Why Do You Keep Choosing “Unhealthy” Relationships?
Have you ever said to yourself, "How did I get in this kind of relationship again? It seemed really different at first and then everything changed." You found yourself in an all-too-familiar relationship dynamic. It's disappointing and heartbreaking because you long for a healthy loving relationship.
How does this happen? You are not "a hopeless case" or destined to have difficult relationships. You do however have an undeniable drive towards wholeness and healing.
It is a tragic strategy around this drive that typically chooses an intimate partner with whom you play out old unhealthy patterns (i.e., patterns that cost needs more often than they meet needs). Here are some common things that you might hear yourself say, if you are choosing someone to work out unhealed parts of yourself:
I feel so at home with him/her.
There was an immediate attraction.
We have a certain chemistry.
It's like we've known each other all of our lives.
These sorts of experiences are often an indication that you unconsciously recognize that the other person is playing their part in a familiar relationship dynamic. If you are lucky they have a bit more resource around that dynamic than those (usually your parents) in the original relationship in which the unhealthy relationship patterns occurred. In this sort of relationship the intensity sparked by the drive towards wholeness gets misinterpreted as a sign that this person is a good fit for you.
Adult attachment research shows that when you meet someone who is basically secure and not playing into an unhealthy relationship dynamic, you may not feel an immediate attraction or a sense of intensity. Unfortunately you may mistake the absence of intensity for a sense of boredom and don't pursue a relationship with someone who might be a great partner for you.
Choosing a partner that you can have healthy intimacy and partnership with involves a discernment process based on values and the experience of your needs being consistently met in your interactions, not on an index of intense feelings. This means noticing things like mutual respect, shared interests, shared lifestyle choices, consistent kindness and consideration, integrity, an ability to collaborate and negotiate for the benefit of all, skills to meet challenging situations, skills to remain open and present as intimacy deepens, and more.
Truly knowing these things about yourself and someone else requires a variety of experiences over time. This means trust isn't given based on a positive feeling (or influx of oxytocin); it means that trust is earned based on experience. You entrust your heart to someone because they have shown their ability to hold it with honor.
PracticeTake a moment now to reflect on a relationship in which you do trust someone to hold your heart with honor. What has been present in the relationship that has built trust? Name at least three key things that have built trust in this relationship.