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The Short Version: David Essel is a coach, counselor, and codependency expert. Over the past 40 years, he has helped people from all walks of life overcome what holds them back from achieving their goals. When it comes to relationships, David says singles should date with a knowledge of who they are and what they want. David’s 3% rule, which says that all singles have a small number of relationship non-negotiables, helps singles navigate dating with more confidence and authority.
Most of us can look back at some of our romantic relationships and know they probably should have ended before they did. I look back at a few of mine and can pinpoint things that happened at the beginning of the relationship that were indicative of the problems that ultimately ended it.
Sure, hindsight is always 20/20. But for me, there have been times when I could have avoided additional heartbreak if I had listened to myself a little better — trusted my intuition just a little bit more.
When dating, the most attractive thing you can be is a person who knows what they want.
David Essel is a coach, counselor, author, and speaker whose expertise has helped countless people. He told us about how singles can forge a more positive dating experience through self-reflection, avoiding codependency, and finding happiness within themselves.
“When you’re happy, the odds of attracting someone else who’s happy is going to increase dramatically,” David said.
David is an author, counselor, executive coach, international speaker, radio host, sports psychology coach – and the list goes on! While David’s expertise extends to many areas, his focus is always on positively impacting people’s lives, regardless of their current circumstances.
David has been in the business of improving people’s lives for over 40 years. He got his start in the sports world, working first in a motivational coaching capacity. After earning his Master’s in Fitness Management, David became a Mental Success Counselor for athletes from around the United States.
In 1990, David had a chance encounter with an athlete who was trying to heal from a past relationship. After helping her free herself from the resentments she held towards her ex-husband, David dived into the world of relationship work.
David became one of the first nationally recognized Master Life Coaches in the United States in 1990. Six years later, he created Life Coach Universe, a Life Coach Certification organization that has certified life coaches from around the world.
When it comes to dating and relationships, David takes a person-centered approach. It’s been said many times, but only because it’s evidenced in nearly every long-lasting relationship: You can’t expect to find happiness with another person if you’re not happy alone.
One of David’s areas of expertise in relationship work is codependency. He said he considers codependency one of the most common addictions and has helped thousands of people break free from its grasp.
It’s important to have standards while dating. When singles know what they want, they can save themselves a lot of time and heartbreak while dating. Plus, they tend to date with more confidence and less disappointment. Having a well-formed and reasonable set of standards makes it easier to identify good matches and say “Next, please!” to the not-so-great ones.
“We created the 3% rule about 25 years ago,” David said. “It all started when people kept on coming to me talking about compatibility. How important it was in relationships, how it was everything. And I’m sitting there thinking, there’s something more important than compatibility.”
For David, that was the 3%.
“You can be 97% compatible and have a great relationship in so many ways,” David explained, “but if you have any of the deal killers that would fall into the 3% category, the odds of the relationship ending are very high.”
The 3% is different for every dater and often reflects a person’s core values, beliefs, or desires. The 3% isn’t something superficial like height or hair color – it’s about the deal-breakers. David is talking about factors like marriage, kids, religion, and substance use.
David said daters should reflect and really think about what their 3% is. He said creating a list of the things that work and the things that don’t work can help folks figure out their non-negotiables. Singles can reflect on their past relationships to make these lists.
“So you might say, well, I always said that I was never going to date someone with young children, and I did, and it blew up in my face,” David said. “In that case, no young children is in your 3%.”
It’s up to daters to figure out what is most important to them. David said it’s not up to him or anyone else what’s in a dater’s 3%. Deciding what’s part of the 3% and what’s not can be an eye-opening experience for daters. They can think about past relationships in a constructive way that helps them make stronger, healthier relationships in the future.
The main focus of David’s relationship work is codependency. David said codependency has and continues to be one of the most significant problems relationships face – romantic or not. He said that a lack of education about what codependency is and how it manifests perpetuates the problem.
“We need an education about how to be in relationships because until we really know what codependency is, we can’t identify it, and we don’t know we’re in it,” David said. This means that codependent relationships can often exist for years, with both parties experiencing varying amounts of unhappiness, instability, and disappointment.
Codependency is a complex issue that can arise in many kinds of relationships. A codependent relationship is marked by excessive consideration and control, poor or no boundaries, enabling behaviors, and obsession with the other person. Codependent relationships can wreak havoc on families, the individuals involved, and the relationship itself.
David told us that after learning about what codependency is and what it looks like, people can think about their own relationships. “It really stems from childhood and relationships with parents and the family,” he said.
Overcoming codependency is about finding security and safety in oneself. David himself overcame habits of codependence that stemmed from his childhood and relationship with his mother. By reflecting on his experiences and forging a path ahead, he was able to form more secure relationships.
Singles need advice that keeps it real. That’s exactly what David provides.
“We think if you love someone deep enough, you can work through anything, but it’s just not true,” David said. “You can have all the compatibility in the world, but opposing belief systems are still going to break the relationship.”