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Names and identifying features have been changed to protect the privacy of clients. This particular case is not about a specific client. Jessica’s story is quite common, and portrays a combination of many different people’s general experiences.

"I just don’t understand... can my heart have the same dysfunction as my brain?"

Jessica started talking before she even got to sit down and drink the Starbucks coffee in her hand. It’s 3:03pm, and she blurted this out as soon as I opened the door and greeted her warmly. I usually like helping clients settle down and engage in a mindfulness activity to settle in and focus the session, but some sessions, like today, we just dive right in.

I adore seeing Jessica, and am wondering what this intensity is about. She has a lot to share today, and I’m all ears.

"I’ve dated my fair share of men with issues; commitment issues, fears, worries, emotional instability... but this one, he’s different. I’m telling you; he’s got a deeper soul. He’s got a sweeter presence. Does my heart lie to me just like my brain does? How can I have misread this one?"

Jessica’s body is literally bent over like she’s a folded piece of paper. She’s in deep distress.

Jessica is a talented writer, a high-power professional, an eloquent speaker, and has come a long way in her relationships.

Though she was raised by a highly critical dad and a mom who never fully understood her {most of her life}, and struggled with emotionally unavailable friendships and boyfriends, she’s come a long way from there. Over the last few years, she’s made some solid, healthy friendships that have proven to be a real support for her. And, more recently, since her 32nd birthday, has shifted her focus in dating to finding someone with similar values who she can eventually settle down with and build a family of her own.

Today, as she shares about her recent dating experience, something feels confusing.

“Esther, this one was different..."

And then in a whisper that feels as soft as a feather fluttering to the ground;

" least I thought he was”.

She gazes up for a sliver of a moment, and then her eyes fall back to the floor. Her shoulders slump deeper than before. My heart breaks just a bit along with hers. Jessica has a vibrancy to her soul that I’ve seen come to life over the last year that we have worked together.

Her eyes light up when she finishes a piece of writing, when she connects deeply with people who fully understand her, and when she sees her dreams slowly unfolding before her. She has done some deep healing work, and she’s reaped the benefits. Her life has more balance, she has better daily routines and she’s more focused and calm than she’s been in a while.

Regarding dating... she knows she wants love, and she’s been getting clear about what kind of people pass her “dating criteria” and which ones are just, as I call it, “driftwood” (not worth expending energy on).

But today, all her wisdom and wit are on the back burner.

Today, there is a heavy sadness... a feeling of hopelessness... (almost).

There are silent moments between her sharing and my reflecting, helping her process. And as we are still... it’s almost like if the air around us could share support or give input, or if the room could whisper wisdom, it would say…

“Just because someone’s broken, does not mean it’s your job to fix them...

...Just because you connected with someone, does not mean you need to have them in your life.”

But those messages are ones she will learn as she keeps listening to what her mind and body are telling her. Most often, clarity comes through in its slow, yet organic process, as the human mind and psyche need time and support to unwrap the layers beneath.

“It’s almost like I’m dating two sides of a person; one who is kind and mature, and one who is a little boy who is confused and uncertain about what he wants in life.

He says he wants to be with me, but then he goes back to saying he’s not sure if he wants a long-term relationship.

I’m a clear person... I know what I want... and I’ve been clear all along.

But him... he keeps changing his mind.

And then I start feeling like maybe something is wrong with me.

Why isn’t he clear and sure?

This up and down … It’s downright exhausting.”

She begins telling me about her experience dating Dave. As she does, we start threading together the messages he’s given her from the beginning;

"At his core, he’s confused".

And a confused person is not an ideal date. He cannot focus on prioritizing a relationship if he is emotionally distracted.

What he did share, is that his parents never truly accepted him for who he was, and he’s been trying to desperately get their approval, but he’s constantly torn. Torn between who he wants to be, what his life focus should be now, and in the background, there’s a constant need to make his parents proud. This inner turmoil is what makes him seem so confused. So uncertain. It would take some soul searching {and possibly therapy work or guidance from a mentor} to resolve some of this, so he can have clarity in his own mind. But util then, he will keep coming across as a confused. He has a facade of strength but beneath it, he’s deeply broken.

“Why do I love broken men?"

She looks up for a moment and I see the tears beginning to well up in her eyes.

"It’s hard, because it’s not like I’m mad at Dave for being confused, I get it! It’s just painful that I connect with someone who can’t show up for himself, for his dreams or for his future.

Darn.... He’s like my dad.

My dad, though tough on the outside, hides behind a facade. He’s never really given his life a real shot, and by virtue, has never really shown up for me in the ways I needed. Somehow, I have this magical thinking that maybe, just maybe, I would help Dave. Help him reach his dreams. And maybe, just maybe, he would fight for me... because I’m worth fighting for! But he’s like my dad. I can’t keep trying to make someone fight for me. I can’t do the work for him, and I couldn’t do the work for my dad. I’m just so so sad.”

She looks up and lets out a deep sigh. Tears are slowly streaming down her face.

Jessica just uncovered something that is very deep to her existence.

Though we don’t often discuss her relationship with her dad, her relationship with him has deeply impacted her. Jessica doesn’t avoid owning her truths, rather, she’s been committed to unraveling the realities {conscious and unconscious} that impact her. She just needs the right support, and time. Her mind and body are open to processing and healing.

Essentially, her connection with Dave is a gift.

It became a way for her to notice something deep down inside, and do some focused healing on that part of her.

She goes on, piecing some more important facts together.

"Esther, he’s broken. Not literally, but figuratively.

And, I can’t love someone broken; I’ve done that for so much of my life. I tried saving people who needed saving at the cost of my life. It wasn’t just dad; I tried getting other people to really see me, to love me, and to know me, but some people are just not able to. They may be disconnected, or have their own stuff. In the past, I just waited and waited. I can’t go through that kind of misery again. I will not do that to myself again. I have healthier relationships now."

She looks up with a piercing look in her eyes.

She is getting so clear on her emotional boundaries, and I can tell there is real insight, blended with solid strength as she talks. Her shoulders have come up, and her spine seems to have lengthened. As a somatic therapist, I’m exquisitely attuned to how our bodies communicate, and in this moment, Jessica’s body is slowly shifting as she is processing this relationship (The body usually shifts {even subtly} as we get in touch with a sense of autonomy, and out of defeat and helplessness).

I share that observation with her, and she lets out a lighthearted laugh, nods in agreement and goes on...

It looks as though a light bulb turned on in her mind…

"Hey….You know what I realize?

The way he is today, there’s no way he can love me. Because if he doesn’t know what it means to love himself then there’s no way he can give me love.”

Sometimes moments like these come with a deep feeling of relief, a feeling of sadness or a feeling of grief. But there’s always a clarity and clearing that slowly opens the doorway to the next step in the person’s life.

I’ve sat with many women and men who were facing complicated relationship dynamics like this.

Many wonder if what they wish for is too much... If what they want out of a relationship is unreasonable... If they should just stop trying to find what they really want and need, and settle.

Relationships are complex, and there is seldom a simple one-sided solution to navigating the relationship world.

What is certain, though, is that when you stay crystal clear on who you are, you invite exactly what you need.

Maybe not in the very moment you want it... maybe not in a specific scenario you imagined... or maybe not in a the social circle you’re in.... but if you do the work, you attract people who share the things that are important to you. Settling for something that isn’t right doesn’t take that nagging feeling away.

Making yourself want something that is not aligned with your values or needs does not provide resolution either. Staying in-line with your deepest truths will be the best route.

Now, this does not mean you will be with a partner who is “perfect”.

That is not something that exists.

But it does mean bringing someone in who will be a right fit; someone you connect with, someone who is willing and able (for the most part) to go through the ups and downs of life with you. Someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to make it work.

Now, no relationship is perfect... but when it comes to choosing someone to build a life with, even if you are already in a relationship that could use more balance... you want to be clear on what you need, so you are starting out (or working on) on solid footing.

Back to Jessica...

After conversing with Dave over the next few weeks, it became clear he was not ready to be in a relationship. At least not with a woman as clear and committed as Jessica. And though there was strong chemistry and a deep connection, more than she had with most other guys, this was not a relationship worth pursuing right now.

Of course Jessica was sad that Dave wasn’t going to be her +1, and wasn’t titled her “ordained boyfriend”, but the look of relief on her face as she accessed clarity was palpable.

Being with someone who carried deep insecurity and uncertainty had been too much for Jessica to contain. It was clear she made the right choice when she let it go.

Now, if you’ve ever dated someone, loved someone or deeply cared for someone who is emotionally limited, or in a very different place than you, or in some way “broken”...


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