opening the door to love

Opening the door to love

Emotions are a fleeting part of our existence, they ebb and flow like waves- some taking us higher than we could imagine and others bringing us to depths we aren’t sure we can survive.  But as the eloquent Alice Walker says, we have to learn not to worry about the coming and going.  So often in our lives, we cling desperately to the predominant emotion and fight to hold on to it when what need most is to open ourselves to the next moment.


When was the last time that you thought,” if only I could bottle this moment and hold on to it forever”  or “I’ll never allow myself to be hurt like that again”?


Both in moments of joy and connection and in moments of frustration or sadness, our goal should be to experience, appreciate, and in time… let go.  Life is a series of moments and in order to truly enjoy and experience them we must strive to let go of the past and honor the next moments arrival every day.


Unfortunately human nature doesn’t push us in that direction.  Rather we get stuck trying to hold on to what feels good and protect ourselves from what hurts.  It’s a smart survival strategy but one that gets in the way of real love and connection.


Our fear of being hurt keeps us closed off to the next opportunity for love.  For singles and couples, the fear of being vulnerable is one of the greatest obstacles to finding the love you crave. But it doesn’t have to be that way.  You can open your heart and I have some tips to help…
Acknowledge your relationship fears.

Do you worry that your partner will lose interest in you? Are you scared that your history of bad choices means that you can’t have a good relationship?  Are you afraid that your partner won’t be attracted to you if they knew the “real” you?  Whatever fears you uncover, own them as part of your story and you can begin to take control of your responses instead of letting those fears control you.


Find the meaning.

Your fears aren’t shortcomings or things to fix; they are important insights about your emotional needs and vulnerabilities.  Listen carefully to what fear tells you about what you need most in a relationship.  They will also push you to figure out why this relationship is worth the effort of facing your fears.  Maybe you want a deeper level of intimacy, maybe you want to communicate better or repair trust; whatever the reasons are it’s important to tie your decision to embrace fear to a meaningful end goal with a partner who is equally committed to doing the same thing.


Be courageous.

Courage isn’t about conquering fear or pretending it doesn’t exist.  Courage is acting in the face of our fears. Accept that telling your partner about a failure at work is scary or that having sex with the lights on when he can see those extra 15lbs will bring up some apprehension… and then decide to do it anyway.  If you’re dating someone new and worried about how they’ll judge your Scandal obsession or quirky habits, share those things anyway.  Remember that when you hide who you are you eliminate the possibility of that person getting to love the real you.


Shine a light on your fear. 

Share your fears and your commitment to doing it anyway with your partner or a friend.  When you say, “Talking to you about my mistakes at work is scary but I know that I really need your support if we are going to stay connected,” you give your partner an opportunity to connect with you on a deeper level by offering their support and reassurance.  And if you’re dating, a friend or other support person can help remind you when you feel discouraged or overwhelmed that you have committed to being vulnerable in order to find a meaningful connection.


Create a safety net. 

When you begin to embrace fear you need to plan for disappointment and hurt feelings.  The more we open ourselves up to peoples, the more opportunity there is for them to accidentally let us down.  When this happens, most of us seek refuge in some kind of self-protection.  We lash out in anger, we get mean and sarcastic, or retreat into silence and disconnection.  A safety net is a plan with your partner on how to avoid these self-protective measures and instead stay courageous and rely on each other.  Maybe it’s letter writing or a code word to let each other know you’ve been hurt.  My favorite safety net is a simple hug- it’s easy and powerful in changing the energy of a conversation without having to find the “right” words.

And if you’re single, you can still create a safety net when dates disappoint.  Build your social support so that you have a friend, family member, or even dating coach who can be there to hear your pain, offer comfort, and most of all offer encouragement to keep your heart open.

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Bring Your Bestie Contest!

Conversations off the Couch is holding a ‘Bring Your Bestie’ contest for Dating Dilemmas! The winner will receive a free ticket for themselves and a 30% off ticket for a friend they would like to bring to the event!

To enter, visit our Conversations off the Couch Facebook page!

Dating Dilemmas

Join GTA and online dating coach Erika Ettin on February 26th for our first Conversations off the Couch event, Dating Dilemmas!


Dating can be frustrating. When looking for a committed relationship, it can be tough to put yourself out there and find a partner.

We ask ourselves—is it us?

Is it them?

Why can’t I find someone I actually like, let alone love?

Dating Dilemmas gives you the opportunity to speak with dating and relationship experts regarding what works and what doesn’t work in the search for partnership and marriage.

Whether you are single, divorced, or dating someone and wondering if it is going anywhere—it helps to have a little navigation in the dating maze.

Join us for an amazing dinner at Mon Ami Gabi in Reston and share your dating dilemmas with professionals who have helped clients to date smarter.

Topics to be discussed include:

Digital Dating.  Finding a partner online can be exhausting, but it can also be an effective way to put yourself out there.  Discuss how to separate the wheat from the chaff in screening potential dates.

Relationship Purgatory.  Dating someone for awhile and not sure if there’s a future?  Find out if it’s worth your time.

Dating After Divorce.  It can be hard to re-enter the dating scene after dealing with divorce.  If its been years (or even decades!) since you’ve been single, get suggestions on how to date in the present day, and maybe even have fun. : )

And more!  We will be taking suggestions from participants regarding topics that matter most.


Visit the Conversations off the Couch page for more information and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

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Do You Feel Pressure From Your New Relationship?

Do you feel pressure from your new relationship?

Sweet smiles. Cute texts. Small gestures. These are the things that make a new relationship so exciting. You have finally established that you both have feelings for each other and have taken that step of making it an official relationship. This is an exhilarating time because you are still trying to woo each other, but there is no stress of wondering whether feelings are mutual or if you are just making a fool of yourself. You are together and you are happy!


Although things are in the honeymoon stage and you are most likely in a state of bliss, new relationships can also bring a little pressure. I am two months into my new relationship, but the first month brought Christmas, New Year’s, and his birthday along with it. The beginning of a relationship is when you are discovering each other and finding out the little things that make up this person that you are so infatuated with. Having Christmas and his birthday come at me right at the get-go definitely gave me anxiety because gift-giving is already difficult in itself. Adding on the pressure of wanting to give my boyfriend something meaningful but not wanting to go overboard and not being completely sure as to what he would want really packed on the pressure!


In situations like this, it is good that you would want to impress your new significant other, but it is also important to remember that you are what attracted them in the first place, not what you buy for them. It may sound cliche, but they will truly like anything you give them because the thought really does count!


Another way that new relationships can bring stress is letting your true colors show. In the “talking” stage, there is a level of intimacy where you let the other person in as you get to know each other, but there is still that level of mysteriousness that makes them want to know more. Once you define yourselves as a couple, the walls start to come down, and you may get nervous that your partner may not like what they see. When this happens, you should take the time to remember that you both decided to take the step into being in a relationship. That requires a certain level of dedication to a person, as well as a level of trust. Starting a relationship by trying to hide yourself because you are afraid that the other person may think you are crazy is not a good way to start out. You need to be able to trust in the feelings that your significant other has for you.


Having said all of that, soak in every second of your new relationship! It is an exciting and happy time! You never know what relationships can lead to, but it is important to enjoy it and make the most of it!

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How to fall in love with your single life

How to fall in love with your single life

With the ever so popular Valentine’s Day approaching, I find myself reflecting on my romantic decisions in the past. Sometimes this causes me to feel alone and needing someone in my life to make me feel whole.  I know that another person can’t complete me but in these weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, it’s hard not to long for a romantic relationship.

But, right as I was settling into a pity party and convinced that something was missing from my life, I came across this article talking all about the perks of being single. This opened me up to to an idea that feels even more rewarding than being in a relationship with someone special… learning to strengthen the relationship with myself!


These are some fantastic ways to enjoy being single…


1. Pursue New Hobbies

The single life allows you to focus on things you would like to do 100% of the time. Those who have had past relationships know that with another person in the mix, it is a lot harder to enjoy the things you want to do when the other is uninterested. So spend time focused on old or new hobbies. Who knows, you might learn some new things about yourself in the process.


2. Socialize

I have more friends than I can count who are in relationships and unable to spend time with their friends like they used to. If this sounds like you, then now is the perfect opportunity to meet up with an old friend to catch-up or go out with your friends.  Just go out and spend some time just enjoying each other’s company.


3. Travel

When you are in a relationship, it is that much harder to make plans and save money to travel somewhere with another person. This is the time to embrace being single and experience a place like you never have before. Save up all that money you would have spent on your significant other and go visit somewhere you have never been. My best friend visited London while she was single and told me that it was the best decisions of her life. So try something new and enjoy being alone!


4. Love Yourself

Valentine’s Day in particular might be a source of bitterness for those who are single because you feel like you should celebrate it with another person. However, instead of giving love to other people, give love to yourself this year! Enjoy your own company or use it as a day to strengthen the relationship with your friends.


Romance is great but being single has so many advantages. To sustain a good relationship you have to sacrifice a little, give up some of your “me time” in order to make “we time”.  So while I’m single  I plan to take the time to do all of those things I haven’t had time to do when I was in a relationship!

So what about you?  What fabulous single-life things do plan to do this month in celebration of self-love?  Tell me in the comments.


p.s. looking to learn more about loving yourself and enjoying life in or out of a relationship?  Check out this amazing brunch event we are sponsoring with FitFam Foundation on February 15!




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Is Your Picker Broken?

For those unfamiliar with the term, an individual with Broken Picker Syndrome repeatedly chooses inappropriate persons to date (or sometimes even marry). For whatever reason, this person has fallen into a habit of attempting to connect with people who can never offer them what they want, which is an authentic, healthy, long-term partnership. Often others will say this individual doesn’t believe they deserve better.

However, what I see is people who think they won’t find anything better, which is actually a different beast altogether. One suggests problems with self-esteem and lack of appreciation for your own personhood, while the other reflects the exhaustion and disappointment that can come from the dating experience. Sometimes, when we feel hopeless about finding a true partner, we accept less than what we want and need. So, in the tradition of the comedian Jeff Foxworthy, you might have broken picker syndrome if:

  • You continue to date the same person over and over. In this case, we’re not talking about the actual same person.  It’s more that you have a ‘type’—a person who fits the same description. While the faces change, the person underneath is the same. It could be someone who is superficially charming—says all the right things, has a well-kept appearance, but does not deliver when you actually need them to.  Or it could be someone high-maintenance, who seems to have an endless list of needs, leaving little space for you or what you want in the relationship.  Most difficult of all, it could be someone who cycles between seeming to treat you well and being abusive, such as putting you down or not ‘allowing’ you to see friends or family members.  Whatever the case may be, if you look back at your list of loves and notice the same pattern of behaviors, it’s time to take a step back and figure out how you can prevent yourself from choosing the same type of person the next time around.
  • You literally date the same person again and again. Unlike the trait above, you literally keep coming back to the exact same person.  You may date other people in between, but you return to one person repeatedly, despite the relationship not having worked the past one or two (three, four) times. Unless an individual has made significant and obvious changes, there is no reason to date the same person again.  Promising to change does not count as actually making a change.  The only couples I have seen that have successfully made a relationship work on a second go-round are ones in which one or both people made real changes, typically while they had been separated from each other for several years or more.  If you both are walking into the relationship the same people that you were the first time, it is unlikely to be any different this time around.
  • You continue to date persons who can’t or won’t make a commitment to you. There is often talk of people who willfully mislead us in the dating environment, who “play games,” or pretend to be something that they’re not. However, in my experience, people often tell us the truth about themselves; the problem is that we refuse to listen.  For instance, if someone tells you that they’re “not looking for anything serious,” or they’re “too busy to be in a committed relationship at the moment.”  Believe them.  This is not an invitation for you to try to overcome the boundary that they have set.  Respect it.  Unless you genuinely share this person’s sentiment, it’s time to call it off.

The tragic thing about Broken Picker Syndrome is that it keeps you stuck with persons who can never truly fulfill your needs. For whatever reason, perhaps through no fault of their own, this person is not a long term match. You probably have real feelings for this person, who, no doubt, has some positive qualities (or you would not have been attracted to them).  However, while it can be difficult to let go of the person in front of you, moving on is the only way to achieve real commitment and connection.


want some help fixing your picker?  Join us at Dating Dilemmas for expert advice and intimate conversation. Get your ticket now.

forgot your goals

Forgot your goals? Here’s 3 ways to get back to what really matters

3 ways to get back to what mattersWe are  just 3 days away from the end of January… how are your New Year’s resolutions or goals going?

If you’re like nearly half of all adults, then you have already given up your “New Year- New Me” attitude in favor of more familiar, if not always fulfilling, habits and relationships.


But what if a new approach could help us set goals and actually keep them?


It’s true that part of what gets in the way is our lack of genuine commitment to change in the first place but there’s more to our inability to stick to new goals for the new year.


So often these resolutions or goals are little more than just wishful thinking… just ask Tony Robbins.  We hope to eat healthier or work out more often.  We wish that work would become more fulfilling or that our love life would be more fun and less stressful.


But goals without an action plan and a deeper sense of why we want this change is not enough to motivate us beyond the first few weeks of a new year.  We forget about them.


With 3 days left to get re-energized about all the possibilities that a new year holds, I have 3 alternatives to your traditional New Year’s Resolution that I think can help you dig a little deeper and discover not just what you want in 2015 but why you want it and how you plan to make it happen.


Option #1

Ask yourself these five questions and discover what really moves… what you’re truly devoted to right now. {via @Alex_Franzen}

Option #2

Do this one thing and only this… every day.  Do it for work and do it again for your personal life, daily.  And do it once right now but instead of thinking a day at a time, think about the whole year.  Now tell me how it goes. {via @johnhenrymuller}

Option #3

Get serious and make the decision to do something different.  That simple.. and that hard.  Own the decisions you make today and see where they lead you, then give yourself permission to change course.  But first chart a course and actually go down the path for a while.  {via @krysta_masciale}


p.s.  if you’re plans for 2015 include creating a life with more joy and less stress, be sure to get a copy of our free e-book.  And if you’re plans include being more generous, share this post with your friends on Facebook , Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.  You’ll help them reach their 2015 goals & get a free e-book too!

good habits great relationship

Good Habits Make Great Relationships

I talk to people all the time about how their relationships are going. “Eh…we fight all the time….we never see each other…they’re too clingy…” is what I often hear. It makes me wonder, what’s the point is in dating? With all the bad habits and complaints I see in the couples around me, sometimes I even wonder if I’m better off being single.


Luckily, I have been able to see some very successful relationships filled with happiness and understanding. My grandparents, for example, have been together for 50 years and they are still just as in love with each other as the day they met. By being able to watch them grow and interact as a unit, I can see how fulfilling a relationship can be.. and the kind of habits it takes to get there.

Good Habits Great Relationship-2

When it comes to the relationship between my grandparents, they communicate so well with each other. They are able to talk through issues calmly and rationally without fighting. They understand one another and work together as a team using their words to solve a problem. My grandparents also never stop saying “I love you” even when there is an argument. By communicating their love and listening well, even in conflicts, it’s easier to work with your significant other to resolve issues and build a better relationship.


I also notice that time apart really helps strengthen a relationship. The look on my grandfather’s face when my grandma walks through the door after she is out all day doing her own activities melts my heart. The fact that they are able to take time apart to do their own thing, builds healthy boundaries and keeps life interesting for both of you. So, try doing spending some alone time with yourself or go out with your girlfriends.


Having a sense of appreciation for one another should be a daily habit with the people you love. My grandpa thanks my grandma for every meal and makes her feel special for all of the kind things she does for him. In return, my grandma praises him for doing tasks around the house like changing the oil in the car or replacing a window. Appreciating what each person brings to a relationship can really make the other person feel special and those feelings will help you get through the frustrations and challenges that are inevitable.


Developing habits to make your love last isn’t always easy but it does make your relationship better. Simple things done consistently can help you build the kind of love that I admire in my grandparents and that I think most of us are looking for.


Is Your New Relationship Too Much Work?

One of the strange things about dating is that it is work, right up until the moment it  isn’t.  The process of making oneself available, of creating and editing your profile on multiple dating websites, of going out when you don’t really feel like it, of sifting through the pain of rejection, disappointment, frustration—that is work.  It is often exhausting and sometimes downright hard. We may doubt ourselves and wonder if there is really someone out there for us.

But, when we meet a person who feels like a good match, there is often the sense of everything falling into place. Suddenly, there is the excitement of someone new, the accommodations easily made so that we can spend time with this person, and maybe even the intense ‘in love’ feelings (that last for, at best, two years).  Early in a relationship, it typically feels easy.  We might go into the office early so that we can have more time with our partner after work, or go three metro stops out of our way to get a desert from the bakery we know they like, but these tasks don’t feel like we’re making an effort because of the sense of anticipation and enthusiasm that shape our perspective.

So, when someone tells me that they have been dating someone for a few weeks, or a couple of months, and it seems hard—hard to find time to see or talk to each other, hard because they don’t quite feel comfortable being themselves around that person, hard because they consistently worry about offending them or hurting their feelings—just hard, however it may be, it makes me a bit apprehensive.

The fact is, nearly all relationships become more complex as time goes on, with the effort required to stay connected with one another, shared practical and financial obligations, managing pets and children and extended families; it is the job of building and maintaining a life together. Healthy relationships deepen in delightful ways, and you learn more about your partner and yourself, but ultimately long-term partnerships become more intricate, more complicated.

As the newness wears off, and the intense emotions fade, the accommodations you made so delightfully in the past take a little more effort on your part.  The rest of the world, that often temporarily fades away at the beginning of a relationship, ushers itself back in.  You miss going to your girls’ or your guys’ night.  You may, particularly if you’re an introvert, miss your solitude.  You’re not so eager to go into the office early in order to get an extra hour or two with your partner later on.  This is when the ‘work’ of balancing and fully integrating your partner into your life, the ‘work’ that everyone warned you about, begins.

All that to say, if you’re dating a brand-new shiny person, and you or your partner are finding it difficult to connect, to make the effort, it is unlikely that this will improve in the future.  In the beginning, the relationship tide is working for you–anticipation, the lure of the unknown, and good old fashioned hormones are typically at their peak. If it feels like work at this point, more likely than not, it will feel daunting later on.

A friend of mine began dating a man a few weeks before he was scheduled to leave for a long term overseas work trip.  Because of the distance, she believed the relationship would likely fade when he left.  Despite being in different time zones and having different work schedules, they remain in daily communication.  For them, it doesn’t feel like work to stay connected—the chemistry, attraction and connection persist, so they make time for each other, in the face of a seemingly difficult situation.

The process of finding someone can be difficult, so it can be easy to think that once you start dating an individual, missed connections and vague plans to see each other are par for the course. However, in both my professional and personal life, the long-term successful partnerships I’ve witnessed have overcome various obstacles to be together and have mutually carved out a space for their relationship.  Early on, they had a sense that their partner was worth making the effort for.

If you find yourself at the beginning of a relationship, and somehow one or both of you is too busy to see each other, or you can’t seem to maintain regular contact or [insert dilemma here]—it may be time to ask yourself if this is really worth pursuing.  Odds are it is not going to get easier down the line.


p.s. looking for some help in navigating your latest dating dilemma?  Join us at Dating Dilemmas for expert advice and intimate conversation. Get your ticket now for dinner, discussion, & dating experts ready to answer your questions!

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3 Ways to Have Fun Dating

3 Ways to Have More Fun Dating

As the year comes to an end, people start to reflect on their lives. We think about the events of the past year and what we can do to improve our situations in the New Year, or what we can do to maintain the good vibes. With these reflections come the thoughts on our relationship statuses. For those who are single, it is inevitable to want a significant other to come along. Dating can be a fun new adventure in the New Year.

When it comes to dating, there are a few things to keep in mind:


  1. Be open-minded.

We all have our “types” in mind when it comes to looking for a partner, but do not let it derail you from getting to know everyone that comes along. The best partner may be the one you least expect to be with.


  1. Do not sell yourself short; maintain your standards.

Remember that you are worth it; you deserve to have love and be loved. Do not settle for just anyone. Although you should remain open-minded, do not stick with the first person to show you attention. Wait for the one who treats you the way you should be treated and gives you what you want out of a relationship.


  1. It is okay to date multiple people.

When starting out, it is okay to get to know more than one person. That is the whole point of dating. For women in particular, it may seem wrong to be romantic with several partners. However, how are you supposed to discover what you truly want if you do not explore every opportunity there is? With that being said, this is in terms of getting to know people. There is a difference between letting loose and letting go.

In this New Year, do not be afraid to put yourself out there. Go out and find the person that makes you happy. Do not go into these ventures looking for The One. Go into them seeking happiness. See where that takes you :)

p.s. if you could use a little encouragement along the way, join us at Dating Dilemmas for expert advice and intimate conversation. Get your ticket now.

Are You Ready to Date?

Are you ready to date?

One of the most exhilarating feelings is the start of something new with someone that catches your attention. The butterflies you get in your stomach when the person you are interested in calls or texts you, the cute little things you start doing for each other, the silliness you feel when you find yourself thinking about them….

But how do you know if you are ready for all of this? How do you know when you are ready to put yourself out there? How do you know when to be vulnerable?


The most important thing to remember before you start dating is to be happy with yourself as an individual.
When you are happy with yourself and give off positive vibes, you are more likely to attract others and find someone to connect with. When dating, people share themselves with others. You want to share happiness, not negativity. It is also easier to be happy with someone when you are happy with yourself. Being happy could also make it easier for you to put the walls down and allow yourself to take chances and be vulnerable. Henrik Edberg writes about how to live a positive life. I would strongly suggest you read some of his articles if you are struggling with self-esteem or if you are not satisfied with your life. This is one of my favorites.


Another thing to think about is whether you have the time to be involved with others. 
It is one thing to be able to go out at night with friends, but it is quite another to be dating people. You have to be able to give them your attention and show that you care, especially if you are first starting out. Evaluate what you have going on in your life. It is not fair to you or whoever you happen to be interested in if you have to cancel dates or “take a rain check” on things. Make sure that they will be able to fit cohesively into your lifestyle and not seem like an obstacle or chore.


Do not take dating too seriously in the beginning.
Dating is not about finding Prince Charming right off the bat. Setting standards is good, but do not make them ridiculous. Looking for The One can cause you to internally put pressure on the people you are dating. You should try to get to know people and see what is out there.

Obviously every person is different and there can be more factors to realizing whether or not you are ready to date, but these three tips are pretty much the key to starting out!


p.s. learn more about how to prepare your self for dating and your next great relationship- join us at Dating Dilemmas for expert advice and intimate conversation. Get your ticket now.

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