7 Questions to Unfuck Your Love Life & Yourself
Can you journal your way to a more fulfilling, better love life?
I certainly think so.
It takes a degree of introspection to discern one's own:
- Life goals and core values
- Motivations underlying their tendencies
- Personal history and trauma responses
… along with their partners' to see if they're compatible and in alignment.
Consider this post a spin-off of my past article, “I’m Ready to Start Dating. Now What?”
That other blog post was about staying positive through the undulating ups and downs in the dating scene. This list is more about resources for a nitty-gritty audit of your deepest desires — including shadow work.
How to use these questions & resources to manifest your dream relationship(s)
Reading this list is one thing, but how you use them is where the work lies. Here are some actionable steps for gaining clarity about your love life.
Journal about these questions for yourself. Write down your responses, spreadsheet them, record voice notes, make a vision board — whatever works for you.
Unpack these topics with an external party. A friend could help; a mental health professional may be an even better fit. They can point out perspectives you may otherwise miss on your own. The external feedback is especially important if you're the type of person to overthink or get stuck in analysis paralysis.
Go through this list after a date and think about how your prospective partner would answer. See how much (or how little) you know about them and the way they think!
Do your own thing and go touch some grass. Working on your mindset is only half the battle, and there's a point where intellectualizing matters of the heart can be counterproductive. The other half is moving the energy and taking action. Integrate new insights and course-correct as needed.
On to the questions!
If I miraculously woke up to my ideal love life without having to compromise what I wanted, what would that look like?
Too often, what we say we want in a relationship is tainted by others' expectations. Be unapologetic about how you'd like to feel in a perfect world!
Recommended resources for goal-setting
- Core Desired Feelings themes — how would you like to feel?
- The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte
Have I made time and space for the relationship(s) and lifestyle I want?
Dating yourself, for example, means you've left room in your schedule explicitly for enjoyment. From there, it's a lot easier to allocate the time and energy to building a relationship than if you were, say, working all day.
It's also limiting to live with parents while hooking up and playing the field. You get the idea.
Prep your living space and calendar as if you were expecting company and experiences that embody your core desired feelings.
What wants and needs am I looking to fulfill with this connection?
Maybe what you want from other people is some combination of the following:
- A secure base to go back to and debrief with every night
- Validation that you're sexy and doing great in your life and creative work
- To know that others will be there for you when you're old and in hospice care
- You're horny and want more than a mind-blowing vibrator and sexting site alone can offer
All of those are valid reasons to seek company. Still, it's worth it to:
- Name your relationship wants and needs.
- Consider a strategy for satisfying those desires on your own, with friends, or in a community.
Recommended reading about relationship wants and needs
What does being in a romantic relationship mean to me?
Not everyone defines relationships the same way. And the expectations you expect are "obvious" about dating might not be to other people.
Some assume a monogamy escalator with marriage and children at the top, while others don't. Some people are poly. Some people are more open to cuddling and sleeping with emotionally intimate, long-term friends.
What those friendships don't have, but romantic relationships do, is up to you to delineate.
Recommended reading about defining relationships
- Designer Relationships: A Guide to Happy Monogamy, Positive Polyamory, and Optimistic Open Relationships by Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson
What unmet needs did I have as a child or in traumatic times, and how did those insecurities affect me?
The challenges we faced when we were innocent and helpless leave a deep impression on us and drive our subconscious — no matter how "woke" our parents were.
I'm partial to using the Enneagram types. When I ask someone about that, what I'm trying to do is dig up roots regarding how they relate to:
- Their feelings of shame, inadequacy, envy, or lack of love (Enneagram types 2, 3, and 4)
- External conflicts and anger (types 8, 9, and 1)
- Feeling your feelings and navigating disagreements with a partner is so important.
- Practical concerns of safety and preparedness for life's discomforts (types 5, 6, and 7)
It gives me context for understanding my behaviors and others' — and accommodate everyone involved with love and care.
Recommended reading about childhood upbringing and adult coping mechanisms
- The Road Back To You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
- How to Feel Your Feels and Why You Should Try by Aida Manduley and Anna Stern
What’s my attachment style?
Attachment theory is another framework for understanding how upbringing affects adult relationships. Here's my attachment theory summary in a nutshell.
Children rely on caregivers to satisfy their physical and emotional needs. When a parental figure doesn't give them the love and attention they were hoping for, there are varying ways that the child might react:
- Loud "protest" behaviors or showy "acting up" to be noticed
- Withdrawing, numbing, and distancing themselves from their parents
- Panicking by themselves while preparing for the other shoe to drop
- Trusting that their parents will be there for them, maybe not right away, but soon enough
As adults, our responses tend to follow similar lines during insecure interactions with romantic partners, whether that's by fighting, fleeing, or fawning/appeasing.
Recommended resources about attachment theory and relationships
- The Dildorks with Kate Sloan & Bex Caputo – EP 160
- The American Sex Podcast with Sunny Megatron – EP 130
- The Psychology In Seattle podcast's attachment theory deep-dive on Patreon
- Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
Disclaimers & reminders
I touched on attachment theory in my previous post, 4 Shitty Dating Advice Marketing Ploys I’m Sick of Seeing. So many narratives about dating revolve around the idea that women are clingy (preoccupied/anxious) and men distant (dismissive/avoidant) — and I'm not a fan of how much nuance that misses.
Attachment theory is a biiiig, broad topic. And while there may be trends along gender lines, they're not absolutes, and we should consider how unique and complex humans are. It would be reductive to frame someone as having one attachment style — rather than showing varying insecure behaviors at different times with different people.
Also, I'm not a mental health professional. I'm just here to give a starting point for helpful information to know about yourself.
What have I learned from my past patterns?
Maybe I'm telling on myself, but I think that it's human to:
- Have hurt others
- Have been hurt by others
And hopefully, we can learn from them. Patterns sometimes show up, and we uncover a new layer or facet of cause-and-effect each time.
Adult relationships are conditional, and we generally have the agency and responsibility to advocate for our needs.
In many cases, there were ways the parties could have communicated about or managed expectations differently. (Sometimes, the way to handle it is to cut your losses and leave. Knowing your hard boundaries is so important.)
- Whole Again by Jackson MacKenzie
On the flip side, maybe there was something a younger version of you embodied — before you accumulated new layers of expectations from others — that you would like to re-integrate into your life now.
Self-compassion goes a long way here; you did the best you could with what you knew at the time.
As you learn about yourself and know better, you can do better — both for others and yourself.
This post is sponsored. The writing and opinions expressed here are my own.
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