Are You Stuck in an Unhealthy Relationship Pattern? Part Three
This is part two of Are You Stuck in an Unhealthy Relationship Pattern? and Are You Stuck in an Unhealthy Relationship Pattern? Part Two. The last post examined how self-doubt and fears contribute to unhealthy relationship patterns, but that’s not all.
Preferred “problem-solving” techniques that you default to when things go awry in your relationships also contribute to a dissatisfying relationship pattern. You may not even be aware of how you typically respond when things go wrong. Oftentimes, these techniques worked in the past, but are probably keeping you from having the kind of relationship you want now. More often than not, they’re a form of avoidance or digging in your heels and doing the same thing even harder that didn’t work the first time.
For example, do you:
- Hang in there no matter bad it gets?
- Focus on your partner’s positive qualities and try to remember only the good times as things get worse and worse?
- Focus on how good the sex is and ignore the problems?
- Ignore the problems until you’re forced to deal with them?
- Try to work around the problems?
- Keep giving it your all and remain hopeful despite all signs to the contrary?
- Try to be patient and loving while you receive nothing in return?
- Try to fix your partner’s problems?
- Try to be forgiving and understanding despite your partner hurting you repeatedly?
- Avoid confrontations?
- Deny there are any problems?
- Defend your partner’s behaviors to others?
- Make excuses for your partner?
- Give up on the relationship before trying to fix anything?
Some of these techniques may still be effective in specific situations from time to time; however, it’s better to use them judiciously because they’re probably doing you more harm than good. Many of these strategies are a form of “magical thinking.” By relying on them, you avoid dealing with the reality of the situation and never fully develop a good healthy mutual dialogue about difficulties.
These behaviors are primarily avoidance techniques. Ultimately, they only serve to undermine your chances of a satisfying relationship because they’re really just ways of beating yourself up and ignoring your needs and right to be treated well. If you consistently take the blame for everything in your relationship to avoid confrontation because you fear it will lead to a break-up, you need to consider the quality of the relationship and whether your partner actually values you.
The fear of opening yourself up, being taken advantage of or rejected also add to a dissatisfying relationship pattern. Whenever you doubt yourself or are afraid of being hurt, you may approach relationships in an unproductive manner, which guarantees the outcome you most fear. For example, a woman is afraid the man she began dating will reject her and break her heart. Without realizing what she’s doing, she begins to push him away and acts distant. As a result, the man doesn’t think she’s interested and stops calling her.
Consider if you have any self-defeating behaviors that you engage in when you’re feeling vulnerable, fear that a potential partner may reject you or worry that your relationship is ending. At these times, do you have a pattern of:
- Trying to rescue or save your partner?
- Putting more into your relationships than you get out of them?
- Pursuing the other person while he or she acts in ways that create distance?
- Not expressing your feelings or needs to your partner or potential partner?
- Pushing people away who try to get close to you?
- Feeling like you can’t live without the other person?
- Becoming dependent and clingy?
- Becoming cold and distant?
- Becoming angry when your partner doesn’t respond or behave the way you want?
- Becoming upset if you don’t get your way or feel like you’re being ignored?
- Censoring yourself and freezing up?
Consider if your choice in romantic partners is based on past relationships and subsequent faulty beliefs, fears and self-defeating behaviors. If so, it’s probably contributing to the difficulty you have establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship. It’s natural to want a satisfying intimate relationship. However, when you seek intimacy from individuals who aren’t capable of reciprocating due to your earlier relationship programming, you end up following the same pattern without questioning the futility of it. You would spare yourself a lot of pain and disappointment if you start to challenge your beliefs and fears and make different choices instead.
For example, let’s say you want some bananas, but instead of going to the supermarket, you go to the hardware store. You go back to the hardware store everyday and each time you’re surprised that they still don’t have any bananas. It’s ok to want bananas, but you’re never going to find them at the hardware store. In fact, you’ll drive yourself bananas if you keep trying to do so. Perhaps this example seems absurd, but so is choosing the same kind of person with the same kinds of issues over and over again, hoping for a different outcome.
The logical conclusion is that if you really want a healthy and loving relationship, you need to reality test your self-defeating relationship beliefs, fears and behaviors and choose a different kind of partner. Or, if you’re currently in a relationship with the type of person you’re usually attracted to, assess how ready he or she is to change before going any further. If you’re in between relationships, I strongly recommend that you try to understand if your attraction to this kind of person is a way to repeat and master (repetition compulsion) earlier relationships (i.e., with your family) that are unresolved in your mind.
Next week, I’ll post Part Four in this series, which will examine how self-defeating attitudes contribute to unhealthy relationship patterns, so please check back.
by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Private Consultation and Coaching
I provide confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. My practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit Services and Products for professional inquiries.
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Clones on lostartofblogging.
- Are You Stuck in an Unhealthy Relationship Pattern? Part One
- Are You Stuck in an Unhealthy Relationship Pattern? Part Two
- Men Have Emotions, But Women Don’t Listen
- Are You My Soul Mate? Defining the One
- 12 Signs You Should Break Up with your Boyfriend or Girlfriend or Spouse
- Why We Stay in Bad Relationships
- Ending a Painful Relationship and Starting Over
- How to Make Changes in your Relationship and Life
- 3 Dating Tips for Having a Healthy and Successful Relationships
- The Secret to Happy, Long Lasting Relationships
- How to Have a Healthy Relationship After Being With an Emotionally Abusive, Borderline or Narcissistic Woman