By Guest writer: LiYana Silver
Have you ever wondered if dating is a modern form of torture, an iron maiden slowly squeezing the last breaths from our hopeful hearts? Is the dating pool a mass of muck and mire to be paddled through in hopes of reaching the far-off shores of our ideal relationship? Or could dating be a transcendent experience, a meeting of gods and goddesses in shining, soul-opening moments over cocktails? Could dating be divine? I consulted four other relationship experts who offered some heavenly answers to these worldly questions and revealed a five-fold path that can illuminates our way.
Dating. It ain’t what it used to be. The entire rulebook of courtship seems to have changed. The hows, wheres, whens, whats and whys barely even resemble those of our parents or grandparents. The internet is just over a generation old, drastically influencing how and where we meet people. How do you know when is the right time to call, to have sex, to stop dating other people? What we do on dates – and why – is also open for interpretation; are you looking for a soul-mate, life-partner, mother-of-your-children or a no-strings-fling?
If my ten years of private practice as a relationship coach have made anything clear, it’s that relationships are truly complex. However, the recipe for lasting love calls for five vital ingredients, and four other expert dating coaches echo my findings. So, what are these five ingredients; what is this five-fold path we help our clients walk, amble and saunter along? It’s a concept, an acronym and a memorable verb; and it’s what most of us wish we could do on yet another agonizing date: A.S.C.E.N.D. A is for Appreciation; S for Self-awareness and Self-care; C for Communication, E for Ending the war of the sexes, N for Negotiation; and D for Divine dating.
But let’s start with what we would like so much to ASCEND from shall we? Why is dating such a misery, a drudgery and an ongoing opportunity for dashed hopes and painful rejection? Mama Gena, Queen of Pleasure, and founder and facilitator of the Womanly Arts Mastery Program, and author of Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts says it’s due in part to our abundant expectations, as well as our baggage and past disappointments that we haul around with us from date to date. Our poor partner has to attempt to overcome our history of unmet expectations, hurt feelings and broken heartedness in only a few short hours.
Jordan Harbinger is a dating coach and teacher with The Art of Charm, which offers men primarily the skills of natural charisma, body language, presence and being their authentic selves without apology. He points to our – and especially men’s – prideful egos as one of the main pitfalls to pleasurable dating. With our attention on how the other person is perceiving and judging us, and how and if we are measuring up, there’s little room left to be present with our date. Add to that our fear and shame about admitting we’ve got a lot to learn about dating, relationship and social dynamics. We feel like we should already know how to be great on a date, amazing lovers and fantastic communicators. We truly need that relationship education that almost none of us actually got.
In addition, dating and mating rituals are far from clearly defined. Is he supposed to call on Wednesday for a date on Saturday? Is she supposed to text midday and demand a steamy meeting later in the evening? Reid Mahalko is a bi-coastal sex educator and coach for relationship self-esteem and sexual self-confidence. He chimes in, reminding us that although we often manage to find decent people – which used to be reason enough for our parents and grandparents to make a lifelong marriage work – that is no longer enough. We need to learn to, as Reid puts it, “date our species.” We expect more out of our relationships than ever before; sure our date needs to be a decent person, but we also expect to meet our emotional, intellectual, financial, familial spiritual, social and sexual match as well.
Hollywood’s leading love and relationship expert Lauren Frances, who counsels A-list celebrities and mentors women around the globe in creating what she calls “legendary love affairs,” adds that the fundamental underlying obstacle to enjoyable dating is our lack of clear intention. Why are we dating, to what end? What do we want to get out of courtship? Until somewhat recently, dating was a means to the endpoint of marriage, which created a lot of psychological safety.
Many of the women I work with experience what I call “Groundhog-Day Dating.” Like Bill Murray in the 1993 movie who awoke day after day destined to repeat the same painful patterns, so it is for many of us in dating. We inherit these relationship ruts from our families of origins and our culture. We are often perplexed that our hard work and good will does nothing to shift our attraction to the “wrong” person over and over again. We KNOW what to do, but we don’t.
So, now that we know how and why dating sucks so bad, how do we start to have a blast instead? We A.S.C.E.N.D.
Starting with Appreciation is key. Deceptively simple and often overlooked, appreciation in and of itself it doesn’t always solve complex issues or turn the date around, but it paves the way. And without it, the date – and likely the rest of the relationship – is headed downhill. Appreciation is afoot when you relish the experience of the date itself, approve of your own self, and acknowledge the human being you’re on the date with – even if not the right man or woman for you. “The more you honor your own journey and appreciate every step you took, the more you will draw toward you the best experiences,” says Mama Gena.
The second step of the five-fold path is Self-awareness. Get on intimate terms with what you want, what makes you happy, what thrills you, your deal-breakers, the things you can’t stand and even those things you think you don’t deserve but secretly hope for. Knowing want you want is sexy. Get really clear who and what “your species” is – as Reid Mihalko instructs – so you can see if you are on a date with them! This second step also includes Self-care. The date starts before the date; the more you invest in making yourself delicious, the more you both will enjoy yourselves. Mind follows body and body follows mind.
The third ingredient in your delicious dating recipe is Communication: words to sweetly break the ice, to gracefully extract yourself from an uncomfortable date, to get you started appreciating the human being you’re with. Be kind, be interested in this person. Rather than judgments, focus on finding commonalities and connecting on an emotional level.
Fourthly, E is for Ending the war of the sexes. In case you didn’t notice, there is a sea of misunderstanding separating us from true partnership. When we know men and women truly want (nope, not just to get in her pants or to get at his credit card), we can actually begin to have a sweet dating experience. In our heart of hearts, women want most to be seen, to receive enlivening attention, and to be noticed afresh each moment. See her, hear her, notice her, for real. Guys want to be appreciated, respected and supported in their purpose. As a teacher of mine once said, “Be happy and blame it on him.”
Lauren Frances reminds us of the fifth step, Negotiation. Dates, she says, especially first ones are mainly for “romantic research and checking for compatibility coordinates. If you are marriage-minded, ask your date if he or she believes in marriage – and listen very carefully to the answer. If he or she balks, you’ve done a great job of uncovering a serious relationship incompatibility. You WANT to scare the wrong suitors off! Harmony in relationships comes from an alignment of “mutual romantic intention.’” I always say it’s more a question of sorting through all our options than desperately hoping for this one to be The One. They can be a truly great person, but not a right fit for you. If you are not clear where you are going, it’s hard to get there.
The sixth ingredient is D for Divine Dating, where all these five steps have been leading. To turn an ordinary dating experience into a transcendent one, begin with no expectations, while holding strongly what you deeply desire. Stay present; feeling seen, heard and truly appreciated are the things of falling in love as well as lasting love. Continue to not taking anything personally, especially on first encounters. Make sure to make the date somehow meaningful, so none of your time spent with another person is ever wasted time. Although you may want a coach to help access it, remember that you have all you need inside. Although you may need a course to remind you, notice that on the other side of your insecurities is the truth of your magnificence.
Not every date will result in a happy ending, but each can be an affirmation that you are showing up for your love life fully and you are taking the right actions. Become more committed to your divine dating experience than feeling bad about your failures. Develop a point of view about your partner that is loving, even if he or she isn’t a fit for your relationship intentions. Who you are in every moment – including swapping stories over margaritas – is who you are in life and in love. Says Mama Gena, “We are each responsible for bringing the recognition of our own divinity, which allows us to see it in the other.”
LiYana Silver, Relationship Expert and regular contributor to New York Spirit, is known for her bold, fresh guidance for women and their partners, who want to ASCEND out of painful patterns and relationship ruts and into partnerships that are strong, sexy, sane and sustainable in the 21st Century. For belief re-patterning, coaching, Change Your Relationship Destiny and Reclaim Your Radiance courses, and to make the complex actionable and the perplexing pleasurable, visit her website: www.love3point0.com.
• For Mama Gena’s Womanly Arts Mastery Arts program and upcoming Pleasure Bootcamp: www.mamagenas.com.
• For Jordan Harbinger, his team of coaches and Attraction Arts weeklong programs for men in NYC in June 2010: www.theartofcharm.com.
• For Reid Mihalko’s downloadable products on sex and relationship as well as coaching: www.reidaboutsex.com.
• For Lauren Frances’ Romantic Reboot tele-classes, Online Profile writing seminars, free Manhandling PodCasts, and amazing Man Magnet Makeover Seminars in NYC in June: www.laurenfrances.com.