How to meet love, introduction and summary
People come to us, Matchmakers, looking to find a relationship, but we want to help you meet love. The boring kind of love, that is safe, secure, healthy and sustainable. From which, there is a stable foundation for adventure, excitement, exploration, pain, growth and a shared future combining individual dreams and desires. The path to this is the slow, enduring kind of love that is not just about two people, but that exists within you, how you live your life and all the people in it. We present a philosophy of how to meet love. This is the basis of our holistic matchmaking, coaching and introductions service that we deliver as a love hack to a bunch of awesome, exceptional, inspiring people around the world.
As the founder of our matchmaking agency, the approach has come together after years learnings (with many beautiful success stories, some painful mistakes and everything in between). I studied Psychology, worked in psychological trauma for 5 years and have been working with Relationships for the last 8. I do not work as a Psychologist nor as a therapist, I am a Matchmaking Expert and Relationship Coach.
Our philosophy is grounded in Attachment Theory, taking wisdom from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Schema Therapy, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Mindfulness, Happiness and Leadership Research, Performance Coaching and, of course, many many personal and professional experiences.
The Matchmaking Agency brings together people to form the deep connection of a secure emotional bond. This article gives away our company secrets and outline how we help our clients find love. In summary, this is what it’s all about, a four-pronged approach to deep love: 1. Unravel your roots and become aware of what you have learnt about love; 2. Living a values-based life; 3. Understanding true compatibility; 4. Being open to love.
- Unravel your roots and become aware of what you have learnt about love: making sense of your early attachment relationships; getting in touch with your inner child; understanding underlying emotional needs and how to fulfil those needs; making sense of experiences and integrating memories to heal leftover wounds.
- Living a values-based life: understanding your core values and living your life according to those values, taking conscious action towards your purpose.
- Understanding true compatibility: Turning your partner selection process upside down; knowing your fundamental requirements in a relationship and using these as your ‘gateway criteria’ rather than being led by their sexy allure; knowing your emotional and practical needs in a relationship and getting them fulfilled; Allowing the other ‘ideals’ necessary for excitement or commonality to be discovered rather than sought.
- Being open to love: being a part of a community where you meet love and that holds love; being in your most attractive energy – the energy that is your core authentic self; and being your full rainbow, where all the colours of who you are, are in harmony.
Matchmaker Love Hacks, how to meet love.
Part 1, Meeting Love Inside
This article focuses on the first of four areas in our path to meet love. To meet your match, we want you to first meet the love inside by exploring your early attachment relationships and discovering your learnings about love. In this article, we invite you to go through our process and let love in. Welcome to Lemarc Thomas AB, The Matchmaking Agency – providing a holistic matchmaking, coaching and introductions service to a rather unique group of people. By active participation in the process below, you get to experience the first layer of what we do when coaching our private membership of awesome single people seeking love.
Early attachments – What did you learn about love?
The way that our brains become wired for love depends on our experience of love from infancy throughout development. You may not wanna go there but the secrets to deep connection are hidden in your roots – how you were met with love.
Attachment research suggests that we learn love from the major attachment figures in our life, in particular those wonderfully flawed caregivers sometimes titled mum and/ or dad. We learnt love from them. I am sure they were not perfect, and to paraphrase Attachment and Psychotherpay expert, David Wallin, “even if they were the best parents they probably made a mistake at least once every… 19 seconds”.
Imagine that as a child your only job was to receive as much love as possible. You have an attachment bond with a primary caregiver for your survival, to be protected and cared for. Being the smart, adaptive little human you were (are), you sensed and adapted to the emotional responsiveness of your caregivers and formed whatever strategies were optimal (for your survival) to be loved and protected. These attachment patterns became hardwired in you, and likely explains your ‘instincts’ about love, who you feel chemistry with, who you feel connected to, how you (your body and mind) respond to intimacy/ closeness, how you feel and express emotions…
Some of these learnings are likely to be helpful and some are likely to be unhelpful, like all the lessons our parents taught us – so it makes sense that you explore what your close attachments taught you about love, which learnings are good for you and which learnings you might need to reprocess with your adult hat on.
Arjun’s mum was not very touchy feely, she did not hug a lot, did not say “I love you”. Arjun knows that mum loves him and dedicated her life to her children, but he learnt not to take emotions to her. “I was a very independent child, happy in my own space, doing my own thing”. Arjun learnt to sooth himself and not to rely on others. In his romantic relationships today, Arjun wants closeness but somewhere in his mind and body there is still this message – “there is no space for my emotions, I am better on my own, I have to take care of myself” – pushing love away.
What have you learnt about love? It’s probably difficult to find an answer. Words are too limiting. Much of what you have learnt is non-verbal. In fact, attachment research suggests that we develop an internal working model (mental representation of the self and expectation of others’ reactions to the self) by 12 months old, before language is even developed. Maybe you’ll zoom in with the left hemisphere of the brain (focused attention, language), rather than the right hemisphere (general, embodied, non-verbal, feeling), or vice versa, but the answer is probably in both. You might search explicit memory, which you can recall, but answers might be present in implicit memory, a deeper sense of knowing. The answers might be in the subconscious rather than conscious. The answers might not be just in the mind, but also in the body.
What you have learnt about love is so wired into you that you are not consciously aware of it. But in order to create a secure emotional bond, we want to bring it to awareness so that you take conscious action to create the love you desire.
Exploring Attachment – unravelling the roots
To unravel the roots and connect with your core, the person who is going to take us there is Little You. We’ll use the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) to explore your early life. The AAI was created by Mary Main, one of the major contributors to Attachment Theory and it is widely used to research adult attachment.
Whilst not the intended purpose of the AAI, the process of answering these questions has proven transformative for many. I believe transformation happens with clients by: reconnecting with their inner child; making sense of experiences; looking at the inner child through adult eyes with compassion; giving parents empathy and forgiveness; gaining insight, clarity and creating meaning.
So, we urge you to actually answer these questions, with someone else or by writing the answers down, rather than just scanning through them.
Below is our adapted version of the AAI. We recommend that you take some time to go through these questions with a friend. Each taking turns to ask and answer the same question (Person A asks question 1, Person B answers question 1, Person B asks question 1 Person A answers question 1). Be aware of images that come to mind, of feelings, thoughts, physical sensations in the body, note them and come back to the question. It should take about 90 – 120 minutes for both people to answer all questions (or 45 – 90 minutes for write down the answers on your own) .
- Tell me about your early family situation during childhood. Where you were born and raised, who raised you, who did your family consist of, what did your family do for a living?
- Describe your relationship with your parents (or caregivers) as a young child starting from as far back as you can remember.
- Choose five adjectives or words that reflect your relationship with your mother starting from as far back as you can remember in early childhood – as early as you can go, but say, age 5 to 12 is fine. This may take a bit of time, so go ahead and think for a minute… Then write down the five words, then explain why you choose each word.
- Now choose five adjectives or words that reflect your childhood relationship with your father, again starting from as far back as you can remember in early childhood – as early as you can go, but again say, age 5 to 12 is fine. This may take a bit of time, so go ahead and think again for a minute… Then write down the five words, then explain why you choose each word.
- To which parent did you feel the closest, and why? Why isn’t there this feeling with the other parent?
- When you were upset as a child, what would you do?
- What is the first time you remember being separated from your parents?
- Did you ever feel rejected as a young child? Of course, looking back on it now, you may realize it wasn’t really rejection, but it may have felt that way in childhood
- Were your parents ever threatening with you in any way – maybe for discipline, or even jokingly?
- In general, how do you think your overall experiences with your parents affected/ contributed to who you are today?
- Why do you think your parents behaved as they did during your childhood?
- Were there any other adults with whom you were close, like parents, as a child?
- Did you experience the loss of a parent or other close loved one while you were a young child – for example, a sibling, or a close family member?
13a. Did you lose any other important persons during your childhood?
13b. Have you lost other close persons, in adult years?
- Other than any difficult experiences you’ve already described, have you had any other experiences which you should regard as potentially traumatic?
- Now to focus a bit more on your relationship with your parents. Were there many changes in your relationship with your parents (or remaining parent) after childhood? We’ll get to the present in a moment, but right now let’s focus on changes occurring roughly between your childhood and your adulthood?
- What is your relationship with your parents (or remaining parent) like for you now as an adult? Here we want to focus on your current relationship.
- Imagine that you have a one-year-old child (if you don’t have children), how do you think you might respond, in terms of feelings, when you have to separate from this child?” Do you think you would ever feel worried about this child?”
- If you had three wishes for your child twenty years from now, what would they be? Thinking partly of the kind of future you would like to see for your child. Take a minute or two to think about this one.
- Is there any particular thing which you feel you learned above all from your own childhood experiences? Specifically, is there something you feel you might have gained from the kind of childhood you had.
- We’ve been focusing a lot on the past in these questions, but to conclude, let’s look into the future. Having just reflected on what you have learned from your own childhood experiences, what would you hope your child (or, your imagined child) might have learned from his/her experiences of being parented by you?
Take a moment to reflect after answering these questions.
Close your eyes and take your awareness to you as a child, is there an image that comes up? Is there a specific scene? How would you describe that child? What do they feel? What’s present for them? Do you notice any sensations in your body that belong to that child? How do you feel about this child when you bring them to awareness?
Self-compassion – Holding your inner child
After this exercise, it feels appropriate to try something here that might seem a bit weird but could also be an essential tool – holding your inner child
Instruction: Read through the full exercise first and then find a quiet comfortable space to do the exercise.
Stop, set your gaze at a point in the distance, take three deep breaths, in through the nose and slowly out through the mouth allowing the sound of the exhale to be heard. On the third exhale, close your eyes. Allow your breathing to return to normal, in and out through your nose. As you notice your breathing – in and out – feeling your chest rise and fall – slowly start at the top of your head to the tip of your toes, allow your attention to scan your body just noticing and softening each part as you scan. Without judgement.
Bring to mind you as a young child, perhaps your 5-year-old self. Is there an image that comes to mind? How do you see your child self? What feelings are present in that child? Do you notice any sensations in your body that belong to that child? With one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly, feel that child. Hold your inner child and give them love and compassion. Imagine as you hold them that you are beaming all your love and compassion towards this child. With love and compassion, tell that child what they need to hear. For example, “I see your bravery, I see your heart full of love, I see your good intensions, I love, accept and appreciate all that you are…”
And when you are ready, slowly put your arms back at your side, notice your body and come back to the room.
Mindfulness – a little mind hack for you
Parallel to our matchmaking and introductions process, our exceptional, awesome clients receive relationship coaching – either by informal dating and relationship advice or face-to-face coaching consultations. We try to make sure that all our clients have a mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness practice is an important part of this process. We don’t say that because it’s trendy (although that helps!) but because the science suggests mindfulness practices could help you build and sustain secure relationships.
Dr Daniel Siegel, a man with many titles including professor of Psychiatry and pioneer in interpersonal neurobiology, highlights how the brain develops with secure attachment relationships with our primary caregivers. He suggests that those with secure attachments have a more developed middle prefrontal cortex which is responsible for nine things:
- Body regulation – bringing us back to peace and ease after stressors
- Attuned communication – the ability to feel another one’s feelings – feeling felt.
- Emotional balance/ affect regulation – being able to keep from being overwhelmed or becoming inflexible in one’s emotional response
- Response flexibility – the capacity to pause before action
- Insight or self-knowing awareness – linking past, present and future
- Fear modulation/ fear extinction
Dr Siegel has written extensively on how mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga and tai chi develops these same nine middle prefrontal cortex functions. On one level, mindfulness practices help you maintain a healthy inner world as essential housekeeping for relationship health. On another, it could help rewire your brain to develop functionality you need (and possibly lacked) to create healthy, secure relationships.
Mary Main, who developed the above AAI, interviewed pregnant mothers to understand their attachment ‘state of mind’ (whether they showed secure or insecure attachment behaviours). She was able to predict with a high degree of accuracy that babies of mothers with insecure (avoidant or anxious) attachment styles would have the same anxious or avoidant attachment relationship with mum. We pass on to our kids, whatever learnings of love we hold deep within us. But we can break that cycle.
Creating a secure attachment is not dependent on the individual’s history, but rather on their ability to reflect on their experiences and make sense of them, to be mindfully aware. I see it as our duty to own our story and pass on to our children, loved ones, community, universe, our best efforts of a gift. It may be an imperfect gift, or it might seem like just passing on a lighter load that you started with, but the gift is in the effort of conscious mindful action.
We recommend mindfulness practices to develop to brain functionality associated with secure attachment. Mindful awareness can help bring us inner peace, help us build healthy relationships and in that contribute to a better world. Seriously. Spread the love.
About Attachment Theory – oversimplifying Attachment research.
Maybe it’s useful here to dig into Attachment Theory a bit. When seeking introductions to meet your life partner, it may be useful understanding why we first want to dig into your roots. This will be a general review of attachment research. If you already know this stuff, feel free to skip to the next section. If you want more, there are some links in our introduction to attachment theory blog.
John Bowlby, a total legend, brought to us one of the most revolutionary developments in Psychology, Attachment Theory. Before Bowlby, parents were told not to mollycoddle their children. Too much attention will spoil them. Don’t pick them up if they cry. In hospitals, parents were not allowed to visit their sick kids. Through Bowlby, we know that this emotional bond between parent and child is one of the most powerful and precious things in life – the emotional bond allows us to feel safe, secure and protected, a base from which we can explore, learn and grow, it gives us resilience and it is the foundation that allows us to thrive. And
Mary Ainsworth contributed to attachment research with her strange situation procedure – mum and baby are in a room, stranger comes in, mum leaves, mum returns, stranger leaves, mum leaves, stranger returns, mum returns and stranger leaves.
Ainsworth noticed three distinct groups of behaviour in the attachment relationships:
The anxiously ambivalent attached baby is very distressed when mum leaves the room and when mum returns, baby comes close but is resistant and may even push mum away – baby cannot be easily soothed. The anxious baby is also fearful of the stranger.
The securely attached baby is distressed when mum leaves the room but happy when mum returns and can continue playing. The secure baby is friendly with the stranger when mum is there but avoids them when mum is gone.
The anxiously avoidant attached baby does not show distress when mum leaves the room and continues as if nothing has happened when mum returns. However, baby’s heart rate is just as elevated as the others. The avoidant baby is okay with the stranger and can be soothed equally by both mum and stranger.
A secure baby can use mum as a secure based from which to explore.
Mary Main later noticed a fourth group:
The disorganised/ disoriented attached baby learned to be fearful of their attachment figures, the person they needed for comfort was also the source of fear. Their attachment behaviours seemed ‘disorganised’. They may show contradictory behaviours or affects at the same time or sequentially. For example, may go towards the attachment figure, but then show distress and scream, freeze, or lash out, followed by silence or dissociation.
Main’s research also suggests that attachment patterns continue in adulthood. Recent research has looked at the attachment styles in romantic relationships. As adults we may have different attachment styles.
We prefer not to focus too much on fitting you into these categories because, as is often the case, you may not fit neatly into any of the boxes but feel that they all apply differently in different relationships. But it may be useful to consider how, with different emotional responses from primary caregivers, different patterns of attachment are formed.
Anxious attachment style – you like a lot of closeness. You think (worry) about relationships a lot and have a huge capacity for intimacy and love. You are very caring, giving and affectionate but you feel that you don’t get back as much as you give. You fear that your partner does not want to be close to you/ does not love you as much as you love them. You can very easily sense changes in your partner’s mood, emotions or behaviours – and you respond to these. Relationships take a lot of energy. With unmet needs, you ‘poke’ your partner, trying to get attention and love. And when they don’t reciprocate your emotions become high and you act out or withdraw, in protest. Take time out, sit on your hands, act with love.
Secure attachment style – you are comfortable with closeness. You find it easy to communicate your needs and get them fulfilled. You are loving and attentive. You don’t usually take things personally and find it fairly easy to respond to your partner’s needs. You usually deal with conflict in relationships very well. Sometimes people mistake the security and lack of drama for lack of chemistry because you are not dangerous – but that is unfortunate for them.
Avoidant attachment style – you have learnt to be independent and it is important for you to maintain self-sufficiency. With unpredictable attachment figures, you have learnt to sooth yourself on your own. You prefer autonomy to intimate relationships. You feel safe around people until they get too close. People may admire that you are calm, cool, not needing anyone, but the truth is you need love just like everyone else. You want to be close but it feels uncomfortable, so you tend to keep people at a distance. You may find faults with your partners, be focused on finding the ‘perfect’ partner or the one that got away. You are on alert for signs of neediness or control. Your partners think you are emotionally distant and the may act out at you, to get a response. But the more they do, the more you retreat – your protest. When you see a fault open your heart, when you want to run, lean in.
Schemas – love and life traps you may not even know you are in
How are you feeling? Are you still with us? You reached out to us online, hoping to be introduced to your ideal match. We bring you into our office, The Matchstick Palace, arm you with a cup of tea and get you to unravel your roots and connect with your inner child, then we tell you to go and meditate, do some yoga and try out that improv theatre thing your friend suggested. Part of you is like, “oh my god, I just need you to find me a man, can we not do all the psychology bullshit? Trust me I’m good!” But you feel like we actually get you. You trust that we care. You heard that we are the dating and relationship experts and you trust the process. Plus, you also heard about some of the people in our network. You are a bit scared and a bit excited for the next meeting where we focus of freeing you from love (and life) traps – schemas or mental models that we have developed.
In order to thrive as kids, we have the basic needs for safety, connection to others, self-expression, autonomy and realistic limits. Depending on the unique temperament we were born with and the environment we found ourselves in, certain beliefs about ourselves formed based on how we experienced these needs being fulfilled, or not.
For example, Ebba’s mum was a bit anxious and responded inconsistently worrying she is doing the wrong thing. Since Ebba needed mum for safety, she tried to stay close to her and on alert. Baby Ebba learns “I am in danger of abandonment”. Jas was not given room for self-expression, dad did not think boys should be so ‘expressive’ and tried to protect Jas by encouraging him to be ‘manly’. Self-expression is a way for Jas to explore his needs and without space for that, he seeks approval of others and puts other’s needs ahead of his own. Juan’s parents were overprotective and did not let him fend for himself, he learnt that the world is dangerous, he is vulnerable and feels dependent on others.
We could probably stop any person in the street and find that they have a few unhelpful beliefs about themselves, stemming from what their childhood-self understood to be their truth. They will probably have developed many associations present in the body and mind around this belief, making up the larger theme (or schema). They may even ‘know’ logically that these beliefs are not valid, but ‘feel’ that they are, and sometimes ‘think’ and ‘act’ as if they are.
Imagine that mum sometimes loses her patience and after Little You throw your veggies on the wall, she shouts aggressively. Little You does not think “mum lost her temper because she has a lot going on and has not learnt how to deal with her emotions”. No, Little You learns “I am wrong”, “I am bad”. It is actually easier for a child to believe that they are ‘defective’ than to believe that they are unsafe with the person who is meant to be protecting them. Growing up with this idea of ‘defectiveness’, feeling not good enough will have many subtle or sometimes not so subtle consequences, from being sensitive to criticism, or being tough on yourself, to more extreme psychological difficulty.
There are those of us who have had really shitty things happen to us as kids and we carry these wounds into adulthood. There are also those of us who report having very happy childhoods with the best parents that one could ask for – and still have wounds which we carry mindlessly throughout our life – completely oblivious. I often imagine what it would be like if we were taught more about relationships in school – how attachment relationships shape us, to identify and communicate our emotional needs, to get these needs fulfilled, to feel and deal with difficult emotions and to communicate in difficult situations, to transform conflict. It would be a step towards a kinder society, where we deal with our shit and heal.
Healing – dealing with your shit.
Schema Therapy is a technique developed by Jefferey Young focused on healing from life traps developed from attachment relationships. Young trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) but felt it was not enough for some patients who benefited from going into the early life experiences. According to Young, there are 18 schemas (life traps) that could develop from our experience of getting basic needs fulfilled:
- Being disconnected and rejected, Little You could develop the unhelpful schemas of abandonment, mistrust/ abuse, emotional deprivation, defectiveness, social isolation and/or alienation.
- Having impaired autonomy, you may have the schemas of dependence, vulnerability to harm or illness, enmeshment and/ or failure.
- Without limits, you may have the schemas of entitlement and/or lacking self-control.
- Without being able to express yourself, you could develop subjugation, self-sacrifice, approval or recognition seeking.
- Without basic safety Little You might develop negativity, emotional inhibition, unrelenting standards, hyper-criticalness and/ or punitiveness.
When needs go unmet we cope using three strategies (the fight or flight response): we can fight by counterattack (“I am awesome, I worked my ass off to get this big career, hot body, nice things which clearly shows I am worthy”); escape (“I’m outa here, I too busy for this, I’m kinda interested in someone else anyway”); or surrender (“It’s all my fault, I am not good enough for this, you deserve better”). However, these protective strategies, which were very helpful when we were kids, are not so helpful now. They are actually helping to maintain the status quo, keeping everything comfortably where they are and confirming the underlying negative beliefs, such as “I am not good enough” or “I am not loveable”.
When we (over) use the word conscious, we are saying don’t be a passive passenger in life, mindlessly reacting to stimuli according to unconscious learnings. Take the time to unravel your roots, observe what’s there, reflect and make sense of it before ‘re-rooting’ – healing from unhelpful learning and building/ strengthening healthy, helpful modes.
Check out this article on Oprah.com which is a good introduction to the love traps.
Going a bit further, read the book Reinventing Your Life, by Jeffrey Young, whilst being mindful that some of the case studies in the book relate to people with serious psychological difficulties.
And further still I wholeheartedly recommend going to a therapist to work through this. I recommend that every couple do this together and learn to fulfil each other’s underlying needs and by doing so, create a healing space for each other.
Here is a summary of what you’ve gotta do according to Reinventing Your Life:
- First label and identify your life traps (schema).
- Understand the childhood origins of your life traps and feel that little wounded kid.
- Put on your lawyer hat on and find the evidence to disprove the validity of that life trap on a rational level.
- It may be helpful to write letters to the adults/ siblings that contributed to you building this schema – you don’t have to send them.
- Understand how your schema plays out – what activated you, what thoughts did you have, what do you feel, what do you notice in your body, what behaviours usually follow (coping strategies surrender, escape, counterattack). Notice the negative cycle.
- Break the pattern – understand what your underlying emotional needs are and choose the behaviour that will get those needs fulfilled.
The beautiful thing is that you can heal wounds by getting your underlying needs met. And I’ll tell you a bit about this from my own personal experience.
Getting personal – my own journey of meeting love
I have always been interested in relationships. Studying psychology, Attachment Theory was one of the (few) subjects (at the time) that spiked my interest. The research resonated with me. I explored my attachment narrative, my attachment style as an adult and how attachment behaviours could impact my relationships. As a kid I was probably ‘preoccupied’ in my attachment style, clinging to mum (I guess it makes total sense that I am preoccupied with relationships considering what I do!). In adulthood, this displayed as an anxious attachment style.
Having an anxious attachment style meant I worried about relationships a lot, tending to hold romantic partners close (they might say being ‘clingy‘ or ‘needy‘). I acted a bit insecure in relationships, in the subconscious was the belief “I am not good enough”, or “not lovable” or something to that extent, “(this person) will probably realise that and leave me”. I should therefore be dutiful and please them. Prove to them (or myself) that I am worthy. In difficult times, I hold on tight, when I don’t get my way I act out – throwing my toys out of the pram. I may withdraw or just give up, secretly hoping to be rescued.
But why should I give my partner an unhappy child to look after? Not sexy. It’s my job as a healthy adult to make sure that my inner child is happy and surely my partner would prefer to have a relationship with my ‘healthy adult’ self.
I am drawn to people romantically with the opposite, avoidant attachment style – I like their left-brained-ness – logical, linear, not too emotional. I like that they are solution-focused, decisive, direct, independent. I feel strong chemistry with these people, which I have learnt is comfort, familiarity that feels like passion. After a while, I find out that these people are a bit emotionally unavailable, needing lots of space (especially when I need to be close). I have learnt to hold on tight to my love and they have learnt to love from a distance. The more I poke for attention the more they withdraw, they feel criticised by my poking and I feel the cold of their unresponsiveness.
I was drawn to people who would struggle to fulfil my needs and vice versa. Repeating attachment patterns from childhood. Dear darling parents, with my innate temperament, mum… I was sensitive to your worries and anxieties, wanting to put your needs first. Dad, well, this little gay kid needed acceptance and never felt emotionally close with you. If you ever read this, I love you, appreciate you, and know wholeheartedly that you were great parents who dedicated your life to your family and I am lucky to have you both.
…I am my mother.
I understood and accepted this part of me – the anxious child. Whilst knowing that it’s not all of me and that my parents also helped me develop some wonderfully healthy and adaptive wiring.
Having a lot of knowledge on all this relationship psychology stuff, I thought I had a mindful awareness of my roots, had made my mistakes and then found the love of my life and was in a happy, healthy secure relationship.
I studied Psychology, explored a lot on Attachment Theory, worked in psychological trauma for 5 years and did courses trauma therapy (CBT and EMDR), I gained a lot of insight in relationship psychology working in Matchmaking, Coaching and Introductions over the last 8 years. I did a course in Gottman technique for couples, explored Emotion Focused Therapy by Sue Johnson. I also practised mindfulness, albeit not in the most disciplined way.
When I met my love, now sharing the title ‘husband’, I think I had a pretty good relationship with myself. I can see how he might be drawn to that. But meeting love, they say, is the easy part, building a happy, healthy, secure relationship – that takes a bit of work. It was not until after I met my husband that I started to actually heal wounds, and feel the magic of a secure relationship and deep emotional connection.
Before getting married, my husband, whom I love for always being open to my crazy ideas, agreed go to couples’ therapy with me. Before marriage and children, I wanted to strengthen our relationship and shield us from future stressors that may come.
With our therapist Eva, we did something called Schema Therapy.
We did a ridiculously tedious arsenal of psychometrics, in Swedish (sigh), to explore our potential life traps. I had a few unhelpful beliefs around the themes of abandonment, defectiveness and vulnerability. At some level I believed I was not enough. And this subconscious belief crept into situations, particularly difficult ones, resulting in me using my defence mechanism 1 – giving into it and being vulnerable, letting others take space and lead me, I’m just a poor gay boy, show me the way. Or 2, I fight to be at the centre, become the leader, work hard, train, do more to compensate for not being enough. Or 3, just withdraw. But all of these things, are maladaptive coping strategies that block feelings. And I am big enough and ugly enough (as the saying goes) to feel my feelings. Adult me needs to feel those emotions and get in touch with the underlying needs so that I can get them fulfilled.
I learnt to heal wounds by getting my underlying needs met.
After doing one of the exercises with my husband, I recall thinking that I have never felt so deeply connected, being completely understood, feeling totally felt. I experienced feelings of frustration, sadness and hurt quickly melt into warmth, love and connection. There is no need to hold on to pain when my needs are met. Together, we were healing left over wounds, reprocessing unhelpful beliefs and freeing ourselves from life traps.
This is an example of one of the exercises we did:
- Pain point – we find (or life gives us) a pain point; a situation where we felt/feel emotionally activated, maybe our reactions were disproportionate to the situation or the brain cues our protection strategies.
- Feelings – we label the feelings, “I feel ‘activated’, irritable, angry”.
- Deeper feelings? – What feelings are under those feelings? “I feel worried, anxious, a bit scared, alone”.
- Body – we notice what we feel in our body
- Origins – where have I felt this before? We close our eyes, feeling the feelings listed and scan our minds (and body) for the first time (in childhood) we remember feeling this way
- Recall that memory – we describe our childhood experience associated with these feelings.
- What does Little You need – “he needs to know that he is safe, that he is accepted and loved for who he is”.
- Fulfilling needs – From our adult perspective we connect with Little Us and tell him what he needs to hear, with love and compassion: “You are safe, you are not alone, I am here for you holding your hand, you have courage, you are kind, you have the best intentions to do good and you are loved wholly for who you are”.
- Check in with adult self – What do you notice now?
For me, difficult emotions melt away as soon as my underlying needs are met. Getting in touch with my inner child, hearing his needs, and either fulfilling these myself or communicating them to be fulfilled by others, has had powerful impact in my life. Getting underlying needs fulfilled, heals leftover wounds. It results in a happy inner child and a healthy adult – I create space for all different modes of me, but in healthy adult and happy child, I am connected to the world with a cheeky smile.
Concluding part 1 of the Matchmaker Love Hacks.
You’ve sat in our consultation rooms a number of times now. At the end of this session, concluding part 1 of your process, you put down the half-full cup of tea you were hugging and reflect on the last month. You came to us feeling ready to meet your match from our private membership of awesome single people – “was I actually ready then?”
Digging into your early attachment relationships, you feel more connected with yourself… and your world. You gained insights on what you have learnt, from infancy, about love, and how your history has made you who you are today. You were able to cut the umbilical cord and own your story. You connected with and felt your inner child, shining love and compassion towards them. You saw the love traps that you fall into and you started to heal leftover wounds. You now understand your core needs and know how to get them fulfilled. You feel somehow lighter, more at peace, in a state of love.
This is our goal, for you to be in a state of love, meeting love within and all around you as the first strategy to meeting the relationship that is right for you. Some people tell us that they feel themselves being drawn to different people, as if who they feel chemistry with has changed. Matches who can’t fulfil their needs become boring.
This is a love hack. You can continue dating mindlessly, falling into relationships by chance, like teenagers. Being drawn to people who feel familiar and exciting, only to realise you are repeating unhelpful patterns. You can continue hoping that someone will come along who understands your needs and can fulfil them before you even know what your needs are. Or, you can take conscious action in dating and relationships and fast-forward to where you have learnt from your mistakes, you are awake, your energy connects with people who are good for you and your mindful awareness guides you to take the right action, and the relationships you build are happy, healthy and secure.
It’s like shining a healing light inwards which ignites something shining that light back out as far as you can imagine, allowing the love inside to connect with love outside.