Once John (not his real name) found his match, he gave up working on himself. It showed up in forgetting to send in his prep form, texting last minute to cancel our calls and, altogether, giving off the vibe that the coaching process had lost its usefulness.
In the 10+ years of coaching men and women in matters of relationship success, I recognized this pattern immediately.
Meet Bluma Zeigarnik. In 1922, Bluma Zeigarnik watched waiters handle large, complicated orders without ever writing them down. It blew her mind. She interviewed the waiters and discovered that once an order was delivered to a customer, it was forgotten. Her observations lead to the famous Zeigarnik Effect: humans have a better ability to recall unfinished events than completed ones.
Incomplete tasks create a kind of psychological tension and use cognitive energy, which makes us feel uncomfortable. It’s a bit like how your computer is slower if you’ve got too many programs running at once.
It probably explains why you perseverate about a TV show when it ends on a cliffhanger or when you don’t get to hear the end of the story.
So, what does the Zeigarnik effect have to do with the third key to Love?
Glad you asked.
When John initially sought out coaching, he was very focused on finding a long-term partner. As a divorced man in his 50’s reemerging on the dating scene following a long hiatus, he found the rules (and technology) of the dating game had changed.
By the time we met, he had dated many women, tried the online route, but all efforts had proven unsuccessful and much more complicated than he’d expected.
It created tension and made him feel self-conscious, anxious, out of practice, drained even as he longed to be in a long-term relationship.
For him, partnership was a task, unfinished.
He could not get it out of his mind.
A single question drove him:
“How do I get a woman now?”
When he entered his Love by Design Mentorship program the very first thing we set off to do was to change his exclusively outer-focused approach and fully engage in the first stage of relationship growth: Readiness.
After a couple of months, he found what he’d been longing for and placed all of his focus and attention on that.
And what of his relationship coaching growth and work?
He no longer saw the relevance of working on himself. The task was complete.
Once coupled, it is human nature to “forget” the suffering that lead them to coaching work in the first place.
It’s key to stay connected to it WHILE you are cultivating this budding relationship because over time your real shit is going to come up.
Bumps will come. It’s inevitable and when it does it makes it doubly hard to do the repair work needed to navigate the ebbs and flows with grace. Not continuing allows for disruption in the relationship to continue on without any resolution. Neither member of the relationship is sure what the other one is thinking. “Does she really think I don’t care about ____?” “Is he going to always disrespect me?” Without support and practical skillset resolution, partners create their own story about the other. This leaves each person in a kind of uncertain limbo state.
This limbo state can, left unattended, doom the relationship to fail. Once again, the individuals will find themselves in a familiar experience of tension brought about by unresolved relational events.
It is why, as part of the Love by Design Mentorship program, we cover the 3 stages of Relationship Success. This includes the last and most important stage of “Ongoing Growth.” Once a client is consciously coupled, the game of long-term success is afoot. Learning to manage yourself in relationship dynamics is a consistent and ongoing growth process. It means navigating the cycles of connection, a break in connection and repair. What’s crucial is that you learn to disrupt unhelpful patterns of thought and behavior in real time. With practice, over time, you’ll experience a new way to be in relationship.
With a solid foundation beneath you and the capacity to handle conflict while remaining connected to your partner, our coaching work is complete and you are now free to ride off into the proverbial sunset to live “happily.”
Consciously creating your Love by Design means you have to be willing to be in it all the way. You have to be willing to grow as your relationship does.
I’ll be sharing more about some of the practicalities of navigating relationships so you experience ongoing growth in the next few week So come on back. .
If you are drawn to this material, but still needing to know more about how I work, great! Join me December 2nd for a virtual 90 minute workshop on the Power of No. Click here to register now. You’ll be glad you did.
In the meantime a reminder to choose love, always.
See you next week,