paradise) and my tendency to make allowances for others.
Only thing is, making allowances for bad behaviour can easily be co-dependence. It’s what people in relationship with addicts and abusers do. So while I’ve always thought of this part of myself as being compassionate, non-judgemental or even just incredibly laissez-faire, I’m now feeling guided to examine if and when this compassion and allowing becomes enabling, self-compromise and turning a blind eye.
All that said, there are undoubtedly some questions it’s not only healthy and wise to ask any potential partner, but also ourselves, when we are exploring new relationship terrain.
I even put the question about what questions to ask to my Facebook friends and got a ton of fabulous suggestions:
how do you take criticism?
how did your last relationship end and what was your part in that?
have you ever lied to a date and why?
did/does your parents’ relationship inspire you?
do you have longstanding friendships?
are you on good terms with most of your exes?
how do you get on with your family (and for men, their mother and for women, their father)?
what are your intentions, desires, fears and boundaries?
describe something that irritates you
what do you fear most when dating?
what patterns of behaviour have you noticed in yourself around men/women that you wish could be different?
what do you do that shows someone you care about them?
how aware are you of your traumas & suppressed emotions?
how are you actively working to heal them?
In your truest heart, what do you feel you lack?
do you like marmite? (Hee hee!)
And though these questions are meant to be directed at our suitor/date, from my perspective, they are equally valid if we ask them of ourselves.
In fact, many would argue that it’s self- rather than other-enquiry, we should prioritise, since it is only ever us, who is responsible for our lives. Taking our power back and controlling the only thing we can control – us – we are guaranteed to elicit some super useful inner illumination with these three powerful questions suggested by conscious sex and relationship educator, Natalie Chalmers:
And spiritual teacher Karen Aiyana Birch and psychotherapist Fadrique Cordero add to this array of questions, with a 7-point guideline to self-enquiry around: “it is worth investing?” in a current or potential relationship.
I love how this approach reframes the entire dialogue around the value of you, your time, your love and your life: seeing your investment of your YOU in relationship with anybody as a precious gift to them you wouldn’t want to squander.
The ease with which we can adopt this perspective may highlight how hungry for love we actually are. So if you spot that in yourself, note it: neediness, desperation or a looking outside oneself for completion will inevitably create an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship dynamic.
Best to first address that core self-worth issue and then start dating, rather than other way around.
Self-awareness, self-empowerment and self-love are the key, rather than putting the responsibility for our well-being and happiness onto somebody else's shoulders.
And there's a little kink in my understanding about this I want to put out there - in case it's been bothering you too.
For years I've spouted and touted the new age adage that the other is our mirror. Being me, I took this literally. And boy was that a great way to feel bad about myself and really kick myself, when I was already down.
Every time a lover treated me like shit, I spent a long time feeling utterly bemused as to how someone I had treated so lovingly could be so horrible. And I kept on looking for that horrible, hidden core in myself!
This is where I got it wrong. As I now understand it at least, if someone abuses and lies to me, this does not mean I'm also a deceitful abuser in the same sense, but it clearly means I am the lock to that key: I believe too readily and I allow the abuse.
And this is where it can get really subtle, because often there IS also an element of self-deception at play - in our easy credulity and danger signal over-ride.
Which brings us back to those three key questions Natalie Chalmers asks us: 1) can I trust myself ? 2) do I honour my intuition without rationalising it? and 3) how do I stand up for my own boundaries?
We have to ask ourselves:
did I believe the words too readily, because it suited my story? and
did I over-ride my intuition, when it was telling me to watch out?
In my own case, I see how both my trusting nature and absolute belief I'd met my Twin Flame played their part in slotting this man into my life-partner box, before I'd had a chance to get to know him and even though I got a few subtle hints of "something's not quite right" early on.
As I reflected further and read through the hundreds of comments on my Facebook thread, it became increasingly clear that, rather than interrogating a love-interest and relying on their verbal responses, a far more reliable way to gauge their trust-ability and worthiness of your love (especially if you're open, empathic and idealistic like me!) is to observe their behaviour.
And this requires time.
A few years ago, I would have scoffed at that. Pah! Love is love. I trust it. I follow it. When you know, you know. Right?
Experience has shown me otherwise.
And now I can whole-heartedly embrace the wisdom and value in getting to know a new love-interest S L O W L Y. (If I'm not very much mistaken, my friends have just let out a massive group exhale and are all giving me a rowdy round of applause at this point - lol !)
To come back to some of the brilliant advice put forward by my Facebook friends, here are just some of their super juicy, mega-useful nuggets. I urge you to digest them all:
"it's not so much about asking them questions, but rather observing and assessing based on that observation, and not getting sucked in or fooled by excuses or explanations" - Nia
"to ask questions means we are uncertain and then we are probably too hopeful that the other person will say all the right things we so desperately want to hear" - Helen
"Don’t tell me, Show me!" - Helen
"I would be more interested in paying very close attention to how they behave and how their presence and behaviour makes me feel. Words don't mean very much - actions speak louder." - Fiona
"I listen very carefully to how they speak about others" - Deirdra
"I observe their capacity for kindness and integrity in words and deeds." - Zenta
"do their words match their actions and not just at the beginning... slow things down while they reveal themselves to you slowly and surely .. pay attention to your intuition.. trusting yourself is key to trusting all of life." - Celeseah
"feel into their energy and connect to my intuition" - Brigit
"you must always be able to trust yourself." - Juliet
"if you want to know what your partner is really like, watch them at the computer when the internet connection is really slow. Or driving in traffic? But the sense is there of observing how someone relates to others they don't know. Is there respect, compassion, patience, understanding?" - Aradhana
"are you willing to listen to your alarm bells. Those little ones that in the past you swept under the carpet or justified. Can you catch those moments and honour yourself rather them defending him to yourself?" - Lara Ilona
"I've learned to lean back, give to myself first, and to wait until the other's intentions have been actualized, before I 'count on them' and am willing to lean into them.... a choice to experience reality rather than an illusion fuelled by my deep desires for how I want things (or people) to be." - Natalie
"how they show up. If they treat their mothers kindly, their sisters & what language they use to describe me and their lives, how they treat Gaia, the animals & my feelings...what they stand up for in life & how strong they are willing to be and how far they're willing to go to do their inner work." - Paige
"spending time in different situations to see how they handle the world and treat you at the same time." - Rachel
"Go and spend time with them and their family for a while. See how they react to the triggers... that will tell you a lot." - Lucyne
"always look at the mother, son, But in my experience a good man will always have close women friends a predator male will have none." - Martyn
"It's not that we need someone trustworthy, but who is willing to build trust together. It's a shared process." - Shashi
"listen to your gut and trust the red flags. I have ignored so many and my intuition has always ended up being right. If only I didn't override her!" - Jude
"When you open up your field to someone, you very easily, and usually unconsciously give them access to your life force energy, your power, spirit. This is something you should never allow unless you first completely trust your own self, understand the energetic interplay, and are dealing with someone who also understands this energetic interplay and in whose level of consciousness and integrity you can trust - through sufficient evidence over time - NOT through the bonding effect of hormones realised via intimacy, nor the emotional petitioning of the other, and nor through loving someone and trusting them to be a reasonably good person.... " - Karen - (see also her full and brilliant blog on trust)
"I was told to watch what a person does - not says, is he kind to others around you?" - Anne
"I would look at how they are with other people that they're not trying to impress, like waiters. I would look at how well they can hold themselves; can they feel emotions like anger without being consumed by them." - Avanti
"Trust no man. Only the I AM Self. I don't ask THEM! I ask ME, my I AM Self, and do my own due dilligence. Furthermore, my safety, and how I feel are my responsibility, and no one else's. It is not about "them". It is about ME. I make myself feel safe or not." - Shondra Rose
"Asking questions will get the reply he thinks you would obviously want to hear." - Margeaux
"watch, feel, trust your heart." - Tara
"what they say counts for maybe 10%. What their ex-partners say counts for about 30%. The rest is down to early testing over small issues that I used to "let slide" in the early stages of a relationship - can I speak my truth and be heard and validated? Even when it's uncomfortable? Can I say "no" to something without penalty? Can I request something that's inconvenient, and get a clean "yes" or "no"? Can I call out subconscious patterns without having it turned back on me as "my issue"?" - Jnani Jenny
"Trust your gut. Watch what he does not what he says."- Tony
"take it much slower, you take your time. Don't fall in love so quickly just because you desperately want to be in love. Listen to his stories and do some due diligence. ... Don't have sex with him too soon. Follow some old fashioned values of waiting until the time is right. Get to know him fully and completely before surrendering and diving down into the potential dangers of only hearing what you want to hear and not what your instincts tell you. If its too good to be true it probably is." - Ananda
"Actions do speak louder than words. How does he negotiate your needs and desires versus his? Does he encourage you to do what you want, or what he wants, or convince you that actually you want what he wants.? Does he respect your feelings and boundaries?" - Madelaine
"You can never rely on words, I'd go for time and experience, without focus on outcome. Focus on outcome, brings expectations, projections and hopes rather than a willingness to accept what is." - Eben
WOW! What an incredible resource of wisdom from an international roster of light workers, teachers and heart-centred souls, who've been there, done that and bought the t-shirt! Thank you so much to all those who contributed :-)
watch their actions
trust your intuition
know your self
take your time.... and
trust your self.
I love how this exploration of the question"how can I trust ?" has come right back around to "do I trust myself?" That, when it comes down to it, is all I ever really need to know.
Thank you for reading this long, but really valuable blog. I hope it will help loads of you, as it has helped me, to really dig deep into this theme of trust in dating and relationship.
And if you'd like to discuss a one-to-one in a complimentary 20-minute Skype session around the them of Sacred Partnership, then do be in touch. Love to you, Shakti x