By Miranda Gathercole and Sarah Casimong
Finding a soulmate can be tough.
When the club and bar scenes aren’t cutting it and Mr. Right hasn’t managed to pop up in everyday life, some, including university students, are turning to the internet for dating. In fact, last year the Boston Globe reported the use of online dating among college-age students is rising.
Emmeli Rosenberg Lassesen, 25, had a difficult time finding the right guy. She found that looking at options online allowed her to narrow the field down a good match.
“I’m tall, so I think for me that was one of the things that’s hard to find when [I] meet people, ’cause I like taller guys,” said Rosenberg Lassesen.
“I’m just slightly under six feet. So you know if you go out to the club with your girlfriends and you’ve got your high heels on and you’re 6’3, 6’4, you kind of don’t get approached by many guys.”
For four years she experimented with profiles at different on-line sites, including eHarmony and Lavalife. In the end, she found PlentyofFish to be the best option because of a variety of people and free profiles. (Lavalife and eHarmony offer some tools for free but require subscriptions that have a base rate of around $15 to $20 a month.)
“There really actually isn’t a difference [between free and paid sites],” said Rosenberg Lassesen. “Some people think that there would be a difference, because if someone was paying for the site, they’re more looking for something, but the quality of people between a free site and a paid site was the exact same. There was no difference at all, which I found out after spending the money.”
PlentyofFish.com is a free online dating engine, based in Vancouver, that matches couples based on their written descriptions of goals and aspirations, what makes them unique and their taste in music. The site boasts, “Over 32,000 couples have sent in a testimonial telling us how PlentyofFish helped them find their soulmate.”
Four months ago, Rosenberg Lassesen found success on the site when she met her boyfriend, Adam Gill.
“He messaged me first. I’ve done the online dating thing for a while and I’ve always just had a policy that if a guy likes me he’s gonna message me. I’m kind of old-fashioned,” she said.
“The big thing for me is I wouldn’t add someone on Facebook until I talked to them on MSN for long enough that I felt I had a good gauge of who they were. If you add someone on Facebook, they have your last name so there’s a safety issue with that.
“I actually wouldn’t give out my number very easily to people. I would sort of leave it. I’d actually talk to them for a couple of weeks on MSN and if we were going to meet up I’d [suggest] somewhere public. Even if they offered to pick me up, I’d always say ‘I’ll meet you there.’ It’s common sense that you have to use for safety. If you don’t use your common sense, what do you expect?”
by Meagan Gill and Amanda Punshon
Boundaries make everything better — especially when it comes to relationships. Obsessive relationships are characterized by a lack of respect for healthy boundaries in one or both partners’ lives, according to Robyn Rushford, a Kwantlen counsellor, and Rob Hadley, a hypnotherapist with Vancouver Hypnotherapy.
Rushford explains obsessive relationships as being “like an addiction. So when we think in terms of addiction language, does the addiction have control over you? Are you doing things in your life because of the addiction that you would not normally be doing? So one of the questions you would want to ask is, is the relationship good for you or bad for you?”
These relationships often fall into one of two categories: where only one of the partners is addicted, or where both partners are.
When one partner is addicted:
When we think of obsessive relationships, we often think of stereotypes from the movies: stalkers, controlling husbands or nerds who are convinced the most popular girl in school is in love with them.
According to Rushford, it’s true that addictive relationships aren’t always relationships in the conventional sense. Sometimes they are relationships that have ended, and sometimes they never even began. But it’s not unheard of for one partner in a functioning relationship to become obsessed, as in the case of the controlling husband.
Rob Hadley, a hypnotherapist with Vancouver Hypnotherapy, says that social media has made it even easier for people to feed their relationship addictions. “Someone who is very obsessed with a partner, or an ex-partner, they can suck up hours and hours of their time and we’ll be asked, ‘How do I get over this?’”
“Often people in your life will comment that they see things in the relationship that don’t seem to be healthy for a person,” Rushford says. “So that could be spending an awful lot of time fantasizing, thinking about the relationship, pursuing a person. And I think now, with social media, that we see that quite frequently. It could be using Facebook in a way, almost like stalking kind of behaviour. Of texting people persistently, calling people.”
Social media stalking can also be translated into the real world. Rushford says it’s not uncommon for addicted people to engage in behaviour such as “following people, of planning their life around somebody to the degree that could include maybe picking your courses because you know that person is going to be in the courses. Planning your route based on what that person’s schedule is going to be like. So that person becomes the focus of everything in your life.”
Being the target of an obsession, especially if you’re in a relationship with the person, can have negative effects. Hadley says that the loss of self-esteem is common in people who have been the subject of an obsession.
To combat that, Rushford says the most important thing you can do is establish clear boundaries: maintain your own circle of friends; do things on your own; emphasize the importance of your needs.
“I think that would be a really challenging relationship to have,” she says. “And I don’t know how well they work out.”
When both partners are addicted:
Sometimes it’s not just one partner who is addicted. At the beginning of a relationship, Rushford says, it’s natural for the couple to become infatuated with each other to the exclusion of the rest of the world. It’s all about the degree of the infatuation — how long has it lasted? are grades or jobs or family responsibilities suffering?
Usually, she says, the couple will rejoin the world eventually. But if they don’t, you’re left with two people who are okay with their relationship, even if it’s “not necessarily healthy. Not all relationships are healthy.”
If you’re not okay with the intensity of your relationship, Rushford says the first thing you should do is take time to re-evaluate your goals and your life. If school is your priority and you’re not able to focus on it, you might need to step back from the relationship.
On the other hand, if you have a friend or a family member who’s in a relationship like that, it’s important to give them space, she says. All you can do is “be there for your friend, to say, ‘Hey, I care about you.’ And to have your own boundaries as well…What’s okay with you? Is it okay that your friend disappears for four months and then knocks on your door one day? I don’t know what the answer to that is. It would be all about what works for you.”
“In an ideal world, I guess you’d hope to be able to maintain some kind of a relationship but respect that there’s a change that’s happened. You might not have as high a place in their life now but, ideally, too, if you can make time for your friends, you’re going to be better off.”
In either situation:
In both Hadley and Rushford’s view, becoming addicted to a relationship and being attracted to addictive personalities come from the same place.
For Hadley, people “learn our relationship behaviours often from our parents. If you look at someone who’s had a bit of trouble in relationships, when you look at how his or her parents manage their relationships, often what you will find is that they’ve had some trouble managing relationships as well.”
He views early childhood as the formative time in a person’s life. If something traumatic happened to a child, it will affect adult relationships.
Hadley also says that trust is paramount in relationships. “What it comes down to is how much one partner trusts the other to just do their own thing and to be where they say they’re gonna be,” he says. “So if you’re looking at early signs that it may not be going right, look at the levels of trust.”
Rushford takes a different view. She works from an attachment theory base, which means that she feels “that obsessiveness in relationships is often about the anxiety of being rejected or of being abandoned, and it becomes so rooted in your experience that you do everything to maintain this attachment.”
Both the addicted person and their partner may have this anxiety, and wounded people are often drawn to wounded people.
“It’s about filling a void that is in yourself, and I think at the end of the day, that’s probably what we need to focus on,” she says. “What is that void, that place you feel the relationship is going to fill in you? And often, I think it is an attachment wound, something that didn’t go well in your development with the attachment figures in your life. Abandonment, rejection, those kind of things.”
What to do:
If you find yourself in an addictive relationship, there are a few easy ways to break its grip on your life.
First, be willing to talk about it. Rushford says that “when you can bring something out in the open, when you can start to talk about it that’s the very beginning of something losing its power.”
Second, make your lifestyle as healthy as possible. Both Rushford and Hadley say that when your lifestyle is balanced and healthy, it makes it easier for you to cope with the stresses in your life. “We will get them exercising, improve their diet, get them sleeping better, give them some general anxiety tools, so they’re not weakened by the experience of the relationship. So they are in their best shape to deal with the post-relationship landscape,” says Hadley.
Vancouver Hypnotherapy uses a three-aspect approach to assess a person’s risk factors: how stable is their work/security situation? What do their home, family and relationships look like? How do they look after themselves emotionally and physically? If the relationship is healthy, all of those factors will be in balance, Hadley says.
Rushford uses different language, but she says basically the same thing: balance is important. When one part of your life falls out of orbit, it makes it harder to keep the rest on track. Also important, she says, is building a tolerance to the anxiety associated with your addiction. Saying no gets easier every time.
Third, seek help. Psychotherapy and hypnotherapy take different approaches to dealing with addictive relationships. It’s up to you to decide which best fits your situation.
The main difference between hypnotherapy and psychotherapy is that, in psychotherapy, a counsellor will discuss your issues with you, attempt to find their source and help you fix them. But they won’t push you in a specific direction. In hypnotherapy, on the other hand, the therapist will discuss your issues, but they will also tell you to end the relationship if it continues to be unhealthy. It’s important to note that in both approaches, the therapy will be conducted differently by each individual therapist.
Kwantlen Counselling has two leaflets that might be helpful. One’s called Addictive Relationships, the other Committed Relationships and School.
Also available in the counselling office or at your local library are these books:
- Obsessive Love: When it hurts too much to let go by Susan Forward, PhD, and Craig Buck.
- Boundaries and relationships: knowing, protecting and enjoying the self by Charles K. Whitfield, M.D.
- Loving him without losing you: how to stop disappearing and start being yourself by Beverly Engel.