If dating seems like an ordeal, you are not alone. I’ve heard many versions of “I’m not dating because it sucks” from all sorts of people; gay, straight, men and women of all ages. I’ve expressed that sentiment myself more than a few times, but I also know that it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. Each of the archetypal guides in this series can help illuminate why dating can be difficult and how we can experience the process in a more grounded, wholehearted way.
This next archetypal guide is a biggie – it’s probably the main reason dating can be painful, confusing and un-fun. Just stay with me here because our guide to less vexing and more wholehearted dating in this edition is the archetypeA universal pattern of motivation and behavior. of the Victim.
What did you say woman? Victim?!
(Like I said – hang in there.)
The BIG THING to remember is that the Victim has two sides to it and is all about safety, strength and boundaries. It remains neutral until we feed one side or the other with thoughts, ideas and actions.
Keywords: Pain, Fear, Blame This is the part of us that is consciously or unconsciously hurt, defensive, pissed off, fearful, vengeful or sad. It’s a tender part that needs care and compassion but it also needs to know it’s not the only game in town. To identify with only the unempowered Victim is how we can end up in dating suckland. Being in the mindset of fear skews our vision and makes for hasty decisions (fight or flight dating anyone?). This is where being present and paying attention to what’s going on in our minds and hearts without judgement can keep us grounded.
Keywords: Strength, Resilience, Courage I like to call this the Victorious part of us but it’s still a part of the Victim – we can’t really have one without the other. This is the archetype of working with the fear, letting stuff go, setting healthy boundaries and getting on with life more informed and stronger than we were before. The empowered Victim is also a wellspring of compassion – for self and others. It opens the door to maintaining vulnerability as a strength, not a weakness. If that sounds like an oxymoron, think of it this way, our ability to truly connect (be vulnerable) allows us to be who we really are beyond the fear we might feel (strength).
Dating means putting yourself out there in a way that could bring old wounds and insecurities to the surface – something most of us instinctively avoid. Hence the Victim archetype rearing it’s head in the middle of our single life saying it’s not safe out there. Here’s the thing though, if we let our fears wall all that stuff up in order to feel safe, we are also walling out what we most deeply want – love and connection.
“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need in all women, men and children. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” ~Brené Brown from The Gifts of Imperfection
Love, if it is real, will never be completely safe because it requires vulnerability, which is to say that the soft gooey center of us could get squeezed and maybe not pleasantly so. In order to truly love, our shields have to come down for a connection to be made. This is true of platonic relationships as well but dating can feel like the stakes are much higher.
“No human being has ever lived without knowing heartbreak, and to accept that truth is to give a merciful gift to ourselves.” ~David Whyte
Actively working with our internal Victim can help us cultivate the strength, resilience and spaciousness to experience dating in a whole new way. How we relate to our internal Victim resonates out to how we treat other people, including our potential love partners and sets the tone for our future relationships.
Here are some ways the Victim can be a guide to dating where we feel stronger, more present and grounded:
Know Your Ropes
Understanding and developing emotional boundaries is huge topic and there are many resources to support more learning so I’ve provided a few below.
1) things are not always as they seem
2) you are human and do all sorts of things that might not be intended
3) berating yourself does not help anything (in fact neuro psychology research shows it can make things worse).
Self-vicitmization is a call for self-compassion. Once you’ve stopped beating yourself up you will know what to do next with much clearer vision. You will also have more compassion for those you are dating.
Don't Go It Alone
Whether for physical or emotional safety I recommend a ‘date buddy’; someone you can trust to talk something out with and check in with to let them know where you are going and with whom on a date. Our parents might not wait up for us anymore but it’s nice to know someone has our back. I’m blessed to have two date buddies (a man and a woman) and it really, really helps. I get the benefit of having access to both the male and female perspectives on things and get to support them on their dating adventures as well.
Being present to what comes up with the Victim in dating also reminds us that we can call on resources and helpers in the form of Mentors, Therapists or Groups where we can share our experience and receive support.
Avoid Reruns & Red Flags
This reminds me of a scene in ‘When Harry Met Sally’ when Carrie Fisher’s character says “You’re right, you’re right, I know you’re right – he’s never going to leave her.” about the married man who is always proclaiming he’s going to leave his wife to be with her but never does. The Victim can help us recognize when we get into an unhealthy pattern and need to make some different choices or at least look clearly at a situation.
Although dating can bring uncomfortable things up, an honest and compassionate relationship with the Victim means we can be stronger, more loving people for the difficult lessons and heartbreak we’ve been through. My experience with cultivating the lessons of the Victim in relation to dating has helped me immensely. I never thought the process could actually be empowering and compassionate, but it can be and that is what I hope to share with you. Please comment, share, Tweet and link this article if others that you think might benefit. I love when you do that.