Have you ever thought about what your exes have in common?
I mean, really think about it. Dating can be like a funhouse of mirrors, all relationships reflecting back a similar but distorted image. It’s not just the commonalities about them, think about whether or not there’s a pattern in what you gain from these relationships.
I used to think I was the problem in my relationships. I took a tremendous amount of accountability for how things played out in friendships, relationships, and even my connection to or lack thereof to my relatives. Something had to be fundamentally wrong with me because I was the common denominator.
My thinking was flawed, and I suffered for it.
If you want to better understand yourself, you need to tune into your brain’s algorithm and understand how it functions. We are wired to protect ourselves from danger. Everything we do is based on what has been ingrained in us through our experiences. Those experiences become the code we use to navigate the world and steer ourselves clear of perceived danger towards safety, comfort, and stability.
Perceived danger is significant when it comes to relationships. You can self-sabotage a perfectly healthy relationship if:
You don’t believe it will last.
Don’t think you’re worthy.
Don’t trust that conflict-free love can be real.
There are many more reasons, but the point is that if you’re suffering from abandonment issues, a healthy relationship is perceived as dangerous because it will undoubtedly end in loss. It doesn’t have to be true, you just have to believe it will. What does this lead to?
You stick to relationships—healthy or not—that that you know how to navigate.
In this case, what is healthy feels good, or makes you happy becomes something you need to protect yourself from because of the devastation you believe will come when it inevitably ends.
In reality, you have locked yourself into a loop of relationship Groundhog Day that probably still leaves you questioning, “Why does this keep happening to me?” You always feel badly at the end of these relationships anyway. You wasted your time! And, if that wasn’t enough, you’re still alone.
What does your brain think? You saw it coming, so it’s not that bad. It could have been so much worse. And so, your coping mechanism (stick to what you know) remains intact.
So, what do we do to break this cycle?
Recognize the Inevitable
Let me be clear, you WILL be hurt. You will suffer loss at one point or another until you find a lasting relationship. Are you going to suffer through dating safe people, the same people, or no one at all? Or, are you going to put in some real effort and date someone who you allow yourself to form a real connection with a 50/50 shot of working out?
Remember, when I said my thinking was flawed? This is what I was talking about. My new way of thinking is, go for it. If it’s going to hurt anyway, have a beautiful experience, enjoy the chemistry, relish in the pillow talk, be yourself, dance with them like no one is watching. Yes, losing someone you care for hurts, but repeating unhealthy patterns for the sake of self-preservation also hurts.
Do you know yourself?
Learn more about yourself and your values with our free assessment.
Recognize the Patterns
You need to get to know yourself well. So well, in fact, that you know precisely what your protocol is when you feel you’re in “danger” in a relationship. Do you refuse to commit? Do you start talking to other people? Do you pick a fight? Get to learn your pattern of behavior step by step when you’re triggered.
Next, figure out what they have in common. How are you choosing the people you date? Do you think they’re all lovely people who will never hurt you? Do you have the upper hand in the relationship? Maybe you’re not that into them, so it feels like no big deal if things end.
You need to recognize the patterns to be more intentional in your selection.
Recognize the Intent
Check your motives for choosing to date someone for any reason short of:
They make me happy.
I’m having a fantastic time with them.
I can see myself with them long-term.
I can’t imagine not being with them.
It’s not to say anyone you spend time with has to make you feel these things, but if you’re jumping into a commitment with people you’re not that into, there’s a reason for that. It’s not fair to either or you to be in a relationship that isn’t actually what you want.
There will be lots of times when you have to do what feels counterintuitive. That’s okay. I’m not asking you to abandon everything you’re learned, I’m asking that you take the time to recognize why you operate the way you do in relationships and life.