A woman has explained why she ditched “toxic dating habits” to find love through so-called “intentional dating”.
Louise Rumball, 32, experienced real heartbreak for the first time at the age of 31 when she was dumped by her partner of one year in December 2020.
She embarked then on a journey of self-discovery and decided to start therapy. Her therapist taught her how to “intentionally date”, which meant she had to be clear about what she wanted with someone from the very first date.
She also learned how to stop repeating negative patterns which would lead to heartbreak and rejection.
Her psychologist, Dr Tari Mack, said one of these was unconscious attraction.
Dr Mack described this as unknowingly attracting people who reinforce how we feel about ourselves or who repeat patterns of love learned from our childhood. Everyone has universal red flags such as lying, infidelity and inconsistency, but every individual has their own personal deal-breakers.
Through therapy, Louise met her healthiest partner yet in Tulum, Mexico when she was travelling in March 2022.
She is now dating Juan Raul, 41, a hotel operations manager, with whom she is due to reunite after two months of long-distance dating.
Now she hopes to inspire other women to “date with intention” to find their ideal partner.
Louise, a podcaster from Clapham, London, said: “A year and a half ago my boyfriend called me out of the blue and broke up with me. We were living together, and it was so savage.
“I had to go back to my parents’ house, and I never heard from him again. I was devastated. The magnitude of the heartbreak was so big because I was 31 and as women, we feel our biological clocks are ticking.
“I started therapy to help me through the combination of heartbreak and going through the pandemic. Once I got through the initial shock and grief, I realised there were so many things in therapy that could help me find a healthier relationship next time around.”
Looking for answers, Louise started therapy and it changed the course of her love life.
“The foundation of intentional dating is needing someone whose values align with yours,” she said. “I used to confuse chemistry with compatibility until I started therapy .
“Just because something feels good, it doesn’t mean it is good.”
Louise has now set up Open House, a platform delivering on-demand therapy content. She said she has found there is a lot more to heartbreak than the surface-level feeling of rejection.
She said: “As humans we can suffer abandonment wounds – the feeling of intense rejection when someone leaves and, also, we have an innate fear of being alone.”
These, Dr Mack told Louise, can make break-ups more painful.
Louise added: “I explored and unpicked my unconscious attraction and I learnt how we replicate cycles learnt in childhood.
“I was raised by an incredible father who like many, was committed to working hard to support his family. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him.
“My model of love was that I felt comfortable with male figures who are not always present physically or emotionally, subconsciously I was attracted to emotionally unavailable men.
“Through therapy, I had to learn love isn’t transactional and you don’t have to behave a certain way to deserve love.
“Before I felt I was either too much or not enough. I thought if I was quieter, prettier, more successful or skinnier I’d be more deserving of love.”
Louise says she consistently attracted the wrong type of man.
She discovered key qualifiers – key characteristics, attributes or skills that any healthy partner needs to possess or demonstrate in order for you to consider investing in a relationship with them.
She said: “Dr Tari taught me everyone has 12 key qualifiers that they need in a partner.
“Most people write ‘attractive’, ‘kind’, ‘generous’, ‘friendly’ and ‘fun’ but forget to acknowledge key important factors such as ‘consistent’, ‘reliable’ and ‘honest’.”
Louise says singletons looking for love should also identify their deal breakers and be aware of red flags.
For her, after being in an abusive relationship in her 20s, deal-breakers which would lead her to cut off a relationship instantly are intense jealously, controlling traits and aggression.
She said: “Outside of these more obvious things, everyone has their own person dea;-breakers.
“I have been sober for four-and-a-half years so I need someone who has a calm lifestyle compatible with mine.
“The key to intentional dating is being clear about what you want, as scary as it seems you must be up-front about what you want with someone from the very first date.
“I wanted a relationship, and my therapist told me I had to go into situations communicating clearly what I wanted and through asking who I was dating and what they wanted.
“I was scared because I didn’t want to frighten them off and be too intense. I ignored the advice first time round because I didn’t want to come across too intense.
“I got dressed up and travelled 45 minutes across London to meet a guy for a date.
“He was super handsome, and we got on well but after three hours together he revealed he was too busy for anything serious.”
This was a learning curve, before Louise claims she would have continued to pursue him, but she instantly cut it off.
Louise also said she was now aware of the “I’m happy, but” phenomenon – when people delude themselves into believing they are happy but there’s a big problem that can’t be worked through.
In March 2022, Louise travelled to Tulum, Mexico to work remotely.
She met someone who asked her out who, thanks to therapy, she identified as the “usual emotionally unavailable, inconsistent man” she had repeatedly attracted throughout her life.
Their chemistry was amazing, she said, but he was non-committal about what he wanted from his future.
“It felt good, but it wasn’t good, and it wouldn’t have been good for me, so I cut it dead in the tracks,” she said.
One day she was sat in a hotel and got talking to a man, Juan Raul, 41.
Louise said: “He instantly said, ‘I want to take you for dinner,’ and the next day he took me for dinner.
“He actually followed through on his plans which is the complete opposite of the men I’d usually attract, they would promise me the world and then deliver nothing.”
For Louise, it was the beginning of a healthy relationship because he was consistent, calm and reliable.
“He was so accepting and supportive, we’re so honest with each other and navigate conflict so calmly,” she said.
“This is a change from past relationships that often involved blazing rows.
“If I hadn’t started intentionally dating, I never would’ve attracted or accepted this love.”
Louise added she hasn’t sacrificed anything in her new relationship. She added: “Therapy has been revolutionary for me, there is a misconception that unless you’re in crisis you shouldn’t go to therapy,” she said.
“There is so much benefit and value in unpicking cycles and conditioning that we learnt long before we were even conscious of it.
“I know it isn’t accessible for everyone but I’m trying to help other women through my podcast with various therapists to look into and explore themselves.”