If a relationship ended recently or several years ago, you might be nervous about dipping your feet in the dating pool. You might worry that you’ll never find love again. Maybe you’ve even assumed that you’re just unlucky when it comes to love. In this episode we discuss loneliness, online dating tips, and breaking old patterns so that you CAN find love again - especially with yourself.
40 min Discovery Call
Fiona Eckersley's Website
Too Scared To Love Again book
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[00:00] Debra Jones: Welcome to Own the Gray, a podcast to dispel the notion that aging is undesirable and setting new positive attitudes. I'm Debra Jones, and I believe you can be vibrant and healthy throughout the best years of your life. Fiona Eckersley is a confidence coach, author, speaker, and a divorce recovery expert, and she helps people whose relationships have ended and who are still focused on the past and fearful of the future. And she guides them to a state of confidence and control over their life. So her most recent book, Too Scared to Love Again, is full of advice and resources to navigate those sometimes shark infested waters of dating later on in life. So welcome to Own the Gray, Fiona.
[01:01] Fiona Eckersley: Thank you. Thank you for having me. I'm really excited to be here, and hopefully I can pass on some information that's going to be helpful to somebody out there.
[01:08] Debra Jones: Well, I think you've already done that with the book that you've written. So I actually read your book to prepare for our conversation today, and I also reached out to my listeners to find out what they wanted to know. So I do have some questions that I'll be asking you, but just to start, tell us why you wrote the book.
[01:29] Fiona Eckersley: Well, I've been working with women primarily after divorce for a while, and I was doing one on one. I was getting to one person at a time, but I was talking to lots and lots of other people. I mean, not just people that were clients, but, like, just people socially friends. And it seemed to me that this was something that was a bigger problem. I couldn't work with everybody, so I wanted to put it in a book. I wanted to get it out there. I wanted it more accessible so that I know there was a lot of need for people looking for information, and I thought that was a good way to get it out.
[02:03] Debra Jones: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That's why I wrote my book, too. It's just you want to be able to reach so many people because what you have to say is really useful information. If they can't find you, then they can't be helped by it. So midlife dating or dating after 40 or whatever you want to term it is, for a lot of people, really a scary thought. And I was talking to some of my clients about what their feelings are about it, and a lot of focus is on the trust issue, not necessarily how to trust someone, but how to trust themselves, because in their mind, their ability to pick a partner is compromised because they feel that they've picked the wrong partner. So can I trust myself to pick another partner again?
[02:59] Fiona Eckersley: Well, again, exactly, and that's the title of my book, Too Scared to Love Again. That's the whole premise. Right. And I think that maybe they're right in a way, and so what I recommend to people is that you don't actually jump right into dating again, because I know that everybody tells you the minute that you're split up from someone, they're like, I just find somebody else. You'll be great. But what you find is you're just repeating those patterns. The more you repeat the patterns, you find that second person again, who's like the old one, and it spirals down, and you're like, oh, now I really can't trust myself. So what I would recommend is that before you go out there and look for somebody else to be your partner or basically complete you, you need to complete yourself. Right. It's not about being somebody else's better half. It's about being your whole self. So once you can get to the place where you understand what it is that's special about you and what it is that you've had happen to you in the past, and how did you get to that place and what would you prefer instead? And you really believe in your own judgment that's when you can start dating again, and then you spot those people all of a sudden and you're like, oh, wait, no, that didn't work for me last time. I'm not going to go there. What are my boundaries around this issue?
[04:17] Debra Jones: Yeah, I think as you were talking, the fact that we feel like we've been burned, right? This didn't work out. I mean, it could have been a really awful breakup, and you could still be paying the price for it. And so there's that rawness or that vulnerability state that I think a lot of people, especially the women that I've spoken to, find themselves in. And I think it takes either help by somebody else to coach them, such as the work that you're doing, but if they haven't reached out for somebody like that to kind of guide them through, what do you think the first few steps might be to start to piece themselves back together again?
[05:03] Fiona Eckersley: I think something really important. I have three main things that I flog to death, right. And people are like, again, she's saying this again. There's three things. There's forgiveness, right? And it's not just letting somebody off the hook. You're not letting the other person off the hook. And it's really about forgiving yourself. Like, it's okay that this happened. It wasn't anybody's fault. This stuff happens. Even if you were the one that caused it or somebody else caused it to, you always go like, oh, how did I not see that? Maybe I should have done something different. No, this is life. You're going to let that go. You're going to forgive yourself. The second thing is you're going to be grateful for what you do have now, right. Looking around you silly little things like, oh, I'm really happy that I've still got my dog, and I get to snuggle with my dog every day. Or I love this blanket that keeps me warm at night. It doesn't have to be massive things like, I have a fabulous job. It could be anything. And the third thing is that you need to sit down and really, truly understand what your past relationship was like, not what you wish it had been like, because I think what we tend to do is focus on all the good stuff, and we forget that there's a reason that you're not together anymore, right. And you sort of look at it through rose colored glasses, right, and you forget the bad stuff. So think about it. Take a step back and think about the real, actual facts of what happened in this relationship that you didn't like, because there has to be something that you didn't like. What made you feel uncomfortable? What made you feel discouraged? What made you feel that maybe you were not quite as good as somebody else? And then when you've got all that down, think, well, how would I rather feel? And you can start to make a list of, like, what is it that I actually want out of a relationship? Do I want an equal partnership? Do I want to feel like my ideas are considered? Do I want to feel like the person that is with me, cherishes me and values what I have to say? From there, you can sort of move forward because you've got your list of it's not the list of, hey, I want somebody told I can handsome or a bomb trader. That's actually not the most important thing.
[07:27] Debra Jones: Yeah. That kind of leads me to a question about these days types of relationships. There's a lot of different variations of relationships. What I mean that is you're not necessarily looking for somebody to get married to as maybe we were when we were younger, or the biological clock is ticking, and so we've got to settle down with someone. So later on in life, when we don't have those concerns or these goals for ourself, what we're looking for is maybe some company or somebody that we can evolve with and share our lives with. So the types of relationships and I've been hearing this from even some of my younger clients is it's not necessarily the way I thought relationships would be when I was growing up, where, as I said, just what I have explained to you. So what kinds of relationships are quite common these days?
[08:27] Fiona Eckersley: I think, well, number one, I would say whatever relationship you're going to choose, you need to decide which one it is you want, and you need to be comfortable with that. Right. So, for example, you might say, oh, I'm all right just casual dating. I just want to go out and have fun. I've been married for a long time, or I've been in a relationship for a long time. Let me just go out and have a good time. I'll go out with somebody on a Tuesday, and I'll find somebody else to go out with on a Saturday. If you're able to do that right, that's great, but as long as you're being truthful with yourself, because sometimes people say that, and then when it doesn't turn into a relationship, they get offended or they get upset or they feel bad about themselves. So you need to make sure that what you're saying you want is what you really want. So, yeah, there's a casual relationship, and it makes you feel good. You're going out, you're having a good time. I know that after I mean, when I got married, I was 22. I hadn't really been on a date. I was in high school, I was in college, and then I actually lived in West Africa for a couple of years. So when I met my former husband, I was in West Africa. We didn't go on a date like, we met in the village that we lived in. Do you know what I mean? And he's American. He's not African, but he was in the Peace Corps. So when it came to be 45, and I was like, going out, I was like, well, what do I want to do? I want to go out and have a good time, because I've never gone out and dated. So there's that, right? You might want to do that. There's the friends with benefits, I guess, is the type of thing where, again, you have someone that you really like and you really respect and you think they're a wonderful person, but you know them so well that you don't want to live with them. You don't want to go forward. You don't want to be with that person forever, but maybe you have a high sex drive or maybe just a regular one, and you're like, I'm just going to have a good time with this person, and there's no jealousy involved. Everything's great. So there's that type of thing. Some people don't want to date at all, which is totally fine. I mean, I have a whole chapter in my book, being, like, happy, being single, because it's good to be happy with yourself, right? And so some people just want to go out with their friends, and they don't want to have a relationship of any kind at all.
[10:36] Debra Jones: That was one of the questions to my question about what question shall I ask you? And it is, Why do you want to love again? And I thought, well, that's an odd question. And then I started thinking about it more, and it's like, well, that might not be what you want for yourself.
[10:52] Fiona Eckersley: Not everybody does. I mean, we are all unique human beings with a unique set of circumstances and everything we've been through, right? And it's not that you're deciding that you don't want a relationship because you're bitter and angry. It's because you're like, I am really happy and comfortable being by myself. And what I find is getting older is that the longer I wasn't in a relationship and the older I got, I'm like, it's kind of nice to come home and do my own thing. And I decorated my place the way I wanted it, and I have my little doggie and I was like, I'm 100 years old, right. And I see my kids when I see them because they're older, and I get to decide when I go on vacation and what I do and what I have for dinner tonight. And I've chosen to move on from that now. But some people really like it and they're comfortable with it, and if they don't want to change that, why should they?
[11:44] Debra Jones: Yeah. There's one point at that that I have heard being spoken about a lot, and that is loneliness. So some people will think that I need a partner because I feel so lonely. Do you have any tips or advice on how to get through or over or what is that about?
[12:04] Fiona Eckersley: Yeah, I think that loneliness is one of the hardest things, and the last few years that we've been through has just exacerbated that. But I think being lonely, it's hard, but it's kind of a state of mind, because if you are comfortable with yourself and you are able to entertain yourself the wrong word. If you have hobbies, if you have things that you love to do, you can just get through the day and you get to the end of the day and you're like, oh, actually, that was a wonderful day. Right. Again, the gratitude part comes into it. Like, I'm grateful that I'm able to do these things. And you can reach out to a friend. Everybody has at least one or two friends. I mean, I don't think you have to have, like, enormous circle of friends to be happy. Reach out to a friend or go for a cup of coffee or just call them on the phone for a little while. I think there are ways that you can do if you want to talk to another human being, but being lonely is all about needing somebody else to help you feel comfortable and better about yourself, in a way.
[13:05] Debra Jones: Yeah. And so what you're saying, and you started saying at the beginning, is to bring yourself into wholeness, so you're not looking for somebody to complete you.
[13:14] Fiona Eckersley: Exactly.
[13:15] Debra Jones: I mean, that is a great line in the movie.
[13:19] Fiona Eckersley: I'm not saying it's easy, right. I'm sure people are out there listening going like, oh, right, yeah, sure. It's not easy. It's not. And there are times when you're going to sit there and go like, oh, I want to go to the movies, but I really don't want to go on my own. Right. Or, I've been stuck in my house for two days and I haven't talked to anybody. You have to make the effort. You're the one nobody's going to come rescue you. That's part of what you have to learn you don't need to be rescued. You're completely capable of rescuing yourself. Every single person is capable of rescuing themselves. If you want to go out, get up and go out, go to the movies on your own. You might want to go walk around the mall or even just to get out and feel a sense of being with other people. And if you want to talk to someone, you have to reach out if you really want to make new friends, because that's really hard as an adult and you lose a lot when you get divorced. Think about what your favorite hobby might be like.
[14:14] Fiona Eckersley: I don't know. Maybe you like painting. You want to find out how to do watercolors. Maybe you want to go hiking. Maybe you want to go to a gym and just do it. And you have to be the one to try and engage other people who are there because those are the people that share the interest that you have. And they'd be great people to hang out with.
[14:33] Debra Jones: Yeah, that's a good tip. So just shifting focus a little bit onto some of these questions that came up. And one of the questions was about how to overcome the distrust when they've been lied to in the past and been hurt in the past. And it's easier to not get involved so that you don't get hurt. But there's an urge to want to share your life with someone. So what kinds of things can you share with us that can help us get beyond that distrust?
[15:08] Fiona Eckersley: Yeah, and it's hard. It is because you tend to get and then you talk with your friends and it just sort of compounds your own feelings about it because they've been through the same stuff that my friends anyway. And it's like that you get to this point of like, well, all men are scum, so what's the point? Or all women are. So it's really about the people that you've met that have treated you this way. Of course it's not your fault, right? I'm not blaming the victim. But you met them and you allowed them into your life, and you didn't have the boundaries to realize that this is the way that you were going to be treated. And everybody is not like that. So what you have to do before you go looking for a new relationship is get yourself to the point where you can break the pattern of meeting these people. I always say it's like an imperfect. So when you meet someone, it's kind of like a jigsaw and a jigsaw puzzle that fits together. And when you're meeting these people over and over again, it's an imperfect jigsaw. You fit great together. But that's because all the stuff that's going on with you fits with all the stuff that's going on with that. You're allowing yourself to be controlled or not abused physically, but abused. And they like to do that. And it fits great. So you have to break that pattern so you can say, what is it about me that is ending up with these people that would lie to me? What am I missing? So if you can sit back and say, I'm too good for that, my self worth is not going to allow myself to put up with that behavior the second it starts, because it starts early. And what happens is if you allow it, it builds up and it gets worse. And then you allow it a little bit more and it gets worse, and you start making excuses and then it gets worse and worse. So if you can cut it off dead, the minute it starts, you're like, okay, this person is not for me, you move on to the next one, and eventually you realize that there are people out there who are not going to treat you that way, and you begin to be able to recognize those people.
[17:10] Debra Jones: One of the other questions was about opening your heart. The meaning of the question is that because you've been hurt, you're closed off. And to be able and to your point, you are a certain puzzle piece shape, and that involves you having a closed heart. And so you need to change your puzzle piece shape and have the open heart. But then there's that vulnerability factor as well. So the question really was, do you have any strategies for opening your heart?
[17:42] Fiona Eckersley: Yeah, I think that you have to go into it with a sense of change your mindset. So instead of if you're going into it thinking that this could happen to me again or I'm going to meet somebody and I'm going to go out with them for another ten years and this is going to happen, it's going to be very difficult. So instead, change it and say, you know what, I'm going into this with a sense of adventure. This is going to be for fun. I'm not expecting lower my expectation. I'm not expecting that this is going to be a fabulous relationship. I'm expecting that I'm going to meet interesting people, it's going to be fun. If they don't work out, that's fine, we move on to the next one. Just go into it with an open mind and that will help to open your heart. You don't have to be vulnerable straight away. You can just go in there and dip your toe in the water and see how it feels. And the more that you realize that you're in control of how your relationship goes, the more you're going to be able to say, you know what, I'm not so vulnerable anymore. I'm able to choose the people I want to go out with. And I think that helps for me. That's how I sort of went about it and being able to say, you know, I'm going to give this a go, and if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. It's crazy. I always tell people when you go into online dating, it sounds insane for me to say to you, do not take it personally because it is a very personal thing. But you cannot take anything personally because honestly, if it doesn't work out or if they say something that's unkind or if they do something you don't like, it's not even about you, it's about them. It's their issue that's causing it to happen. So if you can just keep that up and go like, okay, well that was because that didn't work. So that's fine. I'm not upset. I'm still a fantastic person. I'm still this woman who can do all of these things because you're going to make your list of all your bada*s lists, right, and you move on. So it's not as a rejection. You don't see it as a rejection. And that doesn't keep closing you up, it helps you open up. Does that make sense?
[19:58] Debra Jones: It does. And so the idea of online dating we talked about earlier, you were saying about if you like to do watercolor painting and then you go to a class and you might meet someone with the same likes as you. But if you're not going into a class, how else do you meet someone else? And these days it's online. But are there some top level tips that you can give us of the things that you've discovered about online dating that can help somebody navigate those waters or at least even build the confidence to actually go ahead and do that?
[20:37] Fiona Eckersley: Yeah, well, the first one is like I said, it's a go in with a sense of adventure. Don't go in thinking that you are going to meet the love of your life the first 2 hours that you're on the dating site because you're probably not going to. And there are people out there that some of them are people you're not going to want to meet. And you have to have your wits about you, as it were. I said you should learn to be vulnerable and trust, but not you have to be very careful on online dating. There are certain things that you can look out for. Anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. That's it. Trust yourself.
[21:14] Debra Jones: It’s a red flag, right?
[21:16] Fiona Eckersley: Yes, red flag. Talk about do not say like, oh, I'm sure it's fine. I'm sure he didn't mean that. Anybody without a photograph? No, because there's a reason. It's probably not because they don't well, even if they don't feel good about the way they look, well, they don't feel good about themselves. So you don't want to go out with somebody who doesn't feel good about themselves. Right. Or they could be married or they could be a complete somebody sitting in a basement in Nigeria or something. You don't know anybody that remotely asks you for money. Anybody that says I'd love to, after you've had a few back and forth on the app anybody that says, oh, I couldn't possibly meet you, or if for some reason you're okay with long distance, oh, I can't FaceTime you, or I can't zoom call you because my phone's broken or my camera is broken. No, if they're not willing to see you, to see face to face, there's something going on there, and you cannot trust them. Those would be like, major red flags that I would put up immediately. What I found. I get a lot of from Instagram. Yeah. Anybody coming out at you on Instagram or Facebook or something like that, I wouldn't necessarily trust that either. You find there's a lot of people who have the first and last name exactly the same, and they're doctors or they're surgeons and they're in the army. There's a lot of those, and I haven't found one that's real yet. So that type of thing I read.
[22:39] Debra Jones: In your book I think it was in your book to ask them if they're married simply because you said half are, and they only reveal it when you ask them the question.
[22:50] Fiona Eckersley: Yes. So you put your status or whatever some of them don't put status on, or they'll put divorced. And then this happened to me. And you speak to them, and he goes, Well, I'm in the middle of the divorce. Well, okay, maybe that would have been okay, but you lied outright. If you're going to lie in the profile, what are you looking for here? So that's my take on it.
[23:17] Debra Jones: Yeah. I also read about expressing your true self, so I guess there's a fine line between being vulnerable, say, on your profile, or you need to be honest with who you are and what you want. I guess that goes back to don't date right away until you know what that is.
[23:38] Fiona Eckersley: Exactly, yeah. So if you put casual and you think you want to get married, you're not going to trap this person who's also saying casual into, like, oh, well, when he meets me, we'll be fine. That doesn't work that way. Maybe you never know, but probably not. Be honest. Don't say you have to give a descript. Don't say you're five foot nine and slim build if you're five five and, like, average. I put average because don't use photographs that are ten years old. Don't put the different age. So many people do that. But the thing is, it's really off putting because your goal is to meet this person and have a relationship. So why are you lying straight off? You might as well be real, because if they don't want somebody who's 58 and you say you're 40, so they're not going to want to go out with you. So why are you doing that? You want to meet people that actually want to go out with the real you. Don't say, like, oh, I love skiing and I play golf and I go sailing if you actually like to sit at home and read a book because you're going to meet somebody who wants to play golf and go skiing and go sailing. Well, if you don't want to do that, don't you want to meet somebody who likes to sit home and read a book with you? That's what you want to do. Don't try and make yourself more exciting because you're exciting enough to start with.
[25:03] Debra Jones: That's good advice. And so what is the reason that you wrote the book?
[25:08] Fiona Eckersley: Yes. So the book is a little bit I'm giving it away now. It's a little bit of a bait and switch because it says about dating. But the real premise for most of the book, until the last chapter helps you out is what to do before you start dating. You shouldn't start dating until you've done all these things right, until you've got yourself together. And I would say the biggest message from the book is, don't start dating until you're ready. But it's really about you need to get your self worth to a place where when you're dating, you're not just looking for somebody. Like I said, to complete you. You need to be complete yourself and you need to be able to know your boundaries and you need to be able to this sounds awful, but if you're going to dating with an air of desperation, you're going to end up with those guys that you don't want because you're going to sort of put up with behavior that you shouldn't. So that's my biggest one, is like, you need to get your self worth to the place where you know that some people do not deserve you and who you want and who does deserve you. And that's kind of the biggest message, I would say.
[26:21] Debra Jones: I love that. So how can my listeners find your book?
[26:26] Fiona Eckersley: Well, they can go to my website, which is www.FionaEckersleyCoaching.com, or they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I can get a copy to them, which would be a digital copy. Or if they want a paperback version, they can actually go on Amazon and they can buy the paperback version from Amazon.
[26:49] Debra Jones: Beautiful. Well, I'll post all of those as links in the show notes so they can easily find it without searching.
[27:00] Fiona Eckersley: I'm happy to give advice. If anybody wants to chat, I will chat for 40 minutes and see how things are going and where they are and where they'd rather be. www.CallFabFiona.as.me.
[27:15] Debra Jones: Thank you for going through what you had to go through so that you could write this book for everybody.
[27:23] Fiona Eckersley: My whole life led up to doing the job that I do now, to be honest.
[27:27] Debra Jones: That's the way it works, isn't it? And I hear you're dating right now.
[27:30] Fiona Eckersley: Yes, a few months. It had been like five years. I've dated on and off, but I hadn't been in a relationship. And, yeah, I'm in one. Right now. We'll see how it goes. Right?
[27:43] Debra Jones: Is it working out so far?
[27:45] Fiona Eckersley: Yes. I feel like I started down in the pit, and every relationship that I have, it's like I'm crawling a little bit further out of the pit. I'm learning things and I'm moving up and further. So I think I'm coming over the edge now. I think this is a good one, so we'll see. I'm quite happy with the way things are going, so yeah, lovely.
[28:05] Debra Jones: Well, good luck in that.
[28:06] Fiona Eckersley: Thank you.
[28:08] Debra Jones: You can now find my podcast, my book, and soon my classes on www.babyboomer.org. The ultimate most trusted source for news, information and community. They've curated all the resources on the things that interest you. Check it out today at www.babyboomer.org.