Intuition or paranoia?

How do you tell the difference between intuition and paranoia? I have wondered this so much myself and I like to think I have an answer. Before I throw my thoughts out there, let me provide the definitions as they are remotely not the same thing… yet somehow many people manage to confuse the two. Intuition: the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning. Paranoia: suspicion and mistrust of people or their actions without evidence or justification.

If you’re generally a worrisome person and an over-thinker it’s challenging to distinguish between self-generated feelings and intuitive perceptions. As someone with a fair amount of anxiety (much as I don’t like admitting it), I’m constantly questioning whether my inner thoughts are simply a product of my anxious mind due to past experiences, or something more intuitive and real. It’s endlessly frustrating for me to express my worries and concerns to others, then receive advice like, “You just have to trust your gut.” To be honest, that doesn’t help a huge amount. It’s like when you’re angry and someone tells you to “calm down” 😒

If you’ve ever experienced the kind of paranoia that makes little sense to anyone but you, you know that trusting the voice inside your head is a lot more difficult than it seems. Research has found that intuitive decision making is impaired for those who are in a state of anxiety. With this in mind, does it mean there is no such thing as “trusting your gut” if you’re an individual who suffers from anxiety/paranoia?

Discerning between the two

Whenever I feel like my “intuition” is kicking in, I have all sorts of mental and physical reactions. My heart rate speeds up, I struggle to sleep, my concentration levels drop, I lose my appetite, I become snappy towards others and my mind begins to spiral. As I read back on my last sentence, it definitely sounds like anxiety to me… but in the moment, the differences between anxiety symptoms and gut reactions are blurred, both can feel one in the same.

There has been multiple occasions where I’ve mistaken my paranoia for a “gut feeling”. The last incident of this was a couple weeks ago where I very badly overacted towards a situation and went into full crazy bitch mode. What added fuel to the fire was the lack of communication towards the other party. Thankfully things were resolved in the end but in no way did I feel good about my behaviour or attitude, it was poor form on my part but that particular moment was certainly a turning point and massive learning curve.

Obsessive and demanding vs. Calm and subtle

So how can we prevent ourselves from freaking out or jumping to conclusions?
How can we get through the murky waters and understand what’s what?

 Intuition and paranoia feel like inner tugs, prompts and “knowing”, but the source is different. It’s important to recognise that paranoia is a thought process which is believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety, insecurity or fear, often to the point of delusion and irrationality. If we can get to a stage where we’re in touch with ourselves enough to know when those aspects are triggered, then we’re more likely able to figure this out — of course it comes with time, practice and a certain level of self-awareness.

I can’t stress enough how much communication helps; and I don’t mean asking friends and family for advice regarding the issues you feel concerned about. I mean having a deep, personal conversation where you really open up about negative life experiences, your childhood, past traumas, mental health… basically anything that might have impacted your character/behaviour over time. It’s a great and vital opportunity to learn about yourself. If you have someone you can trust and feel comfortable around then nominate them to be your “support”. Otherwise speak with a therapist, it may even be better to share this information with someone who doesn’t really know you, won’t be biased or say what you want to hear. Then once you get things off your chest, you can start gathering tools to better cope with any internal issues, therefore ensuring that it will no longer get in the way of your intuition. Here are a few other things to keep in mind.

1. Based on what I’ve felt in the past, paranoia is obsessive and demanding. It’s when the feeling takes up too much of your thoughts and energy. Paranoia tends to last for much longer — hours, days, weeks! It’s intense; it’ll keep you up at night, it’ll give you mood swings, you’ll feel on edge and it’ll send you straight into fight, flight mode. Whereas intuition is immediate, calm, subtle, like a small itch but fades in time if it isn’t scratched.

2. Paranoia is negative and fear-based. It usually presents itself as “what-if” and often future-focused in a very unhealthy way. If your head is filled with hypotheticals, worst case scenarios and you’re constantly honing in on things you can’t control… then it’s likely not your gut instinct. Intuition looks at the present and will come from a clear head and calm mind.

3. While both paranoia and intuition can create an unsettled feeling, paranoia will lean more towards stress and uncertainty — while intuition will feel more reasonable and concrete. I find that if you’re going back and forth, constantly undecided on what to do, then whatever is on the mind is likely anxiety-fueled.

Final thoughts

Feeling emotions is a natural part of being human but when the emotions start controlling us, it’s extremely difficult to tell the difference between trustworthy intuition and untrustworthy paranoia. But I always try my best to give people the benefit of the doubt, so I don’t think I’m paranoid. While you’re battling between head and heart, it’s tempting to follow your head because that’s where your “logic” lies but the mind’s ability to manifest is powerful enough that we’ll believe our fears which then becomes our reality.

If you’ve had a troublesome past then I think there’s little use trying to figure things out; for an over-thinking/worrier there is much greater use in speaking to the person directly and discuss the feelings you’re experiencing, that way you can at least verify reality and learn to trust as you go along. Trying to decide whether it’s intuition or paranoia just adds another layer to the anxiety and doubt, which will not help in building a fruitful relationship or a successful future together.

The eX-Files: Keeping memorabilia from past relationships.

Today I’m wondering… “Do you keep memorabilia from past relationships?” I think it’s a good question and I’m sure the answer varies from person to person. I honestly don’t. At least not on purpose. After a failed relationship, I purge anything and everything attached to an ex — especially if it was a bad relationship. It’s got nothing to do with being hurt or upset, but more for me to start with a clean slate. I’m quite cut-throat anyway so once I’m done with someone, I really couldn’t care less. Oh and also… I don’t like clutter!

I’m going to throw it out there and say that keeping old photos and gifts from a past love generally won’t be appreciated by a current partner, whether they like to admit it or not. What am I basing this on you ask? A lot of reading, secondary research and speaking to numerous people. I’d say the first thought people have when items like these come to light is “are they still holding on to old feelings?” The action of keeping memorabilia from past relationships is apparently called “Soul Ties” and causes one to be “locked in” to that person on an emotional and mental level. This is likely to be true if your partner is actually still clutching on to the past and hasn’t fully moved on emotionally from their last relationship.

However on the flip side, many choose to keep sentimental items from the past for different reasons. And after speaking to various friends, I think there are some good takeaways from these overall discussions. A couple of my girlfriends admitted to keeping memorabilia but have boxed the things up and stored it somewhere out of the way. They said that their current partners are obviously aware that they had a life before them; adding that everyone has a past and should have a right to keep what they want to keep. In one of their words: It’s not that I still have feelings for my ex or I’m looking for a reconciliation. I just find it hard to let go of memories of someone I once held dear. It feels like denying they ever were important to me.

I know some people have chosen to keep little objects like old cinema tickets or key chains from a date because in the future they want to have small reminders of what their teenage years were like (which is fair enough, I actually think that’s quite cute) Then I have guy friends who have kept items only if they serve a functional purpose, ie. NutriBullets, Cameras, Clothing.

Flipping the script

So how would I feel if I was dating someone and they kept old gifts or left photos of their ex on social media? Well… I reckon a few years back when I really struggled with my insecurities and paranoia — any of the above would have bugged the shit out of me. Today, if I saw old cards or love letters… I’m not going to lie, I’d probably have an issue with it so would raise my concerns. But with regards to old photos on social media, I might have a look at them (because it’s right there in my face) but I wouldn’t focus my energy on it. There are a few reasons (that aren’t linked to harbouring old romantic feelings) why people still have pictures of their exes. Firstly, your partner might not be that active on social media/hasn’t gotten around to deleting them. Secondly, they may still value his/her friendship; they don’t even have to be friends, perhaps they just broke up amicably. Thirdly, as my girlfriends mentioned, it’s just a memory of a life before you, there doesn’t have to be any meaning behind it.

I try my best not to jump to conclusions too much. If I find myself jealous or insecure about old photos then I’d say that’s my problem to deal with. At the same time, your partner should make you feel secure and not put you in a position where you have to question them. I’m a big believer in actions, so if your other half is clearly showing that you are their present and priority, then there’s absolutely no need to worry. Just concentrate on building happy memories with them!

If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve discovered items/photos from the past but it makes you feel uncomfortable, then I believe you have a right to express your feelings… in a calm manner! When you build up the courage to have the conversation, understandably it can feel awkward. You might even feel bad for bringing it up! Nevertheless, with all relationships, communication is very important. If something doesn’t sit right with you then it’s okay to be direct and have an open dialogue about it, but equally it’s important to refrain from sounding accusatory to avoid anything blowing up into a fight!

Do you still keep photos or items from past relationships? Does your current partner know? What is your feeling towards a significant other keeping sentimental memorabilia? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

When the past becomes our present.

Old emotional wounds have many ways of inserting themselves into existing and new relationships. When this occurs, they can prevent a connection from blossoming or slowly pull at a relationship until one or both parties suffocate. Some of our deepest wounds often come from childhood, and others will make an appearance at a later point in life.

Dealing with heartbreak, betrayal, having our ideas about love questioned and our spirits bruised are distressing experiences to go through. Mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually — these past traumas have the power to greatly impact our overall character; it can affect the way we think, the way we see ourselves, and the way we see others. When emotional pain cuts us deep, it can cause repeat unhealthy behaviours and offer a recipe for toxic relationships. Sometimes without even realising, few of us will continue living our lives holding onto negative, distorted thoughts in our unconscious mind. But one thing is for sure… none of this has to be permanent.

Cute but psycho

I’d be lying if I said freeing yourself from the past was an easy process. It really isn’t. Speaking from personal experience, I spent years convinced that I was healed from my first relationship. Unfortunately, feelings of resentment and bad memories can linger long after a previous split. The reality was that I had simply swept everything under the carpet and put in place a few coping mechanisms which involved: always having my guard up, purposely starting conflicts to make myself feel better and feel more in control, never communicating or addressing the root problem, and playing the blame game. After going through a couple superficial relationships in my emotionally unavailable state, it became clear that my issues were just adding this growing ball of toxic energy. The longer I left it to manifest, the worse I became.

I was cheated on in my first relationship but didn’t find out until a year later… and it was only by chance I had discovered the secret. Around the same time, the manipulative and controlling behaviour became more apparent (dictating what I could/couldn’t wear, where I could go, who I could talk to/hang out with, etc.), our heated arguments were pretty intense, we hurled things at each other then got into physical altercations. The atmosphere was always tense and disruptive, and not just between us but for others as well. When things were good, they were amazing; when things were bad, it was hideous. Being 16 at the time, in my first relationship; I was naive and “blinded by love”. I can’t even comprehend what was going through my mind back then. All I knew was that no matter what shit we had gone through, he was never wrong in my eyes. Eventually three and a half years later, I found the courage to leave. And by no means was it an easy exit.

I swiftly got into my next relationship about 5 months after but I was just a ticking time-bomb for my next partner… and the next one after that. When I look back, I feel awful for the way I treated some of my exes. Even thinking about it now makes me cringe and feel a lot of shame. I found myself creating worst-case scenarios in my head, getting easily triggered over certain things they’d say or do. I was always feeling hypersensitive, insecure and on-edge when they wanted to have a guys night out or attend a work do. I dealt with it all by self-sabotaging. I would go down their phones to check their call logs, messages, photos, social media. I looked through their draws, cupboards — I don’t exactly know what I was looking for but I needed anything to use as ammo so I could pull them up on it and accuse them of cheating on me. I honestly think I put more effort in my search for “evidence” than I did with the actual relationship. Messed up huh?

Road to recovery

When we’re stuck in trauma, our limbic system (basically an important part of the brain) can become impaired in its ability to regulate our emotions. As a result, our mood, sleep and thought patterns can be impacted and lead to symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, loss of appetite, low sex drive and even depression. It’s essential to understand how past issues are affecting your love life so that you can address them.

No one likes feeling vulnerable, disappointed or hurt, but how we deal with past issues determines the quality of our lives, our next relationship and ultimately helps to shape ourselves. As mentioned, it’s not a straightforward or quick practice, nonetheless I guarantee that taking an opportunity for self-reflection and learning can be the gateway to experiencing real joy and happiness. If you’re seeking some guidance on how to release those burdens, I’ve compiled some mindful tips to help loosen that grip on previous situations and move forward in a much healthier way.

IT IS WHAT IT IS
For some of us, “letting it be” or “letting it go” alludes to the idea that we’re wrong or it feels like we’re allowing someone else to be right. It also means letting go of your expectations of how things should have been. The fact is, what happened was all in the past and there’s nothing you can do about it. The drama, holding on… it’s all in your own mind. As you continue feeding the memories, you make what someone said or did even bigger and more powerful in your head than it might have been in reality. Accepting what happened gives you the ability to create empowering stories and discover valuable lessons to carry with you in the future.

DO NOT PUT EVERYONE IN THE SAME CATEGORY
Your new partner should not be punished for the pain you felt from previous relationship, just because someone did you wrong in the past, it doesn’t mean that your new partner will do the same. It’s an unfair position to put them in. It’s important to communicate, be open and honest, and explain why you might have certain hangups or sore spots. And if it’s a situation where you’re clinging onto hurt and anger but struggling or refusing to let it go, then perhaps you’re not in the right frame of mind for a new relationship.

TAKE YOUR TIME TO HEAL
There’s no timeline for healing from trauma, it can take months or even years. However, it’s vital to release the sadness and let yourself process all the emotions. Use the opportunity to self-discover and work on getting your mind back in a better place.

LET IT OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM
Some will feel better after verbal communication with a friend, family member or therapist, others might prefer writing down their thoughts in a journal. Either way, the cathartic release can do wonders for your mental health. You’ll find that self-expression helps to clarify your thoughts, feelings, reduce stress and even solve problems more effectively.

DO THINGS THAT YOU ENJOY
On your road to recovery, I reccomend channeling your energy into things you enjoy. Perhaps you let go of a hobby you used to love? Maybe you want to take up something new? Just go for it. Even if it’s a bit of therapeutic shopping, brunching with friends, binging on awful reality TV shows or treating yourself to a pamper session — stick to positive environments, surround yourself with good people and focus on finding happiness and inner peace.

I always encourage learning and growing from all our experiences in life. When we’re dealing with past trauma, concentrate on becoming stronger in the process, rather than carrying the baggage around like an anchor. Don’t let it weigh you down from living and enjoying your life. The past should be used as a reference to serve and support you for the present and future. Always keep in mind:

“Scars remind us of where we have been, not where we are headed.”

COVIDiares: From quranteasing to pandemic pleasing

If you’re an avid reader of my blog then you’ll know that I started COVID-eo dating a guy that I met on Hinge back around mid-March (here is the post for reference.) Nine weeks in I wrote another piece giving a quick update on how things were going and bringing to light some of my “what if” questions in advance of us (eventually) meeting face to face. It’s now been just over 3 months, so with lockdown eased up and 12 video dates later… you better believe we finally met in the flesh! Hurrah!

It’s been an interesting journey so far, particularly with the video dating aspect as that was completely new territory for me. Sharing a similar story with many others, lockdown introduced a shift in the dating landscape where users had to turn towards platforms such as FaceTime or Zoom in order to connect with potentials. While some may have found it awkward or simply put their dating lives on pause, I found the experience to be very enjoyable and fulfilling. I certainly didn’t expect to be “dating” anyone during lockdown, let alone for so many weeks! My initial thought was that perhaps I’d have a couple of video dates before it gradually fizzling out.

Recap

From the get go I noticed straight away that our conversations naturally flowed with lots of laughter. Our dates quickly became a weekly thing, we were both comfortable and I found myself feeling more at ease with him as the weeks went by. It was nice to see his personality shine through via video, I felt like I managed to get a lot more out of this method of communication as opposed to messaging or a phone call; the interactions and facial expressions made a huge difference in building this connection. Another thing I appreciated was how open we were with each other; by sharing thoughts on how our date went, what we enjoyed and what we liked about each other — it was helpful to know that we were on the same page. The most impressive part above all, was the consistent effort put in from both sides, not only did we have our once-a-week dates but there was plenty of chit chat, banter and silly games in-between. It’s fair to say that he made lockdown a little more bearable for me.

First (not video) date

Our first date took place last Tuesday and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling slightly nervous beforehand (and I’m not usually the nervous type!) No doubt it was more nerves of excitement than anything else. I mean with 3 months worth of build up and anticipation of seeing each other (especially during the last couple of weeks), the suspense was killing me slowly. In the back of my mind, I was confident that there’d be no awkwardness nor would we be any different to how we were over our Zoom calls. We were lucky to have sunshine for our park “drinkies” date (it rained for the rest of the week) so I kept my outfit fairly casual, I chucked on a t-shirt, skirt, trainers and my oversized glam sunglasses. 😎

I arrived at the meeting spot a few minutes earlier and dropped him a message… eeeek! The funniest part was when he messaged back saying he was couple of minutes away and asked me to send my location. Not long after, I noticed a little old man following Google Maps on his phone, heading directly towards me! Hahaha! Just so you know, that wasn’t him! But the next guy walking towards me definitely was! I had a quick scan of his outfit (standard procedure): casual check shirt, black jeans and vans — yeah, he got my stamp of approval for his park ensemble ✅ As he walked towards me, I couldn’t help but laugh, it felt kinda bizarre…in a positive way!

Getting our flirt on

Now I’m gonna to be straight and say that we broke the social distancing rules! I don’t think it even occurred to us because we went in for a hug and he gave me a kiss on the cheek. You know how I mentioned us being comfortable during our Zoom calls? It felt exactly the same except this time there was no laptop screen between us. We started chatting and I was tempted to link onto his arm… although on second thought, it was probably a bold move to make so early on! Didn’t want him to think I was a weirdo 🙈 Once we found a nice spot, I could feel the chemistry between us which wasn’t surprising as we’d been quite flirty during our dates. With so much eye contact, laughter and a few touchy feely moments… it seemed like we just clicked. Within an hour and a few G&Ts later, we were sat so ridiculously close together to the point where I thought “fuck it” and went in for a snuggle. At one point during our date, he was lying down on his front so I could crack his back 😂 Yeah I don’t know where that randomly came from… Anyway! Things turned up a notch as we placed a bet; basically if I lost then I had to give him a kiss (oldest trick in the book!) Firstly I’ll have you know that I won the bet. He’ll tell you otherwise because he’s a soo competitive. Either way, I wanted that kiss so was willing to take the “loss”. FYI – he’s a great kisser!

With all the fun and games going on; there was one thing we didn’t think through… public toilets! They were all bloody closed. I’m still confused about it until this day. Why do that? After dragging the poor guy around in circles, feeling confident that at least one set of toilets would be open, I was very wrong… and far from impressed. Luckily for him, he did his thing in a bush — that’s one advantage to having a penis. Unfortunately I wasn’t planning to water any plants so I made us Uber over to my sisters house, thank God she didn’t live too far and he probably thought I was such a diva at this point.

Hehe ;D

We continued on with our date at a local park and popped open the bottle prosecco we had left 🥂🍾 Up until the sun went in, we chilled, people watched, conversed and weren’t hiding the fact that we were checking each other out… a lot. Considering no restaurants or bars were open, he offered to make me dinner at his. Yeah I know what you’re thinking, and no, I didn’t think his only intention was to get me into bed.

After whipping up a meal with a glass of wine each we continued chatting. Eventually he swooped in and made the move. The kisses were fiery, I felt his hands running from my waist and up my skirt. As we continued kissing, he lifted me up and put me on the dining table. We were ready to go for it, however I wasn’t about to have sex on the table with his flatmate in the house! So we moved things into the bedroom and to be honest, for our first sex session, I had no complaints whatsoever. Them broad shoulders though, the strong facial hair, with a dominant streak and good balance of aggression and gentleness. I’d describe him as a proper manly man — in general and under the sheets. I ended up staying the night but we didn’t get much sleep. 😏

Discovering each other on an intimate level, showing each other’s bedroom tricks as well as having those cute, affectionate post-sex moments, the little kisses, the snuggles, the stroking, the spooning — it was all pleasurable. The next day we both had work so after some morning cuddles followed by intense sex I had to head off early but if we could have stayed in bed together, there’d be no question about it.

Second date?

Overall, the “first” date was memorable. Believe it or not, we’ve already had our second date involving coffee, a stroll with a few hugs and kisses. The lockdown phase put us in a position where we had to make the best out of an unusual situation. Personally speaking, I think having those 12 weeks to build a connection without the physical side of things was a blessing in disguise. I was quite guarded and slightly judgemental towards him at first but as I got to know him on a deeper level, I found him even more attractive in personality and appearance. I guess we were fortunate enough to have gotten along really well from day one, I’m particularly pleased that our virtual dates had translated in real life. From what I’ve witnessed so far, he seems like a really sound guy so I’ll have to see what happens! I promise to keep you posted folks!

Is more less when it comes to dating?

Remember when choices were as simple as “regular latte” or “skinny latte”? These days it’s more like “decaf latte, double shot, caramel syrup, half-soy, half-oat, 180-degrees, no-foam, with a sprinkle of chocolate powder on top”. Let me tell you something… the online dating landscape is not too dissimilar! The challenge these days for many singletons, particularly where dating apps are concerned, is not just about dishonesty, but decision-making as well.

Once upon a time I found dating apps fun and interesting but after using them for a few months, the novelty quickly wore off. Now I merely see them as tedious and exhausting… it’s like an endless stream of “potentials” along with endless swiping (left), every time I open the apps. While the barrage of choice should make connections easier, it also makes us more picky. Whether we’re looking for something better or just completely overlooking, do we miss a good opportunity when it’s presented right in front of our eyes?

The paradox of choice

“Maximising” is a term coined by Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College and author of “The Paradox of Choice”. Briefly summarised, “maximisers” are those who believe the grass is always greener on the other side. This particular pool of people treat dating and relationships very much like clothing. They might try a few options before committing to the right item, perhaps they’ll stay on the look out “just in case” or if they really can’t decide, it’s possible they’ll end up with two similar garments and flit between them. The only difference is, there’s no refunds or exchanges in the dating world! Have you ever found yourself in this type of situation? I know I have… and I’m talking metaphorically and literally.

I once dated two guys at the same time… whilst also lightly entertaining three others potentials just because I could. Normally I’m someone that likes to stick with one person, at least that way they can have my full attention plus it means less faffing around. But for the sake of trying out a new strategy, I decided to run an A/B split test.

The subjects

Although the two had very different personalities, I found them equally attractive. Guy #1 was the extrovert. In a nutshell I’d describe him as extremely social, well dressed, nicely built, perfect height, super chatty, great fun, hilarious, confident but not cocky. Guy #2 was quite the opposite. Totally introverted. Had a whole lot less to say but any time he opened his mouth, there was good, intellectual substance behind his words. Slightly more mature in the mind which was a nice change in comparison to other men I’ve dated previously! A little on the short side( though that didn’t bug me too much), kinda geeky, generous, thoughtful, well put together and also had a great build!

Activity

After a couple months in, I realised it was getting a bit too much! Multi-dating is honestly so mentally and physically draining. It’s the constant upkeep of texting back and forth trying to maintain several conversations at once, managing dates to ensure there’s no clashes, getting paranoid in case one guy would see me with the other, the effort of getting dressed up to actually go out on these dates (between 3-4 times a week!) …all of this while you’re still trying to suss them out. And that’s just the dating side of my life! Your mind is always in a pickle about which one to eventually kick to the curb, not to mention date requests coming in from the other potentials! This was a mess. It was time to optimise the strategy.

Results

So I ended up getting rid of both guys… and deleted all apps from my phone. Sometimes that’s the way it needs to be. Truthfully I was getting bored and felt overwhelmed with the whole dating palaver. I couldn’t be arsed to make a choice and I definitely couldn’t be bothered to go on any more new dates. It was all unnecessary drama that I didn’t need in my life.

What I found particularly interesting about the “A/B test” was the correlation between my handling of the situation and one of the studies discussed in Schwartz’s book. It concluded that while having increased options can be beneficial to a certain point, giving people too much choice would likely cause poor decision making, feelings of dissatisfaction, regret, or we become exhausted and make no decision at all!

If you think about it, it’s not just dating where we might experience over-abundance of options. It happens in everyday life. At restaurants when looking at a menu, down each aisle during grocery shopping, choosing a Netflix film to watch, figuring out which stocks to invest in, etc. Dating apps are great in bringing you closer to someone compatible, but if you’re hitting it off with one person and still have another 78 others waiting for you to match with them; is it worth having a look through? Or do we focus on this one person and keep those as part of an “emergency stash”?
In my opinion, if you’re someone who is actually serious about making a real, long term connection then the approach needs to be adjusted to fit your objective. Here are a few of my suggestions/thoughts:

1. If you have multiple dating apps, why not stick with your preferred one? At least this will cut down your swipes and choices.

2. If you’re already dating/chatting to someone, spend the time to get to know them properly before jumping ship. Don’t be quick to judge and learn to give people the benefit of the doubt… no one is perfect!

3. We need to stop treating a people as if they’re disposable or some type of commodity. It’s only fair to base a person on his or her own merits and not in comparison to 3, 5 or 10 other people. If I’ve instantly clicked with someone and things have progressed to a second date then they definitely warrant 100% of my attention.

The courage to forgive.

It’s easy to fall into a pit of despair, bitterness and grief when we’ve been deeply hurt. After someone has wronged us, the thought of forgiving them seems elusive. Where relationships are concerned, if we’ve been the victim of cheating, mental/physical abuse, being lied to or put up with toxic behaviour; these events will naturally stick with us due to our brain’s innate tendency to remember things that are emotionally impactful. This is why letting go, whether it’s feelings, people and/or relationships can be so difficult.

Forgiveness is no doubt one of the hardest challenges you will ever face in a relationship or post-relationship. Most of us assume that if we forgive, then the offenders are let off the hook while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We must remember that forgiving someone doesn’t mean condoning their behaviour or pretending it didn’t happen. In essence it’s about letting go of the desire to seek revenge towards the other party, eliminating negative emotions rooted from them and shedding the emotional baggage from the unpleasant incident. Unfortunately there’s no quick formula to recover from pain nor is it a linear process, but if we’re able to practice forgiveness, I guarantee that it will bring a kind of peace that will enable you to move on and live a happier, more meaningful life.

It was only 3 years ago when I truly learned how to forgive properly, since then I’ve reaped the benefits. My perspective in life, personal growth, attitude and relationships in general have improved vastly. Being able to finally get over a relationship wound that I was subconsciously holding onto for almost 10 years (!!!) instantly made me feel a huge sense of relief, freedom and strength. You just know when you’ve finally let that shit go… something instantly changes within you, it’s that kinda feeling.

Until that moment I really thought I had known how to forgive, but I hadn’t. The only thing I was doing was suppressing the memories; but through time, maturity and lots of self-reflection, it occurred to me that some of my behaviour patterns were very destructive. When it came to relationships, I struggled with communication (particularly when I was upset), I was easily triggered, I was defensive, paranoid and anxious often. When I had that moment of realisation, I knew something was going on with me deep down and I needed to fix it. Not just for future relationship but for myself.

If you’re going through a circumstance; whether you’re struggling to forgive someone, haven’t forgiven the past (and haven’t let go) or simply don’t wish to forgive, I get it. Sometimes stubbornness and ego gets in the way. And sometimes it’s just the principle! But if I can highlight just a few reasons why it’s essential to practice forgiveness, then I hope it will enable you to think or view the situation in a different light.

It helps you to recognise the pain in others
No one is born wanting to hurt others. Our life experiences shape us as we mature and learn over the years. If we can take some time to think about the person who has hurt us, we can often find clues that help to explain their behaviour. And when we’re able to do this, we can begin to see things from a bigger perspective. The person who caused us pain is just a human trying to cope with their challenges, just as we are.

It’s for your benefit
Forgiveness is not something we do for others, it’s something we do for ourselves. If you continue to feel like a victim, then you’re carrying a heavy burden. The act of forgiving allows you to drop the burden and free yourself by walking away.

You’ll build inner strength
It takes a lot of courage and mental strength to forgive someone that caused us significant pain. When we practice forgiveness, we’re releasing negative emotions that we’ve held on to. And if we can continue to maintain this powerful mindset, we’ll become more resilient as well as build greater relationships in future.

We can learn from past experiences
Whether we move on with or without the person who hurt us – be mindful of the lesson. During and after the situation, we should do our best to take a step back and learn something about ourselves. Understanding what pushes our buttons, at what point do we get sensitive, how do we handle our emotions, how do we deal with conflict. Gathering this knowledge enables us to be better equipped for the next dispute or relationship later down the line.

Improves wellbeing
Holding a grudge or holding on to any negative emotion affects the cardiovascular and nervous systems. According to a study, people who struggled to forgive had elevated blood pressure and heart rates, as well as increased muscle tension. Choosing to let go and offering forgiveness will help boost your feelings of wellness on a mental and physical level.

Forgiveness comes with many steps, and depending on the situation, it can take weeks, months, or even years to get over a painful experience. I wouldn’t want anyone to be a prisoner of someone else’s behaviour, and struggling to let go might mean that you’re the one who pays most in the long run. It’s important to remember that forgiving means to eliminate the suffering, not the wrongdoing. The offender might not deserve your pardon, but you definitely deserve to be at peace.

Red flags: some people aren’t looking for love, they’re looking for help.

If I were to sit down and have a conversation with myself say… 6 months into each of my relationships, I would not only advise on what characteristics I needed to work on as a person but firmly tell myself to open my goddamn eyes and take a good look at what’s waving right in front of me. Yes. We’re talking red flags.

Taking a chance on someone is necessary if you ever want to find a meaningful connection, no doubt any new relationship is full of challenges. As you get to know someone, there’s no telling whether things will go left or right. However, it’s difficult for the new romance to thrive if you cling on to resistance or fear. In a healthy relationship it’s important for both partners to trust and be trusted, to open up and be vulnerable with each other.

Generally dating and new relationships should be fun. As you transition from strangers to lovers, the most exciting part is learning all there is to know about someone on every level – emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. But sometimes when we’re filled with exhilaration we become blinded by those rose tinted glasses, thus end up overlooking the warning signs. From controlling behaviour to gaslighting to dishonesty; I’ve certainly experienced moments of tunnel vision in past and have been played the fool. While I’m no relationship expert, time and experience has helped me navigate my way through a lot of bullshit, enabling me spot that boundary-pushing behaviour early on. I’ve taken my learnings and would like to highlight some tactics that were used on me to cover up some serious flaws…

Catching someone in a web of lies
Oh jeez… this reminds me of my last relationship! You can read about that drama here. I think it’s fair to say that in life we all tell little white lies here and there, ie. “I’ll call you!”,“We must catch up soon!”, “Your haircut isn’t that bad!”, “I won’t be able to make it tonight, I’m feeling poorly.” These are not unheard of and have very low stake. However, if you’re catching someone fibbing time and time again, especially at the start of a relationship. My advice is to run. If they’re able to deceive you once, it makes it easier for them to lie more often. The more you catch them being dishonest, the more your trust will be tarnished. And what’s a relationship without trust? Sometimes you’ve really got to stop and wonder how honest this person actually is. What else could they be lying about? In fact, don’t even bother doing detective work, save your energy and just leave. Believe me, if you stick around… the pile of lies will post bigger problems down the road.

No life outside the relationship
There’s nothing wrong with valuing your time together, but if the person you’re seeing never mentions their friends, recent social gatherings, group activities, or anything to do with other people… it’s definitely an eyebrow raiser. I completely understand that some people suffer from social anxiety or are super introverted, that’s fair enough. Nevertheless, it’s usually a tell tale sign that the person is codependent and/or very possessive. I’ve been with a couple of guys who wanted my full attention, day in, day out. Apart from feeling like they’re draining the life and soul out of you, this behaviour displays unhealthy clinginess, a lack of self-sufficiency and insecurity. In a relationship, you shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to do your own thing nor should you feel the need to comply with their “rules” to appease them.

They don’t introduce you to their friends, family or anyone in their life
It takes time to meet the important people in your partner’s life. But if you’ve been dating for a while and you’ve been kept at a distance from everyone in their life, then that’s an issue. Unless you’re someone’s mistress or side piece, introducing each other to friends and family is a positive step. If you’re wondering why you haven’t reached that stage yet, it could be a sign that the person doesn’t take you or the relationship seriously… or there’s something shady going on. I suggest you call them out or call it quits!

You’re beginning to justify their behaviour
Toxic people are great at creating a false positive impression to worm their way into your heart. When they’ve done something that you deem unacceptable, somehow they’ll twist your mind to make you rationalise their wrongdoings. If you find yourself thinking or saying stuff like: “Oh he’s only like that because…” then perhaps it’s time to take a step back and really listen to what your gut is telling you.

You start to question your sanity
This is what happens when you’re being gaslighted. Briefly explained, it’s when your partner challenges your perception of situations, of yourself, of your thoughts, of your feelings, of their behaviour. The worst part is when you don’t even realise you’re being manipulated! It’s a gradual build up, these people normally appear very charming at first but soon enough you’ll recognise they’re all talk and no action. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse so it’s best to shut it down as soon as possible. If you feel like you’re starting to second guess yourself more than usual, I would recommend you go in for reality check by talking to your friends or family. Get them to be brutally honest.

Be observant of their behaviour from day one

These are just some of the key red flags I wanted to draw attention to. It’s always difficult to think logically when you find yourself in the situation and in your feelings, at times we even refuse to acknowledge these actions and behaviours. If you’re beginning to wonder how you even wound up in the mess you’re in now, think about the early warning signs. I want to end this post with a quote which rings true when thinking about this topic:

“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

– Maya Angelou

The grey area.

As much as I’d like them to be, most things in life are never black and white. I’ve discovered this is particularly true (more so over the last couple of years) when it comes to dating. The topic I’ll be delving into for this post looks at that precise moment when you suddenly find yourself in the “grey area”, otherwise known as “so what are we?” or “DTR” (refer to my Dating Dictionary post.)

It’s probably one of the most daunting questions to ask, most people will try to dodge it at all costs but by doing so means you’ll need to live in ambiguity – and let’s face it, no one needs that unnecessary stress. At first you think it’s all well and good as you continue to dance around the undefined relationship. Then as things keep progressing… you’re now 6 months in, sitting there wondering whether the person is really yours. Ughhh. Turns out, calling a “thing” a thing might actually help!

I’ve play this guessing game a few times, and the most eyebrow raising part of this whole situation is when the other party wants/expects all the perks of being in a relationship but aren’t down for the commitment – I shall save this topic for whole separate post!

Figuring out where you stand hasn’t always been an easy subject to tackle, but it seems to be much stickier conversation to address in today’s modern dating society. Hinge, Bumble, Tinder and all the other dating apps give us endless choices for who we can date. While it’s not a terrible thing, the buffet of potentials has made us pickier and less decisive, resulting in the “paradox of choice”. You may have found a great match, but what if there’s someone better around the corner? And if you’re not thinking that, then who’s to say your romantic interest isn’t? Again, this is yet another topic that requires a separate post!

So how do we deal with the “grey area”? What’s the best approach to take when you like someone but have no idea how they feel… when you want to have “the talk” but don’t want to “scare them” off… along with many other agonising thoughts. I once saw an inspiring quote that went along the lines of:

“One of the biggest barriers to courageous leadership is tough conversations.”

Now switch out the word “leadership” with the word “dating” or “relationships”, and it holds just as true!

The anxious mind

How is it that after several amazing dates, your excitement has slowly transformed into anxiety? Analysing every text, the timing, the frequency, the substance and so on. With this overwhelming amount of information (that you’ve decided to magnify in tenfold), more often than not it makes you feel even less certain about the situation!

Instead of subjecting yourself to late-night evaluations in bed and drawn-out conversations with your friends (who are just as confused as you are), just steel your nerves and muster up the courage to ask the person you’re seeing, “So what’s going on with us?”. Yes it’s like a 6 word horror story, I know, but it’s worth knowing whether you should continue to invest time and effort with them or call it quits.

Things happen, but life goes on

The quality of life (not just dating) becomes much more fruitful when you’re able to have uncomfortable conversations and deal with the outcomes in a mature and calm manner. The truth is, life goes on – it’s as simple as that. However, I want to share a few nuggets of “wisdom” for when you’re next thinking about baring your soul:

1. Feeling anxious is a sign that your emotions are far too dependent on someone else’s actions. When you place your power in another person’s hands, they’re essentially controlling the situation, not you. So you need to reframe the narrative and really figure out what you want out of it because don’t forget, you have a say in the situation too.

2. If it all gets a bit too much and you’re overanalysing or overthinking, just do something that you enjoy; watch a film, speak to a friend, go for a run, listen to music, write, draw, do some cooking, meditate… whatever your outlet is, it’ll certainly help you ease the discomfort.

3. It’s important to be transparent about what you want from the start. Ask open-ended, non-confrontational questions. That’s what dating is about at the end of the day, getting to know each other and gauging whether you’re on the same page. Sure it’s a dauntless move, you might think “What if being completely upfront puts someone off?” – but you need to think of it less as scaring someone away and more creating a very important, beneficial filter.


4. Ambiguity happens because we allow it to happen. Most of the time we know what we want, we’re just afraid to ask for it out of fear of rejection. It’s a rookie mistake to expect people to come into your life with a full understanding of what you’re looking for, but we do it anyway.
 

Unless you’re both certain that you want to be together, there really isn’t any other way to handle this scenario. Whatever you do, don’t bury your head in the sand and wait for the other person to dictate the terms. Do it yourself, when you’re ready to level up. Ignorance really isn’t bliss, especially where dating and relationships are concerned. And if they can’t give you a straight answer, maybe that’s the only answer you need.

You used to be my cup of tea but I drink champagne now.

You know the ones that got kicked to the curb like… months ago, then have the audacity to come crawling back into your life on all fours? Yeah, so I got hit up with that “Hi stranger…” nonsense recently, and nothing could make my eyeballs roll any further back!

It’s nice to think that these people have chosen to insert themselves into your life once again because they finally realised the error of their ways and want to make another go of it. But thankfully people like us with a brain know full well that’s not usually the case.

There are many reasons why old flames return… all which have very little to do with you at all. I get it, we’ve all been there, at first you’ll get those “What if” questions:

What if this time it’s going to be different?
What if they’ve changed?
What if they’re actually sorry this time?

You end up overthinking to the point where you might even consider giving them another chance. However, let me pause you right there. Allow me to share my thoughts which will (hopefully) mitigate further drama and bullshit where an ex or old romantic interest is concerned. Honestly, I just don’t want anyone to entertain silliness and enter a vicious cycle that frankly won’t bring you any happiness in the long run. Here are the main reasons why someone will boomerang themselves back to you:

COMFORT ZONE
Most people have gone and taken the easy option at some point in life, that might even include going back to an ex. If you’ve been in a relationship for a while, it’s natural to become habituated to each other. One might have even tried hooking up with someone else and realised that it’s far too much work. Hence they head back over to their “Comfort Zone” where minimal effort is required. In my opinion, this is what I call settling. Eventually someone will get bored and flee the nest so why prolong the inevitable?

SEX
Some old flames crawl into your life again just for the physical intimacy. Maybe the sex was fire 🔥 or maybe it’s simply been a while. They might convince you that they’re back to stay, however… it’s just sex they’re after. My advice? Don’t do it unless you can mentally/emotionally handle the aftermath.

EGO BOOST AND REGAINING CONTROL
Watch out for these mofos. 🤨 These ones think they’re the best thing since sliced bread. There are certain characters that love the feeling of having control over others, and if you’ve ever dated someone like that… I suggest you run in the opposite direction. These vultures will circle back around every so often to see if they still have power over you. They’ll use lines like “Remember when we…” or throw in private jokes you once shared, basically exploiting your vulnerabilities and “weaknesses”. And if they get you under their spell again, you’ll be feeding their ego, making them feel like they’ve still got you wrapped around their finger. Save yourself. Block them and cut them off pronto.

LONELINESS AND BOREDOM
Well that’s not your problem is it? I don’t care if they’re in COVID-19 self isolation and you shouldn’t either. A reason why some exes might come back is because they have no other options. Maybe their lives are lacking excitement, maybe their social calendar has been empty for too long, maybe they can’t be arsed to date… or maybe they need to find a new hobby! Whatever the reason… don’t let them use you to fill the void.

REGRET / ANOTHER CHANCE
Believe it or not, some people can learn their lesson but it’s rarely the case from my view. Regret doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has changed. I would tread very carefully with second chances. I’ve been foolish enough to give people several chances but generally if a relationship ended, it did so for a reason.

“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

– SATC, Samantha Jones

I’ve experienced every single one of the above and I’ve learnt my lessons the hard way. While certain guys are sliding in my messages, I’m quite happy to slide them into my block list. Time is precious and I don’t believe anyone should be wasting a second preoccupying themselves with situations that involve stress and stupidness.