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Meet Loretta. A beautiful sista in her mid 20s who is a boss in her male-dominated career. She was already making more money in her 20s than most people make after working 20 years at the same job. She’d traveled the world, was admired by her family and friends, and wanted to get married and have a family someday.

We met at an Italian restaurant to talk about how I could help her meet and date quality men. She was stunning, her smile was radiant and she turned heads as she walked from the lobby to the table. Our waiter kept flirting with her, but she wasn’t giving him the time of day.

After our appetizers, I asked her what her challenges were in relationships. Before I knew it, she was fighting back tears.

She’d had a long-term relationship in college that ended after she realized she didn’t really love him and that she wanted to focus on her career. Moving to a new city brought on the revelation and she had a lot of guilt about how that relationship ended. When it was time to start meeting people, she realized that dating wore her out! She didn’t really trust new men, so she friend-zoned them and watched how they treated her before she decided she’d give them a chance at being her boyfriend.

She gave all kinds of men a shot, believing that she could help some of them change. One man really broke her heart and her soul, though. She fell in love with him because of his “potential,” only to realize that he was insecure, controlling—and a player! He’d cheated on her with his child’s mother and then denied it all. After Loretta ended things with him, she found out on social media that he got married to his baby’s mama! When she ran into him one day downtown, he asked if they could “hook up.” She was floored! He flat out told her that he had no intention of being faithful in his marriage and thought she’d be happy to be his side piece.

Her sadness morphed into depression and when it was fully grown, it turned into anger as she realized what this man really thought of her.

“But I’m over it though,” she said, dabbing her almond shaped eyes with her cloth napkin.

I put my breadsticks down and told her this quote from Stephen B. Poulter, PhD, author of Your Ex Factor: Overcome Heartbreak and Build A Better Life :
“Your unresolved emotional history will always repeat itself in your romantic relationships.”

There’s always a root cause to the painful patterns we experience in romantic relationships. And I suspected that this beautiful millennial’s issues began in childhood.

Once we began working together, I helped Loretta connect the dots. We took a look at her relationship history, digging up every detail from past boyfriends, old friendships and yes, her family dynamics.

At first, Loretta wasn’t feeling me. “I don’t have any daddy issues,” she said. She thought the real issue was there weren’t any good men out there. But when I told her that there is always a root cause to the crazy cycles we get stuck in, and that it’s usually based in an emotional wound we experience in the past, she finally got it. Her father had abandoned her family when the secret came out that he had a wife and children in a whole other country. she was Daddy’s little girl up until that point, and then he disappeared without so much as a goodbye.

She spent her teen years observing her mom take care of her step-father. “This is not what a man is supposed to do! she said to herself. He was Detached. Disconnected. Emotionally unavailable. Her greatest emotion about it all was anger, but she did a lot to repress it like staying busy with work, and taking care of other people.

Fast forward to her dating years. Her ex’s betrayal felt a lot like her father’s abandonment. So Loretta responded in a similar way!

She also developed a lot of rules about how men should act that seemed to contradict each other and that were created in REACTION to the pain she experienced in her past relationships.

Men don’t know any better…you have to be patient with them…I’ll give him 3 chances and then that’s it!
Oh, but I won’t date a man with a kid. That’s too much drama and he won’t have time to be focused on me.
He has to be fit like me. I work hard, I deserve someone who does too!

And those rules were actually keeping her from the relationship she wanted, even though she thought there were just no good guys out there. So during our work together, I had to help Loretta connect the dots between her past and present. She discover these 3 things:
1) The hardest part of relationships is stopping the old, negative emotional patterns we’ve developed in the past.

Loretta’s was anger, and she learned that anger is a fear-based emotion that actually is a result of hurt or feeling like someone has violated or dishonored you in some way. She also learned that her family and spiritual beliefs taught her that anger was wrong and so she didn’t have healthy ways of dealign with it. Unresolved anger was causing her to attract unavailable men and pushing away the right ones!

So she’d shut men down before they had a chance to talk to her, cut people out of her life with the quickness and stay too long with men who didn’t deserve her.

2) She had unrealistic expectations of other people

But this was a mirror reflection of the harsh expectations she had of herself. She’d beat herself up over the smallest mistakes, calling herself horrible names and didn’t see herself as the blessing she truly was because she wasn’t perfect. The rules she had for herself were projected onto other people and so they became stumbling blocks to honest and open communication. She’d just jump to conclusions and didn’t know how to express what she needed and wanted from her partners.

3) She could be vulnerable while staying safe

Loretta developed what she called a “macho” persona to protect herself. When someone hurt her, she’d say, “Never again!” and would pretend like it didn’t matter. This mantra began after the first time she’d asked someone for help and they humiliated her for doing so. She thought asking for help meant she was helpless! Now she didn’t know how to drop her guard and it was keeping her from attracting quality men. They’d tell her, “You look like someone who doesn’t play around!” While this kept her safe from the foolishness out there, it made her have a hard exterior as well.

I taught her how to trust herself to know when she should armor up and when she could show someone her softer side.

After a few short weeks of coaching, this is the unsolicited email I got from her:

Dr. A, 

Working with you I’ve learned so much already. Today I realized that I’m starting to be more attracted to the man that I need and deserved versus the man that needs to be changed and brings heartbreak. I went on a date, and at first I was reluctant to talk to this guy because he’s shorter than I want and his style was different. Pretty much I was being really shallow and close minded. But after awhile I let my guard down and went out with him and it was a really good date!!! There were many times I wanted to take control, but I sat back and didn’t allow my Strong Black Woman persona to control the situation. I felt relaxed knowing that I’m not trying to be in charge. Also I was able to see qualities that I was really attracted to.

He seems like he’s really into me and a part of me wants him to do more things that other guys in my past did, like cater to my wants and needs, but I quickly realized that whenever that happens it’s not good for me

Thanks for the teaching so far. I love the woman I’m becoming. I’ve discovered a different kind of confidence. One that doesn’t need to be expressed, it just is and people see it!

Your teachings have also shown me that I’m not perfect. Before I met you I thought I was a man’s dream catch and every man should be blessed to have a woman like me because I don’t have any daddy issues (so I thought), I love God, I’m smart, independent, beautiful and more. Although every man should be blessed to have me (lol), I’m not perfect and I have my share of flaws. I’m slowly starting to see my flaws, be comfortable knowing that I’m not perfect, and trying to be a better woman for the man God has for me. Knowing that I have flaws helps me be less harsh and not turn good guys down simply because of their outward appearances. After all, if I’m not perfect I think it’s a bit messed up to ask for someone who is.  
  
Sorry for the lengthy letter 🙂 thanks for everything so far. 

****

So what’s the takeaway?

What we think is the issue, usually isn’t the issue. Loretta thought the problem was a lack of quality men in a city filled with millions of singles. Sure, dating was challenging and not all of those guys would be someone she’d want to date. But once she healed the root issue and stopped her deadly dating patterns, she started dating men who valued women, who were attractive and who were relationship-ready!

Are you dating in your 20s? Can you relate to Loretta’s story? Tell me your aha’s and breakthroughs below!