Listen to today’s episode with Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell to learn some strategies that you can use to overcome negative thinking associated with dating and relationships. You will learn how to date from an empowered position as a woman.
We recorded this episode on August 16, 2022.
Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell is a psychologist, author, international speaker, musician, and host of the podcast, Love & Life. A former psychotherapist and professor, Dr. Anderson Abrell’s platform integrates clinical expertise—with an emphasis on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy—and data gleaned from psych research. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting delve into our most profound relationship concerns—how to cultivate deep romantic intimacy, meaningful friendships, healthy family connections, and fulfilling careers. Her book, Single is the New Black: Don’t Wear White ’til it’s Right, is a word of empowerment to singles—encouraging them to stay strong amidst “single shaming,” live life on their own terms, and never settle for anything less than an extraordinary relationship. Connect with Dr. Karin on Instagram @dr.karin or on her website, loveandlifemedia.com.
I believe we can really fall in love with someone with the full intensity of the emotional component and also fall in love with them intellectually and reasonably and rationally.Tweet
Timeline of the Chat
[00:54] Empowered dating
[03:26] Getting to know someone in dating
[06:51] Fear and urgency as drivers in relationships
[11:15] Wasted time in relationships
[13:52] 2 Strategies to get out of negative self talk cycles
[19:27] How to make dating fun
[22:55] The dating journey
[29:26] Setting boundaries and the strategies useful for empowered dating
[34:13] Rooting actions in your values
[35:32] How we really learn other people’s values
[39:42] How to figure out your values
Enjoyed this episode? Please click this link to rate the podcast.
- Kate Lambie on Psychology Today
- REBT by Dr. Albert Ellis
- ACT Toolkit by Dr. Hayes
- Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do by Dr. Duana Welch
- Values worksheet (source)
- Empowered Dating Playbook
- Single Is The New Black: Don’t Wear White Til It’s Right by Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell
We remain empowered by remaining very committed to our full lives.Tweet
Transcript of the Episode
[00:54] Damianne President: To start, I want to talk to you about empowered dating. If people go to your website life andlovemedia.com, they can sign up to receive the empowered dating playbook, which gives lots of great suggestions and hints of how people can think about relationships and approach dating from a more empowered perspective.
So when you talk about empowered dating, what does that mean to you?
[01:21] Karin Anderson Abrell: It’s all about recognizing what you have to offer. And that’s really about honoring yourself first, which is about knowing who you are, so having a clear sense of your identity, your values, what makes you, you. When we understand who we are, we better understand who we will partner well with.
And too often, we’re approaching dating from what I consider to be a very disempowered perspective, which is I need somebody to feel better about myself, or I need someone to complete me. It’s all these really bad movie lines from great movies, but bad movie lines that really lead women to believe that without partnership, they are lacking, they’re less than. When we step into that identity, then we’re prone to just be with anybody just to have somebody. And that can get us into poor relationships that aren’t empowering for us or the other person. And we wanna avoid that through this empowered dating mindset approach.
[02:21] Damianne President: On a previous interview, one of my guests talks about the fact that if both your cups are full, then you can pour into each other’s cups and maintain that fullness at the same time. I really liked that way of thinking about it because it’s not like somebody’s going to complete you, which means that somehow you’re not complete in yourself.
[02:41] Karin Anderson Abrell: Right. Exactly. I love that metaphor, that imagery of two full cups. I say to my community often that we want to want partnership.
We desire partnership. That’s very natural. It’s part of how most humans are wired to desire partnership, but we wanna approach it from a place of desire and want, not from need.Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell
And so like your other guest was saying about two full cups, we’re both fully formed humans and we don’t feel incomplete or anything along those lines. But we do desire partnership, and we wanna walk hand in hand instead of one person dragging the other along or the other person going, I need you, clinging to this person because if you’re not with me, I don’t know who I am or what I’m about. That’s a very disempowered way to experience relationships.
Getting to know someone while dating
[03:26] Damianne President: So one of the things that you bring up in your playbook and that you talk about on your podcast, which is Love and Life, is how you gather information from people and the importance of getting to know the person that you are dating. What are some of the strategies that men and women can use to get to know the people that they’re dating, to gather this information that’s so important.
[03:50] Karin Anderson Abrell: One of the first things that comes to mind when you ask that is to slow your roll. We can get so excited about someone and oftentimes we will meet someone, have a couple good dates, and we start planning a future with this person who, let’s be honest, after five hours on one date if you have a nice long first date, but maybe only had a couple hour first date, after just a handful of hours, we can’t possibly know this person.
I think it was one of the comedian, I don’t know if it was Chris Rock, someone said, when you’re dating, the first several months, you’re not dating the other person, you’re dating their representative. We all are bringing our A game, which is great. We should bring our a game, but we need to watch this person who we’re getting to know.
We need to watch their actions, not just what they say. We need to see them in multiple contexts, in multiple scenarios. They may tell you something like, I used to struggle with anger management, but I went to therapy and now I’ve got it under control. And then you get in the car with them and you see the road rage coming out and you’re thinking, okay, maybe this person has done some work and that’s great, but they still don’t quite have a handle on this part of their life. And again, they weren’t maybe trying to even lie to you. They’re not trying to be disingenuous. It’s just that they don’t fully know themselves nor do any of us fully know ourselves.
We try to communicate who we are when we ask those first date questions, but you cannot replace what time will teach you about the person you’re getting to know. You just can’t rush it. I see that so often with women in my community, where they start to even project. And again, they’re not meaning to do this, but we project onto someone.
We say, oh, wow, he’s so kind with dogs, for example; I bet he’d be a great father. He’ll be great with kids. Well, sometimes those two qualities generalize from pets to children; sometimes they don’t. We can’t make these assumptions about someone.
So my first word of advice for what you’re asking is to really just take your time. You can rush a good thing and sabotage it, actually. – Karin Anderson AbrellTweet
[05:48] Damianne President: The other thing that I want to pull out from what you just said is when you slow down, you can actually know what’s really happening. Often we get into these romantic ideals of what we hope this relationship to be or what we want it to be. And we can convince ourselves that this is what we’re actually experiencing when that’s not the case at all.
[06:08] Karin Anderson Abrell: That happens so often. I know I’ve experienced that where I just got ahead of myself. I was excited. You know, the butterflies are flying around and that’s a beautiful part of the process of falling in love. I’ve heard it put this way, you know, follow your heart, but take your head with you.
When it comes to head and heart, there’s always that tension. But I believe we can really fall in love with someone with the full intensity of the emotional component and also fall in love with them intellectually and reasonably and rationally. I don’t think that we have to think, oh, if I’m too much in my head, it won’t be romantic and sexy. No, it will be. And in fact, it’ll be a stronger connection if you are getting to know this person on that rational level as well.
Fear and urgency as drivers in relationships
[06:51] Damianne President: Yeah. And I think a lot of the rushing also is around fear, fear of being single, fear of being alone, fear of not finding exactly what you want, or even fear of it being too late. Those are some of the messages that we get from friends or family who may be well-meaning, but make us feel that there is this urgency and we buy into this sense of urgency.
[07:13] Karin Anderson Abrell: Hmm. That’s so well put.
[07:15] Damianne President: And you’ve experienced it. I mean, like you said earlier, which of us hasn’t? I think many of us has at different times in our lives. So what do you want to say to the women out there who are afraid of being single.
[07:28] Karin Anderson Abrell: Yeah, well, you know, I can speak to this on a very personal level, Damianne. You know that from my story and from listening to my podcast that I almost married the wrong person because of that sense of urgency. I was 30 when I met him. Those milestone birthdays can really do a number on your head. You think, oh, my friends are engaged or married and maybe a couple have children already. Now looking back 30 so young to me. But at the time, it was like this wasn’t how my life was supposed to play out.
I was supposed to be married or at least dating someone seriously at this age. And I’d had several years of a dry spell where nothing, had a couple dates here and there, but nothing was really materializing romantically. So I got caught up in that urgency. And like you said, well, intentioned, well meaning friends and family might say something like, well, maybe you’re too picky. And so you start internalizing some of these messages that feel off. You know, down deep that you’re not being too picky. You just want a strong, great relationship.
You don’t want some mediocre connection. You want something really extraordinary. But yeah, from my story, I did fall prey to that and met a guy who’s a really wonderful guy, really great guy, very driven, smart, ambitious, accomplished, loving, loved me very much. Would’ve made an amazing father, but just wasn’t that full connection that we desire. And I tried to make it work for four years actually. And then two months before we were supposed to be married, I called it off.
So it’s that urgency that you, you put so eloquently. From my personal experience, I know how easy it is to fall into it. And it makes me sad because I think when we start to internalize those messages, what we’re doing is starting to doubt ourselves and getting back to what we talked to at the beginning of the episode, starting to doubt what we have to offer, starting to doubt if what we believe could exist does exist. That fear creeps in as you put it.
So, yeah, speaking to urgency, what I would encourage women to do is to listen to programs like yours, like mine. My book is all about that, about staying strong amidst those single shaming messages that are all too ubiquitous out there. And again, I don’t think the people mean to be hurtful. They really think they’re helping you. But what they’re doing is telling you essentially, hey, what you’re aiming for, this really beautiful solid connection that you’re firing on all cylinders with this person, what Dr. Robert Sternberg calls a consummate love, where you have that romantic connection, you have that friendship, you’re best friends with your partner, and you also have that deep commitment, that consummate love isn’t available to you. Like they’re saying that in some way, it’s just it’s not for you. It’s for other people, lucky them, but not for you. And when we start taking on that belief, It really tears away at our self-worth and then leads to us fearing, as you put it, that maybe we don’t have that in our future. It won’t come about for us.
What happened to me is I kept trying to make the wrong relationship work until finally that piece of me that said, Karin, what are you gonna do? Live a lie for the rest of your life. It’ll look pretty on the outside, but it won’t be genuine. And then my values kicked in to remind myself what I knew, but had been fighting within myself for so long, remind myself that no, Karin, even if you’re single, which isn’t my heart’s desire to be single forever, I would rather be single than to live in a relationship that looked pretty on the outside but wasn’t authentic and genuine on the inside.
[10:56] Damianne President: You’re listening to Changes Big and Small with Damianne president Big and Small will help you take action in your life with intention and purpose. In each episode, I invite you to accept unexpected challenges that will help you take action to live the life that you want.
Wasted time in relationships
[11:15] Damianne President: I think the other thing that comes up is in terms of wasted time, cuz I can remember even breaking up with somebody and he apologizing for having wasted my time. And I’m like, I don’t see it as wasted time. At some point you can decide that you’re not aligned or you can come to a realization of something that you’ve been putting off. And it doesn’t mean that it’s wasted time because in every relationship we learn about ourselves.
If we stay in a relationship, there is a reason why we’re staying, and there are lessons to be learned that we haven’t learned yet. So I never see it as wasted time. But I think that’s a common construct that people use when a relationship maybe didn’t work out in the way that they hoped, where it ended.
[11:55] Karin Anderson Abrell: Yeah. I mean, I respect you for being able to respond that way, because I think that I agree with you wholeheartedly, but I’ll be honest. There have been times when I thought all that time I wasted with you, and now you broke up with me or even beating myself up then, which is another way to go, which I did quite a bit after calling off my engagement.
Oh my gosh, I wasted four years of my thirties. And I think the time factor for women, in particular, is because of the biological clock, which yeah “wasting” four years of your thirties when you do desire to be a mother, that’s easy to get into that self flagellating and blaming yourself, which I think comes from a place of trying to take control.
So I understand where it comes from. And like I said, I’ve been guilty of it myself, where I think, okay, if I can just beat myself up a bit here, I’ll prove to myself that I won’t do this again. I can assure myself that I won’t do this again, or I can ruminate about it and figure it all out. And that way I can set a plan for the future that will not involve four years with the person who I’m not gonna end up with in my thirties.
That’s where I invite people to do the hard work, which I had to learn the hard way as well, which is to like you’re saying, look at the lessons we’ve learned, recognize that any situation, if we glean knowledge about ourselves and what we do want in a relationship for the future, it’s not wasted time, and also some grace. We’re human; we’re gonna make those mistakes. We’re going to be in the wrong relationship sometimes longer than we “should” have been. And I don’t know that it’s very useful for us to beat ourselves up about that for too long.
[13:39] Damianne President: Now as a psychologist and you used to be a psychotherapist as well, and you are also steeped in cognitive behavior therapy, that’s the modality that you tend to work with.
[13:51] Karin Anderson Abrell: Yes.
2 Strategies to get out of negative self-talk cycles
[13:52] Damianne President: If people are ruminating or are caught in some of those negative self-talk cycles, what are some strategies that they can use to get out of that?
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
[14:02] Karin Anderson Abrell: Yeah, there’s two of my favorites and they’re both cognitive approaches, but they take a little different angle at what to do. Now, my preferred modality, what I use on myself all day every day is REBT, which is rational emotive behavior therapy by Dr. Albert Ellis. And this is just like it says, rational.
So you start getting into those thoughts, the ruminating, as you mentioned, the negative thoughts, and you start to challenge them and dispute them. One that comes up for a lot of women in my community, and I struggled with at times too, especially when I called off my wedding at 34 and then was back in the dating scene and then when I hit my 40th birthday and I was not yet in partnership and had broken up with a couple other people and had been broken up with, the one that can creep in is since I’m alone now I’ll be alone forever. And we can do what Dr. Ellis encourages us to do as empowered women who are cerebral and we’re in our heads a lot.
Anyway, if we’re gonna be up in our head, we might as well do something useful up there and we can dispute these irrational beliefs because it’s clearly irrational that just because you’re not dating someone today, that means, necessarily, you will not be dating anyone tomorrow, the next day, next year, and next decade. It’s completely irrational.
People meet the love of their life every day. And so you get in there and I share that actually in my empowered dating playbook for anyone who wants kind of a roadmap of how to really dig into this. I like it, cuz as a former academic, after I was a psychotherapist, I was a professor teaching some of these strategies, but again, using them on myself along the way. I like it because it gives you like a worksheet to go, okay, here’s this irrational belief that’s really troubling me. And here’s how I can get after it, get in there, dispute it and replace it then with an empowered, rational belief. It’s like an exercise.
We have to exercise our cognitive muscles much like we exercise our physical muscles. We get in there with that irrational belief, and we dispute it, challenge it, replace it. And then when we catch ourselves the next morning, we wake up, and we’re back to our old ways, we catch ourselves with that irrational belief, and we go, nope, I’ve got a new empowered, reasonable, true belief that I will choose to replace. And we do that time and time again until it becomes more automatic. Now that’s a very get in there, put up your dukes, and fight with yourself kind of thing. I’m done being irrational.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
[16:21] Karin Anderson Abrell: Another way to go about it is what Dr. Steven C. Hayes calls ACT, Acceptance, and Commitment Therapy. He’s been on my podcast two times and has shared this with my listeners in my community.
This is where you go a little bit more detached, a little bit more Zen. It’s still a cognitive strategy. You notice this voice in your head saying, well, you’re gonna be alone forever, you’re gonna be alone forever. And you can try to create some distance, even talking to that voice almost in a third person. So saying something like, and you can name it, hi whatever. He calls it the dictator within. Hi critical voice, hi dictator. You can give her a name if you want. Maybe the mean girl in your school was Jenny. So hi, Jenny. I know you’re mean, and you’re in my head again, telling me mean things, that I’m gonna be alone forever.
Get some distance, speak to that thought, or even look at it and think and say, oh, that’s interesting. I’m having the thought that I will be alone forever instead of going, I’m thinking that, or this is the truth within my head. That’s interesting. Just being curious about, that’s interesting.
I’m having the thought, not the truth. I’m having the thought that I’ll be alone forever, and trying to get some distance that way. Dr. Hayes talks about visualizing your thoughts, emotions, as leaves on a stream and recognizing that just like leaves on a stream, you can see them and watch them, and watch them go away. They don’t have to overwhelm you. They don’t have to flood you. You can get some detachment. He calls it diffusing, diffusing from those thoughts and feelings that are unwanted and aren’t serving you.
[18:05] Damianne President: Yeah. And I’ll share those links to the episodes that you talked about.
[18:09] Karin Anderson Abrell: Oh, that’d be great.
[18:10] Damianne President: And also in episode 18 of this podcast, I shared some resources from Dr. Hay’s website. He has many resources on ACT and overcoming fear that people can use. So those are some great resources for people to do some self-work.
[18:27] Karin Anderson Abrell: Yeah, it’s so important. I’m a former academic, so maybe I’m a little biased, but I do think sometimes just getting out a pen and paper. And Dr. Hayes, yes, has so many resources on his website where you can download ACT worksheets.
I have a psychotherapist who appears on my podcast pretty often, Kate Lambie. And she does a lot of work with act with her clients. And so she shared resources with me as well. Because when we write it down, there’s another level of processing from thinking and then actually writing something, seeing it on pen and paper, that can really help us take the sting out of some of these irrational and pejorative thoughts, and this thinking that just doesn’t, it’s not helping us at all, maybe keeping us stuck.
How to make dating fun
[19:27] Damianne President: Thank you. So how do you think people can approach being single? If somebody is single and they want to approach dating in a way that is fun or helpful, what do you suggest?
[19:42] Karin Anderson Abrell: Yeah, I think it just what you said. I love just, can you find it to be fun again? I know, sometimes I think I should have written down how many first dates I went on because I started dating at 15 and I didn’t get married until I was 42. So that’s quite a number. I guarantee, it was probably several hundred, but being out on the dating scene for so many years and being kicked around, it can be really…
You’re weary. You may be jaded. You’re hurt. You may be demoralized. So try to bring the fun back. One of the things that came to mind that really helped me, Damianne, was to say to myself, it only takes one to be the one. Now that’s obvious, but sometimes we’re dating, we’re dating, and we almost get in the sense of like, I’ve gotta make every one of these first dates work. It’s like, no, actually we don’t.
[20:41] Damianne President: Are you enjoying listening to this podcast? Please take a minute to review it wherever you’re listening. This helps other people find the show.
[20:52] Karin Anderson Abrell: In fact, if a first date doesn’t work, that’s a good thing. That just means that there’s one more person that we’ve come to realize is not a fit for us. Now, in the middle of that first date, when you realize, oh wow, he just said something that’s just so outta step with my values that I know that we would not be even moving forward to a second date, it can be tempting to go I just wish I could get the check right now, get outta here. But that’s taking away the being in the here and now and trying to keep it fun, even if you’re just meeting someone who you’ll never see again or talk to again, but being in that moment.
We wanna be civilized and rational and we wanna be polite. And that means probably not just grabbing the check in the middle of the appetizer, even when you have the sense that this just isn’t connecting, whether it’s something they said or whether it’s just that, that chemistry that it’s pretty apparent it’s not there. But by just being in the moment and realizing, okay, so this one isn’t the one, but I’m here in this moment with this other person who’s also looking for love.
Have a little bit of the grace for the human experience that you both are in in that moment. There’s so much psych research that talks about remaining present in the here and now. There’s a whole body of research on mindfulness and that even plays out to dating. Let’s not do to someone what they’ve done to us, maybe ghosting or immediately getting an attitude with someone because you know that this is not a fit for you.
Let’s honor the dignity of the other human being across the table from you. And I’m not saying you have to make it a six-hour date if you know it’s not a fit, but for the remainder of the meal, let’s be pleasant. Let’s just recognize that, hey, we can have some laughs even if this isn’t gonna be my person.
And I think like you mentioned, just trying to find the fun therein, taking the pressure off.
The dating journey
[22:55] Damianne President: I listened to one episode of your podcast where you talked about when you met your husband and how it wasn’t like as soon as you met it was like, oh, we’re in this committed relationship. It was that you actually had a conversation about it at some point. And so I wanna also talk about the journey of dating. We often talk about that initial date and a lot of people jump in and think, okay, he must be the one or how do I make him the one as opposed to going through the dating journey. How do you think about the dating journey?
[23:28] Karin Anderson Abrell: Well, I think that’s a really great point. Damianne. I’m glad that you brought up my experience just because, again, having been out there for so many years, I hit a lot of the different scenarios that you could experience on the dating scene. And yeah, even when I met my husband, I was definitely physically attracted to him pretty early on in our conversation. That very first date, he mentioned that he was divorced and had three kids. And I was like, woo. I mean, right away, that’s heavy. I was 40. I was not divorced. I had no children. Everyone knows everyone hates stepmothers so moving forward with this man, even hypothetically in that moment, I knew that I would be in a position that, that everyone knows can be challenging, can be very challenging. So right away, there are things like, oh gosh, wow, this could be heavy.
What I did in that moment is say to myself, okay, Karin, you don’t have to figure out like, literally we’ve just gotten the hors d’oeuvres. You don’t have to figure out this relationship when it’s been like a half hour in. How about just be present? Like I said, a moment ago, how about just enjoy this person with his kind eyes and beautiful smile and just be present here.
And to your point about pacing, I will say, as we were dating, I was still dating other people. So was he. I didn’t know he was. I assumed he was recently divorced. I wouldn’t expect that he would lock right in with another person right away, as I talk about on my podcast. And I share with my community.
I’m very big about when you’re first dating, dating is dating. Dating is not a committed relationship. Those are two different stages. – Dr. Karin Anderson AbrellTweet
As you mentioned a moment ago, I don’t believe we should assume we are in a committed relationship until we have been asked.
Dr. Duana Welch, the author of Love Factually, who’s a frequent guest on my podcast, as she talks about in her books, which are completely science-based, she’s very committed to the research on dating practice and mating practice across all cultures, and even looking to the animal kingdom for cues as to how we should date. She believes that for men and women who are seeking heterosexual relationships, the man should be the one to ask. He should be the one to, as our grandmothers might have said, my mother might have said, declare himself. Is he the one who said to you I want to be exclusive with you, I love you? Those come from the man first. And that’s hard for empowered women of this generation to hear sometimes.
But I always remind us that when I practice that in my dating, it was an empowered stance. I never had to worry what does he think about me? Cuz I wasn’t telling him what I thought about him first. I was letting the emotions develop naturally, organically, taking that time. And then when he shared to me I had that empowered stance of being able to say yes, I also wanna be committed. And then later, a couple months later, and yes, I also love you. That’s a little bit, again, it can be tricky for women who’ve been raised just say what you gotta say. That’s fine; speak your mind. But when it comes to dating, the research shows that women are able to operate as what Dr. Welch calls high status by letting the man lead.
Now there’s so much more on that with Dr. Welch’s work. But getting back to my story, as you said, I wanted to be present, to be mindful. And when he was dating other people, I didn’t know. He didn’t ask me. I didn’t ask him. I didn’t ask those questions. That’s not my business. That’s hard for women, too. And then I also share with them, if you are committing to him physically, emotionally, before he has said he wants you to commit to him, you’re giving up an empowered position.
He shouldn’t have access to all your time, to all your energy, to your emotions, to everything that’s going on with you, to your personal life. He shouldn’t AC have access to your body. That’s putting things in a faster pace and you will feel then more anxious. I have a lot of women in my community believing that they have anxious attachment. And I don’t know that they have anxious attachment. It’s just their dating practices are causing them to be anxiety-ridden because they are giving too much of themselves too soon.
And then they’re going, wait, we just had sex. Does he love me or what? I just told him my whole everything about me and disclosed all my personal private information. Wait, I just opened up my calendar. He knows he can see me on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and that’s anxiety for real cause he’s got too much of you, too much power over you. You gave it to him. We don’t give it to him.
So yes, Dan and I met in August, dated other people throughout the fall. And it wasn’t until January when Dan asked me. We were having dinner. It was actually my birthday. And he said, I had some hard conversations today with some other women that I had been dating. And I didn’t know he was dating anyone as I mentioned. And he said, I told them, I don’t wanna date anyone but you and I would like to be exclusive with you. And then we had that conversation. And that’s a lot when I shared that story in the podcast. I’m not sure if you listened to that specific episode, one of the times Dan was with me, and we talked about it. I got a lot of feedback slash pushback.
[28:26] Damianne President: Oh, really?
[28:28] Karin Anderson Abrell: They thought that took way too long. They couldn’t possibly take that long. And I thought, well, I will admit that you know, Dan was recently divorced and of course, there were children involved. So I thought it was prudent for the children’s sake as well not to be trying to rush something, for dad and mom to divorce, then all of a sudden there’s this new woman that dad’s very serious about. I didn’t feel that that was right for the children to have to go through that. So I wanted to be respectful of them, but also without children, even I would’ve taken my time.
I didn’t wanna be a rebound girl. How do I know I’m not a rebound girl? I can only know if we take the time and if I don’t give him too much of me. Women, they struggle with that because they wanna be like, if I feel it, I just wanna say it. And I think how about you say it to your girlfriends and wait a minute. Bite your tongue when you’re with him so you can maintain that empowered stance and people go, I don’t wanna play power games. I don’t wanna play these games. It’s not playing games. It’s maintaining your self-respect, your self-discipline, and your empowerment.
Setting boundaries and the strategies useful for empowered dating
[29:26] Damianne President: So I think what some people might then ask is, okay, well, we’ve been dating for six months, eight months a year, and he hasn’t said anything yet. Then what do you do?
[29:39] Karin Anderson Abrell: The physical comes into play and that can be actually a very useful tool. I mean, really, we can use it because I don’t know many men that are gonna be hanging out with a woman for six months or a year, and not trying to have some physical encounters. That’s where we can keep our boundaries up.
And if he’s talking about, he would like to move things forward physically, or even when you’re in the midst of a physical moment. And I know we have to keep our wits about us, because if we really want to have this more empowered practice of dating, we need to make sure we’re not getting into a situation where we get in and over our heads physically as well, because we have our urges too.
It sounds so calculated when I say all this. I don’t mean to say that we don’t wanna be excited and overcome with the romantic passion of it. Of course we want that, but that’s why we have to have these strategies in place beforehand. And. Dr. Welch talks about it. Again, I recommend her work highly because she’s got some great scripts.
I’m borrowing for her from her work but when he says something like, well, you know, I was thinking maybe you’d spend this weekend, you could say something like, well, just so we’re clear, I’d like to spend time with you, but spending an entire weekend with someone, that’s kind of something that people do when they’re exclusively dating and we’re not exclusively dating. And we haven’t had that conversation and that’s fine. You may be dating other people. I’m dating other people. You may or may not wanna share all that. But that’s an opportunity to say, that’s a step that couples who are exclusive take and then leave it at that. See what he says.
. If he’s serious about being with you, he will respect you for having a boundary. Men absolutely respect. He will see that as high status and he will want more of you because you are giving him a boundary. Again, it sounds like we’re playing games here, but men are wired to pursue. I don’t wanna say the chase, cuz again, that sounds cliché and it sounds like it’s a game. And Dan and I talk about it.
If I had just been, whatever, here I live in Chicago, within a month I’m trying to like hang out in Indiana’s where he lives and where we live now all the time. No, it was good that he had to drive an hour to have dates with me. It was good that he was busy with his son’s football team coaching. And I was busy with other things. I was in a band. It was good that we had separate lives. We had to schedule. He had to make a plan. A man with a plan is so sexy. Let that man have a plan. Don’t deny him the opportunity to pursue you. He will love to pursue you, but too many women make it too easy.
So I would say, be ready with those conversations. If he just says, oh, come on, tries to twist your arm without saying that he has intentions to be exclusive and serious about you, you have your answer. He’s not serious about you. And then you have to make a decision.
As comfortable as it may have been to hang out with him for six months or a year, you are not getting what you want. If you are marriage-minded and you want exclusivity and commitment, then he is telling you everything you need to know. Or this gives him the opportunity to go, yeah, you know what, we haven’t had that conversation. I think we need to think about that. We need to talk about that. That’s a great opportunity for him. Your boundary provides him with understanding of who you are and it provides him the opportunity to either step up or think about it. If he hasn’t, I hope he would at this point, six months or a year, and then it gives you your answer. There’s no guessing games. You have your clarity now.
[32:48] Damianne President: Yeah. And I think that’s often why people won’t even broach the conversation. Maybe that’s already an indicator that we’d know, or we have some intuition about what the response will be.
[32:57] Karin Anderson Abrell: Also I think, Damianne, I think sometimes they have already cut off their other possibilities. They’re not pursuing other options, which makes them have all these eggs in this one basket, which then again, like I said earlier, heightens the anxiety about it. Cause I wouldn’t even, I’ve never asked a guy, you know, where are we going? What is this relationship? Never once in all my dating. Never. It was because I figured if he hasn’t asked me to be exclusive after, you know, however many months makes sense for you. Like some people, after a couple months, but I also wasn’t putting, I wasn’t turning over my whole heart, my mind, my body. I wasn’t turning everything over to them yet. So I wasn’t coming from that, what are we?
And if I didn’t know, I’m thinking, well, he’ll tell me when he is ready. And until he’s ready, I’m dating other people. I’m going to live my life. I’m busy. I’m a professor. I’ve got papers, grading. I’ve got friends that hang out with. So we remain empowered by remaining very committed to our full lives.
[33:48] Damianne President: Yeah. And the other thing that you mentioned earlier was about values. I think that plays into deciding what your boundaries are and knowing how to show up as an empowered woman or an empowered person. And I guess for men, then it’s kind of stepping up into that role. For women, it’s allowing the man to step into that role and being able to be in a position where you are showing up in a way that does not put you in a position of feeling anxious or fear-based.
Rooting actions in your values
[34:13] Damianne President: Thinking about values is an important part of this dating journey, and those come up in your episodes where you talk about values. I see you’re nodding.
[34:23] Karin Anderson Abrell: Yeah, I love values, you know, because having listened and of course ACT is all rooted in our values. We take committed action. Again, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is Dr. Steven C Hayes’s modality that he created. We take committed action toward our chosen values, which helps us move through the discomfort, which helps us stay strong.
Even though we wanna ask that question, cause I want an answer, my value is to maintain my empowered self-respect. I’m more about self-respect than self-love, even. And that’s something no one wants to talk about right now because there’s so much rhetoric about self-love, but I think self-love can get murky where self-respect, I wanna honor my respect of who I am, my dignity. And I do that by, what’s the Dr. Phil saying that’s so good, we teach people how to treat us.
Let’s maintain self-respect and respect for our dating partner. Those values are so key. And I think that they are not often discussed as much as the self-love stuff, or that you gotta love yourself first before you meet somebody. And yes, that’s all true, but I would say start…
How we really learn other people’s values
[35:32] Karin Anderson Abrell: How do I know if I’m loving myself? One of the ways I know I’m loving myself is by honoring my values, even when it’s hard. But if I don’t know what my values are and people can say, oh, well, honesty, truth, yeah. But let’s play that out. Let’s flush that out. What do we actually mean by that?
Some people say that they value honesty, but they’re fine with a white lie. Or if they were dating someone, and he was talking about how he’d done some kind of shady business deals, but he made a bunch of money, their value for having a lot of toys and things and monetary gain, that value might trump the value of honesty. Maybe shady business dealings aren’t that big a deal as long as the outcome is we can buy another property, another vacation home.
When we better understand which values are core for us and then what we mean by that, what kind of behaviors do we need to see to know that we are honoring our own values and that the person we’re getting to know also honors their values? And that takes, again, some reflection and some intentional effort because it’s easy lip service.
Like we said earlier in this conversation, talk is cheap. And that’s why we take the time for someone to say, well, oh, I value honesty. Of course, I do. And then two months, three months into the relationship, you hear about these shady business dealings or you hear him on the phone?
My husband’s a salesperson. There’s a lot of pejorative thoughts about sales guys. They’re slick and they’re trying to just get the deal no matter what. So I was watching that. I come from a family of educators and psychologists and musicians. My father was a college professor. My mother’s a teacher. I didn’t know much about the business world.
My notion of salespeople was that they could be slick. So I watched Dan when he called a customer and said, yeah, that order will be to you on Tuesday. Did he hang up the phone and then, that’s not ever gonna happen or, well, next Tuesday, not this Tuesday? No, none of that ever, ever. That gave me so much confidence because while I’m watching him interact with his business relationships, I’m realizing, okay, if he’s true with them, that’s a good chance he’s true with me, he’s honest with me. We learn so much by seeing if those values that someone may have told us on dates 2, 3, 4 are actually playing out in their life. They’re behaving in alignment with their values.
[37:51] Damianne President: Yeah, I’ve always remembered this where a friend was about to get married or she was dating a guy. I don’t remember exactly the circumstances, but I remember her saying that he’s not very nice to other people, but he’s very nice to her. And. That meant that it was okay. And I remember thinking, oh, that’s interesting. If I want somebody who’s kind, then is it just kindness to me? And then I had to kind of face that situation where I was dating a guy that was very kind and very kind to everybody. But that also sometimes meant that I would be last because he needed to be kind to everybody else. And so it’s interesting having those different situations and thinking through, what does it mean if I say that I want somebody kind. In what situations? How does that play out in our lives?
[38:39] Karin Anderson Abrell: That’s such a good point. And I love that example you provide, because it really is an example of that strength and weakness. So someone who’s so kind to everyone and you admire that and you love that about him, but we need to see also as you move closer and closer. Now once you’re dating exclusive, it’s trying to see, are we the fit that can go the distance, then you wanna see kindness.
You wanna see a bit of hierarchy. Kind to everyone, but also, you as the girlfriend should now be moving up in the hierarchy. Maybe not the first six months, even maybe he’s gonna have this still gonna be more time for his family and friends. But once you’re exclusive, pretty quickly you should start seeing yourself move up the totem pole of hierarchy, because now we’re looking is this dating. And once we’re exclusive, this is preparation for whether we’re gonna make it in marriage, whether we’re gonna go to the distance. And if you’re not seeing that priority, that would be now, shoot, that value is a really beautiful thing, but the way that he lives out that kindness value isn’t gonna fit for me and for us in partnership.
How to figure out your values
[39:42] Damianne President: Do you have any recommendations for people to work through their values or think through what might be important in any relationship that they have?
[39:52] Karin Anderson Abrell: Oh yeah, any relationship. Every time we’re in conflict with someone, period, it’s about values in conflict. All conflict is values in conflict. So yeah, when you understand why you and your best friend are going at each other about about this, that, or the other, or why you and a coworker are struggling, it’s always values.
I think for the most part, our values remain constant, but they can ebb and flow a bit. I know you mentioned that you’ve shared some of the links from Dr. Hayes’s website, the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy website. Also, there’s a link where there’s some values clarification worksheets and things that are, I mean, anyone could Google it but there’s some that I like that are really a nice little kind of just a three, four page little packet of how do I figure out what my values are. Do I rank order them.
Sometimes our own internal distress can be values in conflict. So, for example, when I was struggling as being engaged, the wrong person, my value of, wow, I do want partnership. I want a husband. I want a family, that value of that desire was in conflict with the authenticity piece that I mentioned earlier.
And people, when we’re struggling, we’re pulled in different directions. It’s very helpful to know, well, what value is pulling me in this direction? What value is pulling me in this direction? And then, if we have some sort of hierarchy in place for our own value set, it can help us kind of tip the scale into which side we should go in terms of how we should move forward.
And sometimes one value, even though it’s a good value, it won’t be able to be expressed because sometimes we have to pick side, we have to pick a direction. I pulled some up the other day and I’m gonna work through it myself because I thought I ‘m kind of in one of those spaces where I sense my own movement forward. I’m not sure a hundred percent where to move in certain directions of my life, with my podcast, with my career, with my business, with my brand. And I thought, you know, it’s time to get back to those values. And so those exercises are always available for us to help us sort through our current situation. But again, like you said, it generalizes to career, to relationships, family relationships, and conflict, and certainly with romance.
[41:56] Damianne President: Wonderful. As our time is winding down, I want to ask, do you have a call to action for listeners. Do you have an invitation or a challenge that you would like listeners to do?
[42:07] Karin Anderson Abrell: Yeah. So I would say the challenge for someone who is kind of in this space would be to go ahead and like I said, I’ll provide that link for the packet that I’m getting ready to move through. And then certainly, I mean, I’m not even trying to self-promote so much, but for anyone who is on the dating scene, and thank you for mentioning it earlier, my Empowered Dating Playbook is not that long, but it’s just a little workbook that will really help you if you are feeling that, goodness, I get stuck in these anxiety-ridden relationships. I’m having a hard time pacing myself. I hear what Karin’s saying and I think, oh, I’m probably getting ahead of myself in these relationships. Really, just download that playbook. It’s free, and it will give you a tool to help you to concretize the process.
So those would be my two challenges that if you are feeling that you’re out of sorts, whether it’s with relationships in general, career, whatever, then look to some values clarification exercises; they will pay off in spades. And then yeah, if you’re specifically struggling with dating, I would challenge you to check out my Empowered Dating Playbook.
[43:12] Damianne President: And it’s 12 pages.
[43:14] Karin Anderson Abrell: Thank you.
[43:15] Damianne President: 13 pages, but the last page is about your book. It’s a worksheet as well as information for readers. So there’s lots of great information in there. And many of the resources that you’ve mentioned in this podcast as well. People can listen to Love and Life. And I want to thank you, Dr. Karin, because I have shared your podcast with many people and said, oh, I like this one because it’s a balance view on dating. It doesn’t create this stress and this fear or this urgency around dating, which many other podcasts tend to do. So I really appreciate Love and Life. Thank you for that.
Your Instagram is at Dr. Karin. And your book is Single is the New Black Don’t Wear White till it’s Right. So there are lots of resources where people can go and connect with you and learn a bit more about your work.
Is there anything else that you want to make sure listeners know or hear before we end?
[44:13] Karin Anderson Abrell: Oh, I just wanna thank you. Damianne it. You don’t even know how much it means to me that you have listened, have shared my work. As you know, as a podcaster, sometimes it’s just our laptop and our microphone and we’re like, is anyone hearing me? I do wanna let listeners know we had a family reunion on Dan’s side at the end of June and I took a break from Instagram.
I had a lot of house guests this summer so I wanted to do what the research shows is that stepping away, taking those social media fast can be really restorative. And so I’ve been doing that. So if they hop on my Instagram, they’re like this lady’s not active, I actually usually am quite active, but I did take a fast and again, I try to practice what I preach.
And so I do talk about on my podcast how there’s research that shows that the amount of time we spend in front of screens is related to depression and anxiety. The communication that we are able to encounter on social media can be a beautiful thing in the sense that, you know, we’ve met each other through technology and podcasts, and Instagram. But we also have to be real careful because there can be a pseudo intimacy that’s built. So I wanna take some time to reflect and practice what I preach, like I said, so if anyone hops on my page, there’s a lot of resources there and I hope they’ll be helpful, but I’m coming back.