This Feminist Dating Coach Is Teaching People About How To "Bless And Release," And If You're In The Dating Game This Is Need-To-Know Info

  Westend61 via Getty Images
Westend61 via Getty Images

Dating coach Lily Womble went on plenty of chemistry-deficient dates when she was single in New York City years ago. (There were plenty of dates where sparks flew, too, but this is not a story about that.)

She recalls getting a text from a man after one particularly lackluster first date. Knowing Womble was a dating coach, he playfully asked her how she thought the date went, professionally speaking. Womble paused, then gently texted back the following: “Hey, thanks so much for hanging out. I’m not feeling a romantic connection and I wish you the best.”

Later, she thought about how she’d handled the situation. Like many singles, Womble had gone on second and third dates, waiting to see if a connection would grow. This time, though, she’d simply “blessed and released” her date.

As Womble explains in a TikTok video that’s been making the rounds lately, when you “bless and release” someone you’re seeing, you wish them well and let them go.

“You’re telling them that this isn’t right for you so you can own what you want and move forward,” she says in the clip. “When you give yourself permission to know what is right for you, you’re opening up the space for those who are better for you and better for the other person as well.”

These days, Womble is happily married and long past her “bless and release” days. In an interview with HuffPost, Womble expanded on her dating strategy.

“Basically, ‘bless and release’ is a permission slip to really want what you want and to release everyone who isn’t in alignment with what you want for your future, in a romantic context and everywhere,” said Womble, the author of the upcoming dating book “Thank You, More Please: A Feminist Guide to Breaking Dumb Dating Rules and Finding Love.”

If this all sounds very Southern ― the dating equivalent of “Bless your heart” ― you’re on to something. Womble is originally from Birmingham, Alabama. In this case, though, the “bless” is less condescending. It’s more of a “Thank you, next” after a platonic connection.

“It’s a compassionate ‘bless,’” the dating coach said. “You’re acknowledging that the person is someone who’s perfectly nice but who’s just not right for you. It’s also a reminder not to beat yourself up for having preferences.”

As Womble sees it, bless and release is an antidote to a lot of unpleasantness in the dating world: Too grown-up for ghosting? Bless and release. Sick of situationships and waiting to feel sparks or for the other person to fully commit? Stop dillydallying and just bless and release.

“So many single people I work with are worried about scarcity in the dating pool,” Womble said. “They fear that what they want doesn’t exist romantically, and so they hold on to the wrong people.”

  Willie B. Thomas via Getty Images
Willie B. Thomas via Getty Images

Others are caught up in dead-end relationships because they fear what’s out there. Instead of getting caught up in a “sunk cost fallacy” relationship ― “I’ve spent six years with this person, I’ve got too much to lose” ― there’s nothing wrong with blessing and releasing after you’ve given the relationship consideration.

“You can bless and release in the early phases, over conversations on a dating app, or it can be five years into a relationship,” Womble said. “It wasn’t that you were wrong to get in that relationship; you just didn’t have all the information you needed yet.”

Liz Higgins, a marriage therapist who works primarily with millennials, thinks a lot of today’s singles would benefit from Womble’s approach. It’s certainly a healthier alternative to ghosting, she told HuffPost.

Of course, there is always a possibility your date won’t take even the most thought-out response well. But Higgins says the golden rule about holding boundaries is that you aren’t responsible for the other person’s reaction.

“Your accountability first remains with yourself and with standing in your truth,” she said. “This means operating out of your own value system, your boundaries and what you believe is a healthy approach to a situation. That’s how we become more relationally authentic with others.”

  Morsa Images via Getty Images
Morsa Images via Getty Images

The messaging behind “bless and release” ― it’s OK to walk away from something that isn’t serving you (or that you can foresee not serving you) ― is especially important for women to take to heart, said Han Ren, a psychologist in Austin, Texas.

“It’s empowering us to say what we mean and mean what we say, and freeing us from having to caretake the emotional impacts on the receiver,” she said. That kind of people-pleasing ― in the realm of relationships or elsewhere ― ultimately hinders women.

“The fear of not disappointing others or hurting them actually makes us untrustworthy to others as well as ourselves,” Ren said. “When we lack conviction to state our needs, others don’t know if we actually want to do anything or if we’re just saying it to people-please.”

Overpromising and under-delivering don’t do either party any favors, Ren said. But blessing and releasing ― especially before you get in too deep ― just might.

“I love the ‘bless and release’ approach to communicating your needs because it allows you to protect your emotional peace afterwards, similar to what you’d get from ghosting,” she said.

People ghost for an entirely understandable reason: They don’t want to deal with the possible disappointment, emotions and labor of hearing someone’s reaction to rejection, Ren said.

“But this approach allows you to preserve your emotional energy while releasing the other person as well,” she said. “It’s a gift to both parties.”This article originally appeared on HuffPost.