Finding a Romantic Partner

Relationships Series #3

November 10, 2023
Finding love isn't just about meeting the right person, but about being ready for them. Joe and Brett explore the patterns people exhibit while seeking love, from choosing partners who are emotionally unavailable to being overly self-reliant. They talk about how a fear of losing one's identity can cause us to push away love, and how people tend to show up in our lives the moment we're ready.

03:09 The Fear of Losing Oneself 

07:50 How the One Appears 

14:04 The Push and Pull Dynamic & Patterns

19:50 Where the Patterns Come From 

26:37 How to Stop the Push and Pull

Episode Intro: So last week Brett and I were doing the Groundbreakers together, and one of the things I noticed that kept on coming up as a theme was finding love, whether it was wanting to find the right person or having found the right person but they weren't into me or some version of that. That is what I want to talk about today, how to find love, the misconceptions of that, and what's really going on when you are in that state. 

Welcome to the Art of Accomplishment where we explore how deepening connection with ourselves and others leads to creating the life we want with enjoyment and ease. I am Brett Kistler, and I am here with my co-host Joe Hudson.

Joe: Hey, Brett. How are you doing? 

Brett: I am doing great. I love this topic. It has shown up not just in the Groundbreakers we did last week, but also others, coaching clients and other people in life right now. I notice there is this pattern right now where a lot of people have gone through the pandemic and had a lot of relationship changes during or post pandemic. I think that's just a question that's in the air at this time. I am excited to get into it. You mentioned a couple of patterns just there. Can you tell me a little bit more about this? 

Joe: Here is what I see happen. Someone is looking for love, and they somehow think it is a numbers game. The common idea is if I meet the right person, then it is all going to work out. That's just not how it works at all. It is not at all about meeting the right person, which seems so strange because obviously on some level it is about meeting the right person, but it is more about when you are ready for the right person to show up in your life. We all know that person who has gone on 1,000 dates, met 100 people, and nothing is quite right. It doesn't ever work out. That spark never happens, or that spark happens and then that person they are interested in isn't interested in them. That is not at all about finding the right person. 

That is about being ready, prepared, and wanting to have an intimate relationship. What I have noticed with all of my clients who are in this situation is that when we really work on them being ready for intimacy, to be in love, and to accept love into your life, then the person always shows up within three or four months. I see that transition happen in a person, and then I can start counting down. Easily within three or four months, they are in a committed relationship. 

Brett: What I noticed there is the patterns you just described could also be seen as ways of making sure it doesn't happen for some prescribed reason. I am looking for the right one. I want to have the right one, so there is something wrong with everybody I meet. That's why I don't have a partner. I am curious what a deeper way to look at it is. What is underneath those patterns? 

03:09 Joe: That thing that's underneath the pattern is usually they are scared of losing themselves. One way or another they are scared of losing themselves, and that can be a lot of things. They can be scared of losing themselves as far as not drawing boundaries and getting lost in a person or empathetically lost in a person or lose themselves in jealousy or in behavior they don't want. They are scared to lose themselves the way their parents lost themselves in a relationship. They think this is what love is, what mom and dad die. I don't want anything to do with that subconsciously, so I am staying away from any kind of commitment or any kind of intimacy that could allow that to happen. Underneath the layer of learning to love and being prepared for love is this deeper thing about the fear of losing oneself. We can call it the fear of intimacy or commitment, but it is really the fear of losing oneself. That's what is really going on there. When people work on that, everything changes for them. 

Brett: I want to double click a little bit more on what you mean by losing yourself. You mentioned a couple of different modalities or modes there, being afraid of not holding boundaries, losing control, repeating a parent's relationship, and getting hurt again in some repeated way that has happened in your past. What else? How would you define losing yourself here? 

Joe: I would say losing yourself is when you are not being who you want to be and you don't feel like you can control that. The interesting thing is love in itself is another way of losing yourself more in a good way, losing identity. There is a way in which what love does is eroding your boundaries and your identity, which can be incredibly healthy. It creates a feeling of oneness. There are reasons why there is so much poetry that talks about unity with God being love and feeling like love spiritually moves you into greater realms or a deeper sense of connection with yourself. That is the good way. 

Then there is this way that happens in society where we lose ourselves, and we are acting like monsters or we are in huge fights where we weren't before or we are codependent or jealous or anything like that. That kind of losing oneself is, I think, what people are really scared of. We are also very scared of love as far as seeing our full selves and losing our identity, but that's a whole different segment. I am not talking about that for this one. This is all about the practical losing yourself to this kind of relationship.   

Brett: It is so fascinating how confusing and nuanced this can be that the language even overlaps. You were just talking about not holding boundaries and then how boundaries get eroded. They are different kinds of boundaries you are referring to. The sense of self, the sense of us being separate from others, separate from our world is a different kind of boundary, but we use the same word as drawing a boundary to take care of oneself, which is seemingly and paradoxically the increase in our capacity to draw clean, loving boundaries that which allows us to feel safe to dissolve in a sense of self sense such that we feel that oneness and love with another and the world. 

Joe: That's exactly it. I am sure I have said this on the podcast. There is no paragon of love. There is no person you can think of who is the walking embodiment of love who doesn't have strong boundaries, and yet all of those people also feel a oneness with humanity or all life. It is an interesting paradox. The second part is a nice thing to talk about, but the main meat here, however, is just people are scared of losing themselves, and so they avoid relationships while telling themselves the story they are looking for it. On some level, they are looking for it but they are also pushing it away. 

07:50 Brett: That one piece there, the fear of losing yourself, if we recognize and work on that, according to what you have been saying, then the person just appears. How does that go? 

Joe: Sounds like magical thinking, and yet that's exactly how it happens. I think about a David Burn song where he says a junkie's arms, a dancer's knees, laws of chance, strange as they may seem, lead us exactly where we are most likely meant to be. I feel like it is very much like that. If you think about it, go to your Walmart and check out the couples that are there. People have found each other. People find each other all of the time. You all have a friend who is not some sort of hot catch or anything, and yet they go from one boyfriend to another. They are always in a relationship, which is different than somebody who is amazing, a total catch, societally speaking, and yet they are 50 years old and not able to find the one. 

The reason it works this way is because there is no "the one". There is no "the one" until you are in the relationship. There are lots of people. There are a lot of people who are your match. If the folks at ISIS can find thousands of people to be their match in their weird, sociopathic culture, surely there is more than one person who is the match for you. It is really about your preparedness to see it. It is just about your preparedness to see it and your willingness to go into that intimacy and that journey with somebody as scary as it is. 

Brett: Another way of seeing it is rather than seeing it as who is the perfect match for myself as I am right now or as I imagine myself to be, which doorway of transformation do I want to walk into with somebody, grow together and become potentially the person who is free in such a way that this relationship brings me freedom? 

Joe: I don't know if there is a choice like that. They have done this research on pheromones where women smell men's sweatshirts and they are attracted to the same sweatshirt as the person who wore it. There are all these weird things like that. I don't know how much choice there is. I was just thinking about a definition of marriage that I really like. Let's see if I can remember it. It was something like two people thinking they are not good enough coming together in an attempt to try to find out that they are good enough. 

Brett: Whoa. 

Joe: That's what I think is happening. It is based on their traumas. We seem to attract people who, as we have talked about before, basically will help us heal the traumas we are here to work on. They are going to be people who have some similarities to the people who were creators of that trauma and that have that tendency to bring us into that place that needs to be healed. That seems to be what happens. When you find the right person, you seem to be attracted to the one who is ready to play that role so you can heal that part of yourself. 

Brett: What if I have found the person or people who have exactly the set of triggers for me and they don't want me, then what? 

Joe: Then apparently that's the trigger. All of the ways in which people say they want love and they don't get love, whether that's trying to find the person and not being able to find them or having found the person and then not wanting me or once again having found yourself being attracted to an emotionally unavailable person, in all of these cases, what people are doing is they are beckoning for love and pushing it away at the same time. Jealousy is wanting someone but then abusing them and gaslighting them so they won't want to be around you, but then you saying you want them. That's the pattern. 

All of the different ways are finding a way to push the love away from you while saying you want it. The mind is saying it just wants it, and the subconscious is saying no, pushing you away. I've never heard a jealous person on their own come to me and say they were actively pushing away that person that they really want, but when I look at them in the eyes and ask why they are pushing away this person with their jealousy, they get this subconscious grin on their faces and know they are busted. All of the ways in which we do it are consciously saying come here, to love, and then subconsciously pushing it away. 

14:04 Brett: We have talked about jealousy and the push pull dynamic, and I agree. Anytime I have seen somebody with a jealous partner, one of the things they say is they feel like they are being pushed away. What are some other ways this push and pull dynamic shows up in different kinds of patterns? 

Joe: Neediness, independence. I was working with somebody the other day and they were basically talking about this idea that they want someone there to really be able to take care of them, but they are incredibly self reliant. I was describing to them that that self reliance makes it hard for people to show up for you. We all know people that are hard to help. They are hard to help because they never show any weakness and they say they have got it. When you help them, they get angry at you. They are super self reliant folks. I suffer this, and so I know it well. The thing that happens there is they are pushing people away with their self reliance, and so I was talking to this person about it. She was saying she was self-reliant and at the same time she was talking about her father who abandoned her and a mom that was a little unstable. We were going through it. I said her dad didn't abandon you. He was just being self reliant, and I saw it click, slow motion click. The next day she said he never abandoned me; he was being self reliant. I see how he was taking care of himself in this strange world he had found himself in. He was doing what he had to do to take care of himself. I said yes and asked how she felt it as abandonment for years. That's how people feel when you are self reliant. 

That's how the self reliance thing works, as an example, or the neediness is the same thing. Nobody wants a sexual relationship with someone they have to take care of. On one level it is like wanting someone and asking why they aren't here for you, and on the other level it is being needy and pushing you away because we want to have relationships with peers. We don't want to care take people, by nature. That's another example, but there are plenty of examples of the ways people push and pull. Usually there are multiple if someone is either only attracted to the emotionally unavailable person or the physically unavailable person or they are continually searching for the right person. It is all another version of it. 

Brett: There is more nuance there in the languaging there, too. You said nobody wants a sexual relationship with somebody they need to take care of, and that doesn't mean necessarily that if somebody is injured and they need someone to take care of them, it is taking care of on the level of the relationship is like a parent to child relationship rather than peers, adult to adult relationship. 

Joe: What's interesting to me is you can see this in marriages, too. What you see is it has been 10 years and the sex is dead. I ask where the parent child relationship is. Who is walking on eggshells? Who is trying to make sure the other person is happy? That's happening if the sex is dead. 

Brett: What are other examples? You have got jealousy, neediness, and independence as some patterns people play out here. 

Joe: There is another one, transactional. This one I recently discovered. It was really interesting. I worked with a client for a long time. I noticed in all of his relationships there was negotiation. It wasn't regular negotiation. It was constant negotiation. It was always prolonged. I was trying to figure out what it was. What is it that makes you want to constantly negotiate with your business partners? We do this work to find a person. He finds a person. They are getting married, and there is an 8 month prenup negotiation. What is happening? This is one it took me a long time to understand. I think particularly people who were bullied but also people who have really understood and been hurt by power struggle, generally, trust relationships that are transactional. I know what you want and what you are getting. You know what I want and what I am getting. If it is not there and we just love each other and want to be together, there is a lack of trust because everybody has a want or a desire. I don't trust it unless we are upfront about that transaction. What I notice is people who are transactional, they will use the transactional part of it to push away the intimacy. That deeper level of intimacy and love is very scary, and so the transactional part of it is a way to create distance from the intimacy. That's another example of it. 

19:50 Brett: That seems to be related to a fear of being in the unknown and in the wonder as well. I need to reduce this relationship to what I can understand and encapsulate it in a formal model to feel safe in it. 

Joe: Yes, definitely. Love is not a secure feeling. It is a weird thing to say. On one level it is very secure. You feel love and you feel this deep sense of security. On another level, it goes away. The loss of love is one of the most painful things humans go through. There is this inherent willingness to be hurt if you are falling in love. If you are falling in love, you are saying you sign up to be hurt. There is no fucking way around it. There is no way you are going to get married and live happily ever after or be in a loving six way relationship and love happily ever after, however you do it, and you don't get hurt. You are going to get hurt potentially daily and potentially really badly. That's what you are signing up for. I am willing to be hurt. That part of it is also a fear  of losing oneself. If I get hurt like that, I am going to be gone for months maybe. I am going to be totally lost in it. This is the real fear. 

If we can get to the place of every time we allow our hearts to break, it increases our capacity to love. Every time that I draw a boundary, it increases my capacity to love. Every time I am vulnerable, it increases my capacity to love myself. All of these things that are being avoided are the tools to learn how to love more deeply, and so to some degree, it is a pattern that I see people get into for years or maybe decades because they are avoiding this pain, they are avoiding the tools of learning to love more deeply. It doesn't last. The other thing about it is there is no relationship where that hot, so crushy on you stays. That's shit is gone in four or five months, and you see people trying to find that over and over again. That's another way in which they push away love. That is sugar high. You want that real good stuff. You want the really good love. That happens with a mature relationship where you have worked through shit. You have been with each other through thick and thin. That's when that love shows up.    

Brett: My experience of that is a little bit different. There is that initial four to five months, but I also notice every time we break through a new level of intimacy, suddenly that comes back for a period of time. It is almost like we are stepping more and more into the relationship, and every time we do that, there is a new kind of phase of never having experienced this before. It gets to feel like that crush phase even in year three or four. I have never been to year 20, but I imagine it can happen. That elation is associated with reaching a new layer of depth. I don't see there being an end to the potential depth. 

Joe: I haven't experienced the end, but I have noticed the high is different. The high becomes less like [sighing] and more like [deep sigh]. 

Brett: That's a good way to describe that. 

Joe: My experience is just like yours, just different words to describe it. 

Brett: We talked about a number of these patterns here and the ways people have that push and pull relationship through jealousy, neediness, independence, and transactionalism. What about other patterns? What about people who think they aren't pretty or powerful enough? 

Joe: Again, go to Walmart and check out the married couples who are walking around. Everything you think you have to be, there will be an example of that there who is with somebody. What that is more of a reflection is mostly what you think you have to be in order to be loveable, which  means mostly what you think you have to be to love yourself, which never works out. When you get the perfect body, it is not that you love yourself then. That doesn't happen. If you get the billion dollars and the status, whatever it is. 

Brett: It is mostly what was imprinted upon you when you were young and you internalized and decided you needed that to be loved. 

Joe: It is that, and it is often what you think the other person has to have because you think that's what is loveable. You think they need to have the money or whatever. Maybe it is not money exactly, but the other side of the pattern. I need the money so that I can get somebody who has the cache. I need the looks so I can get somebody who has the money. There are the two sides of that coin. Maybe there is a male female side of that coin that society plays out, but you can pretty much tell what you think the other person has to have, too, which never works out. That's the other thing. Nobody said here is the list of things that I need in a man so I can be happy. Then when they find the love of their life because I deal with this all of the time with clients. They say they are looking for love and they say here are the six things they need. They say they can't date anybody who doesn't have these six things. They do the work on really allowing it in, really allowing love in, really getting over the fear of losing themselves, on dealing with the trauma in their childhood, whatever they do, and then boom, they are in the relationship. It is amazing. I guarantee you that they don't have all six of those things. I guarantee that's not how it works. 

26:37 Brett: Along those lines, what do you do? How do you stop being in that pushing and pulling dynamic? 

Joe: There are three things. This reminds me of something. I wish I could give this person credit, but it is confidential who was at the retreat. One of the people in the retreat said something beautiful. He said his intention was to no longer look for love but to be love. 

Brett: That was a beautiful moment. 

Joe: That sums it up better than I possibly could. It is learning to receive love. It is learning to love yourself. It is learning to be loving. Most importantly it is untying what was wired with love. This is kind of true for me. Having somebody who guilt trips you as your imprint of love, and then you constantly did stuff that you didn't want to do because you felt guilty. That example means you are going to be scared of being in a relationship where you are going to be guilted and lose yourself trying to please somebody who is not pleasable and they constantly guilt you. 

Brett: Then you are going to see any emotion as a strategy to guilt you rather than what's going on for the person. 

Joe: That's right. The thing to do is to separate what's been wired together with love and start experiencing love without it. You start realizing nobody has the right to guilt you. Nobody has the right to shame you. You have every right to draw your boundary. When you do that work, when you do the work of separating the love and learning the tools that you can rely on to not fall into those patterns and you have that confidence, then the love shows up. A lot of that can be done through learning to love yourself and being loving. 

I will give you an example. I am working with a client right now who is in a marriage. They weren't working on the marriage for a while, and now they are. We were just talking about some of the things that are really important. We were talking about how critical it is to speak your truth whether it is comfortable or not and how critical it is to listen impartially, be in VIEW and let the person really share their experience. One of the things we were talking about was how important it is to be open hearted with the person. 

They said intellectually they know this is the case. However, my body feels like I am being conned if I am open to someone who has been mean to me. I am getting taken advantage of. I am weak. That's what they were taught at a young age. Being loving and open towards somebody is being taken advantage of. You are going to get taken advantage of. That's weakness. You can't show that. This person happens to have gone to the Gandhi Ashram, so I asked if Gandhi was weak. He said he knew that it wasn't true, but his body believes it. That's another example of being really loving. Even in a marriage, you are learning how to drop the defense, be undefended, lean into love, to be open, and to know that openness doesn't mean you don't draw the boundary or you don't care for yourself. It is an acknowledgment you are willing to be hurt. If you are not willing to be hurt, you are not in a relationship. 

Brett: One of the things that strikes me about what you were just saying is how your client was saying he intellectually knows this but the body doesn't. It still sounds like it was not the feeling but the meaning made of the feeling that was happening.  

Joe: That's fascinating. 

Brett: This feeling means that I am being portrayed, but if you go straight to the feeling, is that really what's happening or is that the body's response that you have interpreted as that? 

Joe: I think it is both. That's my experience. Usually when you have a particular feeling that happens, oftentimes it is tied to the next feeling. 

Brett: You step on to the pattern cycle. 

Joe: You feel the emotional A, B, C steps. You are right. Then there is this interpretation. What is it that's actually going on here? I think about that moment in the retreat that we had. One of the people who was really interested in learning to receive love and learning to be open and stop tying love together with rejection of dad was in a cuddle puddle. She is being cuddled by all of these people after this big emotional experience. Everybody was cuddling her, and she said it was so painful. She felt like it was burning and then she could feel a little bit of joy, then burning. That's her reprogramming that experience of love. 

I think the important piece we have not mentioned is this doesn't stop when you find the person. I defined marriage earlier this way. We found somebody who has matching traumas so we can learn that we are good enough. Once you get into the relationship, it is the same commitment of learning how to drop the armor, how to be open and loving in the face of it, and how to deepen into that love. The work never ends. When somebody asks me if I think this is the right person, my answer is always the same. Are you both willing to do the work? If you are both willing to do the work, and if you are both willing to work on yourself, not each other, and find out how you can love yourself better and each other better, it is going to work. It might be bumpy as fuck. You take Tara and my relationship, and it got really bumpy in the first couple of years. It could get bumpy but you will make it if that's really the commitment. 

Brett: I think that's a great place to end this. 

Joe: I feel really good about this one. Thanks, Brett, for a wonderful conversation and for everybody out there listening, you can feel free to follow us any way you want to. You can come to a course or follow us on Twitter, anything that inspires you. Feel free to share this with anybody you want. Talk to you soon. 

Brett: Thanks, everybody. 

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