The Dress

The Clock is Ticking

It’s TIME!

Whether that’s coming from your friends and family or just the voice in your head, there’s a moment when we feel pressured. Time to settle down! Time to get married. Time for the babies. That easily turns to fear that IT will NEVER happen. That time pressure can take any of us down!

I was working with a stunning, I mean super-model, blindingly beautiful woman, who was also smart, funny and worldly. Talk about the whole package. She was dating a “good catch,” her description. All boxes checked, time for the last step, marriage. Things seem to be moving in the marriage direction, so our lady-love thought she could let her hair down a bit. You know that moment when you think maybe I can fart in front of him now? Okay, so no, she didn’t fart, she did something even more egregious, she put on a dress that she loved and felt great in.

Lo and behold, Prince Charming didn’t approve. Without warning, he threw a tantrum and ended the relationship. Are you shocked? Listening to this story, my thought was, ‘Hell no!’ Disbelief, hurt and pain brought this woman to me. She couldn’t get how this man, who supposedly loved her, could react in such a manner.


It’s Back On

At our next session, she bounced into my office beaming. It’s back on! My jaw dropped. I waited for the part where she told me he had a stroke or some form of dementia when he broke up with her. That at least he begged her forgiveness. NOPE.

What happened? Drum roll…she called and told him she would get rid of the dress. I don’t have a poker face folks, so I didn’t hide it when I exclaimed “What The F…”! I forgot I was supposed to nod and kindly ask, ‘Say More.’ Her explanation? “In relationships it’s important to be flexible and compromise. I realized that, so I gave up the dress.”

So, she is right. Relationships do require flexibility and accommodation. It can never be only about MY wants. However, there is a thin line between accommodation and people-pleasing. The former is a response, the latter is a reaction. The challenge here is that she did not SEE that she was reacting.

How am I certain she was in reaction? Let’s break this down. She had a Don’t Want. I don’t want to lose my relationship. I don’t want to be the old geezer with the cats, lonely and childless for the rest of my life. Her thoughts and fears.


What’s My Brainstem Got to Do With It

Her Don’t Wants created fear, which her brainstem perceived as a threat. Threat of a failed, barren life. Every Don’t Want equals fear. Fear equals threat. Threat equals reaction. So, her brainstem offered her a way to survive this threat. Fight, Flight or Freeze…that’s all its got!

She chose flight. Flight is avoidance of conflict. In a real threat, it’s running away from the gun man. In this perceived threat, it’s running away from the conflict over the dress and people pleasing to get the man back.

In relationships, the people pleasing, flight reaction is called “Move Toward.” Our girl moved toward Mr. Catch to save the relationship. What’s wrong with that? The flight/move toward reaction moves us AWAY from ourselves. It’s NOT sustainable.

Relationships in which the “Move Towards,” is frequently used, become full of resentment and anger. According to relationship experts and researchers, Move Toward reaction often leads to contempt, which can lead to separation and divorce. In this case, she might get the man, get the wedding, but is she getting the marriage and relationship that she really wants?


It Was Never About the Dress

This isn’t about the dress. It’s MORE about him demanding that she give up something that’s important to her. That day in my office, bruised and broken-hearted, she said “it’s not the dress, it’s me. I want him to love the real me. In any form, not just the way he likes.” When I reminded her of HER want, she dismissed it.

 The fear of the Don’t Want blinds us from SEEING what we really want. Her fear that time was running out, convinced her to give up on what I call the BIG want. As she moved towards, pleasing him and staving off her Don’t Want, she moved away from herself. She lost her BIG want of a partner that loved and accepted her as she is.

 Giving up the dress can be compromise, but it can also mean that we are reacting with people-pleasing. This is a reaction that is often hidden. Reactions are blinding. We lose sight of ourselves and what we really want. If we focus solely on the fear and the Don’t Want, all we SEE is that time is running out and we need this “good catch.” We lose sight of the BIG Want – someone to love the real us, dress and all.


Focus on You

To learn more about Relationships, and how you can rewire your brain so that you can step around your reactions in your relationships, read my blog: Why are Relationships so HARD!?