March, 2012 / Author:

The universal search for love can sometimes seem even more difficult when paired with the overwhelming hetero-normativity of our world. Luckily, there are professionals dedicated to helping us queers find our love matches.

Emily Wilcox has been working as a relationship coach for six years, specializing in women’s issues. She recently published 100 Lesbians Walk Into a Bar, a book full of questions from real couples she’s helped and the advice she’s given them. Her passion for helping others with their love lives comes from her life-long fascination with psychology of relationships in particular, how we relate, why we tend to sometimes lose ourselves in relationships, and why we get so devastated when we lose them. 

“I’ve always been interested in the relation of the two,” says Wilcox. “I really wanted to find out why we think the way we do and act the way we do in our relationships. Our intimate relationships are very different. When you’re dealing with lesbian relationships, you’re dealing with two women. There’s a lot more estrogen going on. It’s a little more multifaceted. Clearly the male-female relationships have problems of their own.”

Wilcox’s writing career began with various publications, sometimes doing  entertainment news reporting, before she began pursuing coaching full time. “I always kind of did it on the side. It was always sort of my passion,” Wilcox explains. “The writing was paying the bills. I made the leap when I started combining my relationship coaching with my writing. I started writing for a publication giving dating advice and relationship advice. “

How important are relationships? “I think relationships account for 80 per cent of our quality of life,” says Wilcox. “Everyone wants love. And everyone is either seeking relationship or seeking to get out of a relationship. So we all kind of came to this earth to seeking connections. We want to feel this connection with people. Some people – I personally feel we don’t need another person to feel whole or a connection. We need people – sometimes we feel like having a significant other will make our lives seem fuller. But really it’s having people to share our life with. There’s a stigma – oh you’re single – and it shouldn’t be that way.”

Wilcox’s practice includes a holistic view of her clients and life. She gets to the centre of the individual’s heart, using practical and soulful advice hard won from her own journey to self-love and acceptance.

“I think everyone feels happy helping people. We’re at our best when we’re giving,” says Wilcox . “I think for me there’s a bit of selfishness. It feels very good to help people. I have struggled with my own issues in my childhood and my life. I suffered from depression – everything was very dark. I was able to bring myself, along with help, out of it and into a completely different person today. I was able to do this – from the negative to the positive – so I know it’s possible. So when I meet with women who are struggling with it – I literally know it’s possible to transform that into something else.

“I want everyone to know this is possible. You don’t have to be trapped in your mind. There are things you can do to find yourself and create yourself. A lot of times we walk through life choosing to be the person we decided on as kids. Sometimes we don’t stop to think to decide again. We don’t stop to create ourselves again. Abuse, abandonment issues, neglect – whatever we suffered as children we tend to carry through to adulthood. But we can wipe that slate clean and create something totally different.”

“In general, especially women but men, too, are so afraid to be vulnerable because if we’re vulnerable we may be rejected for who we are. In terms of being authentic, sometimes we put on a persona of what we want people to see so we’re not judged for what we are. When we’re with someone we can feel it energetically when someone isn’t being authentic.

“Once we reveal our authentic self, we open ourselves to rejection. It’s possible, but when we’re authentic it’s much easier to be loved because we’re being our true selves. Whatever the issue is – someone is going to love because you are that. As long as you’re open about who you are. It’s truth that we love about people. Truth is sexy.”

In a sea of relationship advice that tells you to be one way or another, much of which instructs us how to change ourselves to make ourselves more attractive, the gentle advice to just be ourselves is a breath of fresh air and almost revolutionary. Instead of celebrating the self, Wilcox asks us to look at the love we already have within us as a powerful truth that allows us to open our hearts to becoming more compassionate, fierce individuals.

“When you lack self love, we’re trying to get it from the person we’re with. Then we’re OK, then we’re lovable,” Wilcox says. “But it doesn’t happen that way. It’s impossible. We can never get that love from outside sources. We have to start with ourselves. A lot of times women feel in order to have love or self worth that we need to fix something about ourselves. We all have flaws. We can be a little nuts. Women feel like they need to fix themselves before they can be loved. But really there’s nothing to fix. Women are worthy of love exactly as they are in this moment. I have a million flaws. I can’t wait until I fix them to accept love.”

Wilcox’s own story of self-love shows the commitment needed to really love yourself as the most important person in your life and the rewards to be had on that journey. “I had to do a lot of introspection,” she reflects. “I had to question my thoughts and beliefs. So any thoughts and beliefs that would pop into my head – it was a diligent process when I realized I had to find my love for myself. I literally had to write down where every thought and belief came from. I knew it didn’t come from me, it came from something in my past. It was a combination of that and thinking what do I now want to believe, what do I want to create for myself. It was creating a manual for myself.

“It’s like being a newborn baby but you’re able to do it again. I remember one day I was sitting in my living room.  I was working on this collage. I was literally sitting there and suddenly my entire mind and perception and reality changed. It literally happened in a moment. It was from everything I was doing – but I know exactly when that transformation happened. I felt it. It was really profound. Change is gradual but transformation is instantaneous.”

– Katrina Caudle is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer.

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