Reasons people end up in dysfunctional relationships
In the last article we looked at the main dysfunctional relationship patterns people get into:
- Idealizing the external
- Chasing the emotionally unavailable
- Rescuing and fixing
- Self sacrifice
Now let’s have a look at why do we repeat these patterns
REASON #1 FEAR
You are afraid of Having a Good Relationship
You may think why would I be afraid of having a good relationship ? It makes sense that I would be avoiding a bad one but a good one ? The answer is that openness and joy, actually make us feel more vulnerable than we may feel it is safe to be. Positive emotions potentially expose you to rejection and pain which can be a terrifying prospect especially if you’ve experienced heartbreak before. So in a good relationship you may feel terrified and anxious and therefore avoid it at all costs.
You are scared of Intimacy
Intimacy can be defined as a desire to know and care for the another in a way that is mutual as well as the ability to be vulnerable and trust one another. If you are stuck in the same relationship patterns you may have learnt to be pretty independent and self-sufficient as a result of the fact that you feel nobody else will care for you or meet your needs. Perhaps somebody badly betrayed you or something hurtful struck you down and now you cannot trust, as you are scared you may not survive another blow.
REASON #2 DENIAL
Denial is a defence mechanism that your mind has produced to defend you from the possible threat of facing something that could destroy you. If something is so upsetting that it threatens to overwhelm or destroy you then your mind will push it away and repress it. When you are in denial you are not in touch with your need for intimacy (to be close and to trust others) . You may hardly ever have had your needs met so you don’t even remember you have them. If somebody asked you what you were looking for in a partner you may answer simplistically. You may be stuck in a fantasy. Or you may be focussed on a check list of items that have nothing to do with your emotional needs. You cannot even imagine what it would be like to be treated well or to be happy in a relationship.
You are in denial of anger
When you are in denial of old feelings you may not be aware that you are in fact angry and your anger may have turned in on yourself.
You are in denial of sadness
You could be unaware of a deep old sadness. It could be that the original experience that caused you to be wounded has happened so long ago that you can’t even remember it. Or it could be that the experience is too painful to be recalled . The sadness you feel now is the old sadness revisited.
You are in denial of your own responsibility
This is when you don’t want to look at yourself and you avoid taking any responsibility for what went wrong in your past relationship/s and instead blame your partner or others. By refusing to ask what you could have done differently and not learning the lesson you are bound to repeat similar mistakes in the future.
REASON #3 IMPULSIVE COPING STYLE
You have low tolerance for discomfort
If you are impulsive you will just jump in to a relationship without thinking much of the consequences in advance. You may feel uncomfortable with feeling bored or lonely, sad or angry and you just want to jump into action. Alternatively you may be afraid of thinking too much of the situation in case you find something wrong and then you have to deal with the inevitable disappointment. This way you may end up with similar kind of partners because you have not taken the time to go slow and properly vet your potential partner.
You are drawn to drama
You tend to get into relationships marked by emotional highs and lows. You may come from a home where there was a high of emotion or conflict. You may be afraid that a good relationship equals too much stability and that means boredom and therefore emotional death. You may feel addictively drawn to relationships that you know are not good for you and that you know will not work. If you already use drugs or alcohol to self medicate or you use other addictive behaviours to cope with life in general your dependency in relationships may be just another way that your impulsive coping style gets manifested.
Reason #4: DISTORTED BELIEFS
Sometimes it is our deep held beliefs – which are the foundation for all behaviour – that are holding you back.
You have unrealistic expectations
Do you believe that a relationship will permanently change the way you feel, so you’ll finally be happy ? Do you believe that if only you had a relationship you would automatically :
have someone who will be there no matter what
you’ll finally have a gratifying sex life
you’ll be swept way from the mundane realities of everyday life
If so, you are in for a fall ! Inevitably you will realize this relationship , like the one before, cannot meet these expectations. You are attempting to use the other rather than relating to them and you are trying to get something so unrealistic from a relationship that you end up disappointed on a regular basis.
You have Negative Core Beliefs
If you have deeply negative core beliefs about yourself you may be interfering with your ability to find and maintain a long-term, positive relationship.
Do you believe you are unlovable?
Do you believe you are helpless?
Do you believe a combination of the two?
You are rigid
You restrict yourself to a narrow selection of partners and fail to see the big picture. You may get caught up in non-important details, and not see how a partner may be good for you just because they don’t fit it with your rigid idea of the requirements they should meet.
You are trying to get over a previous trauma by putting yourself through a new one.
If you have previously experienced a trauma you may try to gain some mastery over the original traumatic event by putting yourself in similar traumatic situations now and hoping to react differently.
Trauma can be anything you perceive as traumatic, regardless of whether others would find it traumatic.
- So, what do you think are your triggers for repeating the same old patterns in your relationships ?
- Which ones of these reasons struck a chord ? If you think none do, have another look at the denial section !
- What in your past could have set the stage for this ?
And finally : Do you believe you can truly change the underlying causes of your behaviour? This is essential if you want to change . In the next article we will deal with how to practically change these patterns.
This article was inspired by the book : Dr Seth Love Prescription. Overcome Repeated Relationship Patterns by Seth Meyers.