Most of us can probably say that we’ve dated a “type.” I often hear people reveal that they’ve managed to find a significant other that is emotionally unavailable, clingy, insensitive, too sensitive, defensive, etc, etc, etc. In truth, most relationships involve some level of incongruence between partners, but in heathy relationships those ups and downs are less like a roller coaster and more like sail boat. What kind of relationship are you in? What kind of relationship would you like to be in? Below are 5 reasons we get stuck in our unhealthy relationship patterns:
1. It feels too familiar. Many of us will re-enact our attachment dynamics from our families of origin onto our romantic relationships. We might subconsciously seek out someone who has similar qualities to one or both of our parents in an effort to get un-met childhood needs fulfilled in adulthood. Unfortunately this doesn’t usually work and we are left feeling frustrated, disconnected and bad about ourselves
2. We have low self esteem. It is very common to look externally for validation. We do this everyday when we buy stuff to look or be cool. We call this other esteem because we are depending on someone else to make us feel worthy. If you can’t stomach the idea of being alone, and need someone else to make you feel whole you might be struggling with low self-esteem.
3. We don’t have good boundaries. If you have a tough time saying “no,” standing up for yourself, or close yourself off emotionally, listen up! Boundaries are our way of telling people how we want to be treated. If we let our partners off the hook but secretly hold onto resentment or we are terrified to let someone get close to us we are allowing our poor boundaries to shape the relationship. Boundaries can be either too rigid (afraid to let others in) or too diffuse (not standing up for yourself). Learning to practice healthy boundaries in a relationship can enhance respect and connection.
4. We are afraid to be venerable. This is sort of like #3 in that we have our walls up and are afraid to let people in. Usually this has to do with a fear of rejection. When we are afraid, we do all sorts of strange things like avoid, sabotage, and rescue.
5. Our expectations are unrealistic. Everyone is looking for that other person to be both their lover and best friend. Then they will ride off into the sunset and things will be perfect. Truth: relationships are hard and take work. When someone (or the relationship) isn’t meeting our expectations, people may experience an urge to give up and run for the hills. The hardest part is learning to sit with the discomfort of challenging times and know that you are still a good and worthy person and partner.
If you resonated with any of the above, you are not alone and there is help! Awareness is the first step towards achieving a healthy balanced love life so you are already on your way. Seeking individual therapy to help address core issues and build tools to improve interpersonal communication can help. I’ve also included some reading suggestions below:
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Venerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. Brene Brown
Facing Co-Dependence. Pia Mellody