Most of us have, at some point, been in love with someone who wasn’t good for us, and to us. Some have been in it once, and learned their lessons, while some are still in it, and can’t understand why they keep choosing the same patterns, the same bad boy or girl, over and over again.
It can be very painful to live like that, but often times, we persist because we don’t see a way out, or don’t want to. We get attracted to a new partner hoping it will be different this time, but they end up treating us as badly as the last one did, or even worse.
Note that I’m not ultimately referring to being beat up by a man or woman.
Maybe you keep dating guys that openly and persistently flirt, or even cheat on you. Or you always end up in relationships with jealous and possessive girls who follow your every move and try to control your life. Maybe you are dating an emotionally detached guy over and over again – and keep wondering why he is so distant and cold and why is it so hard to get close to him. Maybe you repeatedly date women who criticize everything you do, making you feel small and unappreciated.
So why do people do this? Why do we end up in relationship patterns that don’t do us any good? Why do we stay with partners who make us feel miserable – why don’t we just get up and leave?
We can all relate to making choices out of fear. It is one of the worst decision makers when it comes to choosing a partner.
Fear tells us that we better lock a partner down fast or we may be alone forever. It causes us to obsess, and sends us the message that it’s too late to break up and start over. No one wants to be the last single friend, or the really old parent, or be judged for still being single.
However, what we should do fear most, is spending the rest of our lives unhappily with the wrong person. If you are with your partner because you are afraid to leave (for whatever reason), know that you are choosing to be unhappy now, because you are afraid to be unhappy later, and in most cases, your ‘later’ happiness still, is never guaranteed.
- You Don’t Value Yourself
We all go through periods of feeling high and low. In relationships nothing interferes with the ability to have an authentic, reciprocal partnership like chronic low self-esteem. It can cause you to sabotage relationships or settle for a relationship where you’re treated poorly, which ultimately matches your beliefs about yourself.
There are so many ‘valid’ reasons we do this.
No relationship with someone else can ever compensate for secretly believing you don’t deserve it. Depending on your life circumstances, the concept of valuing yourself may feel impossible. It’s about starting small and making a commitment to practice being kind to ourselves like I explained in the insecurities that make you a prisoner, and recognizing we are valuable, even when we think we don’t deserve it.
- The Pressure
Society gives us terrible advice around our decision making for choosing a partner. We are told things like “rely on fate”, “go with your gut”, and “hope for the best”. We’re bombarded with images on social media that make us feel behind in life. We are indoctrinated with the belief that we have to find a life partner before we are “too old,” which, depending on where you live, could be anywhere from ages 21-35. This pressure leads many to settle for partners they know in the long run are wrong for them.
“When you choose a life partner, you’re choosing a lot of things, including your parenting partner and someone who will deeply influence your children. He/she will be your eating companion for about 20,000 meals, your travel companion for about 100 vacations, your primary leisure time and retirement friend, your career therapist, and someone whose day you’ll hear about 18,000 times.” – Tim Urban.
So while it’s true that pressure is abundant, remember, this is your life.
- You Believe Your Relationship Will Complete You
A huge mistake many people make when looking for a partner is holding on to the belief that a romantic relationship is the key to being happy.
That, is not true.
When you approach a relationship from a sense of emptiness inside, the person you’re dating will perceive it, and it won’t feel good to them. When you are confident, the energy you give off will convey that being in a relationship is your choice, not a dire need. When you have that underlying feeling of needing to find a relationship out of fear, your entire vibe can change from calm and collected to insecure and riddled with self-doubt.
The truth is, only you can complete you. The job of healing one’s own emptiness cannot be handed over to our partners. This is personal work that if left undone will follow you from one relationship to the next.
As human beings, we are drawn on an unconscious level toward the familiar. The experiences that make us who we are also influence who we choose as partners. Many of us pick partners who help us stay within our comfort zone, even if that zone turns out to be less than desirable.
For example, if our past was filled with feelings of rejection or inadequacy, we will be drawn to scenarios in which we feel the same way as adults. Imagine this, you may be initially attracted to someone whose attention makes you feel good about yourself, but eventually, you start to notice that your partner is resistant to getting close, and can be dismissive. This will in turn trigger your fear of rejection, validate that you feel inadequate, and trigger anxiety.
To be clear, your fear of inadequacy being validated does not mean you are inadequate. It does mean that you are being put in the position to confront this belief, and act from a place of self-worth. I want to challenge you to respond differently the next time you feel rejected in your relationship. Notice if there is a familiarity of the situation and ask yourself, “Am I OK with this? Is this what I want in my relationship?” If the answer is no, it is time to act. If you feel you can’t act on your own, it is time to reach out for help.
- Your ‘wounded self’ is doing the attracting
Are you attracted to people that you want to fix? Are you drawn to the “project” aspect of a relationship where you get to help your partner change for the better? If you answered yes, you may be choosing partners from your “wounded self.” The wounded self is the part of you that feels incomplete or damaged; it is the part that makes you question your worth or makes you think you are flawed in some way, always wondering if you are worth loving. When you put your energy into helping your partner heal from their issues, it is your way of unconsciously acting out how you wish to be treated.
The patience, love, support you provide to your partner is an unconscious desire of what you craved in your early relationships. It gets unconsciously framed in the psyche as “if I can get “x” to change, then I am worth it, I am lovable.” For some people it is easier to put their focus and attention on how their partner needs to change because it allows them to avoid having to look at their own “stuff.” There is much healing to be done when we are choosing our partners from an unhealthy part of us. When we show up this way in our relationship, we are actually abandoning ourselves and avoiding our deeper needs, and this, is a recipe for unhappiness.
We pick partners that treat us like doormats because we don’t believe we are worthy of being treated nicely. It’s usually not a conscious choice – often we don’t know we should ask for more love and respect, because we’ve always been treated this way (in our families, schools, social environments).
Sometimes we even confuse this toxic addiction with true love. We believe it’s the greatest love of all – because no matter what our partner does, we still madly love them. We think that’s pure, unconditional love – but it’s mostly just insecurity, low self-esteem, and lack of self-respect, and this partner, no matter how bad they are – at least makes us feel like we’re worth something (because somebody wants us).
One of the most profound and challenging aspects of being in a relationship is that it provides us with the opportunity for personal growth, if we allow it. Each relationship you encounter in your life comes with lessons to learn and what you need to evolve. But you have to want to evolve. And until you do, you will continue to face the same issues with each relationship moving forward. If we can think of each relationship as an opportunity to examine where we get stuck or triggered, and aim to work on those parts of ourselves, then we put ourselves in a better position to choose healthy, whole relationships.
Let me hear your thoughts…