Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Recaps from Expert Emily's Sunday Night Chat

Expert Emily Shupert, a relationship counselor in Atlanta, GA, leads a monthly chat at Cache' Connections. Here are some highlights from Sunday night's chat:

Emily: Glad to answer your dating questions on boundaries or whatever dating questions you might have.

Chatter: thank you Emily. Do you think it is a good idea to have a few male friends, if you are desiring a spouse? Does that hinder the process, or opportunity you think? I am a woman.

Emily: Good question! I'll ask a few additional questions so that I can make the wisest response possible. If possible, could you let me know if you have a few guy friends for either.. limiting so that you have space for a spouse when he comes - or desire to have a few guy friends because you want to increase the number of men in your life?

Chatter: I am thinking it may not be good idea, cause they take up a lot of time. I am seeing that now. Met a man on this site, that does not want marriage, just friendship.

Emily: Do you currently have a lot of guy friends in your life?

Chatter: I have 3 guy friends. I see they like me however.

Emily: Ok, so you met someone here through cache and he wants to be friends but not date, is that right? And then you also have guy friends already outside of cache. Are the other guys time draining?

Chatter: Draining me like a bad birthday. Yes, the one on cache calls me all the time, and wants to see me a lot, and he lives far too.

Emily: oh no! That is no good! But good to know...i can help, no worries :) Good to know all these details so that I can formulate the most helpful response...

Emily: So, different people have different theories on male/female relationships so I'm not saying that my response is absolute truth, but something that I've seen clinically in counseling and in client lives.

Chatter: Many christian men, want marriage, and I would like to know first if he is someone I even wanna be with, amen?

Emily: First and foremost, friendship is the core of any solid marriage. The love feelings will come and go but the friendship and being "for one another" is foundational. With that said, it is a friendship that also has purpose and honors one another. Many times I've seen individuals who enter into relationships where they are "friends" but they are emotionally vulnerable like seen in dating. They basically are fearful for some reason of "dating" but have emotional intimacy and support with friends without the stressors, strings attached, etc. found in dating. I honestly don't think that this is "caring" but sometimes it even looks like "using" one another for emotional support which can sometimes steal the time and energy needed for a relationship.

Chatter: either way - with our friendships or a relationship, right? I guess that is where boundaries come in or so I believe.

Emily: I encourage friendships of the opposite sex to be supportive and caring but when it becomes really close to an emotional level that is often found in dating, I think it is not helpful for either party. Yes, boundaries are important because many times the friendship will cross over such boundaries and often fill the void that only a boyfriend/girlfriend can fill.

Chatter: What expert emily is saying is so true...I've unfortunately had to suffer when a relationship crossed over.

Emily: I've seen individuals of the opposite sex befriend others and never date but psychologically, it makes perfect sense...they are getting their psychological, emotional, and sometimes spiritual intimacy needs met without the attachment and commitment found in a committed dating relationship.

Chatter: Yes, and we become content with the friend, and don't desire a spouse.

Emily: It sounds like you all have unfortunately experienced this in the past so I challenge you to look in a different direction. Instead of thinking and asking yourself "how close do we get?" I would encourage you to ask a bigger picture question. Ask yourself: "where do I want to be? What do I want for my life down the road in the area of relationships? Do I want more friendships or do I desire a mate?"
Begin with the end in mind...your destination determines the direction you take in relationships. I'm a big fan of being intentional with our time, energy, and relationships....we are stewards of our money, our time, and also our relationships.

Chatter: Yes, we need to give the whole thing to God, because we are not good at this stuff. I speak for myself!

Expert Emily: Yes, entrust your relationships with God but also act in wisdom and in discretion as you are a faithful steward of relationships. Relationships are hard, and they def. take time...i encourage folks to remember the phrase "Rome wasn't build in a day" and neither are friendships. I encourage folks to enter into relationships with a desire to learn more about themselves and others.

Chatter: But Rome also didn't take an eternity..lol :)

Chatter: We save it for our Lord and savior first and foremost.

Emily: That is true! God is sovereign and He has relationships for His children, whether that is dating or just other female friendships.

Chatter: It is just easier to be single sometimes. For me. Relationships are confusing. I don't really see a purpose for them.

Chatter: I desire the opposite...i feel its easier to be in a relationship at times, being single can be hard.

Emily: They def. are confusing, that is for sure! Women and men are hard wired so differently but I do believe that it is possible, even if it takes some time.

Chatter: Men can be work.

Emily: Yes, but even so, we need to continue to work on ourselves. It sounds like some in this room are feeling stuck...either as a single person wanting to be dating or in confusing relationships wanting to have a dating relationship that is totally dating.

Chatter: Yes I feel stuck.

Emily: So, I have some advice that I use often when counseling individuals in private practice...are you guys open for some feedback?

Chatter: Definitely ready for advice.

Emily: Ok, so I'm going to give some insight but I won't be able to respond to updated posts until I'm done....needing to stay on one stream of thought so stick with me for a min :)

Many times individuals I work with those who feel stuck in their love life and want to be dating someone but they feel stuck. So, I encourage you to consider scripts that you believe and hear yourself say on a continual basis. I ask you to think about it but also have the humility and courage to ask your friends/family who will be honest with you because sometimes you might not hear yourself in these patterns... patterns are often so automatic we are unaware. These are some scripts you might be saying, "I've never been in a healthy relationship, so something must be wrong with me." "I've been friendly and doing everything right, what is wrong with these guys." "I've been rejected every time I like someone or get dumped, so why date anyone new, it hurts too much" (this might be subconscious and you might be rejecting people over superficial things or just off the bat but it is really a pattern of ""I reject you first so that I don't feel hurt if you reject me."
"I've messed up so much in past relationships, I don't think I'm able to date a certain guy because of my past." "If someone came close, they might not stick around after seeing me more closely." I encourage you to think about what your script might be and if you are having a difficult time, think about times you use absolutes such as "never, always, etc." because those are often found in scripts we tell ourselves. We often are told these scripts or come up with them to make sense of our current or past situations. Regardless of where they come from, they keep us stuck because we use the script as "law" and while it might help us feel like we have some control or understanding....we never move past "stuck."

Often, these scripts will sound different (such as what I listed in examples above) but scripts are typically pointing out or pointing in. I've heard individuals in sessions and through chat rooms in the past who have blamed everyone except looking constructively at themselves. I've also heard folks look at themselves and blame themselves for everything...like they have the ability to attract every single guy in the country :) and it is all 100% their fault for past relationship break ups
In therapy, we talk about people either blaming or shaming...blaming others or shaming themselves. These are the two core roots of scripts and I would encourage you to think about where yours are rooted. So, what do you do now? No worries, we don't simply expose false scripts but we replace them through the renewing of our mind....

We replace the shaming or blaming scripts with truthful statements about ourselves. Instead of saying "I'm a dating failure, I'm not capable of successful dating" with "I've not had the best dating relationships in the past but I'm not a failure, God loves me and has great things planned for me. I am loved, accepted, and cherished by my heavenly father and I desire to enter into relationships but those relationship outcomes can never take away what Christ says about me. I might make mistakes but I can learn from them and grow. I'm not a failure, even if I have failed relationships in my past. I am not my past but I must be responsible for what I do in order to have successful relationships in the future.

Ok folks...does that make sense?

Chatter: Makes sense, but it will be a struggle for me.

Emily: It was a lot to write and I can't go into full detail because of time limitations but hopefully that was a good start point. Yes, it is a struggle but when in the world is anything that helps us grow and change into better people is it easy?

Emily: Growth is often a struggle because when we are stuck, we have to change in order to go into another direction...change is hard. However, I always say...."the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome" I am guilty of it too but love this quote because it is so true! Wish it wasn't though.. life would be way easier! Challenge your scripts and encourage yourself to think about alternate scripts. individuals psychologically have several scripts that they hold onto in every area of life so in order to replace the inaccurate ones, it is important to be aware first. I encourage you all to be an "anthropologist" of yourself and simply notice when you think in a way that is connected to a "stuck" area in your life.

Chatter: I do think optimism and looking inward are steps in the right direction...thx & have a nice evening all!

Emily: We can't change what we aren't aware of so be aware first and then challenge it to an alternate script.

Chatter: Yes. Self-awareness is so important. And then having the courage to act upon what is the Truth rather than lies we are used to playing in our mind.

Emily: Ok group! Wow, time flies when you are typing fast! I hope you guys have gained some insight and new ways of thinking after this talk!

~ Linda
Cache' Connections

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