It’s not too difficult to find classes that will teach you how to cook, dance, play the piano, sharp-shoot, and even operate a locomotive. But can you learn how to find love and true friendship? Then, once you do, is there a lesson plan to keep that love alive and to keep the relationship healthy?
Trenton native Aaron W. Chavis, the founder of Hearts in Mind, LLC, a new relationship coaching company, has developed a course of study to help singles find someone who is just right for them. The workshops, titled “Sanctuary for Singles,” are intended for singles 25 and older and will focus on such topics as the principles of conscious dating, overcoming behavorial blocks that keep people from reaching their relationship goals and indentifying dating traps that singles fall into.
“Sanctuary for Singles” starts Thursday, January 21, and continuing on third Thursdays of the month. The workshops will take place evenings at the hip, cozy Beanwood Coffee Latin Bistro in Bordentown, where participants can enjoy light Latin fare, wine, and coffees. Chavis also offers a free coaching session for those who attend.
Chavis, who also does private coaching, thinks an emotionally healthy couple with high self-esteem also has a positive effect on their family and neighbors and can even repair a dysfunctional community. Sounds like a lofty goal, but Chavis, who now resides in Willingboro, truly believes and has his eye on this long term goal. “I’m linking together better knowledge of intimacy, marriage and other family matters — all of this — in with building society,” he says. “I see this as a way to help heal the community. By building relationships, we rebuild communities, one heart at a time.”
An active member of the International Coaching Federation and the New Jersey Professional Coaches Association, Chavis probably has enough information on relationships to write a book. For now, though, he wants to reach out in person. “I think dating has become more challenging because there are so many ways to interact,” he says. “Also, the way we think about love and relationships has changed. It’s not about the traditional family all the time now. Women want to be in the workplace and they’re re-defining (certain aspects) of relationships. For example, because women are working, men are expected to do more of the ‘second shift’ tasks, such as housework and caring for kids.”
Chavis says really knowing yourself and putting your priorities first helps a person navigate these shifting expectations. “If you can be clearer about what you want, it becomes easier to develop a healthy relationship,” he says. “You have to ask yourself, ‘what are my beliefs, what are my boundaries?’ Then, you need to be patient enough to wait for the right one to come along and see how the relationship fits into the bigger picture.”
As far as those traps are concerned, Chavis has identified more than a dozen ways singles trip themselves up, landing in a less than satisfactory situation, or finding themselves alone again. One of the biggest traps for women, he says, is the “scarcity myth.” That is, that there are not enough good men out there, so a single woman takes whatever she can get, for fear of being alone.
“This just isn’t true,” Chavis says. “But you have to be patient.” He also describes the “fairy tale trap,” where both sexes believe the perfect person will somehow magically materialize. Not so, Chavis says, implying that shaping a great relationship takes work, intention, and focus — like finding a great job. He also talks about the “sex trap,” where two people fall into bed too easily, prioritizing intimacy over everything else, only to discover that a sexual relationship is not something that can be sustained over time.
Chavis also raises a red flag about co-dependency. “That’s a trap where people believe only a relationship will makes them complete,” he says. “In the co-dependent trap, one person also believes that if they do everything for their partner, they will automatically get love, but then the other person doesn’t give back.”
Now 33, Chavis says he started dating at the “ripe young age of 16,” and even then had specific goals about what he wanted to get out of a relationship. After his parents split up, he was raised by his mother, grandmother, and uncles, one of four siblings. As a teen, he observed various male role models’ experiences and learned early on about the do’s and don’ts of dating. One of the most important things Chavis learned when his uncles brought lady friends to the house was that mom and grandmom should always be respected.
“My uncles’ girlfriends treated my grandmother and mother with high respect,” he says. “It’s important for singles to know that their significant others should do the same — always treat family well. Other relationship values came from my uncles as well, things like giving women compliments, giving them attention, and being romantic.”
Growing up in some of Trenton’s toughest neighborhoods was a life lesson for Chavis, and unfortunately, he observed friends and neighbors making some pretty unhealthy decisions. “With gangs, especially, ladies would do bad things to get into the gang, and men would take advantage of the women,” he says. “I saw adults opting out of marriage, having multiple partners and whatnot, things that could have influenced me negatively. But I had a center at home, spiritual and family values. So, no matter what I saw in the community, I had a balance from the inner city.
“It was tough but my mother always kept us engaged in community programs and my grandmother instilled in us the concept of giving back to the community,” Chavis continues. “We all had a ‘can do’ mentality and knew if we worked hard, good things would come to us. I always wanted to help people and improve the community and coaching is a great way to do both.”
Chavis graduated from Rowan University in Glassboro with a degree in sociology, as well as law and justice studies, in 1999. He went on to Florida State University’s Askew School of Public Administration and Policy and in 2001 earned a master’s degree in public administration. Since then, Chavis has taught as an adjunct at Rowan, the College of New Jersey, and Mercer County College, in areas such as sociology of the family, intimate relationships, group dynamics, and social problems. He is also the chief operating officer of LifeTies Inc, a Trenton-based nonprofit that helps abused and neglected youth living in New Jersey.
He is married to Danielle Nobles-Chavis, a fellow Rowan graduate who works for Shaw Environmental Group in Cherry Hill. The couple has two children, five-year-old Gabriel and Israel, age one.
Partly through the distance learning program of the Relationship Coaching Institute in California, Chavis has been able to tie together his years of formal studies, self-study, and mentoring, and apply all of this knowledge to his nascent company. It’s not easy working full-time, launching a business, raising children, keeping a marriage lively and romance alive but Chavis says, “Love is work and there are always areas in which you can grow,” he says. “Love is not just something that happens. You have to be active and participate.” “I haven’t done this on my own. My family taught me to be humble enough to ask for help when it’s needed, and that’s how I was able to achieve this: through my wife, family, friends, mentors, and colleagues.”
“Sanctuary for Singles,” Hearts in Mind, Beanwood Coffee Shop, 222 Farnsworth Avenue, Bordentown. Thursday, January 21, 7 p.m. Interactive workshop series with relationship coach Aaron Chavis to identify dating traps, 10 principles of conscious dating, and goals. Latin-inspired food and wine. Online registration is available at http://www.heartsinmind1.eventbrite.com. $20. 609-614-7315 or www.heartsinmind.net.