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Ashley Kelsch’s Advice on Navigating Modern Love

Self-awareness, integrity and avoiding shame are key elements of the dating coach’s strategy

Ashley Kelsch is Austin’s top certified, professional dating and relationship coach and former owner of Teddies for Betty’s, the lingerie boutique on 2nd Street that she ran for a decade. She offers one-on-one life-coaching programs to help clients acknowledge and understand limiting beliefs, to set boundaries and to learn how to change mindsets so they can get what they want in their romantic lives and feel empowered. Ashley helps men and women of all ages, single and married. She has a weekly podcast called Modern Renegadesand you can follow her on Instagram @AshleyMKelsch. Read more of her Tribeza columns here.

I received a call from a woman who wanted my advice. She met a man online but still hasn’t met him in person. But, she said, they text all day, every day. She added: “Okay, we sext, too, and I send him nudes. I’m 66. Is that weird?”

I asked her if she thought it was weird. I waited as she thought about it and after a brief pause, she said, “I don’t think so. I’m actually having fun!” And then she began to laugh.

“So, what’s the problem?” I asked.

“I guess I don’t know what I’m doing,” she replied. “I’ve never dated like this before — this isn’t what it was like before I got divorced or after my time being single. I guess I wonder if I’m doing it right.”

Later that day, a friend who is in her 40s asked me how to record a sexy video. This is way above my pay grade and beyond my expertise. I was like, “Why are you asking me that?”

“Because you’re the dating coach! You know this stuff,” she exclaimed, “and I don’t want to mess it up.”

More from Ashley: The Secret to Dating When Newly Single

Again, I want to reiterate — I don’t know this stuff. But my advice for anyone considering making this kind of content is to ask yourself what makes you feel sexy? Also, what makes you feel in your essence? And perhaps find out what turns on the recipient.

One question I do know how to answer — because I get it frequently — is the one about what to say when you don’t want to go out with someone again and don’t want to tell the person you’ve been dating. My response here never falters. I ask: How would you want to be treated in that scenario? Would you want to be left hanging and wondering for an indefinite amount of time or hear the hard truth?

For the record, I’m no more a master at love and relationships than the next person. I’ve yet to encounter anyone who has mastered the art of being in a relationship.

Modern dating is nothing like it was generations ago. The landscape has shifted culturally, socially and technologically.

RELATED: Ashley Explores the “Friends First” Strategy

You might wonder, what is modern dating? What are the rules, if any?

We are no longer dating or partnering to fill traditional roles. I believe modern love is based on soul-to-soul connection. People are looking to connect and feel seen, which is a tricky — and high — expectation to meet.

This is modern dating. It’s messy and hard and difficult. But it’s worth it. You are worth it.

And because of all the changes in dating, we don’t have a reference point and many people can feel like they don’t know what they are doing. Think about it… Do your grandparents understand what it’s like to be ghosted? Can your parents truly understand what it’s like to find out the person you matched with on a dating app also matched with some of their friends — and they’re chatting?

READ: Ashley’s Advice on Getting What You Want Out of Dating Apps

I’m not suggesting the nature of those events didn’t occur among previous generations of love seekers, but the context is new and much of what goes on now was not considered the norm in the past.

Doubt and uncertainty about what to say and when to say it — coupled with the daily micro rejections that come with modern dating — can add up quickly. And if you are human, you are feeling it.

Learning to date and love in a way that is honest and authentic to you is a learning process. The goal should be to discover what you enjoy doing, to feel good about the person you are and to not allow others’ reactions mean anything about how you see yourself.

Unfortunately, if you aren’t mindful and don’t have your own back, your actions — as well as those of others’ — can scratch at your self-worth.

It’s normal to stir up icky feelings when dating and in relationships. I cannot stress this enough. Therefore, awareness is essential to the process of finding love and enjoying romance.

When you engage in romantic relationships, deep wounds are quickly revealed, and unfinished business has a way of accelerating to the top. No matter how much work you do on yourself as an individual, this will always be the case. But knowing that this is your inner work and that there is no shame in the process of learning how to love are key.

RELATED: Tackling Conflict in Relationships

This is modern dating. It’s messy and hard and difficult. But it’s worth it. You are worth it.

Practice self-awareness in romance and maintain your integrity as you seek modern love. I’ll add that it’s never too late to start. Whether you’ve been married for years or have a decade of dating under your belt, this work is for you.

Choosing what you want to believe about relationships and how you want to show up is your choice. There are no rules. When something doesn’t feel good, ask yourself what is coming up and why? And if your integrity is not in alignment with your actions, choose to not do it again. Then, let it go.

There’s no shame or blame in modern love, my friends. There are decisions and then there’s what you make it mean about you. Choose wisely.