In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I decided to call up Nikolai Diana Blinow this past Tuesday to find out more about her and her initiative "Powerful Women Powerful Partners". When I first connected with Nikolai via Facebook, I felt completely drawn to her personality, but rather hesitant about her relationship-focused group. As a happily single, twenty-eight-year-old woman, I had no interest in joining her group. In fact, I felt admittedly a little turned off by the idea of women coming together to seek out romantic partners, that is until I spoke with Nikolai over the phone and realized her group’s true intentions. "Powerful Women Powerful Partners" is indeed a platform where women can come together and talk about romantic relationships, but Nikolai’s mission and reasoning behind starting the group goes so much deeper.
Nikolai has always been a highly motivated individual. As a child of divorce, she grew up fast, learning how to be self-reliant and goal-driven. She watched her mother struggle financially, dependent on her ex-husband’s income and anxious at the mercy of his lack of support. Nikolai vowed to never let a man, nor anyone else for that matter, take control of her life the way her father took financial control over her mother. She went on to study at Salem State University and Rhode Island College, where she received her bachelor's and master's degree. After graduating, she started her own psychotherapy practice where she could make a living doing meaningful work.
Over the next four years of her career, Nikolai started to notice an interesting pattern. While she welcomed clients of all ages with all sorts of problems, the ones she tended to attract the most were women in their late twenties, thirties, and early forties. While these women came to her for different reasons, they all had a thread of qualities in common: they were driven, resilient, powerful, but also struggling with anxiety and depression.
As Nikolai continued to work with these women, she came to understand them on a deep level and realize that the root of most of their anxiety and depression stemmed from interpersonal relationship struggles--romantic relationships in particular. She wanted to explore this issue further with her clients, but as a psychotherapist, she never got to focus for too long on any one subject. Clients viewed their sessions with her as maintenance, jumping from topic to topic to cover all aspects of mental health, much like a primary care doctor broadly checks many aspects of a patient’s physical health. Still, even as her clients grazed over the details and changed subjects, Nikolai couldn’t help but pick up on the same underlying issue: relationship problems.
All these women—these strong, successful, independent, funny, and smart women—were struggling in some way interpersonally. Some had very few meaningful relationships, if any at all, while others held on relentlessly to damaging and draining relationships. The lack of social connection, as well as the stress of hurtful social connection, all contributed to the high rates of anxiety and depression in these women. For the women lacking in social relationships, they often felt unsupported, lonely, and disconnected from joy and pleasure. For the women stuck in unhealthy relationships, they often felt stressed, guilty, overwhelmed, and insecure. Human beings are social creatures. We need healthy relationships not only to survive, but to thrive. Nikolai became fascinated by this young demographic of women and inspired to do everything in her power to make a positive change.
In 2017, Nikolai began reading up on burnout research and started her first initiative geared toward women in their twenties, thirties, and forties called "Burnout to Balance". Along with depression and anxiety, Nikolai noticed that her clients were also highly prone to burnout. From her own personal research and studies, she learned that burnout can occur when a person is working too hard and when a person is wasting valuable energy and time on draining relationships. Nikolai describes women as caregivers, historically geared toward self-sacrifice and naturally able to anticipate the needs of others. Although these qualities can certainly be assets, they can also be a bit of a curse, leading women to give too much, especially to those who solely want to take. When women aren’t aware of these tendencies and secure in their boundaries, they can find themselves in a crisis situation rather quickly. As a burnout-prone person herself, Nikolai decided it was time to gear her practice toward burnout prevention to help both herself and her clients recognize the signs of energy depletion before the inevitable crash.
Through her one-on-one coaching work with "Burnout to Balance", Nikolai saw a variety of burnout indicators, including emotional stress eating, irritability, increased drinking and smoking, but once again, a common thread she noticed among her favorite group of young women was people-pleasing behaviors. One of their major warning signs of a possible burnout was their inability to say “no” to others, which stemmed from interpersonal relationship struggles, much like the anxiety and depression issues. After several years of working with burnout-prone people and realizing this common underlying problem, Nikolai decided to narrow her target even further and specialize in helping women find healthy relationships, and thus, "Powerful Women Powerful Partners" was born.
Although Nikolai only just started the Facebook group in November 2019, "Power Women Powerful Partners" is already a flourishing platform rich with community, resources, tools, and one-on-one coaching. The purpose of PWPP is to offer women a safe place to seek relationship help, receive feedback from a group of like-minded women, and find professional guidance. Nikolai shares her own personal experiences within the groups’ discussions, but as a coach, her role is often to challenge the members, noticing behaviors and beliefs that may be getting in the way of their own relationship growth. For each new member, she offers a free “clarity call” where she talks one-on-one over the phone for up to an hour, discussing individual goals, needs, and areas of improvement. PWPP is free to join, but soon, Nikolai wants to offer a paid option where members can work within an intimate group on a shared goal and receive specialized videos and reading materials. Although she’s excited about this 2.0 group, she doesn’t want anyone to feel pressured to join the paid group. Her goal is to help as many women as possible feel empowered, and so she plans to continue checking in daily with the free group even as she invests her time and specialized resources with the paid group.
Even though Nikolai’s personal story of autonomy inspired me and her research regarding relationships and mental health fascinated me, I still couldn’t help but feel skeptical about this all-female group focused on finding romantic relationships. Nikolai went on, however, to emphasize that although PWPP is geared toward helping women find enriching relationships, it is also about helping women feel grounded and empowered in general. She has seen all the extremes, from isolated workaholics to stressed-out people-pleasers. She has worked with women who feel empty inside, stuck within meaningless, long-term relationships as well as women who are stubbornly set on being alone. Nikolai doesn’t judge any situation or pressure anyone to change. She is not out to break up relationships or pressure single women to start dating. Her job is simply to listen, share, connect, and offer tools. She wants to help women achieve their most fulfilling life by challenging their current patterns and behaviors and encourage growth. She believes there is a middle ground between all the extremes. She wants to help all her members reach this place of balance, where they can be vulnerable but also show their true self—where they can give and receive love but without sacrificing themselves and dissolving their boundaries.
By the end of our phone conversation, I felt my reservations about PWPP ease down. Although I am still not interested in finding a romantic relationship, my walls regarding the topic softened a bit the more I learned about Nikolai and the motives behind her Facebook group. She believes women have a lot of love to give, but because of past pain and trauma, they either have a tendency to give too much or protect it with all their might and hardly give any at all. Her advice to everyone is to “be like a house, not like a fortress.” She wants to help women find the happy medium so they can continue to give love as well as receive. She wants to empower women to stop wasting their love and energy on relationships that only drain so they can start finding powerful relationships.
Nikolai Diana Blinow