Content warning: this article discusses topics of sexual assault and abuse which may be distressing to some readers.
When we think of relationships, we think about opening our hearts to someone else. Strong, healthy bonds between two people are what most strive for, but how often do we look beneath that?
Katie Mortimer sat down with Jessica, a certified relationship coach, to discuss exactly what her role involves.
“I work primarily with women but not exclusively. The main pillar of my work is around this idea that connection with ourselves comes first and foremost, and once we have a strong connection and foundation of that, it then helps us to better connect with others,” she says.
Far too often, people view relationships as those with a romantic partner with little reference to familial and platonic friendships. Jessica works in all areas from siblings, parents, and romantic relationships because she believes that all of those relationships are equally as important: “Not just the romance which everyone loves.”
With a particular focus on attachment theory and inner work, Jessica states: “[Self-love] comes in so many different shapes and sizes. I think I now probably put the emphasis on self-acceptance rather than self-love because I think that self-love gets a bad rep. It very much is this idea that ‘I love myself before anyone else’ which is a good thing, but for so many people, it feels quite unrealistic or unattainable,”
“I always go for self-acceptance first. There are things that I love about myself or I’m really proud. Alongside that, you also have to accept and be aware of the things that you don’t like. Some of those you might want to change but some of them are natural parts of who we are, and I think it’s important to accept and embrace them as well,”
“I very much got there from a personal perspective first. There are so many things about me that I don’t like - the way that I self-sabotage relationships and all of those things - I had to get there first and realise that I’m never going to be perfect, I’m never going to have this fake ‘I love every part of me’, so I think acceptance for me is probably more important than self-love.”
Jessica’s work with clients differ massively depending on their needs. No two people are the same and the way they handle relationships can vary. When coaching a new client, Jessica sees whether they can understand their own behaviours and how they react to others before diving into deeper-rooted issues: “For so may people it’s about low self-esteem and how that then plays out in things like lack of boundaries, people pleasing,”
“Within that, having the conscious foundation of ‘I believe in myself, I am confident in myself, I have things about me that I love and accept’ and so it’s very much looking at the foundations first and then moving on to things like how do we communicate more efficiently. It’s all the things which you think are quite boring when in reality they’re the foundation for any strong relationship.”
Having had her fair share of experiences, Jessica uses these to learn more about herself and share tips based on them. Through her reels, she often myth-busts the childish cliches that we are taught growing up.
“I’m absolutely certain that when I was younger, these myths were ingrained into me. It sounds cheesy, but I’ve been on my own journey, so [now] I don’t operate in that way at all, and yet it’s amazing how many people do. Even my friends think ‘oh I can’t possibly message him first after a date’ and most of these are around romantic relationships and it very much is things like ‘don’t message someone first’, ‘leave them on read’, just playing games in a relationship,”
“I think it comes from a lack of self-confidence. You should be able to assert yourself and say this is what I want, so this is what I’m going after. If that’s not what someone else wants, that is okay. It really bamboozles me with the unhealthy game-playing in dating. I can’t believe we still do that now.”
As a certified relationships coach, it’s no surprise that Jessica reflects on previous relationships. In her last year at university, she was sexually assaulted. Following graduation, she entered a very abusive relationship of which she never really correlated the two. She states: “That part of my life was this idea of ‘what does a man want?’ and that’s all that matters. Any kind of toxic, abusive relationship that’s all I knew. That’s what I thought was normal.”
“It’s taken the last 8 years to learn what It means to have a healthy relationship, to have healthy connections, to actually have respect in a relationship. I think I didn’t realise that someone you feel safe with, is probably the most important thing – physically, sexually, and emotionally. It doesn’t sound very sexy or exciting but actually, that’s what you feel with your friends. You feel safe with them, they’re consistent, they’re honest, they’re open.”
When asked about the importance of friendships alongside romance, Jessica quoted Carrie Bradshaw’s line from Sex and the City: “Maybe our girlfriends are our soulmates and guys are just people to have fun with.” She adds: “I think there is such an emphasis on the milestones we have in life. They are all about getting married, getting a mortgage, having children and in my mind, I’m like ‘so what’?,”
“That doesn’t really signify anything other than being able to withstand a relationship, but that’s not necessarily a healthy relationship. I think your friends are often the markers of how healthy you are. From my perspective, my friends and the most important sounding boards that I have for everything. When it comes to a romantic relationship, we often look for that big love, movie love, and yet it’s about safety, security, and simple things,”
“But do you enjoy spending time with them? I was reading this book about reflecting on your ex-partners and it asked ‘if you weren’t with them [romantically] would you want to be with them?’ And it’s not that cheesy like ‘are we going to be friends afterwards?’, it’s whether they’re actually a decent person that you respect, that you have fun with, whose opinions your respect and very often people will find that no they’re just someone that they enjoy having sex with. I think that can be problematic in the long run.”
Jessica explained that we enter into relationships based on our own learning and understanding of them. She states that the relationships we are surrounded by are often markers of what we expect within our own relationships.
“If you have a great example of a healthy, loving relationship then you probably already picking up on those things and being able to bring them into your relationship. However, the reality is, no parent’s relationship is perfect and of course, you will be learning unhealthy behaviours from them,”
“It sounds quite intense to say ‘we should be analysing our parents relationship’ because actually, there are things that you learn that you should keep and that you want to replicate but there are also other things which are less healthy and it’s time to think ‘ok what have I internalised from this’ and what can I then unlearn, alter and change for myself.”
At this time of year, we often hear the word ‘soulmate’ thrown about. The debate around whether or not they’re real is dependent on your depiction of a soulmate and how you perceive it. For Jessica, she dislikes the world because it implies that there’s only two of you. She feels that you can have multiple deep soul connections regardless of whether they’re platonic friendships or romantic relationships.
“I also don’t necessarily think that you’re going to end up with your soul mate because there are situations in life. Oftentimes, there’s no room for that huge love in our lives at every moment. If your whole emphasis is on this big love then you're probably going to find yourself stepping away in certain areas and it’s about thinking ‘what is the most important thing to you’ at different times as well because you lose track of where you are in life.”
Upon finding your soulmate, many are quick to seal the deal through legal ceremonies such as marriage. As a serial monogamist, Jessica loves marriage, but fears that its image is currently far too slated. She argues that people need to create their own view on it and not follow the negativity they read in the media. Jessica urges people to work out what they want for themselves and whether marriage is what’s next for them.
“I just felt like they were taking this statistic and adding their unsolicited views on it, and I wonder if they’ve ever actually asked these people how hard it was that they decided to get divorced or how much effort they put in not to get divorced. For me, marriage is a huge commitment, and I think it’s a special wonderful thing. I think it’s worth understanding a dissecting yourself what marriage is, what a wedding looks like, what you actually want for your life and for some people they won’t want a marriage at all,”
“Some people could be together, not married, for 20/30 years, and they might break up, but for some reason, people will feel like that is less legitimate and that is easier than if they were married.”
Although you’d be right to say that Jessica is an expert in her field, she often shies away from sharing her role when connecting with potential romances: “Someone I was dating, we were having a really amazing evening, and he asked me if I was good at relationships because of my job… In my mind, I was like, ‘let’s dissect that’ because you can’t be good or bad at relationships. people are weary of it,”
“I tend not to tell people outright what I do because you don’t want to be the doctor at the party. It’s weird; people almost use dates as a free session… I was in a relationship last year, and he didn’t find it intimidating as such, but if we had a disagreement, he would sort of use it against me and be like ‘you’re supposed to be good at this’ giving me no room for fault there. We’re all faulty humans; that’s what it means to be human.”
For those interested in Jessica’s services or would like to follow her informative and uplifting Instagram, follow this link.