As you might already know, there’s no shortage of coaches out there:
job interview prep coach
sex coach (yup!)
And there are even coaches who coach coaches.
So when I mention to strangers that I do breakup coaching, I often get, “wow, I’ve never heard of that.”
Let me explain; when I attend networking events, many people either light up—or freeze—when they hear what I do for a living. This doesn’t surprise me; having worked in the dating industry for over four years, I get an array of responses to simply mentioning my job title. It’s one of those creative titles, and I love it.
I rarely get to the point of being able to share the good stuff: what I actually do with my clients.
So who are these clients?
To start, my clients range from the Millennial man or woman who has been eating themselves up trying to decide whether or not to end an unfulfilled relationship; to the man or woman who ended a relationship months ago; to the divorced man or woman after a 30-year-long marriage trying to figure out what life is like without a partner.
Each client has a unique experience with regard to their breakup, but their needs are not so different. I’ll get to that a little later in the article.
I’m excited to share my process, but let me be clear: breakup coaching is strictly something you can invest in as part of your self-care routine, and is not a substitute for therapy or other mental health advice. I’ve got great referrals should you want to seek advice from a registered clinical counsellor or therapist.
Every session has 5 pillars, and let’s dive straight into them!
Creating Space to Talk
If you’re going through a breakup, you may have discovered that your friends aren’t exactly dropping everything they’re doing to tend to your needs. (Not that you want them to.) So when you text or call your friend during one of your holy-crap-I-really-need-to-talk-to-someone moments, you’re met with a short, “I only have 5 minutes. What’s up?”
You find yourself trying to get it all out as eloquently—and quickly—as you can, only to be now met with, “you just got to calm down,” or, “you’ll be fine. Just go to bed and you’ll feel better tomorrow.”
After many attempts to explain what you’re feeling, you feel even more anxious after the call, so you call someone else to relieve the stress that’s churning inside you. This other friend/family member/coworker starts giving you practical advice as they also don’t have a lot of time to chat, or they suggest a tentative lets-get-drinks date in 10 days when their schedule frees up.
Chances are, at some point, you have. You’ve either:
a) felt the need to fully express yourself but couldn’t due to your friends’ time constraints (which can eventually lead to your holding in your feelings, and feeling as though you are burdening your friends and family with your “issues” whenever you try to chat with them)
b) felt overwhelmed by the degree to which your friends were leaning on you for support, largely because you were very busy and could only give so much energy towards their needs
While talking to my friends Jacquelyn and Clara on their epic podcast Glow Radio, we talked about both sides of this conundrum: how do we take care of ourselves while going through a breakup; and how do we—as friends—give our heart-broken loved ones the necessary attention they deserve without over-stepping our own boundaries? Even though the majority of us have gone through the breakup process, many of us are confused why we aren’t all that great at being there for our friends, despite wearing our “counsellor” hats.
Here’s where breakup coaching comes into this
Breakup Coaching is an outlet for people who need space to express themselves. It’s the perfect place to release what’s been bottling up inside, and share it with someone who has created the space to share openly. With an option of 60 or 90 minutes, you’ll feel relaxed during the process, and the entire time is dedicated to YOU. My job is to facilitate.
This style of coaching benefits my clients for two main reasons:
a) they feel heard and understood
b) they show up better for their friendship and family (and eventual new partners). When they have a place to be heard, they don’t feel as compelled to latch onto anyone who will listen to their breakup concerns. (Happy Hour just got a lot better, didn’t it?)
2. Asking Questions. Questions. And more Questions.
When I worked in matchmaking, I was doing it all wrong. Like, all wrong.
By it, I mean the way I approached talking about dating and relationships to my fellow networking acquaintances, clients, friends, family, and potential matches for clients. I’d have conversations with people, and always feel the need to add my 2 cents—which they (usually) never asked for. Some loved it, some…not so much.
Here’s what I’d do: I'd listen to them talk for a few minutes, and then give them advice based on what I thought I understood in exactly 90 second’s time (you can already see where this is going). I figured I’d (generously) spare them the exhaustion of re-explaining it all, particularly because we were pressed for time and I didn’t want to sit there and just hear them talk as it seemed solvable from the onset of them speaking. I would get scathing emails, and even facebook posts written about my style of “interviewing.” Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t get more. I wanted to learn how to be a better communicator, in a way that people could feel supported, and I’d feel good with every interaction.
Then I stumbled upon the transformational powers of asking questions during a conversation. In case you’re wondering what those are, here’s the basics of what I learned:
Asking (lots of) thoughtful questions = people feeling heard and understood (which leads to their taking actionable steps towards progress)
Asking thoughtful questions = increases empathy (for both of you), provides clarity (for both of you), builds a connection
Providing advice early into the conversation = builds an emotional wall, severs trust, and often leaves both of you feeling triggered
You can see that the first two points are what we are aiming for, but the third one, if not fine-tuned, is what we default to naturally. I’d like to take a moment and thank Michael Stanier for your book The Coaching Habit, neuro-linguistic programming training, and to my private coaches for providing the ultimate training on facilitation that I now share with my clients.
So, to summarize: whenever you want to provide advice, ask a question instead.
3. Addressing (Or Labelling) Underlying Needs and Feelings
It might surprise you to learn that we don’t have an expanded vocabulary for our own emotions. Take a moment right now and make a list of emotions you know, or have experienced. Anger, annoyance, frustration, happiness, sadness, joy, …anger…frustration…
…Okay now you’re just repeating yourself!
I learned that I had a limited vocabulary for emotions while reading Nonviolent Communication written by Marshall B Rosenberg; we learn at a young age that we must label things as “right” and “wrong,” or “good” and “bad” which disguises our ability to actually see what’s going on inside of us with regard to our feelings and needs. “He should have been there for me after all I did for him,” my one client recently said to me. To which I replied, “are you feeling resentful because you’re needing appreciation from your partner?” A lightbulb went off, and shortly thereafter she quickly said, “YES! That’s exactly what I’ve been feeling!” She felt excited to hear it framed this way, as most of her confidantes had been quick to provide their own thoughts on her matters.
Whether you want to hire a coach, or are looking for a resource that will develop a deeper understanding of your feelings and needs, Nonviolent Communication is a terrific option. You’ll improve your professional and personal relationships, as well as your relationship with yourself—the greatest one of all.
4. Providing Relief From (Unsolicited) Advice
Unless you are aware that all you need is a sounding board, you’ll express yourself with a close friend, and within 3 minutes start to here from your friends:
a) what they did in that situation
b) how they know exactly what you’re feeling
c) how you “should” do these things…
d) how you “need” to stop being so…
It’s exhausting to have this much advice thrown your way, especially if you have barely begun to express yourself. Can you agree?
Here’s my life-changing moment on the topic of listening vs providing advice; a friend of mine, a year ago, called me to talk about his recent relationship with this woman. I did what I normally would do at the time; I went on to tell him what would be “best” in this circumstance, based on what I’ve seen working in the dating and relationship industry. He had the courage to say with the bluntest tone, “Nancy, I’m not looking for advice.” Feeling perplexed, I replied, “I’m confused, why did you call me then?” to which he clarified, “because we are friends, and I enjoy talking to you, and sometimes I just want to talk things through.”
Not only did an epiphany strike about the little advice monster (Michael Stanier reference) inside of me secretly waiting to rear its ugly head, but I realized that women aren’t the only ones who love to talk for the sake of it. (I love learning more than one lesson in the same situation.)
With my coaching, I make sure I’ve heard all concerns (through providing space to talk, and asking questions), and when we’ve gone through every detail from the client’s perspective, then I leave time to strategize towards the end.
You might be thinking, “what if I just need a strategy because I’m well aware of what I need?”
This is an excellent question, and I still do the same process. Providing advice quickly before hearing all concerns, issues, and clarifying feelings, is mostly just jumping to conclusions and expecting trust to be there. For this reason, I offer my clients a chance to work with me through a series of coaching sessions, ensuring we spend time building the relationship, creating trust, and making a courageous shift together.
Unfortunately, when advice is given before a client has fully expressed themselves, they won’t have the ability to receive advice, no matter how accurate, practical, ideal, or awesome it is.
5. Providing Empathy and Compassion
Many clients come to me because they initially think I have the “best” dating and relationship advice of anyone they know (not really true), but what I quickly learn is that they don’t need that advice they are expecting—they need empathy and compassion.
I’ll give you an example; I recently had a client who was driving himself crazy because he was so worried about how his ex would feel if he decided to end their relationship. He spoke with honesty, respect, love, and appreciation for his partner. Unfortunately, he lacked true love and empathy for himself.
After several sessions, it’s clear that his fear of uncertainty (which resides in pretty much every living, breathing soul), mixed with his fear of not being loved by another partner as terrific as her (despite feeling unfulfilled in the relationship), he has been missing the self-love, empathy, and compassion he requires to make decisions that put himself first. To put it another way, he hasn’t quite figured out how to put his oxygen mask on first.
If you’ve been able to read this article and remain focused, then you know I’m probably going to bring up the healing powers of listening once more. Let me say this again: the powers of listening and empathy extend beyond any amount of practical advice given.
One more time.
The powers of listening and empathy extend beyond any amount of practical advice given.
I’m half-way quoting Marshall B Rosenger, because I love that man. (May he rest in peace.)
Most times, clients know what they want or need to do, and what’s best, but they don’t have the compassion or empathy for themselves to choose powerfully, and go with the courageous move. Our session(s) together are focused on building up courage, and by my providing empathy so they receive what they truly need.
To Recap the Breakup Coaching Process
My coaching is as simple as:
a) providing space to talk
b) asking a lot of questions
c) addressing underlying needs and feelings
d) providing relief from unsolicited advice
e) using the healing powers of empathy and compassion
Where Do You Go From Here?
Many coaches prefer to keep you on a high-ticket, monthly retainer for up to (or beyond) a year.
While I can completely appreciate that, my service works a little differently; when someone first visits with me (which is done through Zoom/Google Hangouts/Skype in the peace of being in your own home), their session is 90-minutes. If you choose to continue working with me, we can craft a plan together that suits where you’re at in your breakup needs. You might be working with another professional, or may have dropped the traditional route because you’re looking to explore another side of self-exploration. Whatever your decision, we can work together to create what it is you’re looking for.
Ready to book a breakup coaching session? Book me here, or email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org