Shelley J Whitehead

Are you in an Imaginary Relationship?

30 April, 2014

Five months ago, my lovely client who for the sake of this video I shall call Julie, got involved with a man she met on the internet. Within a week she was experiencing the most passionate, consuming, fun relationship in years.  He was telling her how beautiful she was, how much she had changed his life, how he longed to become a father. He was telling her everything she had been wanting to hear from a potential partner. 

Julie told me she thought that he might be ‘the one’ and that this was ‘the best relationship she had ever been in’

I asked her the following question: “Julie, have you qualified this relationship?”  

…and I watched her face fall, as she replied, crestfallen: “I’m not sure what you mean.”  

We then talked through the differences between a genuine relationship and an imaginary relationship. There are some fundamentally important things to know about this….

Qualify to ensure you’re not in an imaginary relationship

In my practice as a Relationship Coach, I do a lot of work with people who have been through some form of heartbreak or difficulty in their relationships. I help them work through their pain and through old patterns and habits that might not be serving them, so they are ready to embrace love again. But embracing love again doesn’t mean throwing yourself blindly in, headfirst. Connected love that lasts is usually built on a foundation of open-hearted communication, trust, compatibility and really showing up in an authentic way.  Before you decide you are even IN a relationship, you want to make sure that you have QUALIFIED. 

If you’re really honest with yourself, how well can you really know someone within a week? All the passion might be there, all the intoxicating feelings of fascination, curiosity, potential, possibility…. but really knowing someone takes time. And that goes in both directions. How well do you know them and how well do they know you? In other words: have you QUALIFIED this relationship to make sure that you are both looking for the same things, that share the same values and that you both are showing up consistently in the same way, that they know and accept who you *really* are (at your best and at your so-called worst) and that you know and accept the same of them. 

When Julie first came to see me, it was clear that she wanted a committed relationship with a man who shared the same values. And yet she had jumped into a relationship with this man, without testing it for compatibility and without making sure that they were both the right fit for each other. In her head, Julie was in the ‘perfect relationship’. But it turned out this was actually an ‘imaginary relationship’. Sadly for Julie, this particular man was not in any way a good partner for her. After a few weeks of a whirlwind ‘romance’ it turned out that although on the surface he seemed charming, engaging and fun, underneath it all he had major addiction issues and was in a very precarious situation financially, which manifested in erratic behaviour and him being in a depressed state. 

Julie is tenacious and has learnt a great lesson in how to get it right next time, applying the practice of dating in an intentional way, working with a sense of self-worth and great patience in her journey towards finding her ideal man.

Here are some of the practices that Julie and I worked through: 

1. What questions do you need answering to know the relationship is ‘real’?

When you start dating someone, take your time to work through certain questions, BEFORE you decide whether or not you want this to go from dating into a RELATIONSHIP.  Generally, people might take a few months to really get to know someone, but this is an individual preference. During this phase you want to ask yourself: what do I need to know about them before I commit to a relationship? And, similarly, ‘what do they need to know about me?’ When you have covered off your most important questions about knowing each other, you are ready to consider being in a relationship. I often work with my clients on defining what those questions might be. (If it’s something that could be of value for you, for me to create a video on the subject, please let me know in the comments below). 

2. Are they looking for a commitment?

During the dating phase you want to make sure that you address some of the basic questions like: are they also looking for a committed relationship. If someone is saying “let’s see where this goes” it may be an indication that they are not looking for a long term commitment.  Initially both parties want to see where it goes … but you want someone who is also looking to see if this is something that has the potential to go into the future.It might eventually turn into a relationship, but it is not yet a relationship until both parties want it to be a relationship.

3. Are they showing signs of commitment?

When someone wants to be in a relationship with you, they will make concrete plans with you. They will commit to things in the future. To start with, this might be at the level of agreeing a time in advance for a coffee, a drink or a supper. As time goes on, this might turn into a commitment for a holiday. If all of those things are last-minute spur of the moment decisions, that isn’t quite the same as a concrete future plan: the point here is the question ‘are they making time for you in their future? And are you important enough for them to commit time for you in their schedule?’

4. Are you ready for real intimacy… or have you jumped in without thinking it through?

Making a conscious decision, in advance, about when the right moment is for you to move towards more physical intimacy. For a lot of people this is the moment at which you decide that you are in a committed relationship but, again, this is quite an individual thing. The one thing I would advise is that you don’t dive into deep levels of physical intimacy without working out what this means – for you – first. It’s very easy to get carried away and confuse chemistry for compatibility after you have crossed the bridge to being physically intimate with someone  there will be all kinds of hormonal and chemical reactions going on for you that will affect your thinking. 

Have you ever got carried away and thought you were in a relationship… only to find out that the person on the other side wasn’t feeling the same way and it is, in fact, an imaginary relationship. It’s such a painful feeling, isn’t it? Whilst I am all for learning through experience, if we don’t become consciously aware of our patterns and of what we really want to move towards, we can often find ourselves repeating the same mistakes over and over again. 

If this blog post resonates for you and you’d like to find out a little bit more about my recommendations on qualifying a relationship, so that you are sure that it’s the right one for you, do take a look at my video called ‘how to find the right relationship’.

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