Seven years ago, on Saturday afternoon in Tulsa, OK, I strolled through a local Border’s Bookstore (that was a thing then) looking for answers to questions I had yet to identify. I had just entered my 20’s and although nothing seemed terribly wrong, nothing felt quite right either. I was overwhelmed with the questions 20-somethings face, “What is it that I want to do with my life? Will I find someone to share it with? If I do figure out what I want, then how in the world do I create it?”
Although I did not find all of my answers, I found a guidebook, source of hope and role model who would teach me how to navigate not only these questions, but the many others that would (and still do) pop up. On the bottom shelf of the self-help section, sandwiched between books with overly optimistic titles and celebrity memoirs was Twenty-Something, Twenty Everything: A Quarter-life Women’s Guide to Balance and Direction by Christine Hassler. I picked it up, rushed to the counter to buy it and spent the next month, making frequent trips to the park, soaking up the wisdom and working through the exercises.
Everyone who is consciously on a path of personal growth has their story of how they got there. Mine began that Saturday at Border’s with Christine Hassler. Since then, her work has inspired me to pursue my calling, connected me to many wonderful friends and her second book, Expectation Hangover, has helped me heal from a major breakup and several other disappointments. She teaches from a place of authenticity and experience– she understands, because she has been there and has done the work of getting Over it and On With It (also, the name of her AMAZING podcast). She and I spoke about some of her most important tips and lessons on sex, love and dating. Enjoy!
Katie Hoffman: Christine! Thank you so much for chatting with me. From our conversations and from reading your books, I know you have been though a lot of experiences in dating and in romantic relationships. Tell us a little bit about how you have been able to find consistent love in your life regardless of what your relationship status.
Christine Hassler: Yes. I have definitely experienced a bit of everything! Through it all, I have found that the best way to be content is to develop a strong relationship with yourself. Many times, especially as women, our sense of contentment is dependent on others and our romantic relationships rather than ourselves. There are challenges in all relationships–grief, aches, and pains–there is no relationship status that isn’t challenging, but these challenges and contrasts have shown me different sides of myself, different ways in which to learn lessons and integrate. All of our relationships are mirrors. Every mirror and challenge has helped me fall more in love with myself. I have learned to ask myself, “What am I learning from this person?”
I have learned to watch how I treat myself in relationships; the more loving I am to me the more loving I am able to be with the other person.
KH: You are a huge advocate in self-love. What are some tangible steps or guidelines young adults can follow that will lead them to more self-love and acceptance?
CH: It’s all about support. I have an amazing circle of friends, coaches and teachers who help me feel supported. We often depend on romantic relationships to be the one source of love in our lives– that’s not how it has to be; there are so many ways to get support and feel love…And Katie, I’m not in love with myself at all times, I’m a human being and I get mad, frustrated and everything else with myself, but when I do feel like that, I reach out to my support system.
When looking for a support system:
- Find people who reflect the relationship you want for yourself.
- Find a teacher or mentor who has been where you are and ask for their support. Anyone on a personal growth journey needs a coach or teacher to help unravel the thoughts inside their head.
- When it comes to finding a life-coach or therapist, it’s a lot like dating. Try out a couple of people. Look for someone you can be totally yourself around and that you don’t feel judges you. It’s so important that the person holds a space of compassion for you but that they are also challenging you to move forward.
- Having a personal spiritual practice is huge– whether it’s meditation, prayer or a place that makes you feel more connected, it’s important to find what works for you.
KH: In your first book, Twenty Something, Twenty Everything, you talk about the twenty-something triangle, “Who am I, what do I want, and how do I get it?” Do you think answering these questions is an important part in learning to love yourself?
CH: Absolutely. The “Who am I” question is not based on what you do or who you are with. Knowing who you are from an intrinsic place and not an external source is so important. Answering this question allows us to look at the other questions [What do I want and how do I get it?] from a more authentic place; instead of asking questions from a place of fear like, “how can I get ahead or how can I stop the pain”, we are able to ask questions from a place of love and acceptance for ourselves. When we see from love, for ourselves and others, we are able to clearly see what we attract– it’s so much more organic, there’s no pushing and forcing to get what we want, we just allow it.
KH: A lot of twenty-something’s (myself included) get very caught up in the idea of perfection. How can we find balance between developing ourselves as individuals and dating? Is there a certain amount of time someone should just be single? And if so, how do we know when it’s time to get back out there?
CH: Well if you haven’t had a period of life being single, happy and complete with nothing missing, you have got to experience it. It’s important to feel who you are without a guy. Despite how far we have come, there is still a tendency for all of us to get lost with men and forget our purpose.
The best relationships come from two complete people, walking their own paths and looking in the same direction.
There needs to be a period in time when you are having a relationship with yourself–in fact, it’s a gift you are so worthy of giving to you. It’s so hard to not dive in when you’re in a new relationship; it’s natural to focus on relationships and to avoid our own work, or pick a project relationship that causes us to lose sight of ourselves. Making sure we know ourselves before a relationships helps us not lose focus when we enter one. Does that make sense?
KH: Yes! It does, thank you. I know one of women’s biggest concerns with saying no to a date invitation is coming across as rude. How can women avoid being perceived as rude?
CH: Women overthink men way too much! Most men stop listening after no. My advice is just be polite, say you are flattered but not dating right now, that’s good enough.
KH: Perfect! That’s helpful, for sure. So once, we are dating, in a relationship or married, how can we continue to grow as individuals while being in a partnership?
CH: We never stop growing. It’s important to remember that there isn’t a “there” that will make you happy. So just accept that you are always growing. In relationships, take personal responsibility for your own personal balance. Keep relationships with friends and your own external support system. These people will hold you accountable and make sure you aren’t losing yourself in the relationship. It is very important to give to the other person but it’s also very important to keep giving to yourself. And lastly, it is important to find a someone who has their own path and who is committed to their own growth as well.
KH: Communication is one of the biggest obstacles couples face, any tips on successful communication?
CH: The most important thing about communication is to be authentic and honest–not strategic:
- Focus on figuring out a solution not on saying what the other person needs to hear. Don’t focus on being a people pleaser, remember to speak your truth with love.
- Remember to check your perception and make sure that what you are saying is being received. When someone communicates to you try clarifying by reflecting back to them so you are clear about what is being communicated.
- Do not communicate when in upset. We all get angry and it’s crucial that we release those emotions but not directly at the person when we are very upset. Sometimes it’s best to just take a time out. Say, “You know what, I’m a little crazy right now, I’m gonna go deal with it and we can talk soon”. This allows us to be authentic and not just speak from a place of strategy and emotion.
KH: So it’s the 21st century and dating is so different than it was 50 years ago. Do you believe that women should still let men take the initiative or is it ok for women to make the first move?
CH: Well, what do you want to create? The natural dating dynamic is for the man to be the pursuer. Most women want a man who is decisive, who picks them, but they get impatient. I know how it is, patience has always been a challenge for me. I think it’s best to sit back and let the man lead. You don’t have to do nothing. You can let him know you are interested by flirting, saying hi, but ultimately, the man needs to step up. If you are interested in guys who aren’t stepping up, is that really the man you want? The feminine energy is about sitting back and surrendering. Does that make sense?
KH: It absolutely does. Thank you! So let’s talk about sex: a lot of people believe that sexual intimacy changes the dynamic of a relationship. What are your thoughts?
CH: Sexuality is personal to everyone. What I’ve gleaned from being a women and working with them is that very few can have sex and be physical and not have feelings for the guy. Friends with benefits is possible but why do you want to have sex with someone you are not connected to?
Many women argue, “I’m so empowered sexually that I can have casual sex”, but true sexual power is treating it as something sacred.
Also, when a new relationship is starting, it helps to not have sex at first; you will be able to see the potential partner much clearer. When women have sex our bodies release a chemical called oxytocin, this chemical gives us a little high just like eating chocolate and is likely to blind us to things about the other person we might otherwise see. My advice: take the time to get to know them and find out if they are someone worthy.
KH: Great advice! Here’s another big one: How do you handle heartbreak and breakups?
CH: You’ve gotta go through it. Breathe. That’s the biggest thing. I actually wrote a blog with tips for a breakup. First of all, give yourself time to grieve. Whether it’s eating, shopping, complaining or crying it’s all part of it and it is necessary for healing. After that, look for what you learned and eliminate contact with them. You can’t get over and learn the lessons when you are still in communication with them.
KH: Is there anything you wish you would have known about love ten years ago that you could pass on to women in their 20s? How about the guys?
CH: A lot of people evaluate the success of a relationship by its longevity–that’s not true. There are many times in my life that it took relationships falling apart to learn the lesson. The purpose of every relationship is to learn, grow and love everyone who comes along. Some people are just journey partners and not meant to be a lifetime partner– they are just as important. Don’t enter something thinking, “how is this going to last forever?” enter asking, “what am I learning?”
Oh, and that whole married by 30 thing, chunk it out the window! It puts pressure on you and clouds vision in picking a partner. Picking the best partner and father is way more important than being married before 30.