Interview With Sasha Asumaa: Her Thoughts on Sharing Your Past, Codependency and Much More
1. A number of our women subscribers find difficulty in attracting the right man especially women in their 40s and above. The common complaint we hear from women is that men in their age group seem to be more interested in younger women and the men that seem to be interested in them aren’t interesting to these women.
What advice do you have for women who are frustrated with their dating experience and have become skeptical of finding Mr. Right?
Ahhhh- Mr. Right. Quite elusive isn’t he?! I have a few things to say about this.
• Where are you trying to meet Mr. Right?
As in- where are you “hanging out”? Because you probably aren’t going to find Mr. Right in a bar. I would suggest getting into things that YOU are interested in doing. For example, if you are into hiking, maybe you would join a meetup.com hiking group and just go because it sounds like fun, not just to find Mr. Right. If you enjoy dancing, go take a class. The message here that I really want to send is go have fun living your life and you may just meet someone special along the way.
• What are you really looking for in a mate?
Are the characteristics you are looking for in Mr. Right really lining up with who you are? For example, are you looking for someone super fit, but you yourself don’t really enjoy having an active lifestyle? Are you looking for someone who has no baggage themselves, or has no quirks?
Because if you want my real and true honest opinion, even the most fantastic person has their downfalls. That’s not to say that I think you should sell yourself short or put up with abusive behavior. No. No. No. I just mean look at the big picture. Do you both love to travel, and have the same dreams, but hate each other’s music tastes? Cause that’s not a real deal breaker.
• How’s your self esteem?
Are you doing any changing for Mr. Right? Embrace who you are. I would say that is one of the things I have actually liked about getting older. I am more and more comfortable with who I am and less and less likely to put up with someone else’s crap. So, really look at who you are and accept it and love it.
A healthy partner will be really attracted to and respect the fact that you love yourself. If you aren’t too fond of who you are, then you likely won’t attract someone that will love you enough for both of you.
2. Some of our subscribers feel stuck in their love lives because of their past emotional baggage. This affects them in a number of ways- they either tend to compare the next man they are dating with their ex or they have trust issues because they have been cheated on before or they just cannot seem to forget their ex and move on in life.
What are some practical ways that can help women release their past emotional baggage so that they can start attracting healthy love into their lives?
First of all, we all have emotional baggage.
Let me say that again… we ALL have emotional baggage. If someone claims not to they are either in denial or lying! So I think the real issue here is if you have emotional baggage that has not been dealt with. And by dealt with, I mean some real soul searching with some kind of professional guide, not with your best friend and a glass of wine on a Saturday night.
Something I often tell my clients, which is not always well received, is that sometimes you do need to spend some time “alone” (just not in a relationship) to figure out that emotional baggage so that you don’t carry it on to the next person, and the next, and the next. Being alone helps us focus on ourselves.
When we are constantly in a relationship it keeps us distracted from doing the work we need to do on ourselves.
We are creatures of habit and creatures of comfort, so often what happens is that we date the same type of person over and over again until we interrupt the cycle. Let me take an extreme example here.
Let’s say we have a young woman, we’ll call her Mary, who grew up with a mother that cheated on her father and maybe more than once.
Mary always knew there was something wrong with this, but as she starts to date, she herself is picking partners that cheat on her. If you take time to look at Mary’s history it includes a family history other than her mother’s infidelity. It’s something so intertwined in her family that it’s a characteristic that is well known.
Mary is picking partners that she feels familiar with because if she picked someone that was truly emotionally available to her and that she could trust, she just would not know what to do with that. We tend to gravitate towards what we know, not what we don’t know because we don’t know what will happen with that which is unknown and that is uncomfortable. Make sense?
Some practical advice I can give your readers is to look at not only your own history, but your family history as well.
It may be writing your future for you unknowingly. And that my fellow ladies, you have a lot of control over once you figure it out!
There’s this weird thing that happens when you have worked through your baggage and are comfortable with who you are. The best way I can put it is that you realize you will be ok if you don’t date, that there are plenty of other ways for your life to be fulfilling, and then suddenly- there he or she is. It’s like they were just waiting for the proverbial smoke to clear.
Let me say one more thing on this topic.
For those that are stuck on an ex. Really take some time to look at why they are an ex. Sometimes we build people up in our minds and only focus on the things that were really awesome about the relationship and we forget all those crappy things that lead to the break up in the first place. So, truly get real and rational with what really happened. You may still have some feelings, but it may be easier to move on.
3. One popular concern that our subscribers have is regarding sharing their feelings with the man they are dating. What we typically find is that when women like the man they are seeing, they tend to avoid bringing up difficult issues and tough conversations because they fear they might lose him. So what they generally tend to do is that they keep it to themselves and give the impression that things are just fine.
For example, they have a fantastic date with a man and he says he will call after a few days. They wait, wait and wait to be disappointed that he didn’t follow up as he said he would. But they are happy when they eventually hear back from him and don’t share how they really felt during the no contact period.
What would your advice be for women who have the fear that sharing feelings and emotions will drive a man away and make them come across as someone clingy and needy?
Embrace who you are! Easier said than done, right?
I think there is kind of a fine line here. You are scared for a reason. I’m guessing because there is some insecurity about who you are as a person- maybe you feel like you aren’t enough? That is the first issue to deal with. You are enough! And who says you aren’t? Healthy men are attracted to healthy women and healthy women respect and believe in themselves, right? RIGHT. So, that’s where I would start.
The basic building blocks are so important.
Yes, some of this is about the man, but a lot of it is about you. If someone is being clingy and needy, there is usually an issue with that. Healthy, balanced people don’t typically cling to their partner, so it might make sense that someone would want to run for the hills if this is indeed happening.
On the other hand, if you really aren’t clingy, but a healthy amount of emotional and your partner is calling you out for being clingy, there is a whole other issue!
Maybe your partner is uncomfortable with their feelings or being vulnerable, and it has nothing to do with you… EXCEPT that you are picking emotionally unavailable partners. So it still boils down to you again listening to your intuition and having good self esteem. Good enough to know when it’s you and when it’s them.Be honest with yourself on this one-it’s important!
If you have gotten the same feedback from several people you either have an issue you yourself need to deal with or you are attracting what is quite possibly an abusive type man over and over again.
Both are possible. Either way I would suggest you seek some guidance from a professional. There’s also a great book out there called Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. I think it’s a great read for anyone that has boundary issues in any kind of relationship.
4. Can too much honesty negatively affect a relationship especially when you have just started seeing the other person? How much of the past and even the present should you reveal to the man you are dating? Should you share details like cheating in the previous relationship, the fact you are currently seeing a therapist or you are a recovering alcoholic etc?
Some of our subscribers have been too honest and in the process lost out on many men because it freaked them out. Can you share your thoughts on how women can balance the fine line between honesty and giving themselves the chance to date men and pursue a long term committed relationship?
My first thought here is that you can’t have a truly loving and healthy relationship with someone unless you can be 100% honest with them.
That being said, I do think there are ways to word things and the timing of when those things come out that are really important. For example, you aren’t going to share that you have cheated in the past or you are seeing a therapist on the first date, but you also wouldn’t wait until your 20th date to talk about those issues.
You do have to be careful because I think sharing those things on a first date signals something to the other person that makes them run for the hills, when they are just trying to see if there’s any chemistry there or not.
You don’t know them well enough to share intimate details about your life yet.
So maybe save those harder conversations until you are a few dates in and really feel like you want to get to know that person better. I know that’s tough because you probably just want to rip the band-aid off and see if they will sick around right from the beginning, but they don’t know you well enough to make that decision yet and if you force the issue, they will probably will run for the hills. You really have to find that fine line where you know each other enough, but the relationship hasn’t progressed enough for anyone to feel hoodwinked.
The other issue mentioned is if you are a recovering addict/alcoholic.
Let’s say you are someone that’s got their feet well planted in sobriety. If that’s the case, you probably already have a solid stance on whether you are open about being in recovery or not. My opinion on this is to be pretty open from the beginning. Here’s why… even on a first date many people involve drinking if you are going out for dinner or and evening event. I think this is probably a bigger issue for singles in their 20’s, but still it’s there.
Most people I know that are solid in their recovery and doing well are open about it. That’s not to say they focus on it or brag about it, it just is what it is and there is usually some sort of discussion about whether they are comfortable with others drinking or not around them and then we move on.
This is an issue that you could wait to talk about like the one’s above, but somehow it feels different to me and feels like it needs to be addressed a bit sooner. I know that’s not a clear answer, but I think you have to find what you feel comfortable with. And again- don’t wait too long.
5. From our subscribers, we often hear “lack of chemistry” as a leading reason why they aren’t willing to persist with a man even though he seemed to be a decent guy, treated them with respect and made them feel comfortable.
Can you share your thoughts on chemistry and can attraction grow over time? Is it worth persisting with a man with whom a woman feels comfortable but doesn’t quite share the chemistry?
I LOVE this question! Why, you ask? Personally, I can relate- A LOT. In my teens and 20’s I felt like I had a “type” of guy that I gravitated towards.
That changed some over the years, but it always seemed to have something to do with things like what they looked like and what they did for a living, or whether they were a musician or not. There was one thing I was really clear about- well three things to be exact…
I would not date someone that had been married, had kids, or who was balding. Ok, so flash forward- I am now 38, and happily married to all 3 of those things. HA! I love telling this story- to both my clients and my friends. SO remember up there is question number 2 where I was talking about being attracted to things that make us comfortable instead of uncomfortable. .
I challenge you ladies to look at how comfortable you really are with someone treating you well.
Now I am not suggesting that you should be attracted to someone just because they are a nice guy, but are there “rules” that you live by that keep you from giving the nice guy a chance? For me, it really only took a couple of dates with my now husband to see that there was more to him than divorced, child, balding- oh and did I mention the faded black jeans?
Terrible. He is genuinely a nice guy that I have a lot in common with and when I let go of those things that really mean nothing and paid attention to the things that did mean something, I found my Mr. Right. And let me tell you, there were a lot of Mr. Wrongs along the way. All of this to also say that if the chemistry isn’t there, I think you know that after a few dates.
So let’s think about the things that do matter. Do you both like to do some of the same things? Now this is important – You do not have to have EVERYTHING in common to be a good match.
For example- My husband’s music taste, in my personal opinion, is not the greatest, and he feels the same way about mine. But I know plenty of people I can go to concerts with and we both own earphones, so it’s not a deal breaker. It’s also VERY healthy to have your own interests and do things without each other.
A deal breaker for both of us would have been if one of us did not like to travel. Do you have the same ideas about how you spend/save money (couples fight over money a lot!!)? Do you have the same retirement plans/goals? Do you have the same ideas about how to raise your kids? Take some time to think about what is really important to you.
6. Some of our subscribers have the tendency to ignore and overlook the red flags especially when they really like a man. In the process, they create an idealized version of the man and overestimate the feelings he has for them.
For women who have a history of fantasizing and idealizing a partner, what can they do to evaluate the man and their relationship for what it is truly worth rather than what they ideally like it to be?
This is tough. Let me say first and foremost if you are stuck in this kind of cycle, you really need to seek some counseling.
My guess is there is probably some unresolved abuse that needs to be dealt with. Until that is dealt with properly, it’s really hard to see those red flags and get out of that cycle. So, that being said let me move on to what is happening in that cycle…
Abusive people, because I am calling a spade a spade here, are really great at manipulating other people. If they came right out the gate with what they are really like, no one would ever date them! So they have to be sly about it. So the first few months are usually this whirlwind type of love affair.
They sweep you off your feet. There is so much to love about them that you ignore the little red flags. Sound familiar? They will throw things out here and there to see how you react and when you don’t react, or maybe you do react, but continue to date them anyway, then you send this signal that it’s ok for them to continue.
Next, they likely enter into something called the “honeymoon stage”.
This is what the name implies- really sweet behavior. He buys you flowers, gifts, does romantic things, all in attempts to make you forget all of those red flags you just witnessed. It’s all just a big ugly cycle. From there the abuse gets frequent and worse.
The thing that keeps you stuck in it is remembering how great they were when you first met them. The place where I think partners of abusive people really get stuck is that they try to fix them or change the abusive person, which never works. You just end up getting lost in that person.
7. Another common problem our women subscribers face is their tendency to lose themselves during the course of the relationship. Usually at the start of the relationship, they are fun, lively and positive that make them attractive to men. But as the relationship progresses, they tend to overwhelm their man and in the process they come across as someone clingy and desperate.
How can women ensure they don’t lose themselves in a relationship?
Oooh Girl- I have one word for you- CODEPENDENCY.
Let me explain what that is, because I was wrong when I tried to guess what it was. Actually, the title of Melody Beattie’s book Codependent No More says it pretty well (and then I’ll expand): how to stop controlling others and start taking care of yourself. So basically what happens in codependency is that you focus on the other person a whole lot and not much at all on yourself. If you do that for long enough, your life gets pretty messy. I feel like there is a codependency continuum.
On one end you have a codependent that may be really meek and subordinate.
These types of codependents are the peacekeepers. They control others by controlling themselves.
On the other end of the continuum are outwardly controlling people that are trying to control and fix others by telling them what they should and should not be doing.
There is obviously some in between on this continuum, but I hope that paints a basic picture for you. When you are busy focusing on someone else, you lose yourself in them rather than having that healthy balance between loving them and loving yourself.
So… the answer here is to never lose yourself in that man to begin with. Stay tru to yourself and he will stay interested.
8. Some experts recommend women wait till they get to know the man they are dating and not have sex until you both are committed to exclusivity. Some experts believe you should go with the flow and be spontaneous and not have any rules regarding when you want to sleep with a man.
Can you share your thoughts on the right time to have sex?
First and foremost I think it really depends on what YOU are comfortable with.
So if you are someone that believes that you should wait until you get married, then by all means- stick to that. Don’t compromise your value system.
Let me speak more to those that have gotten caught in the sleep with him right away or wait game.
I’ll cut to the chase here-I have the magic number of 3 months in my head. 3 months gets you past the questioning the relationship and infatuation phase. 3 months gives you times to get to at least know someone well enough to know if you are going to feel good about connecting with them physically and sexually or feel sick about it later.
3 months gives you time to focus on getting to know them without the physical stuff getting in the way. If they aren’t willing to stick around that long, then guess what? You just found out that you probably weren’t going to feel so good about having sex with them at some point.
If you want someone to be interested in you for you, then I think it’s important for them not to be distracted…and same goes for you.
Someone could be really good in bed, but a real a-hole in life. I think you want to find out if they are an a-hole BEFORE you do something as intimate as have sex with them. And speaking of intimate. Sex is sooooo much better when you are having it with someone you genuinely care about. It’s a different kind of connection.
9. Our subscribers also run into a situation where things are going great and just when they think the relationship has great potential or feel he is the one, the man starts developing cold feet. He pulls away, doesn’t respond to phone calls or text messages and in some cases disappears for a while.
What advice do you have for women who deal with men that suddenly pull away and act inconsistent?
Run away from him!
Can I refer back to that 3 month rule? I don’t think that’s just about sex. I know it doesn’t seem like a long time, but it’s long enough to see how someone will react or not react to being in a relationship.
Two other things here: Is this about you or them?
Number one- chances are it’s about them, so I would try not to waste to much time doing that whole “what’s wrong with me thing.” Also don’t overanalyze what’s wrong with him. He’s got baggage, just like you, so maybe he just wasn’t ready. Maybe it’s that simple. Focusing too much time and energy on it won’t change it or control though.
Number two- is it you? Are you focusing too much on him and not enough on you and sending that clingy vibe discussed earlier?
Because that will scare someone off, and for good reason if they are looking for someone balanced. If it is you, then do what we discussed earlier- take that time to focus on you and love yourself, get to know yourself, recommit to yourself, and don’t let go!
10. What are your top 3 relationship tips that you would offer women who are single and looking for a long term committed relationship?
This feels like the toughest question to me!
I think it’s because I can’t give this quick 1,2,3 answer. All 3 of my tips are things that I have already discussed, but I feel like repeating them is never a bad thing!
1. Be true to who you are.
Don’t give up who you are for anyone. Period. I really can’t stress this enough. I’m not talking about not compromising in a relationship, we all have to do that to a certain degree, but you should never have to give up a part of your identity or who you are in order to be with someone.
Ultimately that is going to make you much more unhappy than being alone. You will resent that person for “making” you give up something you loved and you will resent yourself for actually going through with it.
2. Be ok with being alone.
This kind of piggy-back’s on number 1. If you can’t find someone that loves you for who you are and the things you love doing, then be ok with being alone until that person does come along. Think about it.
If you waste your time on someone that doesn’t really like the real you then you could miss out on your soul mate! Plus I think that this commands a lot of respect from other people that you aren’t willing to sacrifice your values or belief system just because you are lonely.
3. Don’t put up with anyone’s crap, but don’t be too picky either.
I know, I know, this I probably confusing. Here’s what I mean… don’t let someone abuse you. I’m not just talking about physical and sexual, I’m talking about emotional too. So don’t let anyone call you names, put you down, or manipulate you and then tell you they were just joking or that you are too sensitive. That is abuse- so don’t put up with it. Now, for all of you on the other end of the spectrum.
Don’t count someone out just because of something that is really insignificant in the big picture- like they aren’t tall enough, or you’d prefer if they had blue eyes, or they were black jeans, or listen to Iron Maiden (shout out to my husband!). Focus on those things that really matter like discussed earlier. Do your morals and values line up? That’s what is important here! You could really be self-sabotaging yourself by being too picky.
About Sasha Asumaa
Sasha Asumaa is a licensed professional counselor and a certified eating disorder specialist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a Concentration in Sexuality and Gender from Georgia State University and a Master of Science in Professional Counseling from Georgia State University.
For more information, please visit her at www.abycounseling.com.