Does Your Inner Child Need A Chaperone On A First Date?
(Image by kind permission of the artist Angela Holland-Yousaf)
YES they do... and not only for the first date,
but for subsequent dates until you know the shadow side of your 'love
In fact your inner child needs supervision of their choices about who to arrange to go on a date with!
Who is your inner child's chaperone?
You are ...or rather the wise and protective part of your own psyche. That part of you who looks out for you, has your back, and wants things to go well for you.
If you haven't yet accessed this benevolent part of yourself – then it's time you did!
(if this lack of connection is due to chronic childhood abuse or neglect then an experienced appropriately skilled psychotherapist will help you to safely find the more supportive and protective 'adult/parent' part of you. See links below)
There comes a time when we realise that the only person we can ever really rely upon and trust is ourself.
Why is there any need for a chaperone?
To ensure that you remain sober! Alcohol loosens our behavioural inhibitors and causes us to behave emotionally instead of rationally. You need a clear head on a first date!
Your inner child needs your calm rational adult head to guide her beyond the whirlwind of emotions – to be able to be calm and receptive, yet enquiring without interrogation or pressure. To show yourself as an interesting individual with your own interests, friends and dreams.
Your chaperone will enable you to ask the questions that establish basic compatibility, and to find out if you both want the same things and are on a similar path. The hope being that this will save you the time and heartache of another failed relationship.
Your inner child might otherwise settle for someone just because they show an interest in you. They might not be a suitable or compatible partner after the early frisson fades away.
Maybe you've been a daddy's girl, or mummy's boy, and that special bond has been a hard act to follow. Your favoured parent's shoes are much too big for anyone else to fill, and so you need to get a more balanced, objective, and fair perspective – and separate them from your 'ideal' that no-one else can live up to (and there's no reason why they should!).
It may be that the 'date' is more interested in their projection upon you, instead of who you really are. Perhaps you remind them of someone else and they overlay you with that fantasy image - until the reality bursts through the veil and disappointment engulfs you both.
You won't want to come across as desperate and lonely – even though you might feel this way. Neither do you want to appear to be 'playing it cool' – when cool is the last thing you feel!
You won't want to be triggered and catapulted back to your childhood reactions to your parents, if your date has a certain voice tone, body posture or sense of humour. Instead you'll need 'outside' help from your inner chaperone to enable you to pause... re-focus upon the moment, and decide how you want to respond more appropriately.
In a new encounter your childhood attachment style will be activated and any of those old fears or disappointments will then shape and direct your perceptions, thoughts, feelings and behaviour. You need to be able to notice this and keep it in check before it ruins everything!
Perhaps you have a tendency (from your emotional attachment style) to be either insular, ambivalent, anxious, or even chaotic – none of which make for good first date! Maybe you deeply want closeness yet your old conditioning makes you push it away. Your fears of further betrayal, neglect, rejection or abandonment can stifle your hopes for love and safety in the future.
Our old experiences tend to create our current expectations and we take these with us into every new encounter. So we must become aware of what we're doing and intentionally separate the past from the present, and remind ourselves that each new encounter is unique.
Our gut instincts – assuming we heed them - can guide us away from potential harm, but we must be clear about what is our safety instinct and what is our fear. Fear can prevent us from giving love a chance.
Your inner child wants to feel safe, loved and special but it's a big risk to show anyone that much vulnerability, desire, need or even craving. That level of self-disclosure is best saved for later in any developing relationship - when you have both decided to take that step of getting to know who one another really are. Some people will never show who they really are because they are too afraid of being hurt again – or because they lack emotional intelligence or literacy and are unable to express deeper emotions. Your chaperone will be looking out for this and making a 'mental note' for you.
You may have attracted partners in the past with those unwanted traits that are similar to your father or mother - but you didn't see this at the time and don't now trust yourself to notice these soon enough. Your chaperone can be sensitively looking out for these – which realistically will probably take more than a first date, depending upon how long the date is for. (15 minutes to establish initial attraction and a good 'vibe' and at least two hours to gather more background information that will help you to see a bit more about who they are behind their 'presentation' of themselves.)
You can then gain a more helpful picture of who your date is - assuming they aren't a pathological liar, con-artist, narcissist or psychopath skilled in the art of deception!
How will your chaperone help you?
Their presence is like watching yourself from two steps to the side...not in judgement or criticism, but to notice and guide you on a date with this other person.
This gives us the mental space to give thoughtful responses, and to ask linked questions that take the conversation into more meaningful territory.
The superficial chit-chat oils the wheels of your conversation, yet it's your intentional comments and questions which will make those wheels turn in the right direction – that of getting to know what makes the other person tick.
When we are also the observer of our interaction it allows us to pause for two seconds before answering. It's like shifting from playing in a game of ping-pong, to being the umpire watching how the game plays out, and keeping to the rules of respect and sensitivity.
When you 'sit back' you can more clearly have an overview of the encounter and think of what questions to ask and how to ask them. This helps you to gain clarity in those important first minutes or hours. This is when so much is expressed which an anxious inner child doesn't see or hear because they are in a tense reactive mode.
You and your inner child then become empowered to be the choice maker – not waiting to be seen as acceptable and picked by someone else (like in those school sports teams of years ago!)
This all sets up a process – with the purpose of finding real love.
The first date establishes mutual liking and attraction...and desire for second and more dates!
In spite of any new acquaintance wanting to push things further along than you feel entirely comfortable with, you can - with calm composure, pace and poise - allow yourselves those first three months of symbiosis (when you feel elated at how similar you are and how great it is to be together).
The three to nine months phase is that of differentiation and working through how different you are, your individual triggers and the emergence of your unmet needs.
In any healthy relationship there's a need for both people to have emotional self-regulation and to heal their own wounds - instead of acting them out with projections and victimhood.
Your chaperone can be with you long enough to ensure that you are not making The 3 Big Mistakes that will stifle and perhaps destroy your new relationship. You can find out more about these HERE
Which important questions will your
chaperone help you to ask?
Any date can be ruined if it feels like an interview!
However, with awareness, we can 'steer' conversations in a light way, to find out those things about someone which tell us more about their character and personality traits.
We can then naturally expand the conversation around their responses.
Did you grow up around here with your family?
What are your family like (siblings, parents and grandparents), and how do you get along with each of them? How often do you meet up?
Do you have any hobbies... how long have you had them? Are any of them carried over from your childhood?
What sort of little girl/boy were you? What did you love and hate doing?
What did you want to be when you grew up? What happened to that dream?
Did you want to have a relationship like your parents had... why was that?
- How do you prefer to spend your free time nowadays? (If there is little or no free time, ask them how they will make time for a relationship?)
What made you decide to meet me and what are looking for ideally? A casual encounter, just a platonic friendship and companion, to start a happy and potentially long-term relationship? (It's best to know this upfront – without pressure or expectation that they are looking for the same outcome as you are.)
If they are actively looking for a similar relationship to you, then you can curiously enquire...
What does such a relationship look and feel like to you.
How much time would you want to spend together - and doing what? (social, activities, entertainment, time alone at your home or theirs, etc.)
Who do you think should instigate what a couple do together?
Is there anything you would not be flexible about changing to help build a relationship?
What makes you most angry and happy? (Fear and sadness are usually too risky to disclose early on)
What do you tend to worry about?
Have you ever had a crush on a TV, film sports or media celebrity - and what did you fancy or admire about them?
I'm not suggesting that you have a questionnaire with you – maybe just a few reminders ready on your mobile 'phone that you can look at when you go to the toilet!
Keep the conversation light and show genuine interest.
If your gut feeling is that you aren't interested in them, your chaperone can help you to sensitively say that you'd like to leave, and to thank them for their time and to wish them well.
Some people can react badly to perceived rejection so you must be respectful and polite – yet still assertive.
You can see now why it's so important for you to stay sober!
If all this seems a bit too formal and dry, then by all means just follow your random emotional and physical responses... and even have a few drinks first for 'Dutch courage'.
But be prepared to be fooled - by your physical and emotional needs - into seeing what isn't really there. You might be beguiled by their appearance and convincing presentation and only see what you are projecting onto your date.
You'd use your head when making any large financial investment, so use it when you consider investing your time and heart into a new relationship.
Your inner chaperone will help you to make a sound investment.
Expect some disappointments along the way – but reframe them as another lesson which gets you closer to what you DO want... next time!
Maxine Harley (MSc Integrative Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR
www.maxineharley.com – if you and your inner child have had a troubled past with difficult or toxic parents then please help yourself to the many FREE resources on this website. When you heal and re-parent your inner child and make peace with the past this frees you up to have a happier calmer life as a partner, parent, friend and in your working life.
www.maxineharleymentoring.com – helping professional and business women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours at home and at work... helping them to FEEL better, so they can BE, DO and HAVE better!
www.the-ripple-effect.co.uk – a series of 10 individual online self-help workshops – helping you to help yourself and to gain control over anxiety, depression, anger, stress, low self-esteem and confidence; and to better understand yourself and your relationships, how to be happier, how to balance your mind body and weight, and how to live a calmer more mindful life.
www.qpp.uk.com – a new and unique therapeutic method which works to change an unhelpful and restricting sub-conscious belief system or S.C.R.I.P.T. (c) Sub-Conscious-Rules-Influencing-Present-Time